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Troy LaRaviere Accused By CPS Of Misusing Equipment, Accounting Missteps

By Ariel Cheung | April 26, 2016 5:21am
 A teacher demands answers from Chicago Public Schools officials during a meeting Monday to discuss the removal of Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere.
A teacher demands answers from Chicago Public Schools officials during a meeting Monday to discuss the removal of Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — Ousted Blaine Elementary Principal Troy LaRaviere faces a dozen charges — ranging from mishandling school equipment to insubordination — that could lead to the dismissal of the outspoken critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, officials said Monday night in addressing the reasons for his removal.

The contentious news was met with boos from a crowd gathered at the school Monday night, as Blaine parents demanded to know specifics behind the sudden removal of a popular and seemingly successful principal.

"I think you can be high-performing and still break the rules," said Janice Jackson, chief education officer of Chicago Public Schools. "Over the past month, there have been so many acts that made it clear we were not able to redirect [LaRaviere's] behavior."

Although the district legally cannot discuss specific charges against personnel, Jackson said LaRaviere is free to share the list of charges with the community.

Jackson spoke broadly about the dozen allegations of misconduct, accusing LaRaviere of "dereliction of duty, violations of state and CPS ethical policies and insubordination."

Among violations were charges that LaRaviere disregarded teacher assessment guidelines, misused district equipment and broke rules governing how schools manage internal accounting.

Such infractions, however, can be for minor issues like mistakes in submitting cash receipts and purchasing information or failing to file a financial report.

While the local school council appoints principals, disciplining school administrators is left to CPS, Jackson said.

The insubordination charges are largely tied to a warning resolution the Chicago Board of Education issued to LaRaviere in August, lambasting him for insubordination and defying district directives related to Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, better known as PARC testing.

A written reprimand in December warned that ignoring CPS directives and continuing to speak out against the school district "could result in dismissal," Jackson said.

"As an administrator, you do have loyalties to the district that are expected," she said.

A large group of parents, protesters and students filled Blaine Elementary School on Monday for a meeting to discuss the removal of Principal Troy LaRaviere. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

LaRaviere's political dealings were "not included in our dismissal charges," Jackson said. Both CPS and Emanuel have denied that the mayor had any hand in LaRaviere's ousting. The principal supported Emanuel's mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

"A lot has been made around the political atmosphere, but this was not a politically motivated decision," Jackson said. "The principals have a right to have their own opinion."

But when a principal repeatedly fails to follow the rules, she said, "the district has a responsibility and also a right to act."

Jackson joined CPS officials Ernesto Matias and Elizabeth Kirby in facing an outraged crowd Monday in the Blaine auditorium, 1420 W. Grace St.

Frequent outbursts — many from supporters from outside the Blaine community — included calls for Emanuel's resignation, support for LaRaviere and jeers for CPS officials.

Kirby wrote the email alerting parents of LaRaviere's reassignment, but the CPS notification system proved faulty, with some parents never receiving the email. When parents' email addresses were not available, CPS sent the notice to their children.

A student holds up a sign modeled after Captain America's shield in support of Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

The handling of the email was "completely unacceptable," Jackson conceded. CPS has since changed the process, she said.

From here, LaRaviere faces a presuspension hearing Friday, which is closed to the public. A state-appointed investigator determines whether LaRaviere can be suspended without pay before a dismissal hearing, where he is allowed to bring witnesses and evidence to refute the charges.

The process typically takes six to nine months, Jackson said. If LaRaviere disproves the charges, he would be reinstated at Blaine, she said.

LaRaviere is among six CPS principals removed this year, Jackson said. While it's painful to remove a school leader in the middle of the year, "It became increasingly apparent Mr. LaRaviere had no intention of following the rules," Jackson said.

The removal will likely not  affect LaRaviere's ability to run for president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, Jackson said. The current association president said last week that its board would vote before the early May election on whether LaRaviere is eligible for the office.


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