Brown: Give me more troublemakers like ex-CPS principal LaRaviere

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Troy LaRaviere. | Max Herman / Sun-Times

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There’s no doubt Blaine Elementary School Principal Troy LaRaviere has been an insubordinate Chicago Public Schools employee.

Too bad there aren’t more like him.

Maybe not exactly like him. LaRaviere is prone to grandstanding, and I’m not a big fan of grandstanders.

But I’m very impressed by his passionate support of his students, the loyalty he has engendered from their parents and the educational results they have achieved together in his five years at the Lakeview school.

I especially appreciate that he isn’t afraid to speak out when he sees the leadership of CPS doing something he believes will hurt his school and his students.


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It’s shocking when you realize how few principals will stick their necks out that way, even to speak honestly about the effect of budget cuts — that is, it’s shocking until you see what happened to LaRaviere.

Moreover, I’m not at all impressed by the dismissal charges leveled against LaRaviere, which he made public Thursday, three weeks after CPS removed him from his job. On Friday, a CPS hearing officer decided to suspend him without pay while the effort to fire him moves forward.

I held my fire about this until LaRaviere released the document detailing the accusations because I couldn’t discount the possibility there was something damning he wasn’t telling us. If there was, I’m not seeing it.

The official charges against LaRaviere basically show what anybody watching television for the last three years could have told you, namely that LaRaviere is a royal pain in the behind for whoever is running CPS at the time.

He’s a member of management who is a vocal critic of management. Plus, there is something that might be less evident, which is that he is a manager who isn’t always good at following orders.

LaRaviere has been crossways with former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett over his defiant opposition to standardized testing; with her interim replacement, school board member Jesse Ruiz, for getting mouthy at a public meeting; and now with Forrest Claypool on a variety of matters — although notably only Claypool has seen fit to take action against him.

I won’t go so far as to say it’s all politics, as LaRaviere has done. It could also be personal.

LaRaviere has made himself one of the most ardent critics of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He made commercials for Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for mayor and Bernie Sanders for president.

I don’t necessarily agree with LaRaviere’s politics or everything he has to say, but I don’t think he should have to tone it down because he works for CPS.

Sure, there has to be a chain of command, but that’s no reason to squelch dissent. CPS is not a paramilitary organization like the Chicago Police Department.

Ultimately, LaRaviere and other school principals work for the people of Chicago. That’s where their loyalty should lie.

Failing to do his work is another matter. And I’m not excusing LaRaviere for not filling out teacher evaluations or ignoring a school financial audit alleging deficient bookkeeping.

But it should have been left to the Blaine Local School Council that hired him to decide if that was sufficient grounds to fire him when weighed against his good work.

The fact the LSC was bypassed leads me to believe somebody wanted to make an example of LaRaviere and that his candidacy for president of the Chicago Principal and Administrators Association was also a factor. I’ll be eager to see the election results.

LaRaviere’s relationship with CPS leadership reminds me of Father Michael Pfleger and the Archdiocese of Chicago.

It wouldn’t work for every parish priest to march to his own drummer, but Pfleger’s insistence on doing so has definitely been a benefit to Chicago and the neighborhood he serves.

The archdiocese figured out a way to work with Pfleger. CPS should try harder to do the same with LaRaviere.

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