After a popular DC principal is unfairly fired, the parents demand to be heard

Chuck Westover
7 min readMay 7, 2019

Below is a sign-on letter — last updated May 7th — from the parents at JO Wilson Elementary School in support of Principal Guye Turner.

May 1, 2019

Re: JO Wilson ES — Parent Support for Principal Turner

Dear Chancellor Ferebee,

As actively involved parents at JO Wilson ES, we were shocked to learn that Principal Turner’s contract would not be renewed after only 8 months at our school. We wholeheartedly believe this is the wrong decision. Additionally, the way this decision was made, without any engagement with our school community, is antithetical to your stated goals of restoring public trust and transparency at DCPS.

We believe in Principal Turner and his ability to lead the school forward and want to see him remain as the principal at JO Wilson.

We recognize that schools are complex and navigating them takes knowledge and time. We also know that our school has been on a steady decline in test scores, climate and culture over the past few years. We were hopeful that Principal Turner would provide a path forward to help us turn the corner to positive growth — and he did. For instance, he:

  • Created a comprehensive school improvement plan that focused on key initiatives to improve ELA, math, and social emotional learning (SEL) and regularly benchmarked progress transparently with the school community.
  • Developed positive behavior supports (PBIS) and reduced suspension rates from 28 in the first 6 weeks of the year to 1 or 2 per month.
  • Implemented and trained teachers to use Response-to-Intervention (RTI) more effectively, reducing the number of students referred for IEPs (addressing concerns related to overidentification prior to his arrival).
  • Required and trained teachers on aggressive progress monitoring in ELA and math to monitor student achievement and progress.
  • Made progress on closing the achievement gap with students in Tier 3 moving to Tier 2. (RTI); and
  • Earned the trust and support of many parents across the entire school community as evidenced by regular engagement in PTA meetings and schoolwide events, LSAT meetings, and our own knowledge of how parents view his leadership.

We have been supportive of Principal Turner’s efforts despite the seeming disregard from DCPS for supporting him. With a brand new principal, and one new to DCPS systems and structures, we would have expected a strong DCPS supportive presence in the school. Yet, we saw far less engagement with our community from DCPS than in past years. Given that we also have a new instructional superintendent and a new chancellor, we hoped for more engagement to help you understand our history and community, not less.

As you well know, change is difficult and takes time, but it was and is necessary to put our school on a path to success. It is particularly difficult to change school culture when the school has well-known challenges. When change is needed — and it requires changes in behaviors and structures — there will always be some who disagree. In our case, there were a few (2 to 3) parents and teachers (1 or 2) who vocally opposed Principal Turner. Needless to say, this small group is not representative of our school community and certainly does not speak for all parents and teachers.

Over the last month, some parents have proactively reached out to DCPS to share messages of support for Principal Turner. One parent met with Dr. Angela Chapman, chief of elementary schools, in early April. At the meeting, our parent offered to bring other parents together so that DCPS could hear a different, positive perspective; however, she was assured by Dr. Chapman that engaging other parents was unnecessary. Clearly, that was not true. We are taking the time now to clearly voice our support for Principal Turner.

JO Wilson is a school that deserves DCPS’s strong support and attention. It also deserves and needs steady leadership that is supported in making the changes needed to improve the school. Changes in leadership, just as we are beginning to see progress and right before testing season, is incredibly destabilizing and shakes community confidence — including student confidence — in the school and in DCPS. We believe that the best thing for our school is for Principal Turner to remain as principal with all of the coaching and support from Central Office that is afforded to other schools that are working hard to improve.

We would appreciate an expeditious meeting with you this week to discuss this matter and the plan for a positive path forward.


Vanessa Jordan, Parent (PreK4 and former K), PTA President

Jeff Jordan, Parent (PreK4 and former K), PTA Fundraiser Chair

Iris Bond Gill, current LSAT Parent Rep, 4th Grade

Laurence Gill, Parent, 4th Grade, My School DC Parent Advisory Committee

Leah Flemons, Parent, Preschool, Pre-K and a 5th Grade Graduate

Keith Flemons, Parent, Preschool, Pre-K and a 5th Grade Graduate, Former LSAT Community Rep

Waynonia Potts-Harris, Parent K and 1st grade and current LSAT Parent Rep

Nick Holder, Parent, Pre-K, Kindergarten

Beth Pollock, Parent, Pre-K, Kindergarten

Kerslyn D. Featherstone, Parent, LSAT, 3rd Grade

Gail Sullivan, Parent, 4th Grade

Will Herter, Parent, Pre-K, Former LSAT Community Rep

Isis Rodríguez-Cortes, Parent, Pre-K

Lydia James, Parent of 4th Grade

Molly Wagoner, ECE Committee Chair & Parent, PK3 and Kindergarten

Mike Wagoner, Parent, PK3 and Kindergarten

Antonia Berry, Parent, 5th Grade and Preschool

Clement Berry, Parent, 5th Grade and Preschool

Katherine Ferry, Concerned school neighbor

Cynthia Belmonte, Parent, Preschool

Phuc Tran, Parent, Preschool

Eren Fry, Parent, PK3 and 1st Grade

Catherine Fry, Parent, PK3 and 1st Grade

Pamala Trivedi, Parent PK3 & former first grade student, former LSAT member and ECE Committee Co-Chair

