On June 17, 2011, Boston Police faxed Boston Public Schools Superintendent, Carol Johnson, a police report on the arrest of Rodney Peterson, principal of the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics & Science in Roxbury, on a domestic assault charge. The report states that Peterson choked and punched his wife in their kitchen, and that the victim was heard screaming, "You're holding me against my will," and "You punched me in my stomach." Peterson’s wife had given birth to their first child by caesarean section only weeks earlier. Punches had left dents in the refrigerator. A guilty finding was decided on Aug. 8, 2011. Peterson was ordered to complete a batterer’s intervention program, as a condition of his sentence to one year’s probation.
Superintendent Carol Johnson responded in the following ways: She informed no one outside her office of the charges. She wrote a letter to the judge in support of Peterson. She told Peterson that he could keep his job as principal, “as long as the news media didn’t find out,” according to a Boston Globe source briefed by Peterson. She renewed a 3-year contract for Peterson. She sent him to be trained as a schools superintendent. Finally, she recommended him in glowing terms to the Memphis public schools system, where both she and Peterson had served together in the past.
When these facts were exposed in the Boston Globe on July 8, 2012, Supt. Johnson stated: “I stand behind the decision.” Her spokesperson stated that Supt. Johnson continued to see in Peterson “great potential as a school leader,” and wouldn’t rule out his continued employment in BPS. Following public and media outcry and demands for her ouster, the Superintendent now states that she made “a mistake.” Mayor Thomas Menino has thrown his support behind her, stating that her apology is sufficient, and that her conduct does not send a bad message to students.
Parents of Boston Public School students strongly disagree. Superintendent Johnson’s actions, and the Mayor’s support of her, send a shockingly bad message, both to students and to administrators. And they send an alarming message to parents: by retaining and advancing Peterson, Superintendent Johnson made the choice to take dangerous chances with the safety of public school students and staff, in Boston and elsewhere.
Enough is Enough!
Superintendent Johnson’s handling of Peterson is not a defensible “mistake,” but rather the very worst in “a pattern of bad decisions,” decried by John Connolly, Chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee, and including a chaotic series of school closures and re-locations, recurrent busing crises, the stocking of expired cafeteria food, and state funding lost by mismanagement. Councilor Connolly calls for the Superintendent’s ouster, and we join that call.
Superintendent Carol Johnson has lost the public’s trust. She must resign or be fired immediately!