CPS chief vows she’ll get to the bottom of principal’s complaints

May 13, 2014 by

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett vowed Monday to get to the bottom of a respected principal’s complaints — first voiced in an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times — that CPS bullies its principals, leaving them “paralyzed by fear.”

In a telephone call Monday, Byrd-Bennett said she was surprised to read the op-ed by Troy LaRaviere, principal at Blaine Elementary School in Lake View, whom she called “clearly one of our most distinguished.”

On Monday, at least three other principals echoed LaRaviere’s criticisms.

“The thing I don’t want to get distracted from is, this is less about our ability to speak than what it is we want to speak up for.” LaRaviere told the Sun-Times on Monday. “We want to speak up for the end of a school system that relies on shaming rather than capacity building. . . .”

In the piece published Saturday, LaRaviere characterized the administration’s interaction with principals as “insulting.” He said City Hall “ignored and even suppressed principals’ voices” while pushing its education agenda.

Sarah Hamilton, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s communications director, said there was no immediate comment on the issue.

Responding to LaRaviere’s op-ed, Byrd-Bennett said Monday, “He does a wonderful job. But he is feeling as if somehow there is this repressive environment coming from me and or my office, that he feels if he says anything there’ll be a retribution, I need to understand that and know where it’s coming from.”

Byrd-Bennett continued: “It’s a little saddening to believe that people think there’s a fear of retaliation. I know I have never set that fear. I have never called a principal in and said, ‘Off with your head.’ ”

She asks principals about their problems at school visits, she said. And all principals have her email and direct phone number if they want to talk about policy or problems.

“Maybe it’s a conversation I need to have a follow up with my principals and convene them and address this head-on. This is clearly like in my entire career not anything that I’ve ever experienced, where somebody has a fear of retaliation,” Byrd-Bennett said. “That’s not an atmosphere in which people can work and be productive for kids. I’m now looking at my schedule and saying, ‘When can I get principal groups together in addition to the advisory group I’ve already established?’ ”

LaRaviere said Monday that the way CPS treats its principals “is doing a disservice to our students. . . . Our rights are less of an issue than the rights of our students to get a quality education. That is what drives us. That’s why we got into this.”

“Right now the policies of CPS are not allowing us to have that effect on our students and that is why we must speak out,” he said, adding that he was flooded with grateful emails and telephone calls from other principals.

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via CPS chief vows she’ll get to the bottom of principal’s complaints – Chicago Sun-Times.

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