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Troy LaRaviere Wins Principal Election, Giving Rahm Critic New Platform

By Ariel Cheung | May 19, 2016 2:18pm | Updated on May 19, 2016 2:48pm
 Troy LaRaviere speaks out against CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel the day before the district suspended him without pay in May.
Troy LaRaviere speaks out against CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel the day before the district suspended him without pay in May.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — Troy LaRaviere was elected Thursday to lead the Chicago Principals and Administrators  Association, leaving an opening at the embattled Blaine Elementary School where he was ousted last month.

LaRaviere handily defeated opponent Kenneth Hunter, who had the backing of top officials at Chicago Public Schools despite a troubled past involving a recent arrest for phone harassment and a formal warning from the district in 2013.

With 69 percent of the vote, LaRaviere will assume the presidency of the principals group in July. He replaces Clarice Berry, who did not run for re-election.

Even though the district-backed candidate lost, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement that the district will continue to work with principals around the district.

"CPS leadership works directly with principals to address their issues, and in the past few weeks alone, CPS leaders have held individual or small group conversations with all of the District's principals," she said. "CPS will continue to work directly with principals to address their concerns, issues and ideas.” 

LaRaviere's election leaves an opening at Blaine Elementary, where he took the reins as principal five years ago.

Unless retired, the president of the principals group can return to CPS after the association term is completed, though not necessarily to the same school.

But if CPS proceeds with LaRaviere's dismissal hearing, he might not have the same option.

The Blaine principal was suspended without pay last week after CPS removed him from the K-8 school April 20. CPS was in the midst of a monthslong process to fire him when he was elected Thursday.

CPS did not respond to questions on whether LaRaviere's being elected would suspend its efforts to fire him.

The sudden removal incensed LaRaviere's supporters, among them presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), who blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his revenge "obsession."

CPS charged LaRaviere with 12 incidents of misconduct, ranging from misusing school equipment to engaging in political activity during work hours. CPS said LaRaviere continued to flout his employer's authority despite receiving a formal warning in August and a follow-up reprimand in December.

LaRaviere claimed his penchant for the truth led to his suspension without pay and denied taking political action during school hours during a radio interview Tuesday. He referred to his early criticisms of former CPS Chief Executive Barbara Byrd-Bennett's corrupt deal with SUPES Academy, which led to her resignation, a lawsuit and criminal charges against her.

"You want to reward the person who identifies waste and fraud, not punish them," LaRaviere told WVON radio host Cliff Kelley. "But punish me they did."

When asked whether he did any campaign work for Jesus "Chuy" Garcia or Sanders at school, LaRaviere replied,  "of course not," adding that that charge against him amounted to a limit on his civil rights.

When LaRaviere was nominated in February to run for president of the principals association, he floated the idea of hiring an executive director for daily tasks at the association, which would leave him free to remain at Blaine.

Last week, he said the board of the principals association turned down the offer, taking it "off the table."

Now, the school will have to find a replacement before the 2016-17 school year.

Earlier this month, Blaine's Local School Council expressed concern about the hiring process, which has become muddled by LaRaviere's suspension. Unless LaRaviere is dismissed or resigns, his position at Blaine is not considered vacant during his suspension, meaning CPS cannot appoint an interim principal or begin the hiring process. 

While many parents applauded the school's success under LaRaviere, others criticized what they perceived as a "very dismissive" attitude toward some students with parents outside his ring of support.

During a news conference last week in which he railed against Emanuel and CPS leaders, LaRaviere promised he would never stifle the voices of those who disagree with him as president of the principals association.

"That's the point — I want to create an organization where principals can speak for themselves and feel comfortable speaking about policy no matter what their opinion is," LaRaviere said. "I've done a decent job getting my voice heard, and I'm running for your voices to get heard."

He also accused district officials of interfering with the principals association election through the suspension effort. He said that his opponent was allowed to make campaign visits to schools, while he was banned from CPS property.

Hunter, 63, was arrested May 10 and charged with electronic harassment. His alleged victim, a 44-year-old woman, told police that Hunter continued to contact her after she told him to stop, and he is accused of threatening and harassing her.

Hunter was released on a $1,500 bond. He is set to return to court June 13.

LaRaviere published the list of charges against him after last week's news conference:

Dismissal Charges Against Troy LaRaviere by DNAinfo Chicago

Contributing: Erica Demarest


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