While Barbara Eason Watkins continues stalling Prescott staff, a new question arises... Is Prescott Principal lying to parents to force them into Tuition-Based Pre-School instead of Pre-School for All?

Controversial Prescott Elementary School Principal Erin Roche is apparently being successful in his plan to stall teachers and parents who are critical of what has been characterized as his "tyrannical" management style until the opening of school (for students) on August 10. As fans know, Prescott is a "Track E School" — which means it is supposedly "year-round."

Prescott Elementary School principal Erin Roche (above left, hands gesturing) and LSC community representative Jennifer Lister at the May 2009 meeting of the Prescott Local School Council. Since Lister and Roche ruled that there would be no public participation at the May meeting, the LSC has gone nearly three months without public discussion of the controversial policies of the principal. Roche continues to refuse to answer questions from Substance as reports mount that he has deceived parents and others regarding everything from the continuation of special education programs to the pre-kindergarten programs available at the North Side school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Two wrinkles in the almost soap opera saga of Prescott emerged during the final days of July 2009. (Some teachers are calling the story "As Prescott Turns" in honor of the traditional soap opera "As the World Turns"). Officials of the Chicago Teachers Union cornered the CPS "Chief Education Officer" for a lengthy meeting at the union's Merchandise Mart offices about the ongoing complaints about what are becoming known as "tyrannical principals." That's right. Barbara Eason-Watkins, the supposed number two person in the Huberman administration (and also a "CEO") met with teachers from Gunsaulus, Field, and Prescott schools at the CTU offices.

To the surprise of no one, Eason-Watkins stalled (again). By the time the meeting was over, most of the teachers who described the events to Substance felt that the Huberman administration was stalling until the school year began, at which time they would claim that there was "nothing that could be done" without disrupting the education of the children. it's a typical CPS tactic, time worn and well rehearsed by Barbara Eason-Watkins, Board President Michael Scott, and the quick understudy, Ron Huberman. Left out of the "why-we-can't-do-anything" discussion by CPS leaders (not only for the three schools that have made the most public demands, but for others including Brooks) is the question of how Ron Huberman could stage a media event and remove two principals on April 3 (thereby getting a profile of his tough guy act in Newsweek) and yet be powerless in the face of the principals of Field, Gunsaulus, Prescott and Brooks high school.

"How much does it take?" more than one teacher has asked Substance.

As always when deception and clout are operating in Chicago, the answer is: "More."

Now it comes out that Erin Roche has apparently been lying to more than the special education parents and teachers at Prescott. Earlier, Substance reported that Roche had told the school that the cuts in Special Education had been ordered by the central office. But when Substance reporters asked the head of specialized services, Deborah Duskey, she denied it. Now questions are arising about the Prescott pre-kindergarten programs, and once again they seem to involve equivocation and double-talk — and outright lies. As many know, CPS has two pre-school programs. Across most of the city, the main program for four-year-olds is called "Pre School for All" (PFA). It's part of the public school, and available first to the children who can utilize it the most effectively. It's not Head Start or the Child Parent Center (which CPS officials have been ruthlessly cutting since the Duncan administration hired the politically powerful Barbara Bowman several years ago), but pre-school. The other program, which has been available in some of the city's wealthier communities, is "Tuition-Based Pre-Kindergarten" (TBPK).

Recently, Erin Roche has told parents that the PFA program at Prescott was cancelled by CPS — but they could enroll their children in the TBPK program. In late July, Erin Roche reportedly began sending letters to PFA parents stating that his PFA funding had been cut, so there weren't any 'positions' at Prescott available and that the room was going to close.

While some of Chicago's PFA programs might be cancelled at the last minute due to the state's financial problems, as of the final week of July that had not taken place, and many at the Board are convinced it is unlikely because of the support both locally and from the Obama administration for pre-school.

Apparently, Roch is trying to put up a TBPK program (which many families cannot afford) and use it to replace the PSA program (which is still in place). One of the things that people noted during the June 2009 picket at Prescott (organized by Prescott teachers, CORE, and some others and snubbed by Marilyn Stewart and the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union) was that parents were entering the school to enroll their children in the TBPK program. When asked, they told the pickets that Roche had told them that was one of the days to register for the relatively expensive program.

Prescott Elementary School gives contradictory information to people, some official, some semi-official. For more than a year, a Web site called "Prescott Parents" has been working with the principal to promote one narrative about Prescott. Although the PSA program has been in operation for more than a year at Prescott, some critics are claiming that Roche is trying to push the PSA program out of the school and install a tuition-based program in its place. The difference is serious. The tuition-based program can cost parents as much as $1,100 per month ($265 per week if lunch is included, according to the semi-official school Website), while the PSA program is part of the public schools operations.

