Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The CPS principals revolt: A single spark can start a prairie fire

She [Byrd-Bennett] can't "get to the bottom" of it when the culprit is at the top. -- Principal Troy LaRaviere

A SMALLTALK SALUTE goes out to Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere for standing up and speaking truth to power. His May 9th letter in the Sun-Times, "Under Emanuel, principals have no voice", has sparked a firestorm and has Rahm and CEO Byrd-Bennett, once again running for cover.

It's not often you hear a CPS principal tipping his hat to democratic and pro-teacher educators, John Dewey and Linda Darling-Hammond, two names that strike fear into the heart of the CPS bureaucracy.
The world’s highest-performing school systems are built on the ideas of American education professionals ranging from John Dewey to Linda Darling-Hammond, ideas that recognize school improvement is not an individual race, but a team sport. Yet, our own elected officials have been ignoring those ideas in favor of teacher-bashing, privatized choice, fly-by-night fast-track teacher licensing and over-reliance on testing — ideas that have not improved schooling in any nation that has tried them.
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.”

Also on Monday, at least three other principals echoed LaRaviere’s criticism of the mayor's gag-order leadership style, leaving Rahm flack Sarah Hamilton speechless (Ah...) and causing the mayor's buffer, BBB threatening to "get to the bottom of this." 
“The privatization of education in our city and nation wide alarms me,” Heather Yutzy, principal at Belding Elementary, wrote on the blog, calling on fellow principals to organize. “Unfunded mandates (PE and art) weigh heavily on my shoulders as I prepare to present a budget recommendation to my LSC. My deep passion for differentiation and meeting the needs of all students is extremely difficult to make a reality with such a bare-bones budget . . .
“Principals and the Chicago Teachers Union should be working shoulder-to-shoulder and standing together at microphones on most matters in education,” Yutzy wrote. Deborah Bonner, principal of Dett Elementary School, 2131 W. Monroe, wrote on the same blog of feeling “like a puppet.”
“Why is there the need to treat professionals as if we work in sweat shops?” she wrote. “The annoying micro managing and finger pointing without the slightest bit of intelligent conversation and support . . .  I just wanted to write to you and say that you have sparked a great deal of conversation in many of us and I thank you for having the courage to do so.”
And in a lengthy piece published Monday at Catalyst-Chicago.org, Principal Adam Parrott-Sheffer of Mary Gage Peterson Elementary School, 5510 N. Christiana, wrote that administrators who have raised concerns in meetings — “such as what to do when we see lunchroom employees in tears from being overworked as the district cut school positions by 33 percent to 50 percent” receive no response.
(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)
Principal Troy LaRaviere was one of only a few principals to speak against budget cuts announced last July. LaRaviere says under Mayor Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked schools administration, principals have been told they must voice support for policies such as the longer school day. 

Responding to BBB's get-to-the-bottom threat, LaRaviere's said:
“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. We want to speak up for the end of a school system that relies on shaming rather than capacity building ...”
And then there's his great tweet:

Also, listen to Linda Lutton's report on WBEZ which quotes Chicago Principals Assoc. Pres. Clarice Berry saying that principals are under a "gag order." The BEZ report also shows that there were other principals, like Gresham's Dr. Diedrus Brown, standing up and speaking out against the budget cuts months ago along with LaRaviere. 

Here's more from Berry:
“People are so frustrated and so angry. We were trying to get a count of the number of principals who have thrown their keys on the desk and walked away from the job in the last year. It’s in the double digits,” Berry said Monday.
A single spark can indeed start a prairie fire.


  1. Let's hope this spark isn't smothered by BBB's "All Hands on Deck" meeting today. We all need to stand together and take back our schools! Principals and teachers should come together to set this School Board and it's suffocating, demeaning, and punitive policies ablaze!

  2. And...umm...isn't Gresham now an AUSL "turnaround" school, whereby the entire faculty will be replaced, including Dr. Brown? Ahhh...the plot thickens, "Dr. Diedrus Brown, standing up & speaking out against the budget cuts MONTHS ago..."


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