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Drummond Montessori Selects New Principal, Settles on Budget

 Drummond Montessori, 1845 W. Cortland St., has a new principal.
Drummond Montessori, 1845 W. Cortland St., has a new principal.
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DNAinfo/Emily Morris

BUCKTOWN — Drummond Montessori has selected its new principal after a months-long search and agreed to a budget that results in two employee cuts.

Following a candidate forum Wednesday, Drummond's Local School Council on Thursday night unanimously voted to select Raynell Walls for the job, according to council Chairman Jonathan Goldman.

Walls, currently the assistant principal at Albany Park's Volta Elementary school, was up against Eric Fay, the acting assistant principal at Jones College Prep, and Kathleen Valente, assistant principal at George Washington High School, for the job.

Drummond, 1845 W. Cortland St. has been without a permanent principal since Mark Neidlinger, who'd been principal of the school since 1999, resigned in September to take up a job at a Montessori school in Michigan.

He had been credited with helping to turn Drummond into the first CPS Montessori school more than nine years ago.

Two interim principals had served in the position during various times at the K-8 school as the LSC searched for a new leader.

Walls has been an assistant principal at Volta for the past four years and worked as a literacy and writing coach for CPS before that. She was also a classroom teacher and has master's degrees from Dominican and Northeastern Illinois universities. She's currently working on getting a doctorate in education from the UIC Center for Urban Educational Leadership, Goldman said.

"She brings tremendous experience," said Goldman, who added that the group decided on Walls for her "child-centered educational philosophy and collaborative leadership style."

The councit also decided on a budget. Last week, it refused to pass a budget on time because of what the group said was a lack of information from CPS and a disagreement on projected enrollment numbers.

Because of CPS' per-pupil formula, the number of students enrolled represents big dollars for the school. CPS projected that Drummond would have a smaller number of students than Drummond expects, but officials assured the LSC that if enrollment turns out to be higher than its projection, the budget will be adjusted accordingly in September.

Drummond's 2015 budget ended up at $3,507,765, Goldman said. According to Goldman, that amounts to a shortfall of about $182,000 because of the cost of teacher raises and the price of upgrading a P.E. position from part-time to full-time, part of a mandate from CPS that students receive more art and P.E. education.

That gap in funding meant cutting a part-time writing teacher as well as a parent worker position, Goldman said. The counil also cut thousands of dollars of school supplies, he said.

But because the school's fundraising partner, Friends of Drummond, managed to raise $99,965 during its annual campaign, the school was able to save a position and prevent the reduction of a music teacher and a library teacher from full-time to part-time, he said.

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