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Teacher suspended over school merger dispute
(Published May 29, 2006)
By ERICA PITTS
A fifth grade teacher has become a casualty in the escalating battle over planned closings and consolidations of D.C. public schools.
Washington Teachers Union (WTU) officials charged that school system officials have "stonewalled the union regarding the resolution" of what they say was the wrongful suspension of Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School teacher Pamella Shaw on May 25 by Principal Donald Presswood.
Shaw has been a leader in rallying the community recently against a proposal, advanced by Presswood, to consolidate Ludlow-Taylor, located at Sixth and G streets NE, with a special education program at Hamilton Center on Brentwood Parkway NE.
Although Shaw was allowed to return to work the morning of May 26, after she was escorted into the building by WTU General Vice President Nathan Saunders and Field Representative Rachel Hicks, the union representatives told The Common Denominator that school system officials had not yet provided a written explanation for what happened to Shaw.
D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman Leonie Campbell confirmed that Shaw was permitted back into the school with "no adverse actions taken" against her. Campbell said that Shaw is expected to be paid for the day of work she missed due to the one-day suspension. She said no actions against the principal were anticipated.
Presswood could not be reached for comment.
In a telephone interview, Shaw said she was "floored" when she arrived at work May 25 and Presswood asked her to leave the premises. She said Presswood told her that "parents and teachers" told him that she was "trying to mobilize parents to remove [him] from the building." Shaw said Presswood orally instructed her to have "no contact with parents, teachers or students" but was never given any paperwork to justify her suspension.
Shaw was scheduled to take her class on a field trip to Union Station to see the movie "Akeelah and the Bee" on the day she was suspended. Ludlow-Taylor's Local School Restructuring Team (LSRT), an advisory group of parents and teachers, was scheduled to meet that night to hold elections of its membership for next year.
Immediately following her suspension, Shaw said she contacted both Saunders and Hicks, and they scheduled a meeting with Assistant Superintendent Francisco Millet. Saunders charged that Millet "mishandled" Shaw's dismissal in "violation of the Board of Education rules" by failing to provide a required written explanation for the action against Shaw. He said Millet had not yet responded by late afternoon on May 26, the beginning of a holiday weekend.
News of the proposed Ludlow-Taylor/Hamilton merger sparked an immediate outcry from teachers and parents in early May, as well as a series of community meetings to organize against the plan. Ludlow-Taylor's LSRT, which advises the principal, has not endorsed the proposal.
Shaw told The Common Denominator that parents who oppose the merger recently came to her to ask what they should do. In March, Shaw presented a proposal to Principal Presswood that she said was aimed at addressing the school's low enrollment. To date, Shaw said her proposal has been given "no consideration," and the Ludlow-Taylor community still has no idea of when the proposed merger may take place.
Saunders called the circumstances surrounding Shaw's one-day suspension "very distressing."
"Shaw is a leader and resident of the community and shouldn't be asked to leave because of the alternative plan that she offered to closing the school," Saunders said.
Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator