The principal of one of the District's highest-performing high schools agreed to also oversee a struggling elementary and middle school -- on the condition that he be allowed to hire his wife, he told The Washington Examiner.
School Without Walls High School Principal Richard Trogisch said DC Public Schools Chief of Schools John Davis agreed to his request before the school system announced the merger of Francis-Stevens Education Campus with the high school in January.
Francis-Stevens was on Chancellor Kaya Henderson's initial list of schools to be closed, but Henderson announced in January that instead, it will merge with School Without Walls.
The announcement late last month by Cynthia Trogisch that she would be an assistant principal at the new "School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens" drew ire from parents and teachers who warn of nepotism and a potential conflict of interest.
Cynthia Trogisch, currently a sixth-grade math and social studies teacher at Hardy Middle School in Ward 2, did not return requests for comment.
D.C. law prohibits a school employee from hiring, promoting or advocating for the hiring or promotion of a family member to any position in the school system, as DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz emphasized Thursday.
Trogisch pointed to a clause in the law that allows Henderson to grant an exception. However, the law says the exception may be granted for a maximum of 30 days and only in the event of an emergency.
Salmanowitz would not comment on the conversation between Trogisch and Davis, after Davis had referred comment to her.
No one has been hired for the position, Trogisch said, adding that he does not plan to hire anyone before May.
The school system plans to follow normal hiring procedures for the new School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens, Salmanowitz said. For an assistant principal, this entails an online application with three essay questions, a phone interview and two in-person interviews.
Trogisch emphasized that his wife is the right person for the job.
"Anyone can interview well, but you don't know how they are until you see them in the classroom," he said. "Well, I've seen my wife in the classroom."
But some in the School Without Walls community have expressed outrage about the announcement.
"From the hiring process, to any evaluations and to the daily running of the school, the question of nepotism could get in the way of a smoothly operating system," said a School Without Walls teacher who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal. "Honestly, I'm surprised that a D.C. city employee can ethically hire a spouse to be his subordinate, especially when he's been so public about not considering anyone else."