Hardy Middle School Principal Suddenly Transferred
By May 22, 2023 0 854•
“I am writing this letter to share that Principal Johnson’s last day with Hardy Middle School was yesterday, May 18, 2023,” read the second paragraph of an otherwise perfunctory letter about recruitment written by Harry Hughes, D.C. Public School’s superintendent of middle schools on May 19 to the parents and families of Georgetown’s only middle school at 1819 35th St. NW.
“We look forward to [Johnson’s] continuing to grow within our district,” Hughes’s letter read. There was no explanation why Johnson had been so summarily released from his position as principal of Hardy that he had begun in August 2022. It was announced that Brandon Eatman, a DCPS principal-in-residence who has been with the D.C. schools’ district for almost 30 years, will act as Hardy’s principal for the rest of the academic year, presumably mid-June. Johnson is the former assistant principal of Dunbar High School.
It was known among Hardy parents and some officials that there had been an increasing number of complaints and unhappiness from families of Hardy students about escalating violence, poor communication from leadership and drops in academic performance. A petition asking for consideration of Johnson’s removal had been filed. But some teachers indicated they believed that parents had mischaracterized certain issues at the middle school.
“Middle school is always a tense time for young people,” said Kishan Putta, Georgetown-Burleith advisory neighborhood commissioner and school’s liaison for the ANC2E, told The Georgetowner. Hardy is located in his district.
This year has been particularly a time of transition after two years of masking, social distancing and lock downs. These are tensions built up beyond the normal ones of children transitioning to tweens and teens in an entire new school system for them, the middle school that’s entirely different than elementary schools, Putta noted. Add to that the fact that Hardy is at full capacity (in fact, may be slightly over capacity),with fewer faculty and staff than needed this year. “There were simply fewer adults in the school corridors and common spaces to monitor and supervise, but that is improving,” he said.
Nevertheless, Putta concluded that while all the challenges were acknowledged for the new principal, still many of the faculty, staff, parents and students he talked to said almost universally that they had expected more from this principal. But some said he should be given more time, a second chance to address the problems.
Hughes’s letter focuses on the full vetting process for a new principal that has begun.
Some parents and staff had complained they didn’t have a chance to vet Johnson before he was chosen last summer. They said they were given only a few hours notice to peruse the qualificatons of the three finalists and to state their preferences before the final selection was announced by DCPS.
“There is some good news to share about Hardy, however,” Putta announced. “Working with the school and Council member Brooke Pinto and Mayor Bowser, we just got confirmation of big budget victories for the middle school: Almost $4 million of investments are slated for a new, expanded cafeteria; for new, expanded lockers; for a professional study to improve technical problems — particularly the acoustics and lighting — of the school auditorium that has made recent Hardy events like plays and graduation almost inaudible!”
Hardy Middle School is crowded and growing, and particularly with Georgetowners. It’s known as one of the most diverse schools in the district due to the multinational backgrounds of many of the students. The school reported that 62 percent of Hardy students are in-boundary (while only 30 percent of Hyde-Addison students are). Those percentages are expected to increase as the boundaries have changed for Hyde and Hardy to include all of the 2E district, that will all transfer to the new McArthur High School opening this fall.
“I am committed to helping our school leaders provide joyful and rigorous school experiences,” Hughes wrote to the parents of Hardy on May 19.
Still, there are questions as to why Johnson was let go so suddenly just five weeks before the end of school when tensions are already high. Officially, DCPS had “no comment,” and the website for Hardy makes no mention of the situation, while still listing Johnson as the principal.