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Frustrated DC Principal Leaves Education (…To Make Cupcakes)

Bill Kerlina, former D.C. Public School principal leaving to open a gourmet cupcake business. (Photo courtesy DCPS)

Educators who leave troubled districts often shy away from public bridge-burnings.

But on Sunday, Bill Kerlina, who’s leaving his job as an elementary principal in the Washington, D.C., Public Schools, aired his frustrations to the Washington Post, giving the public new insights on a district in the throes of reform.

He says he’s leaving education (to go into the gourmet cupcake business, by the way) after “small frustrations” mounted over, among other things, the teacher performance evaluation reforms former superintendent Michelle Rhee started.

The Post wrote:

Kerlina signed on just as Rhee was rolling out the IMPACT [teacher] evaluation system, which called for five classroom observations… Some teachers would be held accountable for student growth on standardized tests. Those with poor evaluations were subject to dismissal.

It was a major change. Kerlina said he was surprised when he heard it would not be tried on a pilot basis, which was standard practice in Montgomery. He said he came to believe that the initiative offered virtually no provisions to help teachers improve.

“The reform, in my opinion, is getting rid of people,” he said.

D.C. officials dispute that, pointing to mentors, instructional coaches and master educators who are available, along with professional development courses offered by the District and the Washington Teachers’ Union.

Kerlina also criticized what he characterized as DCPS’s indulgence of “questionable parent behavior.” The district says it is trying to be more responsive to parent concerns.

Under Kerlina’s tenure, Phoebe Hearst Elementary School’s test scores saw a significant dip, with math proficiency falling from 92 percent to 67 percent.

As for the cupcakes… The Post says Kerlina’s cupcake shop in suburban Maryland “will be called Cooks ‘n Cakes.”

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