PILSEN — After the Local School Council fired the school's principal in the fall, Orozco Elementary in Pilsen will soon have a new principal.
Efrain Martinez, who is now assistant principal at Newton Bateman Elementary School in Irving Park, has been named to the principal post at Orozco Elementary, he confirmed Thursday. Martinez will officially start July 1.
Orozco's council unanimously approved a four-year contract hiring Martinez, according to board records.
Martinez, 35, of Garfield Ridge, said he is very honored to be chosen for the school's top position. Before heading to Bateman Elementary two years ago, he previously served as assistant principal of Jungman Elementary School in Pilsen.
"The school is in a community that I really want to work with. It's a creative, artistic community and I really wanted to work in a place where I can identify with the students," he said.
Born to a Puerto Rican father and Venezuelan mother, Martinez said he immigrated to the United States in 1998 as a college student. He attended graduate school at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Martinez, who is bilingual and learned English as his second language, said he wants to be a role model for Orozco's students. The fine arts and performing arts neighborhood school, which houses a regional gifted program for Spanish-speaking English-language learners, serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade in Pilsen.
In November, Orozco Elementary's Local School Council voted 9-0 to fire then-Principal Nancy Paulette-Aguirre in the middle of her contract.
In the 2½ years that Paulette-Aguirre served as the school's leader, Orozco's academic rating by CPS moved from good standing to excellent standing. Attendance also improved.
But Miriam Arriaga, chairwoman of the council, said previously that the principal's lack of rapport with the council, parents and teachers has created "a toxic environment of division and apathy."
Paulette-Aguirre declined to discuss the situation in detail at the time of the council's vote, but did say she felt "my rights have been totally violated."
Despite the discord the council had with the previous principal, Martinez said he is excited to work with the board.
"I think that this LSC is a very strong LSC and I'm excited working to work with them from Day 1," he said. "We shouldn't have any problems."
About 600 students attend the school at 18th Street and Damen Avenue.
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