School Choice & Charters

School Head Indicted in Scuffle With Reporter

By Andrew Trotter — January 15, 1997 3 min read

The director of a charter school in the District of Columbia pleaded innocent late last week to misdemeanor charges stemming from a scuffle last month between the educator and a local newspaper reporter.

The conflicting accounts of the Dec. 3 incident involving Mary A.T. Anigbo, who heads the Marcus Garvey Public Charter School, have drawn widespread media attention in the nation’s capital.

Ms. Anigbo, 54, is the founder of the Garvey School, one of two public charter schools in Washington that opened in September. Charter schools receive public money but are freed from many government regulations.

Conflicting Accounts

Susan Ferrechio, a reporter for The Washington Times, went to the school Dec. 3 to collect information for a story on charter schools, said Marie Jones, a spokeswoman for the newspaper. The reporter checked in at the main office, then a staff member had a student escort her to find Ms. Anigbo. Ms. Ferrechio asked the student some questions and took notes in her notebook.

Later, according to Ms. Jones, Ms. Anigbo asked to see the notes. After the reporter refused, the director, two staff members, and a number of students allegedly attacked her and snatched the pad away.

Ms. Ferrechio, who is white, told police that Ms. Anigbo and others, all of whom were black, threw her out of the school and yelled racial comments at her. When she returned to the school to retrieve the notebook, accompanied by two police officers, both of whom are black, and a photographer from the newspaper, Ms. Anigbo and staff members at the school allegedly scuffled with them.

Attempts to reach Ms. Anigbo or her lawyer last week were unsuccessful, and a recorded message said the telephone at the school was temporarily disconnected.

But in the days following the incident, Ms. Anigbo told local reporters and a committee of the City Council that the reporter entered the school uninvited and interviewed students without permission. The principal accused Ms. Ferrechio of stealing the notebook from the school.

Ms. Anigbo said it was Ms. Ferrechio, not students or staff members, who uttered racial remarks. Ms. Anigbo also said students saw the reporter display a knife outside the school after the scuffle. Ms. Ferrechio has denied those allegations.

In its indictment, a District of Columbia Superior Court grand jury appeared largely to accept the version of the incident offered by Ms. Ferrechio and the police officers. Ms. Anigbo was charged with three counts of simple assault, against Ms. Ferrechio and the two police officers. Ms. Anigbo was also charged with unlawfully taking the reporter’s notebook. Three other staff members at the school were also charged with misdemeanors.

All four pleaded innocent at the Jan. 10 arraignment.

The Garvey School has 61 students ages 5 to 18, primarily boys. Its educational plan emphasizes individualized instruction, character education, and a curriculum that Ms. Anigbo has described as “Afrocentric multicultural.”

Broader Issues

In the weeks following the incident, amid a police investigation and intense media coverage, supporters of Ms. Anigbo have held rallies to protest what they see as unfair treatment. Her critics have questioned whether she is a good role model for her students.

But scrutiny has also focused on the quality of the school program, the charter school law that Congress crafted for the city, and the oversight of the charter school.

Though an emergency measure by the city’s congressionally established financial-control board stripped nearly all authority from the school board over the 75,000-student system in November, the school board retained authority over charter schools, said Loretta Hardge, the communications director for the school district. (“D.C. Schools Chief Takes Reins as Balance of Power Shifts,” Dec. 4, 1996.)

But some members of the school board are dissatisfied with their responsibility.

Board member Jay Silberman, a lawyer, said the federal law gives the charter school’s board of trustees “total autonomy and control over what happens at the school as to curriculum, staffing, how money is spent.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty
Getty
School Choice & Charters Full-Time Virtual Schools: Still Growing, Still Struggling, Still Resisting Oversight
Nearly 500,000 students now attend full-time online and blended schools, says a new report from the National Education Policy Center.
6 min read
Student attending class from a remote location.
E+