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MEDIA WATCH: Sun-Times gives voice to Blaine principal, echoing the fearful hundreds of principals who so far have only spoken out from the shadows or who stand on stage with Rahm Emanuel as extras in just one more publicity stunt for the Mayor Of Chicagoland

One of the most significant pieces of education writing in recent Chicago memory burst forth on Page 11 of the print edition of the Chicago Sun-Times (strangely still calling itself CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.com) greeted readers on the morning of May 10, 2014, with the words of a Chicago principal who, basically, said he is fed up and won't take it anymore. "Under Emanuel, principals have no voice," was the headline. The writer is Blaine Elementary School principal Troy a. LaRaviere. And the words land on top of a dozen other scandals that should be rocking the City Hall fifth floor, where Emanuel's propaganda team is still working overtime to push the fictional stories of the "Mayor Of Chicagoland" and down the street on the sixth floor at 125 S. Clark St., where Board of Education propagandists and security staff wait to arrest reporters and photographers (I've been threatened the past three months) who try and photograph stories from outside the Board's press pens.

Blaine Elementary School principal Troy LaRaviere was selected by the Blaine Local School Council to be principal in 2011, a few months before Rahm Emanuel was inaugurated. Prior to becoming principal at Blaine, he taught at Social Justice High School and served as an assistant principal at Johnson "turnaround" elementary school. Photo from the Blaine website.Despite the fact that hundreds of principals and other administrators across the USA have been publicly protesting during the past couple of years -- as the absurdities of the nationalization of Chicago style corporate school reform move forward under the Common Core and Race To The Top programs -- Chicago's principals have been unnaturally silent. Of course, every day principals try to keep Substance (and, we assume, other reporters) up to date on the absurdities and scandals enveloping CPS. But until May 2014, those principals have been off-the-record, rightly afraid that Emanuel's army of propagandists and petit tyrants would swoop down on them. Meanwhile, the lies abounded as the Mayor Of Chicagoland pushed hard to get his story line out with the intensity reserved for the propaganda work of many tyrannical forebears, all the way to those who created a previous version of Triumph of the Will.

There are many aspects of the story that can be told and repeated now again, now that principals have found a courageous public voice.

For those interested in what's going on at Blaine, the Blaine Local School Council will be meeting at the school at 6:30 p.m. on May 27, 2014, the night before the May Board of Education meeting. Blaine parents have been among those leading the protests against recent "student based budgeting" cuts at Board meetings.

UNDER EMANUEL, PRINCIPALS HAVE NO VOICE. Chicago Sun-Times, print edition May 10, 2014, Page 11. Updated: May 10, 2014 2:12AM

I am the son of a black father from the South Side and a white mother from the North Side. I grew up in Bronzeville and now live in Beverly. I attended five Chicago Public Schools and Ive taught in every corner of Chicago, in schools that were predominately African-American, Latino-American and European-American. I have served students who were homeless, and students whose families owned multiple homes. I was an assistant principal in a turnaround school, and I am currently the principal of Blaine Elementary, one of the citys highest-performing neighborhood schools. Finally, I am a CPS parent with a son at our neighborhood public school.

I am fortunate to have experienced public schooling from such diverse viewpoints. However, nothing Ive seen can compare to what Ive witnessed as a CPS principal under the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Since 2011, CPS principals and teachers have experienced unprecedented political burdens. Early on, teachers felt publicly maligned and disrespected by the mayor, leading to the historic strike of 2012.

While publicly praising principals in speeches and with awards, behind the scenes this administration has disregarded principals knowledge and experience. They have ignored and even suppressed principals voices in order to push City Halls political agenda for Chicagos schools.

The administrations interaction with principals is often insulting. During the debate over the longer school day, some principals questioned its merits. CPS officials were then dispatched to tell the principals their opinions didnt matter. You are Board employees, a central office official told a room full of principals at a meeting, and when you speak, your comments must be in line with the Boards agenda. He instructed us to have an elevator speech supporting the longer day ready at a moments notice. We were told that if Emanuel and the press walked into our schools, wed better be prepared to list the benefits of his longer day. In a move that further humiliated principals, they were called on at random to give their elevator speeches at subsequent principal meetings.

