Payton College Prep principal resigns after school’s latest controversy

The fourth-ranked school in the nation now faces its second leadership change in as many years as complaints again rocked the Near North Side school.

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Benny Chan, a senior at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, right, writes “protect our teachers” on the sidewalk outside the school in the Near North neighborhood, Thursday morning, May 20, 2021.

Benny Chan, a senior at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, right, writes “protect our teachers” on the sidewalk outside the school in the Near North neighborhood on May 20, 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The principal at Walter Payton College Prep is stepping down this summer only a year after she took the position and was tasked with addressing significant racism allegations at one of the country’s most elite high schools.

The fourth-ranked school in the nation now faces its second leadership change in as many years as staff and student complaints in recent weeks again rocked the Near North Side school and highlighted concerns with the relatively new administration’s management style. Some called for Principal Melissa Resh’s resignation and felt she could no longer fix the tainted environment.

In a letter to the Payton community Thursday, Resh announced she would leave in mid-July “to pursue another opportunity.”

“After such a challenging year for all, I hope that my departure paves the way for brighter times ahead at Payton,” Resh wrote.

The latest criticism started with anonymous posts attributed to teachers last month on an Instagram page that relays the feelings of students and staff of color. The controversy led to a student protest both in-person and virtually in support of their educators and against the Payton administration, and almost 200 kids, parents and staff attended a Local School Council meeting to share their concerns about the school leadership. They cited a lack of transparency and consideration of teacher and student input in decision-making.

Kristin McKay, hired this school year for a new director of transformative justice position, told the school community that week that she wouldn’t return next fall. Resh acknowledged in an email of her own that she had heard “the outcry of pain from our teachers.

“And what I’m hearing is that I am a source of that pain,” she wrote. “I am eager to address that with humility, empathy, curiosity, and a focus on healing.”

Resh and McKay were hired at Payton the year after significant racism allegations came to light while Black student enrollment dropped.

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