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Students and Alumni Respond to Cahall’s Termination


BY MARIA BRESCIA-WEILER , FEATURES EDITOR

Within minutes of the announcement of Principal Pete Cahall’s termination on Friday, social media was blowing up with alumni and student responses to the DCPS decision. Almost all of those who vocalized their opinions on social media seemed to be outraged, and lauded Cahall for his contributions to Wilson over the past six years.

Wilson alum D’Mani Harrison-Porter (’14) addressed Cahall directly in a Facebook status: “Pete Cahall you are by far the best principal I have ever had! I have never seen a man so motivated in making sure every student felt at home at Wilson. Just know you have a huge support team of students, faculty and alumni all on your side!”

Harrison-Porter was one of many seeking to show Cahall support. Maren Roberts (‘14), wrote “Pete Cahall- you’re the real MVP! Thanks for knowing everyone by name, thanks for being awesome enough to ride a tiny bike for your students, and thanks for the work you did for Woodrow Wilson High School. I know I can speak for the majority of the current and former student body when saying your administration will be missed.”

Josh Kennedy-Noce (‘14), remembered his first encounter with Cahall: “I was scared of him, but when I got to know him better, I found him to be the nicest guy. To know that he’s getting fired from Woodrow Wilson HS, it’s incredibly sad! He was a great principal. Not only did he know everyone’s name (1800+ ’scholars’), he cared for everyone.”

Students expressed their support using hashtags such as #foreveratiger and #allinforcahall.

Still more students expressed frustration with the system that is responsible for Cahall’s departure from Wilson. Put simply, “DCPS should feel ashamed of themselves,” wrote Harrison-Porter.

“DC Public Schools has made a huge mistake on this one. It is not easy to gain the respect of nearly 1600 hormonal adolescents, but Cahall did that, and to throw all that away is not fair. To remove Mr. Cahall is to remove an integral part of the school itself,” wrote Abbie Israel (‘13).

Students seemed to consider this event to be part of a pattern of dysfunctionality within DCPS. Noah Lipshie (’13) wrote “DCPS, possibly the worst public school system in the country, just set itself back even farther.”

Much of the outpouring came from alumni who over and over again expressed concern that this event is a sign that “Wilson [will be] homogenous and look like every private school in Upper NW in 2 years,” as Hope Willis (‘13) tweeted.

Willis wasn’t the only one who perceives this to be a part of a bigger problem. “Low test scores is not the true reason. Cahall cares about lower income students and the affluent neighborhood around Wisconsin Avenue has been complaining about the demographic of kids walking around their neighborhoods for years,” wrote Cole Randolph (‘13).  “Unfortunately, they have financial and political influence, so DC, not just DCPS, needs their constant support. In return for this support, requests like this get fulfilled, and these affluent neighborhoods can go to sleep knowing that they don’t have to deal with lower income black students at Wilson. Classic case of racism and classism that has been destroying DC since the 2000s.”

Support for Cahall came from both within and outside of the Wilson community. School Without Walls senior Max Segal wrote “I do not go to Wilson, but acquainted with the matter, I can safely say that I have dealt extensively with other employees of DCPS who are more harmful to students than this hero. And yet, the harmful ones will continue to collect their paychecks and keep gutting the system.”

Students, past and present, began to channel their anger toward Chancellor Kaya Henderson and planning protests. “I am livid and Kaya Henderson needs to go,” wrote Willis. “Every Wilson student and parent knows Cahall dedicated his life to Wilson. We know what you’re really doing and you’re not slick. It’s disgusting actually.”

Israel encouraged students to contact the Chancellor and tell her how they feel about the decision.

Over the weekend students took to planning a protest for Monday morning from 8:45 to 9:30, but this morning the area in front of Wilson was devoid of protesters. A protest is now being planned via Facebook for January 3, 2015 in front of Wilson. The Facebook page, created by Tao Marwell (‘14), expressed what everyone seemed to be thinking: “Clearly there is more to this decision than is being stated by DCPS. This page is dedicated to organizing a way to voice dissent with DCPS’s decision to cut Cahall’s legacy short.”