Shortly afterward, CPS slashed school budgets, voted to close 50 schools and made disingenuous statements about the slashed budget giving more autonomy to principals. They insinuated these cuts would have little effect on classrooms. I spoke up to give Chicagoans a factual assessment of the effects of these cuts. A reporter from WBEZ Radio recorded a statement I delivered at City Hall in July 2013 and posted it on the stations website. It became one of the stations most downloaded audio files.

Several months later, I spoke about overcrowded schools on WYCC television. A few hours before filming, I emailed CPS officials to inform them. Later that afternoon unaware the show had already been taped those officials told me not to appear because I did not have permission. On the subject of whether I had the right to speak as a private citizen, CPS said I should wait to receive clarity. After more than two months Im still waiting for clarity from CPS on my right to speak.

Recently, during a break at a training session, a few principals gathered to discuss what they could not say publicly. They expressed concerns about the impact of Emanuels effort to cut teacher pensions on our ability to recruit talented people into the teaching profession. They questioned unfunded mandates that pull resources from classrooms, and condemned CPS expenditure of over $20 million on Supes Academy an organization the CEO of CPS once worked for to provide principal training, a training that principals agreed was among the worst theyd experienced.

Principal after principal expressed legitimate concerns that none felt safe expressing publicly. Finally, I spoke.

This administration gets away with this because we let them. We are the professionals. Yet, we allow political interests to dominate the public conversation about whats good for the children in our schools. Every time these officials misinform the public about the impact of their policies, we need to follow them with a press conference of our own to set the record straight.

Those who responded expressed concerns about being harassed, fired or receiving a poor evaluation. Principals sat paralyzed by fear of what might happen if they simply voiced the truth. One of them asked me plainly, Arent you afraid of losing your job? The question awakened a memory:

General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!

In 1989, when I was in the Navy, I was stationed onboard an aircraft carrier and accustomed to hearing the General Quarters battle readiness exercise. However, on January 4 of that year, it came with a sobering declaration: This is not a drill.

Our ship had entered the Gulf of Sidra near Muammar Gaddafis Libya, and crossed Gaddafis Line of Death. Two Libyan warplanes were headed our way. Fortunately, our F-14 fighter jet pilots were able to shoot the warplanes down. Our captain later praised the pilots and ships crew for our willingness to risk our lives to preserve American freedoms.

So when people ask me, Arent you afraid of losing your job if you speak out? this is my answer: I did not travel across an ocean and risk my life to defend American freedoms only to return and relinquish those freedoms to an elected official and his appointed board of education.

The worlds highest-performing school systems are built on the ideas of American education professionals ranging from John Dewey to Linda Darling-Hammond, ideas that recognize school improvement is not an individual race, but a team sport. Yet, our own elected officials have been ignoring those ideas in favor of teacher-bashing, privatized choice, fly-by-night fast-track teacher licensing and over-reliance on testing ideas that have not improved schooling in any nation that has tried them.

Those of us who know better must lift our voices to persuade the residents of Illinois to reject these backward ideas and to oust the politicians who peddle them. We must work together to build our own system-wide improvement effort. The future of public education is at stake, and the future of Chicagos children is at risk. We must lift our voices and be heard.

This is not a drill.

Troy A. LaRaviere, Principal

Blaine Elementary School



Comments:

May 10, 2014 at 9:31 PM

By: Kim Scipes

Principal Troy LaRaviere

Pricipal LaRaviere--

I want to applaud your standing up publicly against Mayor 1% and his regime: we've long needed principals to stand up, and I hope your move will inspire others.

As you said, "this is no drill."

Kim Scipes, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sociology

Purdue University North Central

May 15, 2014 at 12:41 PM

By: Liane Casten

MY EXPERIENCE IN CPS

For years, after my retirement, I had nighmares of how our CPS was run. "Educators" in headquarters were busy safeguarding their perks and jobs, and never listened to us. Ever. I used to believe the administrators would change, if they would only come to our schools and really see what was happening. They never came. And I left, sad and frustrated.

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