Blaine Elementary School Principal Troy LaRaviere was removed from his position over spring break last month, and at the time, CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson told parents there were 12 charges against him, including dereliction of duty, ethics violations, and insubordination.
The Lakeview principal has been an outspoken critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. LaRaviere called the charges against him “politically motivated” in his first public statement since his removal.
LaRaviere endorsed Emanuel challenger and Cook County Commissioner Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia in 2015. He appeared in Garcia’s campaign ads and more recently, did the same for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). Those endorsements led to two of the 12 charges against LaRaviere.
Several of the charges are related to LaRaviere’s public statements against state testing and his support of the Blaine Parent Teacher Association’s opt-out effort, which led to more than half of the school’s students not taking the state-mandated test last year. State and CPS policy is that only a student can refuse to take the test, not a parent.
“(Principals) are forced to put a test in front of an 8-year-old child and say, ‘Do you want to take this test?’ and the child has to refuse and it’s really unethical and doesn’t provide dignity to the child,” said Catherine Francis, a Blaine parent and member of the school’s PTA.
Other charges against LaRaviere are just now coming to light. For instance, he allegedly didn’t give most teachers a formal performance rating and also didn’t document how some money was spent at the school.
“Like nearly every school in our district, Blaine has been cited for minor paperwork issues before; but I’ve never had any discipline or any threats of discipline,” LaRaviere said at a press conference Thursday morning. “There has never been an audit finding under my watch that a single dime has ever been spent on something or someone that it shouldn’t have gone to. Unfortunately we cannot say the same about CPS under this administration.”
LaRaviere admitted he hasn’t completed all the teacher evaluation ratings for the last few years; he said that’s because they require a significant amount of time. But even though the rating wasn’t complete, he said he always observed teachers.
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement that an internal discipline process is underway. She noted that when a teacher or group of teachers does not have a rating, they are laid off based on seniority instead.
LaRaviere is currently running for president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.The voting ends on May 16th and ballots are counted May 19th. He says he suspects the possibility of his winning led to the district’s actions.
“When I was a lone voice the administration tolerated me,” LaRaviere said. “But when faced with the prospect of an organized group of education leaders speaking as one on behalf of students, they’ve moved with haste and reckless abandon to prevent that from happening.”
Bittner said the charges set forth in the removal letter are the basis for CPS’ decision, and earlier this month, CPS’ Jackson said “there’s a right way and a wrong way to do stuff” as a district administrator.
“You are held to a different standard,” she said at a raucous meeting at Blaine. “The rules are the rules.”