Phyllis Harris, Oakland’s former special education chief, left OUSD last fall to head up the special education department in Washington, D.C. schools.
”It’s an opportunity to change the special education system in the national capital, which has some improving to do,” she told me at the time.
I don’t know what kind of changes Harris made, but the Washington Post reported that Harris took a sudden leave of absence this month, and that a spokeswoman for Chancellor Michelle Rhee denied a report in The Washington Teacher blog that Harris had been fired.
Two weeks before Harris took her leave, a federal judge reprimanded the D.C. district for failing to make progress on a court order to better serve children with disabilities, the Post reported.
The Post quoted U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman as saying, “My fundamental problem here is the lack of accountability, lack of coordination, lack of oversight, a lack of specific people who are rolling up their sleeves to get the job done.”
Oakland special education teachers and parents were fairly critical of Harris’s tenure in the district. Some said she lacked the experience needed to understand how to best serve children with special needs. She did dramatically reduce special ed costs, though.
Apparently, D.C. public school teachers also complained about staff shortages under Harris’s watch. I wonder if she’ll stay in the capital, or move to another school district.