Principal group’s support for law boomerangs

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The Chicago Principals and Administrators Association whole-heartedly supported legislation permitting the Reform Board to set standards for becoming a principal. But the first action the board took as a result of Senate Bill 1019 was to extend its city residency requirement to principals, a move the association opposed.

To expand the pool of school leaders, the original School Reform Act barred the School Board from setting any employment requirements for principals beyond those established by state law. In the final days of last spring’s legislative session, the Reform Board got the General Assembly to restore board power to set additional requirements; no public hearings were held.

Led by Designs for Change, school reform organizations responded with an intensive lobbying campaign to persuade Gov. Jim Edgar to veto the measure. The school administration countered with its own campaign, which included a message to principals and local school council members that said the bill “is not a threat to the job of any current … principal nor the authority of the LSC.” The message also said the bill does not impose residency requirements on CPS principals but, rather, “simply allows the … Board to establish high standards to use in selecting principals in the future.”

At the November board meeting, Principal Barbara Valerious of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Science registered the principal association’s opposition. “When you needed janitorial services, you went outside the city because you said you wanted the best,” she said.

“Our goal is to select the best but the best in the city,” retorted Board President Gery Chico. “… You are assuming something is wrong with Chicago.” Board member Sharon Gist Gilliam drew a round of applause from the audience when she added: “People have more of an investment in a community if they live here.”