By Patrice Nkrumah and Chinta Strausberg
The leader of the city’s top-rated neighborhood elementary school abruptly resigned August 31 after deciding to not fight the charges that were levied against him by the Board of Education in an attempt to fire him. Troy LaRaviere has been an outspoken critic of Mayor Emanuel and CPS officials over the last few years. In a letter to the Mayor, LaRaviere continued his criticism and said he lived up to his contract obligations and promises to improve the school. When LaRaviere took over Blaine Elementary in 2011, they were ranked as the #16 elementary school in the city. Earlier this week they were ranked #3 overall and the #1 neighborhood school.
“In the process, working with motivated teachers and engaged parents, we increased the percentage of students meeting reading standards from an already high 79% to 89% in just our first two years. That kind of growth from an already high performing school–without the addition of a selective enrollment program–is unprecedented,” LaRaviere wrote in his resignation letter. “Behind this significant accomplishment are a series of basic concepts based on empirical evidence regarding effective school practices and thoughtful consideration of how we might apply those practices at Blaine. One fundamental element of improving the school was ending selective access to advanced curriculum.”
LaRaviere is loved by parents and staff at the North Side school. Many rallied to support him earlier this year when CPS charged him with insubordination and various other charges. His supporters say the charges were politically motivated and they believe came from Mayor Emanuel himself. LaRaviere has also contended that the thing holding back CPS students and administrators from achieving are politicians who have no clue what they are doing. He said improving achievement in schools is easy when a principal has parents who are involved and a dedicated staff.
“The difficult part was mustering the will and stamina to remain steadfast in our commitment to use evidence-based practice in the face of tremendous pressure–from politicians like you–to adopt baseless “school reform” ideas like “tracking” (school based selective enrollment), “choice,” and the over-evaluation of teachers; ideas that are grounded in ideology and politics as opposed to proven effective educational methods. In a word, the biggest obstacle to Blaine becoming the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago was politics. And while many people contributed to this problem, nobody in our great city is more responsible for that political obstruction than you,” wrote LaRaviere in his scathing remarks.
He went on to accuse the Mayor’s hand-picked school board as being another obstacle. He said the Mayor’s advisors on education are wrong. He believes people with a political agenda and no clue how to improve schools are ignoring his record of success to the detriment of all of Chicago.
“One might think that after witnessing the unprecedented academic gains of Blaine students, you and your appointees might call on my school leadership team to help you understand how we improved at such an incredible rate. Instead, at your direction, your appointees are pushing forward with efforts to terminate my employment. It is clear that I am being punished for my advocacy, and that this retribution is more important to you than effective public education for Chicago’s children.”
A spokesperson for the Chicago Public Schools referred the Crusader to the Mayor’s office for comment. The Mayor’s office had no comment on the resignation letter.
LaRaviere on Sunday accused the Chicago Public School (CPS) of allegedly subsidizing segregated schools when there is proof that integration improves academics.
Appearing on WVON’s “Bob Shaw” show, LaRaviere referred to an article in the Chicago Magazine that listed the top 15 CPS’s. He highlighted the Arthur Dixon Elementary School located in Chatham which ranked fourth.
“If their students go in with these African American students somehow the school would be less vibrant or less academically sound, but 5 out of the top 10 schools have majority Black populations and the number one school on this list has the biggest ethnic group in it, and it is Black.
LaRaviere was referring to the Chicago Magazine’s list of top public schools.
LaRaviere said this listing is proof that “CPS has a narrative it can push now to stop wasting money on school construction or unnecessary school construction” to resolve overcrowdedness.”
He wants CPS to “push the narrative that integration improves the (academic) performance. We have examples where we have integration across the city where school performance has been elevated, not depressed, but it won’t push that narrative because banks make a lot of money. They get
to double their profit when they do these unnecessary school constructions” including charter schools.
“In order to subsidize the desire of some parents to have their kids in a segregated school, in order to enrich banks and charter operators, CPS continues to overspend on construction when they could push a real narrative that integration would actually uplift the performance so we don’t have to spend all of this money,” he said.
As an example, LaRaviere referred to Ogden International School on the Gold Coast, a majority white school where students are from wealthy families. “They are overcrowded, but they can merge with Jenner Elementary School, which is majority Black and poor, and have some of their students go to Jenner, some of the Odgen students go to Jenner.
“The way Jenner was going to do it, some of the Jenner kindergarteners and maybe first graders were going to go to Ogden and a lot of Ogden 7th and 8th graders were going to come over to Jenner. That would have relieved the overcrowding at Ogden. That was a perfect plan, right?
“What CPS did was to say no. They wanted to build an addition to Ogden or maybe build a different school and spend money on that because some of the parents at Ogden don’t want their kids integrated with that Black school. In deciding to spend that money to keep those kids segregated, CPS has been subsidizing segregated schools,” charged LaRaviere.
He said the Local School Council at Ogden approved the plan but explained “the principal at Ogden, a white male, helped to spearhead the effort“ to transfer some white student to Jenner “but it was a small number of parents vocal at Ogden who led with officials from CPS that squashed that plan.”
CPS officials had not responded by Chicago Crusader deadline.