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Gale Principal Removed A Month Before School To Start; Interim Assigned

By Linze Rice | August 9, 2016 12:21pm
 Gale Elementary's former principal Cassandra Washington speaking to community members in May.
Gale Elementary's former principal Cassandra Washington speaking to community members in May.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

ROGERS PARK — Just a few weeks before the school year begins, Chicago Public Schools has removed Gale Elementary Principal Cassandra Washington from her post and replaced her with an interim leader. 

A letter from Phil Salemi, the district's Network 2 chief, posted on the school's website said Washington was reassigned from the Rogers Park elementary school and was to be replaced with Augustine Emuwa, an assistant principal from Sullivan High School. 

"The reassignment of Principal Washington is a confidential personnel matter that cannot be discussed in detail," Salemi wrote. The reassignment was effective Monday.

On Friday, Gale families will have an opportunity to meet Emuwa from 10 a.m. to noon at the school, 1631 W. Jonquil Terrace.

Kyle Hillman, a member of Gale's Local School Council, said Washington had alerted the LSC a few months ago that she planned to retire at the end of the 2016-17 school year, when her contract was set to expire. However, he found out about her early departure from Salemi's letter, "like everybody else did."

The LSC had still expected Washington to head the school for another academic year.

"From an LSC standpoint, we had no control over it, this was a CPS decision," Hillman said. "We will have a say in the next principal."

In the meantime, Emuwa will serve out the next year as Gale's interim principal.

Hillman said it would be a "big change" at the small school, but said that wasn't "always a bad thing."

"I've heard great things [about Emuwa]" Hillman said. "I'm hopeful he succeeds, because I mean these kids are the ones that are constantly being just disenfranchised. They aren't getting the resources, they aren't getting the tools they need from CPS, so if this new principal is the person who can help bring that, great."

Salemi wrote he was "confident" Emuwa was right for the role.

"Gale Community Academy will continue to be a strong school community with your support," Salemi wrote. "Our students’ best interests will be the central focus of decisions made at the school level."

Washington declined to comment, saying, "Unfortunately I cannot speak to the press at this time."

CPS did not immediately provide additional details. 

According to CPS' most recent employee records available online, Washington had an annual salary of $129,525.

Washington had served as Gale's principal through shootings just steps away from school property and deep annual cuts to its budget

In May, she rallied alongside parents, students and other principals at New Field Elementary to call for better funding. 

"If we're fighting for anyone, we're fighting for our children," Washington said at the rally. "They are the future of our city, the future of our country, the future of our world. Let's stand up for them."

In July, Gale's LSC rejected the budget given to them by CPS in a "symbolic" move, calling it "severely underfunded." 

Now, Emuwa will need to be prepared to take on challenges at Gale "not many North Side schools have," Hillman said. 

"If this is the move CPS wants to make early, then the LSC will roll with it and we'll figure out how to make the best of it and advocate for these children," Hillman said. "Bottom line is: CPS for a long time has kind of abandoned this school, we just need to keep advocating for the kids who are still there."

Emuwa could not immediately be reached for comment.

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