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Jose De Diego Wicker Park Principal Reassigned After CPS Probe

By Alisa Hauser | July 2, 2014 6:33pm
 Alice Vera, principal of Jose de Diego Elementary School in Wicker Park.
Jose De Diego School Principal Alice Vera
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WICKER PARK — The principal of a Wicker Park elementary school that had experienced growing pains following the resignations of several teachers early in the year was removed from her post Tuesday along with an assistant principal, much to the shock of some Local School Council members.

"I would be stunned and saddened if the accusations are true," said Alyx Pattison, a member of the Jose de Diego Academy Local School Council.

Alice Vera, principal of Jose de Diego Community Academy at 1313 N. Claremont Ave. has been removed from her position as principal along with her co-principal, Michele Gulo, CPS spokesman Joel Hood confirmed Wednesday.

Many council members and parents heard about the removal of their Vera and Gulo from a Tribune story and not from CPS, Pattison said.

In a statement Hood said, "The Board's Office of the Inspector General completed an investigation involving the principal and assistant principal assigned to De Diego Elementary School. Based upon those investigative findings, the Board suspended both from their administrative responsibilities, but cannot comment further to due to personnel restrictions.”

Located just east of North and Western avenues in Wicker Park, Jose de Diego spans one city block in length and currently has 900 students in Pre-K through 8th grade.

According to CPS, 172 of the school's 900 students transferred in at the start of the year from Von Humboldt at 2620 W. Hirsch St., another 40 from Duprey which shared the same address as Von Humboldt, and three students came from Lafayette at 2714 W. Augusta Blvd.

The largest welcoming school in CPS, Diego received $7 million dollars in facility upgrades as a welcoming school, including Americans with Disabilities Act investments, air-conditioning in every classroom, a new art room, a new playground, a child-parent center for cooking classes and other activities, a learning garden, as well as an upgraded science room and computer lab.

A source within the school said the accusations are related to "ghost enrollment" that could have been related to wanting the funds to keep an additional teacher employed.

Hood declined to answer questions about the investigation, when it originated and how the school is keeping its Local School Council informed of developments, however, Pattison said that Wanda Washington, Fulton Network Chief, will try to meet with LSC members on Tuesday and an interim principal will start at the school on Monday.

The was listed on probationary status by CPS in the latest performance policy rankings released in September, the fourth consecutive school year that it's been on probation.

Hood said being on probation does not remove an LSC’s authority to award contracts and approve budgets and in the event that Vera is removed if the suspension is permanent, the Jose De Diego LSC would be authorized to award a new principal contract.

Council chairman Jeff Vega could not be reached for comment.

Diego is an International Baccalaureate pre-candidate school, meaning that it is in the process of applying for the program for its sixth through eighth grades.

Hood confirmed that De Diego has achieved IB Candidacy status, which means they are on-track to submit their IB Application for Authorization in October of 2015.

In December, Vera said an International Baccalaureate coordinator and language teacher were recently hired, and books were bought as part of an IB program budget.

Vera said also said the transition to the program would mean more staff changes in the pipeline.

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