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One North Side Principal Leaves Illinois To Find Stability

Foreman High School Principal Dan Zimmerman says he loves his students and the progress they’ve made.

He points out that the school is getting fewer students and many of them are further behind, but more are going to college and winning scholarships.

Zimmerman says he thinks the school’s rating will go up this year, also.

But still, he took a job as a principal in an elementary school in Reno, Nevada this year.

He says it is a good move for his family. But also, one of the major factors that drove him out, was the current financial mess of the school district and the state.

Chicago Public Schools principals have been told that, without extra money from the state, they will be getting way less per student.

Neighborhood high schools, like Foreman, that have been drained of students in recent years will be hit extra hard as their enrollment is projected to continue to decline.

“We know that we will lose key people and programs that won’t allow for progress to continue,” he says. “It is frustrating on every level.”

The state budget stalemate also means that programs and services outside of the school that his students need are not available.

Zimmerman says 10 of his teachers have also found new jobs. He says they don’t want to stick around and see who gets hit with budget cuts.

One of the difficult things is that Chicago school principals have yet to get their actual school level budgets. The district was waiting to see if the state approved any more money for schools.

With this uncertainty, principals can’t tell teachers whether they will have jobs in the Fall. At the same time, suburban school districts can do their hiring in the Spring.

Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, says two of the principals on the board of directors retired before the end of the school year. And she has heard others say they will leave before cutting their budgets by 20 percent, a number that has been talked about.

She says being a principal is hard enough without threat of having to run a school on a shoestring.

“Chicago is at the apex of this insanity,” Berry says. “The morale of employees could not be worse.”

Berry herself is retiring and looking to move out of state. Troy LaRaviere, the president-elect of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, says wanting to leave is a “natural, inevitable” outcome of the uncertainty and threats.

He says, once he takes over the association on July 1, he is going to gather principals together to start talking about revenue solutions. 

Sarah Karp is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @sskedreporter or @wbezeducation

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