CPS moves to fix process that led to principal’s promotion while under investigation

The CPS inspector general had reported allegations of sex abuse and cover-ups at Marine Leadership Academy, but a top official was promoted to district management anyway.

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Marine Leadership Academy

Marine Leadership Academy

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools officials are working to fix communication gaps that they say resulted in a principal receiving a promotion to a district management job while her school was under investigation for widespread sexual misconduct and repeated cover-ups.

The inspector general’s office released its findings late last year from a yearslong look into allegations at Marine Leadership Academy, a school for 7-12 graders in Logan Square where 13 adults were fired for either committing sexual misconduct or failing to report it.

Will Fletcher, the inspector general, said in November that his office had told CPS about the widespread nature of the allegations early on. The Sun-Times and WBEZ reported at the time that documents showed district leaders and attorneys knew about the claims for years.

Yet the school’s former principal, Erin Galfer — who the watchdog found had covered up allegations — was promoted to a position in the district’s central office in the midst of the investigation last summer. Galfer has denied she was involved in a cover-up.

“When we first opened this case, we did raise awareness of the broader issues, not just against one or two staff members. What we’ve been discussing is that that conversation needs to be continued,” Fletcher told the Board of Education at its monthly meeting Wednesday at CPS headquarters.

Fletcher’s office took over all adult-on-student sexual misconduct investigations in 2019, while CPS’ office of student protections monitors student-on-student cases. The two sides are now meeting at least once a month to keep on top of systemic problems at schools similar to the one at Marine academy.

Camie Pratt, the director of CPS’ office of student protections, said her team is also regularly pulling cases to comb through data around the district. If they find a school with more or less reported misconduct cases than expected, that could be a sign of widespread issues or cover-ups.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez also said the district is working to fix processes that allowed Galfer to be promoted.

“We’re adding controls on the [human resources] side because we did find individuals that were being promoted even though they were part of the investigation so that was a glaring one that I saw,” Martinez said.

Galfer’s attorney denied at the time the investigation became public that the ex-principal had failed to report sexual allegations, and he blamed the district, which “long knew about the misconduct and did not take timely steps to protect the students.”

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