Central office clout, Law Department in cover up?... Dewey Principal Hired After Breaking Child’s Arm while he was an Assistant Principal at Holmes School

When the Dewey Elementary School Local School Council was deciding who to hire to be their next principal last school year, their first choice was determined to be not eligible. So they went with the second choice Eric Dockery.

Chicago Board of Education General Counsel Patrick Rocks (above, foreground) is unusually active when enforcing rules against schools, parents and teachers without City Hall clout, but often misses legal problems when the person with them has clout. Above, Rocks catches a nap during the April 27, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education while then Board President Mary Richardson Lowry (also a City Hall lawyer) makes notes. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Little did they know that the candidate who had served as the assistant principal at Holmes Elementary was currently under investigation for allegedly breaking the arm of a student and was ordered to have no contact with children at the time he was interviewing to be Dewey’s principal.

Dewey LSC member Matthew Johnson said he never knew about the investigation when they were choosing a new principal.

“I went to (Dockery) and I told him it came to my attention that I had heard about this incident at Holmes,” Johnson told Substance. “He said it was a situation where (he) had to restrain a kid.”

“There was an incident in the lunchroom where they were fighting,” said Erica Annan, the mother of the boy whose arm was broken. “Dockery then approached my baby and grabbed my son and slammed him on the floor and put his knee on him. While he was holding him he broke his arm.”

Annan said they later went to the hospital where it was determined that his wrist bones were broken. The hospital then contacted the police and a police report was then filed on September 18, 2009, she said.

She said the lawyers are now handling the case.

“I told them that this man should not be around children,” Annan said.

Apparently the Board agreed, and in the fall of 2009, about the time when Dockery was interviewing to be a principal, he was ordered to stay in a separate room at Holmes School and have no contact with children, said Lara Krejca, a Holmes teacher.

Dewey LSC member Matthew Johnson (above at podium) has been questioning Board of Education policies and challenging decisions and cover ups for years. Above, Johnson at the March 2011 meeting of the Board. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Dockery told Johnson that he was cleared of all charges, Johnson said. However, the LSC member wanted to find out more about the case so he went to the Board of Education to ask for information.

Johnson asked the Board of Education at the April 2011 meeting why they would not alert their school about the current investigation into Dockery when he was being interviewed for principal. Johnson said he then met with someone from the legal department who will provide him with the documents regarding the case.

“They said they are still looking into the legal (aspects) of what they can share or not share,” Johnson said. “If they don’t, I’m going to the circuit court and ask for an administrative review of the contract because certain information was not shared with us.”

Dockery did not return calls from Substance to comment.

The Board of Ed has added more criteria for potential candidates who want to be a principal. In addition to holding a Type 75 administrative endorsement, candidates must fill out a questionnaire and then answer questions from the Board before being placed on a list of eligible principal candidates.

The Board of Ed removed a number of previously approved principal candidates, including many assistant principals, two years ago and told them they had to go through the four-part interview process that includes a background check, and interviews with former principals and chief area officers, said one elementary school assistant principal who was taken off the list and forced to apply again.

Johnson told Substancenews that the LSC had interviewed six candidates and he believed that Dockery was being recommended by the Board because he had worked at the central office before being employed at Holmes as an assistant.

The principal Dewey wanted to hire, who was previously an assistant principal at Hope High School, did not make the Board list of eligible candidates, he said. Johnson said the questions principal candidates need to answer include how they would evaluate teachers and how they would handle certain situations with children, Johnson said.

The Dewey LSC then voted 7-4 in favor of signing Dockery to a four-year contact, Johnson said. The LSC rep said had he known about this incident, he would have voted against Dockery as principal and Dockery would not have become principal.

Teachers at Holmes Elementary School remember that Dockery arrived at their school last school year for a short period of time from the central office.

Sixth grade math teacher Daisy Sharp said when Dockery first started his job as the assistant principal at Holmes he went around to all the teachers to talk about their test score data.

He told Sharp her math scores were good, but asked what she could do to increase those scores, she said.

“I said if you want me to teach better, there should be no tolerance (for bad behavior) so the teachers can teach and not be referees,” Sharp said. “And he said, that’s why you have me.”

Dockery’s promise to properly handle discipline was tested right away in a school located in Englewood where homelessness, drug abuse, single parent’s struggling financially and other inner city problems adversely affect the students.

