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Ex-Blaine principal, a fierce Rahm critic, resigns

Ousted Principal Troy LaRaviere | Sun-Times file photo

Troy LaRaviere, a longtime fierce critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the chief of the principals association, has penned a scathing resignation from Chicago Public Schools, ending the district’s efforts to fire him.

“I hereby resign my position as principal of Blaine Elementary School,” LaRaviere wrote on his personal blog Tuesday. “However, my efforts to reverse your poor fiscal and educational management of our school system are just getting started.”

The outspoken principal wrote that he ended his legal case to let his former school move on and hire a permanent principal, and to avoid the bother of “a kangaroo court that ends with a determination by your appointed school board; the very school board that voted to censure me in the first place.”

“I don’t expect your appointed board to deliver justice any more than I expect it to practice fiscal responsibility or competent educational management,” he wrote.

LaRaviere said the point he would make during upcoming hearings before the Illinois State Board of Education already have been made: That his firing was political rather than what’s best for the students of high-performing Blaine. And he accused the mayor’s office of communicating with CPS’ legal office “multiple times regarding my termination.”

The mayor has denied having anything to do with disciplining LaRaviere, saying he doesn’t get involved in personnel matters.

LaRaviere received CPS records showing that Emanuel’s office did communicate with CPS — but not the contents of those emails.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said that “CPS routinely informs City Hall about our decisions on notable principal changes. After CPS notified City Hall that Mr. LaRaviere was being dismissed, the City requested additional information, which CPS subsequently provided” including a copy of earlier warnings, she said.

LaRaviere’s three-day hearing before a state hearing officer would have begun on Sept. 19 and his resignation — effective Sept. 28 — ends that process, Bittner said. She said he also missed a deadline to submit names of witnesses who could have testified on his behalf.

A perennial thorn in the mayor’s side since 2014, LaRaviere has so far denied plans to seek Emanuel’s job. But he said his work continues to “make sure CPS and City Hall gets new leadership and in the meantime, I work with principals to compel CPS to adopt research-based, evidence-based policies that have been proven to work no matter who’s in there. If the public is organized enough, we can compel them to do right by our students despite their wishes to do otherwise.”

LaRaviere was among the first public critics of the whopping $20 million no-bid SUPES principal training contract that cost former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett her job and likely her freedom. He backed Emanuel challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the Cook County commissioner who forced the mayor into a runoff but fell short of defeating him.

Campaign ads LaRaviere appeared in for Garcia and then for presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., led CPS to censure him.

When LaRaviere ran to replace the retiring head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, the typically quiet election blew up. Ultimately, LaRaviere defeated former Prosser High School Principal Kenneth “Buzz” Hunter, whose nominating petitions contained signatures of two top CPS officials.

But meanwhile, CPS abruptly removed him from Blaine during spring break, and a CPS hearing officer recommended he be suspended without pay, agreeing he failed to complete extensive paperwork required for teacher evaluations, which he called a waste of time. District officials also barred him from visiting any CPS property, which he said made campaigning difficult.

The formal accusations also included dereliction of duties when he publicly opposed state PARCC testing of CPS students “in defiance of the CEO’s directives.”

As long as LaRaviere’s employment case continued, Blaine’s Local School Council could not hire a permanent replacement. Once CPS officially notifies them, the LSC will begin looking, vice president Abby Sullivan said, adding that the school is running smoothly again.

“We have been very comfortable with the way our two assistant principals have been handling everything since CPS removed Troy from the school,” she said. “We hope they will be in consideration for the position of permanent principal.”