OLD TOWN — Parents and other members of the Franklin Fine Arts Center community are outraged over what they say was a lack of transparency by the Local School Council when the LSC voted to part ways with Principal Margie D. Smagacz.
They believe Smagacz is an "amazing" principal.
In the LSC's January vote, nine of the 11 members abstained from voting and two voted to renew Smagacz's contract. None of the members voted no. Since Smagacz did not receive the required six yes votes, her contract will not be renewed.
"What they would have done if they were transparent is vote yes or no," said Justice Stamps, a parent who spoke during the public comment portion at a packed LSC meeting held Tuesday evening at the magnet arts school, 225 W. Evergreen Ave.
"I'm going to say it to your face. You all are a bunch of cowards. We elected you to represent all of the children. It seems to me that once you got what you wanted from her, she was no longer good enough," Stamps said.
Stamps was among parents at the packed meeting who disapproved the LSC's decision. Many of them said the school greatly improved under Smagacz's leadership and were confused by the way the council voted the way it did, accusing the LSC of only representing a vocal minority.
Some parents said the mostly white LSC doesn't represent the school's diverse community.
According to the Chicago Public Schools website, the student body is 31.9 percent white, 37.3 percent black, 20.9 percent Hispanic, 5.9 percent Asian and 4 percent other ethnicities. Of the 354 students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade, 41 percent come from low-income families.
"There are people who totally support what you did," said Annie Avery, addressing the LSC. "But I think there are people who feel disenfranchised. They feel like the leadership doesn't speak for me. I think that's a shame. I'd like to be part of making that different."
Another Franklin parent, who works for CPS' central office, said Smagacz has been "excellent" compared to the leadership she sees at other schools.
"I love this woman. What's happening here is not going to stand," she said. "Do I feel informed? Absolutely not. How does this woman receive superior ratings and then the next day you decide you're not going to renew her contract?"
LSC members did not offer an explanation.
In a lengthy presentation, Smagacz listed the ways the school has improved under her four-year leadership. She pointed to higher test scores, the expansion of literacy, math and science programs and her fight to keep all staff despite Chicago Public Schools budget woes as a few of many reasons.
Smagacz scored the highest marks on the LSC's evaluations during her first two years at Franklin.
"As I've said to the LSC and Franklin [community], my entire life is dedicated to Franklin," she said. "I don't think anyone could say my work hasn't made life for students better, challenged staff to do better. This school had flat-lined. All through the way I have supported the teachers with those tough changes. They said we couldn't build a brand new school, but we have a brand new school on the inside."
She made it clear that she supports an appeal process.
"It is my hope that people actually listen to your voices. In the end, it's doing what's right for this school. I know I haven't done anything wrong for this school."
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