As Chicago Public Schools’ teachers and administrators spend the week preparing for the start of the new school year, WBEZ’s Melba Lara asked Troy LaRaviere to describe what the transition in CPS leadership and budget shortfalls look like from his vantage point as a principal. LaRaviere is principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.
LaRaviere has been vocal with his concerns about CPS budget cuts and was issued a “warning resolution” at a recent Chicago Board of Education meeting. In response to a request for comment from WBEZ, a CPS representative said the warning resolution was warranted.
WBEZ: What are principals dealing with this school year that they really haven’t faced in past years?
Troy LaRaviere: I don’t know if it’s something we haven’t faced in past years. It’s the same talking points we get from CPS: budget cuts, trying to piece together a staff with fewer resources.
Are you able to tell us what cuts you’ve had to make since last year?
We’ve lost about $200,000 in terms of personnel.
And when we’re talking $200,000 in personnel cuts as an impact, how does this affect students? Are they directly impacted by cuts like that?
Of course they are. Whenever you think layoffs, you have to think that person was providing a specific service to a student. And that is a service that student will no longer be getting.
I wanted to ask you about the reprimand that has raised your profile as a principal, even though it was already a pretty high profile. Last week, the school board reprimanded you for being too outspoken against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS. Do you have colleagues who agree with your concerns but who are too afraid to talk about it?
Oh, absolutely. I remember last summer, we were in a principals’ meeting at a North Side high school. A bunch of principals were there. And [CPS] unveiled the testing schedule, and there was almost a rebellion right there in the auditorium at the sheer volume of testing that was on the calendar that they presented to us.
And in terms of the reprimand itself, it was…about not my position, but my support of parent positions. That’s very critical to understand. They didn’t reprimand me for being against [the PARCC exam]. They reprimanded me for supporting my parents when a parent gave me a note that said, “I don’t want my child taking the PARCC.” I respected that.
There are critics of you that say your support of mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia, and your role as an educational advisor for him, and your very vocal and direct criticism of the mayor and CPS leadership has lead you astray on what is best for the students of Blaine. Some would ask, is this really helping the students of Blaine? What’s your response?
I mean, just think about each one of the policies that I’m advocating for. Every single one of them is geared toward students.
One of the things I was vocal about at the meeting was the $17 million loan that [CPS] took from three of Rahm Emanuel’s campaign contributors, and promised to pay an additional $17 million in interest if the program worked. If the kids in Pre-K scored better than the kids who didn’t get Pre-K. Well, that’s a foregone conclusion. Of course they’re gonna do better. That’s like you going to your plumber and he says ‘It’s gonna be $10,000’ and you say ‘Well, I’ll give you $20,000 if it doesn’t leak.’ Who is that irresponsible with their own money? But this administration will be that irresponsible with money that’s supposed to be dedicated to our children.
Everything I’ve ever done is directed toward increasing the educational opportunities and quality of the education that students in CPS get, and opposing every policy that CPS brings down that does the opposite.
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