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Important Letter From DESAP Regarding Recent Media Reports

Dear Ellington Community,

Not surprisingly, in the days since our local NBC affiliate aired its investigative report into allegations of sexual misconduct in 2004 and 2013 by a former Ellington faculty member, we have received and answered numerous questions and concerns from parents.

We will continue to answer all questions you may have, or that may occur to you in the future to the extent possible, but in the meantime, we want to let you know that part of our agenda for the upcoming March 2, 8:00 p.m. SHADE meeting will be devoted to this subject. Specifically, we will clarify some understandable confusion over a lawsuit that named DESA, among others, as a co-defendant and the criminal allegations surrounding Mark Williams, which was the subject of the media investigative report. Until this past Thursday, February 24, there had been no pending litigation against DESA in connection to Mark Williams.

However, the school was also named in a suit last spring, surrounding similar allegations against a separate former teacher, Mark Walker. The lawsuit relating to Mark Walker was filed in May of 2021. DESA has retained counsel, who have responded to the lawsuit and generally denied the allegations as they pertain to alleged wrongdoing by DESA. It is DESA’s intention to vigorously contest this matter. Our attorneys only represent the school, and attorneys’ fees for the defense of this matter are being covered through DESA’s insurance. Since the Mark Williams-related lawsuit was only filed this past week, DESA is currently working with our insurance provider to obtain counsel.

At this time, all that we are prepared to discuss is that the complaint pertains to allegations of sexual misconduct by Mark Williams in 2004. These allegations against Williams were reported by DESA to the DCPS and the Metropolitan Police Department back in 2004.

We also wish to address and correct the record with respect to some recent misreporting related to DCPS plans to assert more control over DESAP.

The facts are the DESAP initiated a process with DCPS last summer to secure Ellington’s long-term future through the creation of a sustainable funding model. There are many component parts to this model, and a key step includes DCPS taking more responsibility for governing the school’s operations.

Our goal is to ensure that DESAP will retain its vital role of assuring that the vision for Ellington as a unique place to nurture and inspire passion for the arts while preparing our students for post-secondary education and/or careers in the arts is maintained. However, it is not viable for DESAP’s volunteer board to continue to govern the school entirely, and the vital additional resources we seek from DCPS necessarily require increased leadership from DCPS. We will be developing and publishing a more thorough explanation of the sustainability model. We are continuing to negotiate with DCPS, but we felt it was important to correct erroneous reports that this decision was in response to the recent reports of former teacher misconduct.

We will also plan to discuss the measures that we implemented in the past five years to help assure that the criminal acts of which Mark Williams and Mark Walker are accused can never occur at Ellington. We will continue to review and update our instructional protocols and other policies to protect our students but will also welcome hearing ideas from our community about what more could be done.

We know that this matter is of extreme interest to every parent. We also know that many of our parents are unable to attend the monthly SHADE meetings, so we hope this overview is helpful.


Duke Ellington School of the Arts Project

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