Siddhartha Sikdar, Parent PK3 & former first grade student

Amanda Hilligas, Parent, Kindergarten

Richard Mazloom, Parent, Kindergarten

Tianeka Arno, Parent, PTA Board Member, 1st and 5th Grade

Reginald Arno, Parent, 1st and 5th Grade

Theresa Westover, Parent, PK4

Chuck Westover, Parent, PK4

Melissa Kilbride, Parent, PK3, Inbound resident

David Lungren, Parent PK3

Rebecca Lungren, Parent, Room Parent PK3

Dori Olaseha, Parent, 1st Grade

Paul Kilbride, Parent, PK3

Fana Gebeyehu-Houston, Parent, Room Parent, PK3

Mark Daley, Parent, PK3

Andrea Krick, Parent, PK3

Charles Krick, Parent, PK3

Nessa Coppinger, Parent, PK3 and Kindergarten

Christine Rubicco, Parent, PK4, PTA Secretary, Room Parent

Larissa Horn, Parent PK3 and PK4

David Pogorzala, Parent PK4

Hope Kim, Parent, PTA Treasurer and Board Member, PK3 and Kindergarten [former]

James Qualters, Parent, PK4

Julia Doan, Parent, PK4

Wanda Lau, Parent, PK3

Michael Madowitz, parent, PK3 & PK4

Rachel Mlinarchik, parent, PK3

Michael Rappel, Parent, PK3

Emily Yu, Parent, PK3

Bryan Speelman, Parent, PK3

Eliza Hill, Parent, PK4

Donald Hill III, Parent, PK4

Keren O’Brien Murphy, Parent, Kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 2nd grade

Bion Kim, Parent PK3 and Kindergarten [former]

Adam Mausner, Parent PK3 — in bounds resident

Sean Ward, Parent, PK4

Audrey Ward, Parent, PK4

Kelly Healy, PTA Assistant Secretary, Parent, PK4, Room Parent,

Mike Healy, Parent, PK4

Tiffany Payne, Parent, K

Bryan Payne, Parent, K

Jessica Brand, Parent, PK3 and K

Adam Pan, Parent, PK3 and K

Rae Wynn-Grant, Parent, PK3

Obadele Davis, Parent, PK3

Emily Pappas, PK4 and incoming PK3 parent, Room Parent

John Pappas, PK4 and incoming PK3 parent

Kei Tolliver, Parent, PK4

Antoinette James, Parent, 5th Grade

Christina Hughes, Parent, K

Penelope Hucker, Parent in Kindergarten, Room Parent

David Zavodny, Parent in Kindergarten

Justin Lorentzen, Parent, PK3

Natalie Walker, Parent PK4 — in-bounds resident

Robin Walker, Parent PK4 — in-bounds resident

Marlynn Barnes, Parent Second Grade

Amie Sanok, Parent Kindergarten

Julie Garuccio, ECE Committee Co-Chair, Parent, PK4 and Kindergarten, in-bounds resident

Greg Wenograd, Parent, PK4 and Kindergarten, in-bounds resident

Leah Pogorzala, Parent, PK4

Nicole Aga, Parent, PK3

Adrian Dungan, Parent, PK3

Sara Kasper, Parent, PK3

Will Ward, Parent, PK3

Cheryl Ward, Parent, PK4

John Ward, Parent, PK4

Renee Parks, Parent, 4th and 2nd grades

Robert Anderson, Parent, PK3

Peniner Shade, Parent, PK4

Bridget Matzie, Parent, PK4 and rising PK3

Steve Matzie, Parent, PK4 and rising PK3

Erica A. Holzaepfel, Parent, PK3

Benjamin W. Zimmerman, Parent, PK3

Zehra Isildak, Parent, 4th grade and 2nd grade

Mariam Al-Shamma, Parent, PK3

Anna Shapiro, Parent, PK 3

Andrea Redwood, Parent, PK3

Michael Redwood, Parent, PK3

Veronica Wilson, Parent, incoming PK3

Katie O’Connor, parent, incoming PK3

Jessica Yeh, parent, incoming PK3

David Yeh, parent, incoming PK3

Lindsey W. Ford, Parent, 1st grade

Gretchen Gooding, Parent, Incoming PK3

Di’Mond Spencer-Pearson, parent, 1st grader and incoming PK3

Reginald Pearson, parent, 1st grader and incoming PK3

Adam Henderson, parent, incoming PK4

Kisha Taylor, Parent, 5th grade

Jackson Hughes, Parent, Kindergarten

Michelle Billups, Grandparent to 3rd grade student and graduated student

Paul Venhuizen, Parent (in boundary), Kindergarten

Terri Segura, Parent, PK4

Christiaan Segura, Parent, PK4

Cynthia Lie, parent, Kindergarten

Candie Hines, Parent, Kindergarten

Eric Fiala, Parent, PK4, 2nd grade, incoming PK3

Anne Fiala, Parent, PK4, 2nd grade, incoming PK3

Marita Percival, Parent, PK4

Devin Griffin, Parent, PK4

Karima Gahagan, Parent, incoming out of boundary K

Carl Young, Parent, 1st grade student

CC: Mayor Muriel Bowser

Councilmember Phil Mendelson

Rashad Young, DC City Administrator

Councilmember Charles Allen

Councilmember Robert White

Councilmember David Grosso

Paul Kihn, Deputy Mayor for Education

Jessica Sutter, Ward 6 SBOE Representative

Melissa Kim, Deputy Chancellor, DCPS

Amy Maisterra, Deputy Chancellor, DCPS

Angela Chapman, Chief of Elementary Schools, DCPS

Aileen Murphy, Instructional Superintendent Cluster IV



Chuck Westover

Obsessed @UWBadgers & Detroit sports fan. Progressive, fmr @JenGranholm, @GovHowardDean, @ChrisVanHollen, @AFSCME, @LinkedIn, now @TheDemCoalition & on my own.