LAKEVIEW — A restless buzz greeted Blaine Elementary School students returning to classes Monday after the surprise spring break ousting of principal Troy LaRaviere.
Parents and teachers clustered together to discuss the sudden removal of LaRaviere, who was banned from Chicago Public Schools property after his reassignment Wednesday
Students returned to Blaine, 1420 W. Grace St., to the sight of blue-shirted parents rallying support for the ousted principal. About 40 parents gathered after school began to discuss the change.
"They have clearly forgotten that the students should always be our first priority," said Amy Derksen, president of Blaine's Local School Council. "There is no excuse for this action. The Blaine LSC is outraged."
Derksen encouraged parents to attend a 5:30 p.m. rally at Blaine ahead of the 6:30 p.m. Monday meeting for parents and CPS officials. Derksen she said CPS officials need to explain the reason behind LaRaviere's reassignment.
Other parents, though, say the reason is pretty obvious: He ignored district instructions not to speak out against CPS.
"CPS gave him a reprimand, and their directives were as clear as his intent to not follow them," said Erica Salem, mother of two Blaine eighth-grade students. "He immediately and repeatedly has gone against the directive, so it should not come as a surprise."
In August, the Chicago Board of Education issued a formal warning to LaRaviere, telling him that speaking out against the district was considered insubordination and could lead to his termination. The board directed LaRaviere to "not publicly take a stance that is in defiance of any directive, guideline, or rule issued by the Board, its designees or the CEO or his designees."
Last week, CPS accused LaRaviere of "acts of misconduct, including violations of a previous warning resolution passed by the Board of Education," CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said. "A hearing will be held to determine his employment status."
LaRaviere asked his supporters to push CPS to explain the charges against him in a blog post Friday. While CPS said LaRaviere missed a Wednesday meeting to discuss the matter, the principal said he missed the "vague email" informing him of the meeting because he was off to take care of his son.
LaRaviere insisted supporters "stay focused on the corrupt fiscal management and incompetent education policy of our district and our city" in his Friday post.
Parents wear #StandWithTroy T-shirts in support of ousted Blaine Principal Troy LaRaivere. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
"This is not about me," LaRaviere wrote. "This is about corruption, and I am an obstacle to that corruption. At some point I'm hoping all of us will be obstacles to it."
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Ald. David Moore (17th) have publicly stood with LaRaviere and dozens of parents and supporters rallying behind the #StandWithTroy hashtag.
Moore, a freshman South Side alderman, charged the district with racist motives.
"All I hear is, stay in your place N-----," he wrote on Facebook. "And don't you dare challenge the DICTATORIAL AUTHORITY designed to put corporate profits over effective public education."
To students, LaRaviere was a leader who "seemed to get everything in order" around the school, said Ella Bullock, an 11-year-old sixth-grader. Ella said LaRaviere's after-school events like Blaine Flicks movie nights made school fun.
"It's a little hard this first day back [without him]," said Ella, whose mother, Melissa Bullock, is president of the Parent Teacher Association.
Caroline Hart (r.), a fourth-grade student at Blaine Elementary, takes a break from protesting the reassignment of Principal Troy LaRaviere to pet a fellow student's dog in front of the school. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
Melissa Bullock and other school leaders took charge in the days after the surprise announcement, which reached some parents through email, while others learned through word of mouth.
Some students got emails of their own, sent to school email addresses given to students in fifth grade, said parent Sandra Hamilton. Hamilton said she never received an email from the district — but her daughter did.
"That's not something that should be sent to the children, especially when it's something as sensitive as this," Hamilton said. "It's a botched job by CPS."
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