Sharp said she wrote up a referral for two boys who started fighting in her classroom and sent them to the office.

“He comes back and says the boys have something to say to you,” Sharp said. “(They say) I’m sorry, and he says I have to take them back. I said no, you better take them back. I then said are you telling me I have to take them back? I said fine, but as soon as you go back to the office, I will have contacted the union who will contact the principal to tell you you’ll take them back. And that’s exactly what he did. He came right back to pick them up.”

Sharp, the delegate for her school, referred to article 30-2 in the CPS and CTU contract which states that after three referrals, when a student is causing serious disruption, that student is not allowed back into the classroom until there is a meeting at the school with the student’s parents.

Sharp told Substance Dockery is all smiles now whenever he sees her.

“We had a professional development day at Dewey and he greeted me like an old friend,” Sharp said. “I then said give my number to the delegate and tell her that if she has any problems here with the new principal, to call me.”


June 8, 2011 at 1:05 PM

By: john kugler

favorable treatment

The Board's practices to cover up criminal activities of administrators and punish whistleblowers is nothing new. What needs to happen is parents should sue the BoE in every instance up to and including filing criminal charges against these abuses of policy and oversight.

June 27, 2011 at 3:39 PM

By: Matthew Johnson

CPS & Principal Eric Dockery

Hello, my name is Matthew Johnson, LSC chair at Dwey elementary school and I would like to share with the public my stands on this topic. My issue was never against principal Dockery. We have built an excellent relationship, a relationship that every principal should have with parents & community (very transparent). What hurts the most is, when CPS hides information from key stakeholders that's very important to our childrens education and safty. Once I took the issue to Mr. Dockery he didn't have to explain anything about his investigation but he did and I love him for it. It would be unfair to him as a person, our Principal; to be put on blast when he has done all that was asked of him. When the issue of braking a childs arm first came to my attention, I was at one of the Board meetings fighting for another school. If this issue would have been brought up before we gave Principal Dockery his contract, it may have extended the process a little but once Mr. Dockery shared his input, we would have still given him the contract. THIS ISSUE A ABOUT THE CHILDS ARM BEING BROKEN SHOULD HAVE BEEN OVER BEFORE IT GOT TO DEWEY. BUT THANKS TO CPS, IT'S PUTTING A LOT OF ATTENTION ON A GOOD PRINCIPAL!

June 27, 2011 at 11:36 PM

By: Jim Duszak


We need more LSC members like Matthew Johnson. He has worked in the schools and understands children and discipline.

April 22, 2013 at 1:26 AM

By: Anne Hudson

Eric Dockery failed as a Principal

Dewey Reconstituted; blame Eric Dockery

The Dewey Academy turnaround is because of bad management by the principal Eric Dockery. He fired experienced teachers that knew how to deal with challenged, poverty stricken children and parents. He poorly matched teacher skills to their grade level. What good principal puts inexperienced teacher in benchmark grades 3rd,6th and 8th with proven student behavior issues and not expect failure!

Let me ask you...did he do a pre-observation within the required lead time or did he simply bypass the system and do it all in a hurry in one day? Rules aren't followed... where's the money for books; do you have some? A principal that turns a blind eye to nepotism and relationships between VP and underlings? Where's the babydaddy; off again...!!! Too bad all the staff had to suffer and get fired (turnaround) just because the LSC wanted to protect their interests.

Ever wonder why the year started with 323 kids and now there's 260....the parents know!

The stress is on now.....the reality of the closure and its implications can cause nasty reactions. The principal begins to have little control. He yells and calls meeting but teachers ignore him. Let me ask you think "save of our school" will work?.

There is the principals' version: save our school and me too; even though the test scores results are low, we really did improve! Trust me it’s a mistake. Just ignore that the 5th grade got a 0 on the test scores and that a goldfish could have scored higher! I'll get a petition from the parents...oops but the parents don’t want me to stay. Guess I shouldn't have fired all those old teachers that the parents loved maybe they would have fought to keep us open!

There the LSC president's version: save our school cause even though we have rated him with perfect scores all these years, if you save the teachers and my sisters' job MS. BBB, we will fire him now. The message is clear! Bad principals get fired. I'm just sorry all good teachers had to suffer because the LSC ignored this until now...too late now!

So maybe Mr. Johnson should have stopped complaining about CPS and fired Dockery.

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