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Sanders: Rahm’s revenge ‘obsession’ behind principal reassignment

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders blasted Mayor Emanuel Thursday for “politically motivated retaliation” against Blaine Elementary School Principal Troy LaRaviere.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is feeling the Bern — and not in a good way.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders blasted the mayor Thursday for “politically motivated retaliation” against controversial Blaine Elementary School Principal Troy LaRaviere, blaming the principal’s reassignment on “Emanuel’s unhealthy obsession with taking revenge.”

“It is absolutely unacceptable that a school principal is facing politically motivated retaliation because he dared to stand up to the mayor of Chicago,” the Vermont senator said in written statement.

“If we are going to build an economy that works for all, we cannot sit back and watch as workers face retaliation from bosses. I condemn Principal LaRaviere’s reassignment and call on Democrats around the country to stand up against Mayor Emanuel’s pettiness.”

Chicago Public Schools issued a statement late Thursday afternoon disputing the idea that the mayor’s office ordered the move.

“CPS made this decision based on the advice of our attorneys because of alleged acts of misconduct, including violations of a previously board-issued warning resolution. We did not consult the mayor in making this decision,” Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said.

CPS officials weren’t saying specifically why LaRaviere got the boot, but they say it has nothing to do with a meeting he’d scheduled with other CPS principals.

An outspoken critic of Emanuel, LaRaviere appeared in TV ads promoting Sanders — and trashing the mayor — before the March primary.

LaRaviere was uncharacteristically quiet Thursday, a day after CPS reassigned him.

LaRaviere said that CPS told him in a letter Wednesday he’d been removed from his job at Blaine, after district officials tried to shut down a meeting he was supposed to attend, along with other principals, at a South Side elementary school.

But CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said Thursday that LaRaviere’s removal is “unrelated to the meeting at the elementary school.”

“Principal LaRaviere was asked to come to a meeting at CPS on Wednesday to discuss his removal and employment status,” Bittner said. “He did not show up to the meeting.”

During his time at Blaine, LaRaviere drew praise from those who say he speaks boldly on issues that need to be aired. Others criticized him for being too political for a school principal. That divided opinion was evident Thursday.

“He says what he feels,” said Anthony Porfirio, a recent past president of Blaine’s Local School Council and a LaRaviere supporter. “There is no secret agenda. It’s straight from the heart.”

Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School speaks during a lively panel discussion last year. File Photo. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School speaks during a lively panel discussion last year. File Photo. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

Porfirio said LaRaviere started speaking publicly about school funding at a time when Blaine was looking at substantial cuts to its budget.

“He knew the risks . . . but what are you going to do?” Porfirio said. “He’s a very passionate educator. It’s got to break his heart to watch what’s happening to the funding.”

One CPS school principal, who didn’t want her name used, said she has been frustrated by LaRaviere’s activism. The principal said she’s sometimes felt pressure from parents at her school to be equally vocal.

“It’s an unrealistic expectation,” said the veteran principal. “But it’s a distraction that interferes with the running of the school.”

LaRaviere has become a public face of unhappiness with Emanuel’s school policies.

He supported Emanuel challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in last year’s mayoral election, serving as the Cook County commissioner’s education adviser.

And days before the March 15 primary, LaRaviere popped up in TV ads Sanders began airing here in support of his presidential bid.

“In Chicago, we have endured a corrupt political system,” LaRaviere said in the ads. “And the chief politician standing in the way of us getting good schools is our mayor.”

Sanders returned the favor on Thursday, issuing his blistering statement.

“Principal LaRaviere, who won three straight principal merit awards handed out by the mayor, is getting results for the students at Blaine Elementary,” Sanders. “The only explanation for his removal appears to be Mayor Emanuel’s unhealthy obsession with taking revenge.”

Social media posts Thursday appeared to be equally divided between those who said LaRaviere should have spent more time focused on Blaine, and those who admired his rebellious streak.

In a message to parents, LSC and community members, CPS announced Wednesday that LaRaviere had been reassigned from his post at Blaine

Effective Thursday, Pedro Alonso, the principal of Von Steuben High School from 2006 to 2014, will take his place, CPS said.

Blaine was expected to hold a meeting Monday evening “to discuss the school leadership change and transition plans,” according to a CPS email, which did not disclose specifics of LaRaviere’s role.

In August 2015, LaRaviere was formally censured by the Chicago Board of Education in a warning resolution that’s an early step in the district’s termination process. A CPS spokesman then denied that the discipline came in retaliation for LaRaviere’s work as an education adviser to Garcia.

At the time, LaRaviere also was accused of “insubordination directed toward the CEO” during a July 13, 2015, budget meeting in which he “asked a provocative question from the audience attempting to highlight financial missteps of the Board and demanding an answer to those missteps.”

LaRaviere has been at Blaine, 1420 W. Grace, since 2011.

In an emailed statement late Wednesday, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said: “CPS has removed Troy LaRaviere because of alleged acts of misconduct, including violations of a previous Warning Resolution passed by the Board of Education. A hearing will be held to determine his employment status.”