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Ray Elementary Principal, Assistant Principal Reassigned, CPS Won't Say Why

By Sam Cholke | April 9, 2013 9:20am | Updated on April 10, 2013 2:29pm

HYDE PARK — At a Monday meeting with Ray Elementary School parents, Chicago Public Schools officials refused to tell parents why the principal and assistant principal were abruptly removed from their positions on Friday.

“The chief of schools [Barbara Byrd-Bennett] decided this is the right time to have new leadership at Ray,” John Price, chief of schools for the Burnham Park Elementary Network, told about 75 parents at the school, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave.

On Friday, Principal Tatia Beckwith and Assistant Principal Jeffrey Alstadt were removed from the school, and will be “reassigned” to new positions, Price said.

On Monday, Cydney Fields returned temporarily to her old position as principal, which she held for 17 years before Beckwith’s appointment in 2011. She will run the school for the next two weeks, officials said.

An interim principal will be introduced at the Thursday Local School Council meeting.

“I took off work today, and you’re telling me you can’t tell me any reason why the principal at my son’s school is leaving in the middle of the school year?” said Jennifer Frey, the parent of a first-grader.

Price said Beckwith did not resign, get fired or accept a new job, but would not elaborate further.

“I don’t have any more details to share with you as to the why,” Price said, citing privacy concerns and a CPS policy against discussing personnel matters.

Many parents praised the move to remove Beckwith, but were angered that it happened so quickly with little opportunity to talk to the interim principal about their children’s specific needs.

“Tell us something, don’t just give us the bureau talk,” said Patrick Brutus, whose son is in first grade at Ray.

Members of the LSC said they were aware of concerns about Beckwith, but declined to specify what issues were raised or when. Gordon Mayer, chairman of the LSC, said members were not informed of the decision to remove Beckwith and Alstadt or why it happened so abruptly.

Other LSC members said they were unaware of the exact reasons, but there were problems implementing Ray University, 45 minutes of enrichment activities with community partner organizations.

In January, the LSC approved spending $60,000 on the program to meet CPS mandates for a longer school day.

By all accounts, Beckwith and Alstadt were unaware that they would be removed from the school on Friday. Several parents said they had scheduled meetings with one or both for Monday.

Price said he would pick the interim principal and would seek input from parents and teachers in doing so.

Because Beckwith was not fired and did not resign, her position is not officially vacant, and the LSC will get no vote on the interim principal, Price said. The interim principal could serve through the end of July 2015, the remainder of Beckwith’s contract, before the LSC gets a formal say in Ray leadership.