If, as is now being reported, the PSA program has been eliminated and the TBPK program is the only option available to families, the high cost will exclude many of the traditional community families from the option.

At Substance deadline for this story, Substance was also told that the decision to put Prescott on the "year-round" schools schedule was made without input from the school's teachers. The announcements on the unofficial school Website ( makes no mention of the fact that school for the 2009-2010 school year begins for children on August 10, not September 8.

Substance will continue to try and clarify these questions with Prescott Principal Erin Roche in the weeks ahead. 

Final edited version of this article posted at August 1, 2009, 3:00 p.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


August 1, 2009 at 5:33 PM

By: LL

This Wasn't Rocket Science

If AIO, James Cosme, had done his job in February and told Roche to try to act human for once, the Board could have saved a ton of money. Half the Board personnel are now working on the Roche problem.

Flavia Hernandez is next in line for a medal of honor. In her infamous March 24 letter to the staff (the one in which she assessed Prescott school climate from her desk downtown and told the staff to get lost) she stated:

"Mr. Roche has been reviewing school culture and climate as part of the Area 6 Professional Development for principals. He will continue to implement school improvements in an insightful manner."

Wow! Here’s a model that Arne Duncan will want to take national. Have a non-renewed principal who couldn’t unify his previous LSC or staff behind him review the climate of a school that had no climate problems, and let him wreck havoc on the soul of the school. The trouble with his Dr. Strangelove school improvements, Flavia darling, is that they involve damaging people. So when the buck finally stops being passed and someone has to lay blame for the Roche situation which continues to escalate, you and Jimmy are going to be the first heading home down Clark Street.

Good Riddance.

August 1, 2009 at 10:16 PM

By: Ravenswood teacher

Do the PFA parents know yet what he is doing to them?

Wow! Less than 2 weeks before Prescott starts their new school year (Track E) and he is just "cutting" the PFA program??? I don't know why he would be doing this. I have been watching the news with the State regarding early childhood, and I thought they hadn't decided anything yet. As a matter of fact, I KNOW that our PFA program hasn't been cut yet. Why would the PFA program be cut at Prescott?

I noticed that this website that George referred to (the Prescott parents site)said that the tuition-based program was "pending". What does this mean? Do they have the program or don't they. Again, if this has not been resolved, what will happen to all of the parents who have enrolled their kids at Prescott in the tuition-based program if they don't get this room?

This is interesting because we were allowed to have another TBPK room this year and found out about it being a done deal several months ago. Why would we be told our new TBPK room was a go but Early Childhood wouldn't tell Prescott that their TBPK room was? I wonder if it is because they never got approval for this room? It certainly wouldn't surprise me in the least!

I could actually see Roche trying to do some shanannagons with these two rooms if one falls through. I could see him "cutting" his PFA room and giving the spots to the tuition-based "affluent" parents so that he can keep them for his new, elite school. WOW!!! I would love to know more information about this.

Does anyone at Prescott have any details regarding these 2 pre-k rooms? Just another horrible situation to put as a notch on his bedpost!

August 2, 2009 at 8:28 AM

By: We Don't Know Anything!

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

Of course the staff doens't know anything about this...except maybe his elite few(the four excellent teachers he brought w/him or hired this year!) He doesn't share any of his plans.

When he announced Prescott was going on Track E, one individual asked how did he come to this decision, was there going to be a vote from the staff and the students families? His answer was "I'm the principal and I made the decision." End of story...

August 5, 2009 at 3:30 PM

By: look into it

ask around the pre-k

This nonsense has been going on all year. Ask around. What you will hear is that Roche (and the 1st very inexperienced pre-k teacher) are telling SELECT parents that the pre-k is closing. The same way that the pre-k teacher was over heard telling lower income families at the end of the school-year that they would have to go to their neighborhood pre-k, because they didn't live within boundaries. Yet, other families not in the boundaries of the school were told that they had a spot next year. It is blatant racism and discrimination at it's finest.

If you decide to send your child to prescott pre-k, especially tuition-based where you have to fork over hard-earned money, you need to get your head examined. Save your money, and if your looking for that kind of school, I'm sure the KKK has a academy somewhere that's cheaper.

August 9, 2009 at 9:49 AM

By: Prescott parent of PFA

I am out of PFA

I can't believe it! I got a letter about a week ago or so saying that this room is closing. Is it not? Who can I contact regarding this? My son needs to be in pre-school. He is 4and a half and needs to have the opportunity to be in school. I registered my son a long time ago for this class and now, at the last minute, I don't have anywhere for my son to attend. I am so mad about this, especially considering that it sounds like there is something funny going on with this program and this school.

