Interim Principal Daniel Shea has only 73 days left in the school year to restore order to a campus that has recently been plagued by student tardiness, unruliness and sporadic fighting.
Shea, a former Montgomery County Public School administrator, addressed about 45 parents and educators at a PTA meeting in the Hardy Middle School cafeteria on Wednesday night.
"I believe the kids rise to the occasion, even when the situation isn't ideal," Shea said.
Shea is the third principal to take the helm of the middle school within the past year. Last summer, former Principal Patrick Pope was replaced by Dana Nerenberg, also the principal of Hyde-Addison Elementary School. Nerenberg was removed from her position at Hardy in January after parents vocalized their concerns about her management of the school. She remains the full-time principal at Hyde-Addison.
DC Public Schools (DCPS) Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson named Shea as the school's interim principal in a letter addressed to parents on Feb. 7. His first day as principal was Feb. 14. Shea formerly worked as a high school and a middle school administrator in Maryland, and was also head of scheduling for DCPS high schools and middle schools. He will remain at Hardy Middle School through the end of the academic year.
"It was just too much for one person," said a Hardy Middle School mother, referring to former Principal Nerenberg. She asked not to be identified because she said her daughter's test scores were negatively affected by the school's leadership.
Gina Johnson, whose son is an eighth grader at Hardy, said the school is noticeably different since Pope was removed.
"You see kids who were one way in school, who cared. There were no problems," Johnson said. "Now you come in here and things are crazy."
Shea said he was calling on administrators from DCPS headquarters to address tardiness and absenteeism. He also intends to crack down on dress code violations.
"Part and parcel, paying attention to some of the small things, can help the big things," Shea said.
Tamisa Brooks, whose son is a sixth grader at the middle school, said she attended the meeting on Wednesday night to meet the new principal and to make sure the school was headed in a positive direction.
"I want to be able to leave here and think Hardy was the right choice," Brooks said.
Shea also discussed bullying, scheduling, revamping a school events calendar and achievement tests at the meeting. He said he did not have exact numbers for the 2011-2012 school year budget, but was anticipating that funds would be tight.
"Some principals have already heard they will be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars at the large schools," Shea said.