MOUNT GREENWOOD — Eileen Scanlan was greeted by applause Wednesday as she entered a meeting room to sign a contract making her the next principal at George F. Cassell Fine Arts School in Mount Greenwood.
The Local School Council voted 7 to 3 in favor of Scanlan, who once served as assistant principal of the school at 11314 S. Spaulding Ave. She leaves Kate S. Kellogg Elementary School in North Beverly, where she'd been working as principal for the last four years.
"Cassell is an amazing place," said Scanlan, adding that she felt blessed to have grown up and spent her entire career in the 19th Ward.
Scanlan was selected over Cory Overstreet, who had been serving as interim principal at Cassell since Denise Esposito retired mid-year in an effort to save the school from budget cuts. Overstreet succeeded Scanlan as assistant principal and served in that role for 3½ years until being asked to fill the sudden vacancy.
The LSC made three previous attempts to select a principal before Wednesday's vote. The decision was originally to be made May 3, but the council adjourned from the heated meeting without voting.
A vote was taken at the next scheduled LSC meeting on June 7. That 6-5 vote favored Scanlan but was without the seven votes needed to select a principal, according to a Chicago Public Schools' official then in attendance.
A vote on June 24 was again deadlocked and cast with one fewer member of the LSC, as Dennis Riordan was no longer eligible to be on the council after his only child graduated from Cassell.
Mike Hein joined the council Wednesday and cast the deciding vote for Scanlan. He and his wife, Jenny, have two students at Cassell and another student at the Keller Regional Gifted Center in Mount Greenwood.
Courtney Sinisi, of Mount Greenwood, was also elected the new LSC chairwoman at the meeting. She has two students at Cassell — a son in first grade and a daughter in sixth grade. Sinisi succeeds Mary Hughes, who will remain on the council as the Freedom of Information Act Officer.
The LSC had been criticized throughout the principal selection process for taking too long to make a decision. Others said that the process divided the school into two camps, resulting in often spirited exchanges on Facebook.
Sinisi blamed difficult scheduling for the delayed decision, adding that the council is made up of a firefighter, two firefighters' wives and an emergency room nurse. Still, she said that LSC members remained cordial throughout the process.
Strong opinions among council members on which candidate was best all stemmed from devotion to the school that serves 386 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, Sinisi said.
She added that she expected parents, teachers and students to rally around Scanlan in the wake of the decision and appeared generally relieved that the principal selection process was over.
"We are a strong-knit community," Sinisi said.
Scanlan said she too worried about the toll the principal selection process would take on the school community. That said, she's planning to reach out to teachers, staff, parents and students throughout the summer.
She hesitated to announce any initial plans until the school's budget was revealed in the coming days and said she was unaware of any candidates who may be interested in her former position at Kellogg Elementary.
Still, it was hard to wipe the smile off of her face.
"I feel like I am the luckiest CPS employee," she said.
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