Does anyone at Prescott know the truth about this situation? I really need to know what my options are. School is supposed to start on Monday, and as of now, I have no place for my son. This is horrible!

August 9, 2009 at 2:24 PM

By: And They Still Protect Him

Call James A. Cosme

Roche's immediate boss is AIO James A. Cosme. Call him at (773) 535-5848. Cosme has protected Roche all year, so the problem will be your fault, not the principal’s.

Call Flavia Hernandez at (773) 553-2150. She’s an officer of the Office of Elementary Areas and Schools and Office of School Coordination.

She’s Cosme’s boss. She thinks that Cosme counsels Roche really well.

Call Rachel Resnick at (773) 553-3578. She’s the Chief Labor Relations Officer with CPS and she thinks teachers should realize that change isn’t easy when it comes to Roche. She doesn’t seem to think that he’s the problem.

August 9, 2009 at 3:42 PM

By: too funny

biting the hands that feed him

Roche may have sealed his own fate if he pulled the plug on the pre-school for all program, considering some of his biggest lsc backers have kids in the program. This includes Lister, whose precious second offspring will be left hanging. I'm sure she's furious at the thought of having to fork out 265.00 a week for tution-based when she spends the majority of her time being a PR rep for Prescott...time that she could spend watching her child after the PFA lets out.

It will be really interesting to see how this one pans out...

August 9, 2009 at 5:17 PM

By: CPS preschool teacher

Prescott doesn't have a TBPK

Wait everyone! The record needs to be set straight. I KNOW that Prescott never got a TBPK program approved. At the end of the year, our last preschool meeting, the preschool leadership at CPS told us all that Ravenswood is the ONLY school who will be receiving TBPK for this upcoming school year. Prescott was never mentioned. My friend was actually told that she could be the new PFA teacher at school because the current PFA teacher was going to take the TBPK program (if it got approved). I recently talked to my friend and she said that the deal never went through and now she has been left without a job. Tuition-based Pre-K was NEVER approved at Prescott!!! Call the early childhood department, parents of PFA. They can tell you this!

What is he doing over there? If there is an entire class of kids registered for a TBPK room and it is not going to open, what is going to happen to all of the kids?

Wow! I feel so sorry for the parents who were counting on these programs!

August 9, 2009 at 10:33 PM

By: Observer

He is a Liar

Prescott never had TBPS, he lied to the parents because he assumed that he would get away with it just like he got away with everything else. Maybe now the community will see him exposed for the arrogant liar that he is!

August 10, 2009 at 11:04 AM

By: Watching from the sidelines

Dare we hope?

Okay. So when he finds out he didn't get the TBPK go-ahead from the board, he scraps the PFA to use the position and classroom for the parents who are able to pay?

Elitism again. It's clear when he set out to create an "elite" school at Prescott he was not talking about academics. The audacity of this man knows no limits, and it's no help that the district is enabling him by not reigning him in and giving him the smackdown he has surely earned. They have given this guy enough rope. Perhaps with this one he's finally hung himself.

August 10, 2009 at 5:29 PM

By: Prescott community member

Prescott Parents website has been cleared off

Hey everyone.

I just logged onto the Prescott Parents website and saw that the tabs have been completely cleared. The mention of TBPK is gone now. What do you know?!?

How was the first day of school?

August 10, 2009 at 7:12 PM

By: SS

what are you talking about?

I just checked the site and the same info about PreK is still there. What are you referring to?

August 11, 2009 at 7:16 PM

By: To Prescott Parent of PFA

Keep Your Proof

Whatever you do, keep the letter that was sent to you as proof. He can't get away too much longer. As long as we keep a record of all the lies he's telling, eventually he will be brought down. My neighbor received a letter like that too and she's keeping hers as proof.

August 11, 2009 at 9:23 PM

By: Prescott community member

Website is now back up (and hasn't changed)

I looked at the website again late last night and it was back to the original state. I heard that not only does Prescott not have the TBPK room, but also, they don't have 2 PFA classrooms, they only have one.

What that is broken down in simple terms is this... 1 TBPK room = 20 kids (families)

1 PFA room with an AM section and a PM section = 40 kids (potentially 40 families). All of these families are now out of luck??? With less than a month to go until school starts with the normal calendar school and nothing now that Prescott and the Track E schools have started? Where will all of these kids and families go? How horrible for them, not to mention the 2 teachers he probably let down as well. Does he have any heart at all? How can one act as if his horrible decisions don't impact the school and those who count on the administration being open, honest,and having the programs the say they have! Who can I call about this?

