Wicker Park School Hires Principal of Closing Lafayette

By Alisa Hauser on May 9, 2013 10:55am | Updated on May 9, 2013 12:38pm

 Lauren Albani, seen with children at Skinner North Classical School in July of 2011. She served a principal internship there.
Lauren Albani, seen with children at Skinner North Classical School in July of 2011. She served a principal internship there.
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Chicago Public Schools

WICKER PARK —  Just days before the Chicago Public Schools board is scheduled to make its final decision on school closures, the principal of a Humboldt Park school on the CPS closure list has found a new job.

Lauren Albani, principal of Lafayette School in Humboldt Park, has accepted a new position to lead LaSalle II Magnet School at 1148 N. Honore St. in Wicker Park, sources said.

Jen Turner, chair of Lasalle II Magnet School's 11-member principal search committee, which formed in January, confirmed that a verbal offer was extended to Albani in an open meeting Friday. On Thursday, Albani is scheduled to sign a four-year contract to lead the Wicker Park elementary school.

"We're really excited and looking forward to moving forward with [Albani]," Turner said.

Albani has served as principal of Lafayette School at 2714 W. Augusta Blvd. in Humboldt Park since July 2012, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Lafayette is a specialty school with one-third of its students enrolled in special education programs. CPS has recommended that the school's 470 students attend Chopin Elementary in the fall.

In a January 2013 RedEye story about volunteer efforts to spruce up the grounds of Lafayette's campus on the Martin Luther King Day holiday, Albani told a reporter, "We are really trying to revitalize the school and make it a place where everyone wants to come."

After a tenuous 2½ months of hearings and even an angry protest in front of 26th Ward Ald. Roberto Maldonado's office, a CPS hearing officer has recommended Lafayette for closure, saying it is underutilized.

Sources confirmed Albani announced her new position to Lafayette staff Wednesday.

Albani will replace Suzanne Velasquez-Sheehy, who was principal of LaSalle II Magnet School from its inception in 2008 until January, when she moved on from the Wicker Park school to head a Chicago charter school effort funded in part by Bill and Melinda Gates.

At a January Local School Council meeting where parents met interim principal Collette Unger-Teasley, Turner said the committee was hopeful it would find a new principal "well before the new school year."

 Suzanne Velasquez-Sheehy was principal of LaSalle II Magnet School from 2008 until January, when she moved on from the Wicker Park school to lead a charter high school. She was a good sport at the 2012 Do Division Fest and emerged "all smiles" from a dunk tank at the festival.
Suzanne Velasquez-Sheehy was principal of LaSalle II Magnet School from 2008 until January, when she moved on from the Wicker Park school to lead a charter high school. She was a good sport at the 2012 Do Division Fest and emerged "all smiles" from a dunk tank at the festival.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Turner said Albani is scheduled to sign a standard four-year contract at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. A letter will go out out in students' backpacks Thursday announcing the new principal. 

Turner said the letter to parents will include details of an informal meet-and-greet with Albani at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. May 29.

Turner said the committee interviewed several candidates who were all "quality candidates" and  met "as needed"  with sometimes as many as two or three meeting per week.

The fact Lafayette is on the proposed closure list "had no bearing on our decision," Turner said.

"When we began interviewing [Albani] in February, the closure list had not come out yet," Turner said.

Albani was at Lafayette only since July 2012 after completing a principal internship program at Skinner North Elementary School in Old Town, where she was featured in a "Learning by Doing" spotlight on the CPS website.

Previously Albani —  a Teach for America alum — worked at a KIPP college prep charter school and as a Spanish teacher in Austin, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Turner said it was Albani's experiences at Skinner North — an "awesome magnet school," Turner said — which appealed to the search committee. She also said Alabani is "a strong leader excited about education and making sure the children excel and are on point and are taken care of." 

Turner said Albani's "professionalism stood out," too.

Albani is expected to begin her new position July 1. On May 22, the School Board will vote on whether to accept the recommendations made by CPS boss Barbara Byrd Bennett and shutter Lafayette.

Albani could not be reached for comment.

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