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Edison Regional LSC Poised To Oust Principal, Staff Unanimously Objects

By Patty Wetli | January 25, 2016 8:32am
 Staff and parents are marshaling support for Edison's principal in advance of Monday's LSC meeting.
Staff and parents are marshaling support for Edison's principal in advance of Monday's LSC meeting.
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Facebook/Edison PTO

ALBANY PARK — Parents said they were "blindsided" by the news that Edison Regional Gifted Center's Local School Council plans to vote Monday not to renew Principal Donna Oberhardt's contract.

Faculty and staff emailed the broader school community late last week notifying them that Oberhardt, at the helm since 2012, "was informed ahead of the upcoming meeting that the LSC do not plan to renew her contract."

Along with the email, staff forwarded a copy of a letter they sent to the LSC, in which they state their unanimous support for the principal:

"We are writing at this time to ensure that all of our voices and our daily experience in the classroom have also been fully considered in your decision.... Drastic changes and an unpredictable future loom large in CPS and our state. More than at any other time, we believe that it is essential to protect the successes that we have experienced here at Edison under the leadership of Mrs. Oberhardt."

An online petition, "Renew Principal Donna Oberhardt's Contract at Edison RGC," was posted Saturday to Change.org and had gained 207 signatures, as of press time.

The petition states, in part:

"By signing this petition, you confirm your belief that the LSC has failed to represent the full Edison community in their decision against renewing the contract of Mrs. Oberhardt, and that the risks of doing so far outweigh the benefits of retaining her services for another four year contract."

Among the comments posted by parents signing the petition:

• "I don't appreciate being blindsided with a huge decisions that affects my child.... The process to oust Mrs. Oberhardt has lacked transparency."

• "The idea that the LSC has the authority to spring a vote with severe potential consequences in the manner which is happening is troubling.... The possible authority of a small minority is alarming."

• "If leading the #1 elementary school in Illinois and earning the unanimous support of its faculty and the heartfelt support of the overwhelming majority of students and parents is not enough to earn a contract renewal, then the LSC should resign in shame.... This should be a no-brainer. She should be rewarded and exalted, not exiled and rejected."

The LSC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hiring of a school's principal is one of the primary responsibilities of an LSC. Principals are awarded four-year contracts, at the end of which period the LSC conducts an evaluation — the process for which is clearly spelled out in LSC guidelines — and determines whether or not to renew a principal's contract.

The evaluation process at Edison, 4929 N. Sawyer Ave., began in November 2015, according to LSC meeting minutes.

LSCs conduct principal deliberations in closed executive sessions and then vote on contract renewal in open session, which is expected to occur Monday at Edison.

LSCs do not need to provide information about their decision, and all personal paperwork and notes related to deliberations are destroyed at the end of the evaluation process. The principal can request the rationale behind non-renewal in writing.

Edison is one of 13 regional gifted centers in Chicago Public Schools and has an enrollment of 277 students.

Founded in 1975, the school was formerly located in Norwood Park. In 2008, CPS made the controversial decision to move Edison to Albany Park, where the school is now co-located with Albany Park Multicultural Academy.

Monday's LSC meeting at Edison is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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