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Sutherland Elementary School Principal Eric Steinmiller Resigns

 Eric Aron Steinmiller made it known Wednesday that he has resigned as principal of Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly, according to sources close to the situation.
Eric Aron Steinmiller made it known Wednesday that he has resigned as principal of Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly, according to sources close to the situation.
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DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

BEVERLY — Eric Steinmiller has resigned as principal of Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly.

Steinmiller announced his resignation Wednesday evening in a pair of emails — one sent to students and another to parents and the community. His letter to parents is signed, "Eric — Forever a Bulldog."

"The community, staff and students at Sutherland have had a positive impact on me, and the opportunity to be the principal of Sutherland is one that I will always cherish. That being said and after long discussion with myself and my wife, I have decided that it is time for Sutherland to seek new leadership," Steinmiller's letter to parents states.

He goes on to say that he has always felt a calling to serve in underprivileged schools, particularly working with students in grades 9-12 when such students are making college and career choices. His final day at Sutherland will be July 26th.

Laurie Cleary is a member of the local school council and said she was shocked to learn of Steinmiller's decision at a special meeting held Wednesday afternoon at the school at 10015 S. Leavitt St.

"As far as what will happen next, Mr. Steinmiller will support the school through the budget process happening over the next several days," Cleary said. "Eric had one year left on his contract. However, I respect the reasons he provided in his letter and thank him for his three years of dedicated service to our school."

Steinmiller was hired May 1, 2014, replacing Catherine Gannon, who was ousted from the job four months earlier by the council. He had previously served as resident principal at North Lawndale College Preparatory High School for a year. Before that, he spent a year as the English department chairman at Manley Career Academy in East Garfield Park.

Bogdana Chkoumbova is the chief of the CPS network of schools that includes Sutherland and several others nearby. She also issued a letter Wednesday addressing Steinmiller's departure.

In her letter, Chkoumbova said she will assign an administrator to oversee Sutherland when the school year begins. The council will select the next principal. Cleary said this transition is expected to last 100 days.

Cleary said Steinmiller "faced an uphill battle" in the wake of Gannon's departure. However, she credited him with improvements to Sutherland's International Baccalaureate program, the addition of a hot lunch services and bringing several extracurricular activities to the school, including multiple sports and tutoring.

Sutherland's rank fell last year from the second-highest to the third-highest in CPS' five-level rating system.

Issues related to student discipline, or lack thereof, also plagued Steinmiller's tenure and the school's population dwindled, resulting in a drop in funding under CPS' per-pupil formula.

Sutherland had 578 students last year, according to the CPS website. Steinmiller said the school had 697 in 2015 when questioned about enrollment as the school faced a merger with nearby Kellogg Elementary School in North Beverly.

The merger proposed by Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) was ultimately scrapped but during the during the debate it was noted that Sutherland is built to accommodate up to 756 students.

Talk of a merger likely contributed to the instability at Sutherland along with CPS' ongoing budget and labor issues. Meanwhile, nearby Catholic elementary schools saw their enrollments boom in recent years — in part from students fleeing Sutherland.

And according to the minutes of a local school council meeting in November, one parent said "her house is for sale because she feels the school is failing."