Hearing officer: Troy LaRaviere should be suspended without pay

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Troy LaRaviere speaks about his removal as principal from Blaine Elementary and his run for the presidency of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association during a press conference at Wishbone North on May 12, 2016. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

A Chicago Public Schools hearing officer on Friday recommended that ousted Blaine Elementary School principal Troy LaRaviere be suspended without pay, CPS said.

The embattled principal and longtime mayoral critic — who has accused CPS of moving in on him to foil his current bid to head Chicago Principals and Administrators Association — was abruptly removed from Blaine last month, and suspended with pay, pending a hearing.

The district’s case against him — complaints include his failure to complete extensive paperwork required for teacher evaluations, which he calls a waste of time — was presented in a formal disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.

On Friday, that hired independent hearing officer made her recommendation, which now will be forwarded to the Illinois State Board of Education, where another hearing officer will again hear from both sides, then make a recommendation as to whether LaRaviere should be fired.

“Mr. LaRaviere has made public the charges that CPS provided to him on April 25, 2016.Those charges set forth the bases for CPS’ decision to remove him as a principal.An independent arbitrator will hear evidence concerning those charges and make a recommendation concerning Mr. LaRaviere’s employment,” said CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner.

The Chicago Board of Education would then vote on whatever recommendation the ISBE hearing officer makes.

“As expected, the mayor’s office has ignored both the law and the will of the Blaine community,” LaRaviere said by email late Friday night. “I am more motivated than ever to work with educators and community members across Chicago to create what this administration has failed to deliver: an equitable school system that works for all of its children.”

Among CPS’ formal accusations — which LaRaviere published on his blog — were dereliction of duties when he publicly opposed state PARCC testing of CPS students “in defiance of the CEO’s directives,” and insubordination for publicly supporting the rejection of a January contract proposal with the Chicago Teachers Union as well as the CTU’s April 1 strike.

CPS also chided him for using his office to support two politicians highly critical of Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who failed to unseat the mayor; and progressive presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In a press conference Thursday, the outspoken principal, who has headed wealthy, top-rated Blaine since 2011,denounced the charges as “politically motivated.” He contends City Hall doesn’t want him leading the association because he has promised to unite principals and amplify their voice in how schools are run.

“When I was a lone voice, the administration tolerated me,” he said, surrounded by Blaine parents in #StandWithTroy T-shirts. “But when faced with the prospect of an organized group of education leaders speaking as one on behalf of students, they moved with haste and reckless abandon to prevent that from happening.”

CPS and the mayor’s office have denied any political motivation in ousting a critic. Bittner said the district “routinely removes principals for a variety of reasons” — six so far this school year. She said formal teacher evaluations are important so stronger teachers don’t get laid off before weaker ones.

“As the principal of a Chicago Public School, you owe a duty of loyalty to the Board, the CEO and their designees,” read the letter of charges against LaRaviere signed by CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson.

LaRaviere disagreed. “We see it all, and we have to have a voice in influencing policy. If you want good policy, why wouldn’t you bring that voice in?” LaRaviere said of fellow principals.

Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick

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