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Ogden principal’s ouster frustrates parents, community

Mary Beyer speaks out against the recent firing of her husband, Ogden Elementary principal Michael Beyer, during a local school council meeting on Nov. 5, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Hundreds of parents and community members attended a meeting at the Gold Coast campus of Ogden International School of Chicago Monday evening, with the vast majority voicing frustration and confusion at the district’s decision to remove Principal Michael S. Beyer from his post last week.

Beyer, the Ogden principal for the last three years, was “reassigned” last week after the Chicago Public Schools inspector general found that Ogden used improper out-of-district and homeschool transfer codes for students going on long vacations as a way to get around unexcused absences.

More than four dozen people spoke during the two-hour meeting, including Akiba Roberts, who teaches fourth grade at Ogden and has known Beyer for 10 years. Roberts contended that whatever missteps Beyer may have made, they are symptomatic of larger problems within the school district.

“This is not a school issue, this is a structural issue,” Roberts said.

Roberts and dozens of other speakers beseeched Randel Josserand, the chief of the CPS network that oversees Ogden, to reconsider Beyer’s reassignment.

In a statement, CPS said that the district “holds its school leaders to high standards for professional conduct and integrity. Based on the facts of this case, the district is in agreement with the Inspector General’s assessment that removing Principal Beyer is appropriate and necessary.”

CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler alerted the district to his findings last June, months before the start of the school year.

Video by Max Herman | Simeon Henderson, Dean at Ogden Elementary, speaks out against the firing of Ogden's principal, Michael Be

Beyer’s ouster came just two months into the first school year after the predominantly minority, low-income students from the now-shuttered Jenner Academy for the Arts merged with majority white, affluent Ogden students at Ogden’s three campuses.

Several parents noted that Ogden has had a half-dozen principals in recent years.

“Now, the merger has happened,” said Sarah Anderson, mother of three Ogden students. “And now, once again, we are being asked to accept yet another new administrator and start over again in so many ways in the midst of a very pivotal and fragile merger. The current focus should remain on our children and their teachers’ futures and this depends on us all getting this right.”

Though Beyer did not attend Monday’s meeting, his wife, Mary Beyer, also spoke. She said her husband opted to stay away from the meeting “to honor the process the district must follow according to the state board of education.

“He has dedicated every waking moment to this school and it has affected our family, but we willingly make these sacrifices for the good of the Ogden community,” said Mary Beyer, whose hands were visibly shaking as she read from a piece of paper.

Ald. Walter Burnett, whose 27th Ward includes Ogden’s Jenner campus, spoke highly of Beyer, saying “we know that Mr. Beyer’s heart is in to this merger.

“He believed in the children and the families in order to make these schools work together,” Burnett said.