LAKEVIEW — Two critical vacancies need to be filled at Inter-American Magnet School — and right now, a total of only four people are known to have applied for either, including one who missed the deadline.
The Spanish and English dual language school voted to extend the application deadlines for both the principal and Local School Council chairman at this week's council meeting in hopes of attracting more candidates.
Principal Vernita Vallez announced in November she would not renew her contract after four years at the school because she didn't think she was able to fully do her job based on mixed signals from Chicago Public Schools officials, she said in a resignation letter.
Because just three people have applied to be principal in advance of the March 29 deadline, the council voted to start a new application process in hopes of a bigger pool of candidates. Ravenswood-Ridge Network chief Craig Benes said Inter-American will receive $1,000 to pay for national ads to help attract applicants.
Benes also said with schools closing, former principals might start applying. And when CPS adds more educators to its list of those eligible to hold principal jobs, more candidates could be available.
"I encourage you to take your time with this," Benes said. "Don’t feel that pressure, like 'Oh my God, we have to hire by a certain date.' ... It’s in your best interest to continue to wait a little bit."
Karen Barbour, the current council chairwoman, announced her resignation last month as her family tries to sell their house. She plans to stay on until her replacement is chosen, and her children will probably stay at the school for the rest of the year regardless.
But a call out for applicants received only one response, which came in after the March 12 deadline, so the search continues for someone to lead the principal selection process.
Though Benes told the council not to worry about lack of interest, a teacher showed up to voice her concerns on the topic. Monica Arce, a seventh-grade teacher who's been at the school for 14 years, thought the school would be better served by reaching out to people who would be great local candidates rather than putting out a national ad.
A previous principal hiring process, she said, attracted 45 candidates.
"Why aren't we looking for those people?" Arce said. "Those people have the heart and soul of Inter-American."
Council members said they could not respond directly to concerns during public participation, but later on said they did not want to reach out to individuals and felt they'd diligently advertised to the local community.
"We don't want a candidate that is waiting for an invitation," Barbour said. "We want to make sure the information is out there, but we want someone with the initiative to do it."
The national ad will run for 30 days. A new council chairman would take office immediately after selection as to start prepping for principal selection. The council largely spoke positively about attracting more applicants, but the fact that few were applying did not escape them.
"Even if we get five times more," said Fran Feeley, a teacher representative on the council, "it’s still only going to be 15."