School Without Walls Controversy Explodes

In a unanimous vote of no confidence in the leadership of DC Public Schools, the Dupont Circle advisory neighborhood commission on Oct. 14 strongly chastised “the way DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and all other DCPS officials directly involved have handled the firing of Richard Trogisch, Principal of School Without Walls High School, the highest performing high school in the District since 2006.”    

“Trogisch is the most revered principal in the DCPS system,” said Commissioner Mike Silverstein, former chairman of ANC 2B, who introduced the resolution. Yet on Oct. 7, less than 48 hours after Trogisch questioned whether the air quality and ventilation standards at School Without Walls would allow the school to open safely on Nov. 9 — as the mayor had announced on Oct. 5 — he was called into DCPS administration offices and fired. The pretext later given was that there had been a “student enrollment anomaly” in a previous year. 

According to U.S. News & World Report, the School Without Walls High School/Middle School at 2130 G St. NW is ranked second in the region and among the nation’s top 75 high schools. As the ANC resolution points out, it is a two-time Blue Ribbon School that is majority-minority, with students from all eight wards.

Students, parents and teachers from across the District were stunned and reacted immediately to protest the firing, according to Silverstein. Several protests have taken place in front of the high school, demanding that Trogisch be reinstated and that reopening standards be made transparent.  

The ANC resolution demands that, before schools be allowed to reopen, the public “knows what air quality standards and ventilation standards will be used by DCPS to determine whether schools and individual classrooms can reopen safely; and how those standards will be measured and enforced.” The resolution is addressed to the DPCS chancellor, the mayor, the District Council and the D.C. State Board of Education, the latter of which had been left completely out of the process, according to Silverstein.  

“The lack of transparent processes and procedures by DCPS leadership in this entire matter, further diminishes parents’ trust in our public schools and runs counter to the values of the citizens of the District of Columbia,” the resolution concludes. “Dupont Circle ANC 2B joins a majority of DC Council members in demanding answers from Chancellor Ferebee.” 

The “enrollment anomaly” refers to a situation last year when Trogisch placed a child at the School Without Walls ahead of a long waiting list because her mother, who taught there, would not have been able to continue working if her daughter did not get the spot. “That situation did not prevent Trogisch’s contract renewal at the time,” the resolution pointed out. Now, during the pandemic, DCPS announced that children of DCPS teachers would be guaranteed some of the limited seats in reopened schools as one of the five priority groups for in-person classes.     

A student-organized march to demand Trogisch’s reinstatement and transparency is planned for noon, Saturday, Nov. 17, at the School Without Walls High School, 2130 G St. NW. Protestors will march to School Without Walls at the Francis-Stevens Education Campus, 2425 N St. NW. 



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