CPS rejects effort to oust Jones College Prep Principal Joseph Powers

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said Friday there was insufficient evidence to establish just cause to dismiss principal Joseph Powers after he was accused of violating policies by some members of the LSC.

SHARE CPS rejects effort to oust Jones College Prep Principal Joseph Powers

Jones College Prep is located at 700 S. State St. in the Loop.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

An effort by the Local School Council at Jones College Preparatory High School to fire its longtime principal was rejected by Chicago Public Schools, which told the school leader and his detractors to “hit the reset button” on their tumultuous relationship.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a letter to the Jones LSC Friday that there was insufficient evidence to establish just cause to dismiss principal Joseph Powers after he was accused of violating policies by some members of the LSC.

“The School Code requires that a principal engage in irremediable misconduct or materially breach his principal contract to justify an involuntary dismissal,” Martinez wrote. “These are high standards. While the investigations are ongoing, based on a review of your materials and discussions with representatives of the investigative bodies looking into this matter, there is insufficient evidence of misconduct by Mr. Powers at this time on which to base an action for involuntary dismissal.”

Martinez urged the two sides to reset their relationship and focus their energies on actions that would benefit students.


Jones Principal Joseph Powers


The LSC voted last month to recommend Powers be fired after three parent representatives of the committee — LSC chair Cassie Creswell, Sarah Ma and Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth — levied accusations of policy violations against the school leader.

The three wrote a letter to Martinez in February alleging Powers violated the district’s residency requirement by maintaining a primary home in Missouri, failed to properly handle teacher misconduct complaints and fostered an unwelcoming environment for students and staff of color and transgender and gender nonconforming students.

Creswell said Friday she reacted with “horror” to Martinez’ decision to not dismiss Powers, who is paid more than $175,000 a year.

“The stuff that we reported to the CEO and the charges that we sent were very serious,” she said. “It’s really shameful. It’s clear that CPS does not care about children’s safety, does not care about civil rights and it’s very disturbing.”

Creswell noted that Martinez’ letter said the investigation was ongoing, and he may still be asked to retire or “quietly go away.”

“We will continue to do our job as LSC members to do as much as we can do to hold our principal accountable,” Creswell said. “We will evaluate him and we’ll continue making reports about the wrongdoing and misconduct at the school.”

Powers could not immediately be reached for comment.

He previously said in a letter to the school community that the attacks on him have been personal and without merit, as Jones has significantly improved its academic standing since he arrived more than a dozen years ago.

He said he had considered retirement because the LSC is “openly attacking me and our school leadership team, generally doing everything possible to undermine my leadership at Jones.”

Sarah Kaiser, whose daughter is a senior at Jones, said Friday she was “thrilled” that Powers was staying, adding that she appreciated CPS officials doing their due diligence.

“I thought to have him removed at the tail end of the school year would have been very disruptive for the kids,” Kaiser said. “I just hope that now that this decision has been made and the process is complete I hope that the people who started this whole process can help mend the relationships that were broken and we can all get past this.”

Kaiser said she hopes the accusations and subsequent investigation doesn’t hurt Power’s legacy at the school.

“Because I do think he’s done a good job,” Kaiser said. “And there’s always room for improvement with anybody so hopefully he takes the feedback to heart and tries to make some changes and works with the staff and students to make changes.”

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