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Lake View HS, CPS Emphasize 'Listening' After Principal Suddenly Resigns

By Serena Dai | May 1, 2014 3:22pm
 Scott Grens, Lake View High School's new acting principal
Scott Grens, Lake View High School's new acting principal
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

LAKEVIEW — Chicago Public Schools and Lake View High School's new acting principal wanted to emphasize one major thing after the former principal's sudden departure — they plan to engage with the community.

Interim Principal Scott Grens, a former Lake View English teacher, said his top priority since stepping in on Monday had been listening to stakeholders.

CPS official Craig Benes emphasized the need for the school to engage with parents, the council and "all teachers on making Lake View better," he said at Wednesday's Local School Council meeting.

"The trust in the community has to be strong that this is an incredible and viable option for the neighborhood," he said. "It's not there yet. It's clearly not there yet."

Despite Grens' positive energy at the meeting, former Principal Lilith Werner's sudden departure last Friday — and the impact of the staff's divided opinion on her — still came up.

Benes tried to dispel rumors that Werner had been fired or removed, though he couldn't say what her position with the network would be, citing privacy reasons.

Staff didn't find out about her leaving until Friday at the end of the day, which "shocked" one teacher who spoke up at the meeting. School council member Henry Kurzynski added that "we all were" surprised by Werner's resignation.

Math teacher Ernie Richter, a 19-year Lake View veteran, said he wanted to go on the record saying that a "large component of the people on staff" felt "demoralized."

"The selection of a new principal is very important," he said. "The potential loss of some very talented staff because of low morale is a dangerous thing and hopefully can be avoided."

Benes said Werner left abruptly to "maintain the focus on the students in the building."

Grens came to Lake View on Monday after working as assistant principal at selective enrollment high school George Westinghouse College Prep.

He plans to spend his initial time as an acting principal — and potentially, as the contract principal — meeting in focus groups and one-on-one with students, teachers and parents.

He's also tasked with meeting with principals at local elementary schools soon to strengthen the relationship, Benes said.

Already, that connection to feeder schools may be on the upswing with the election of community representative Arnold Davis, who's been on the school council of Nettelhorst for four years. He and several other active parents from feeder elementary schools attended Wednesday's meeting.

Grens said he was committed to making the school a viable neighborhood option in the future.

"It’s all about hard work," Grens said. "That’s what I’m here to do. Hard work. I’m here to just really be a beacon of hope to talk about the future."

Grens, who taught at Lakeview about three years ago, still has former students at the school.

At the meeting, the council's student representative Jessica Morales read a letter from the senior class that welcomed him back, expressing sadness that they wouldn't be around long for his tenure.

"We know Lake View is in good hands with him," Morales said.

The school council must still go through a formal process to hire a new principal. Because the council will be changing soon, new members may be involved in the process, though they won't be able to vote.

Grens is hosting a meet-and-greets from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and from 6-7 p.m. Monday at the school's alumni room, 4015 N. Ashland Ave.

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