BY ANNIE ROSENTHAL, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Principal Pete Cahall confirmed to the Wilson faculty and staff in an emergency meeting held after school today that he will not be returning to Wilson next year. He says he was notified this month that DCPS has not renewed his contract due to Wilson’s low DC-CAS scores.
“There are news reports that I will not be back as principal of Wilson next year. I want you to hear it from me that the report is true,” Cahall, who has been principal for more than six years, told the stunned audience in the library in a speech nearly as emotional as the one he made when he came out to the student body in June.
“I have transitioned through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I am at the acceptance stage,” he told teachers. The text of the speech to the faculty appeared to be the same one he sent by email later to members of the Wilson community.
Cahall’s voice shook as he thanked faculty for their support. Upon completing his announcement, he walked out of the room. A few teachers clapped. Most were silent.
“I am sorry that you had to hear this news in this way and at this time. It was my hope and intention to leave gracefully as to not damage the progress that we have made in the last six and a half years,” he added in the email. The Washington City Paper had broken the news online at 2 pm today.
In a letter to city council members made public this afternoon, Cahall wrote, “I originally was going to write you to help me save what has become my mission and passion in life…which is to serve the young people of the Woodrow Wilson community. However, after much thought and prayer, I have decided to leave quietly…and pursue other opportunities to serve in a system where I am supported and appreciated.”
The letter also cited his many accomplishments at Wilson, including overseeing the $120 million renovation, increasing the amount of scholarship awards received by $10 million, and increasing the number of students taking Advanced Placement classes by 50% since 2009. He called the school system’s decision not to renew his contract “arbitrary and capricious.”
“I wish you well in moving the school system forward and want nothing more than for DCPS to be successful,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, when you have this type of adversarial relationship with the leaders of the schools, I do not believe that success is possible.”
Cahall says he’s not sure what he will do next year. He told teachers he’s considering taking a year off to work on a book, pursuing a leadership opportunity at another school, or trying something outside the field of education.
“I do not want this news to destroy the successes that we’ve had. Ultimately I do not want the news to impact my kids and my staff,” he said. “I appreciate your continued support, encouragement, care, and love that you have shown me over the last six and a half years.”
“My hope and dream was to stay at Wilson as long as I was having a positive impact on the school. I have had a great, incredible journey the last six plus years and I’m determined to finish the school year with as much passion, energy, and commitment that I’ve invested in the last six…I’ve accepted that it may be time for me to leave and allow someone else to lead this incredible school. I believe that when one door shuts many more open.”