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Updated: Mar 22, 2022

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DC Public Schools Fired Principals’ for Questioning Relay: A Cache of Racist and Militaristic Practices Mandated Only in Impoverished Southeast DC Schools

WWashington, DC, April 29 – Covid 19 collateral damage brought additional sorrow, that turned into an awakening and movement, for a historically underserved areas of DC parents and community, when the District of Columbia Public Schools terminated their beloved Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King, Principal, Boone Elementary School..

Old racial wounds have been reopened upon discovery that additional principals in Southeast DC were fired. Elected officials, activist, parents, students, community members and teachers rallied. The DC Councilmember of Ward 8 became involved and sent a letter to Lewis Ferebee, DCPS Chancellor requesting Dr. Jackson-King's reinstatement. They believe their principals' termination was retaliation by DCPS for questioning DCPS mandated learning approach system: Relay.

The community believes Relay has racist and militaristic practices that perpetuates the school to prison pipeline. Relay is enforced upon Southeast DC schools only. No Northwest DCPS have Relay.

Relay has been referred to as a market rate education fraud by Kenneth Zeichner, Professor of Ed. Univ. of Washington and one of America’s leading academics studying teacher education. He states, “It uses highly controlling pedagogical and classroom management techniques that are primarily used in schools serving students of color in whose communities are severely impacted by poverty. The teaching and management practices are based on a restricted definition of teaching and learning and would not be acceptable in more economically advantaged communities. “Relay works exclusively with ‘other people’s children’ and provide the kind of education that Relay staff would never accept for their own children”.

In a letter to the school chancellor, Boone’s teachers wrote: “all aspects of RELAY are scripted. Classroom management strategies perpetuate the “school to prison pipeline.” Students must sit up, sit still, nod when spoken to, and must not take their eyes off the speaker. Teachers must assume a “strong voice” with barking commands in order to “maintain order in the classroom” and to promote the authority and dominance of the teacher. Directions to students must be short and quick. Students drill repeatedly until they assume the expected role-- quiet, docile, and obedient.”


The Southeast DC community want answers: If Relay is so great for poor Black children in Southeast DC, why not mandate its practices upon affluent White children in Northwest DC, too?


Assessing from Relay's training videos, Relay believes Black children must be force to be compliant: trained to obey strict rules with zero tolerance, in order to learn. And that sounds much like the pre antebellum mindset. Therefore, is DCPS inferring it believes White children learn best with relationship building?


Families are still awaiting evidence that Relay is successful in DC public schools. When asked by teachers if data exist of Relay's success in DC, Jeffrey Holmes, Chief Elementary School stated, "there's no data."


According to the DC Contract and Procurement Transparency Portal, Relay has received more than $800.000.00 from DC.

The letter from council member White states Dr. Jackson-King is “a pillar in the community with much respect, and her departure would create yet another means of widening the educational gap,” and asked the Chancellor to reconsider and reinstate Dr. Jackson-King. Teachers shared many accolades about Dr. Jackson-King: “Over the past 5 years, in an environment where African American students seldom experience innovative and transformational learning opportunities, Dr. Jackson-King has led the initiative in cultivating pride, establishing a loving rapport, and setting high expectations for every scholar. Reinstating Dr. Jackson-King matters now, more than ever.” In addition, local therapists, social workers, school partners, and others have written letters in support of Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King’s reinstatement.

A parents built website established to support Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King, states she has brought Boone from a 2 Star rating to currently a 3 star rated school; in addition, under Dr. Jackson-King’s leadership the school performance has grown in all measurable data points. Furthermore, the website states, “we know Dr. Jackson-King’s removal is not about performance, it's about retaliation” by the Cluster II Instructional Superintendent due to Dr. Jackson-King’s opposition to Relay and opposing the removal of Boone’s computer lab (STEAM lab.

In January, Dr. Jackson-King opposed the Cluster II Instructional Superintendent’s request to transform Boone’s computer (STEAM Lab) and media center/library as viable options to be transformed into classrooms. In addition, the parent representative for our Local School Advisory Team, parents and community members opposed and petitioned the suggestion by Cluster II Instructional Superintendent. Access to books and educational technology (STEAM Lab) empowers schools to provide multimodal student-centered learning experiences. Both the Chancellor and Councilman Trayon White were not proponents of the Cluster II Instructional Superintendent recommendations and supported Dr. Jackson-King and families in maintaining the school’s facilities.

Parents are outraged that their illustrious principals were fired during COVID 19. A Boone parent stated Dr. Jackson-King’s termination causes additional trauma, “DCPS often talks about being a trauma informed school system, what happens when DCPS officials incite the trauma?" A tweet states, My child’s emotional health is important too; Covid19 has many families EOTR regular routines chaotic; we turn two school leaders for emotional as well as physical safety. Firing our principal doesn’t help–it causes complex trauma. A grandparent of two second-generation students wrote: Dr. Jackson-King is relentlessly, working to promote the success of her students, parents, and community. She values her teachers and staff as well as her students. She sees the potential of greatness in others and empowers them to think outside of the box.

The DC Parent Action Consort states, “together we will continue to fight against this gross injustice mandated upon the children of Southeast DC, and the termination of a great leaders such as Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King.”


A.T. Smith (

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