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Acting Principal to Take Top Job At Hitch Elementary

By Heather Cherone | May 24, 2014 9:07am | Updated on May 27, 2014 8:39am
 A.J. Stich was picked to lead Hitch Elementary School Thursday, the same day his daughter was born.
A.J. Stich was picked to lead Hitch Elementary School Thursday, the same day his daughter was born.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone; Linked-In

GLADSTONE PARK — Hitch Elementary School Acting Principal A.J. Stich will take the top job at the Gladstone Park school, replacing Deborah "Debby" Reese, who died in February.

The Local School Council offered Stich a four-year contract Thursday, the same day his wife gave birth to a baby girl, according to Michael Passman, a spokesman for the Chicago Public Schools.

The council voted to offer Stich the job without interviewing any of the other 18 candidates who applied for the position or holding a public forum to give residents, parents and staff members a chance to question the applicants, said John Garrido, the council's community representative

Stich was by far the most qualified of the 18 candidates to apply for the position, Garrido said. 

"There was no need to continue our search," said Garrido, adding that the district gives local school councils wide discretion in picking a principal.

Stich said in a statement he was humbled to have been selected.

"Hitch is a great community with stellar teachers," Stich said. "I look forward to the next four years together."

Council member Diane Mahon abstained from the vote, saying she wanted to interview other candidates for the position and hold a public forum although she thought Stich had done a great job as acting principal and would ultimately be selected, Garrido said.

"What helped most was the fact that we got to see him in action as acting principal for the last few months," Garrido said. "He stepped in, stepped up to the challenge and knocked it out of the park."

Stich was an assistant principal at Dever Elementary School when he was tapped by Chicago Public Schools officials to fill in for Reese, who went on medical leave in January.

Stich has also worked in the Boston public schools and earned a master's degree in education from Harvard University in 2012.

"Some teachers were skeptical about his young age, but he won them over," said Garrido, adding that Stich made a "real connection" with parents, students and teachers.

Not only is Stich "perfect on paper," but he also worked well with Assistant Principal Diane Kieres, Garrido said.

"This decision keeps Hitch moving in the direction set by Debby Reese," Garrido said.

Stich was also a finalist for the top job at Gray Elementary School in Portage Park, Garrido said. 

The Gray Local School Council had its pick for principal — the sister of a powerful alderman — blocked by district officials.

"We didn't want him to get swooped up," Garrido said.

Reese, 63, died Feb. 28 of cancer. She was principal of Hitch for 10 years.

Hitch Elementary School is the most crowded public elementary school in the city, with 586 students attending class in a building meant for 420 students. 

Earlier this month, CPS officials announced Hitch will get an eight-classroom modular building to ease the space crunch.