August 12, 2009 at 12:13 AM

By: Anna Rosado




August 13, 2009 at 6:35 PM

By: Parent


Man, I was standing with my child waiting for the bell to ring. What's up with those little kids? They don't listen to any adults who tell them to get in line. Who's setting the standards for behavior? I'm glad my child had strict schooling in the lower grades somewhere else.

August 14, 2009 at 11:21 PM

By: Teach your children well...

They Won't Learn It at Prescott !

I know what you mean about those little kids not listening. Some of the primary teachers are so snowed by Roche and his techniques that all last year they negotiated with the 4, 5 and 6 year-olds in the building. "How can you have made a different choice?, or I hope you'll make a different choice next time, or I expect you to make different choices." The problem with all this is that little kids don't know how to make different choices if they are not told. Little kids NEED to be told what to do because they have no "frame of reference" to select choices from, they don't have enough life experience at 5 or 6 to make some choice, because they don't know what they choices are! When you tell a kid what to do, then they know what to do and will be able to pull this information from their memory next time! Little kids need rules to build their experiences of exactly what is right or wrong. Negotiating is not the way. Would you let your little kid make choices about crossing the street? Of course not.

Also, there is so much one on one or "center" work being done in some of these classrooms, that these kids do not know how to be part of a group. Center work is ideally a small group of kids working together at a task while the teacher is working with another small group. Some of the time it works, but a lot of the time this is an opportunity for the kids to be fooling around while the teacher is working with others. It's asking a lot of a 5 or 6 year old to manage his own time, be responsible and complete a task with a small group or independently. Then they go to the next teacher and the kids are all over the place because the previous year they got to do what they wanted whenever they wanted because there was NEVER any whole class work done.

Learning how to be a part of the group and sharing and waiting your turn are pretty important lessons to learn. They will be an important part of these kids lives for the rest of their lives, but the experts at Prescott apparently know better.

This must be why the new regime can't play nice with the old regime.

August 15, 2009 at 11:54 AM

By: New regime vs old regime

Whoh! Whoever wrote the last post shouldn't speak for the "veterans!"

Let me say from the start that I am VERY anti Roche and what he did at Ravenswood as well as at Prescott. When I read the above post by "teach your children well" it made me shake my head. If this is the person speaking for the veteran teachers, I would quickly remove him/her from this responsibility. This person doesn't understand child development and really shouldn't be spaking about things he/she doesn't understand. Don't get me wrong, it is ok that an upper grades teacher (my guess would be) doesn't understand primary learning. At any rate, it is completely possible for 4-6 year olds to be taught how to make better choices. We do it at my school as young as 3 and by the time the kids get to the upper grades conflict resolution is second nature to them and choosing the "right" choices is much easier. Obviously, this person has had NO traing in Adlering theory. This is not just a bunch of hog wash. This IS research-based and is working fabuously in many other PRE-K environments throughout the city.

It is rather ironic that Roche is trying to implement this at his school since he posesses NOTHING of this philosophy personally. He certainly doesn't practice this himself.

At any rate, parents of Pre-K kids, this above poster doesn't understand how insiteful 3-6 year olds are and she/he should give these kids more credit for their knowledge and abilities.

In terms of "centers" teaching kids routines by MODELING them throughout the course of 6-8 weeeks is also very possible. Again, this is something that is research-based and works fabulously in many other schools throughout the Chicagoland area. Again, this poster doesn't understand how 3-6 year olds can accomplish when given explicit expectations and procedures around routines.

Please, above poster, keep to what you know because you make yourself (and bring in the other teachers at Prescott)look very stupid! The last thing that the teachers at Prescott needs is to have this person speak on behalf of their "knowledge level". Primary instruction and development is EXTREMELY different than that of kids beyond 8. Again, stick to what you know because you obviously know nothing about primary instruction!

August 16, 2009 at 2:33 PM

By: Statistics-Are-Us

Spare Us Educational Psychology

You're talking semantics here. Even the most backwater primitive parent who never heard of the word "psychology" would know that you have to TEACH children how to make choices that are acceptable in the settings in which they find themselves and choices that do not endanger themselves. Young teachers who buy into the let's-talk-to-5-year-olds-like-they-are-adults theory end up having the kids run them. Already this year a kindergarten student has informed the substitute teacher that she is going to do things the way she wants to.

One of the hundreds of problems that Roche has rained down on Prescott is that he doesn't allow teachers to educate their classes according to the needs identified by those teachers. He wants things done his way without any discussion as to what is in the best interests of each individual child. His way is simply copied from the latest jargon that Erikson Institute is peddling. (They're even recycling Madeline Hunter who simply recycled common everyday practices in education. Don't you just love American ingenuity?)

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