Tunney forced to run as challenger

Print More

Slatemaking for officers of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA) was one of many school activities that got postponed by Chicago’s early March snow storm. Even so, when the rescheduled session was held Mar. 12, only seven of the 13 nominating committee members showed up. In a vote of 4 to 3, they rejected the group’s president, Beverly Tunney, forcing her to run as a challenger.

Tunney says she is baffled by the rejection. “Nobody has discussed my performance, ever, except in really complimentary terms,” she says of the committee members, who are the group’s regionally elected auxiliary presidents. Tunney suspects one member in particular, though, of stirring up opposition. “This has really been engineered, I’m sorry to say it, by Sandra McCann, and I guess she’s got an axe to grind.” McCann is principal of May Elementary School.

McCann, who was slated for treasurer, denies that accusation. “It’s heart-wrenching to think that because someone doesn’t get their way, or someone is annoyed with another person’s opinions, they will not accept the differences,” she says. Asked what she considers the main issues in the race, McCann cites “developing leadership” among members and “accepting the diversity” in their opinions. Beyond that, she says simply, “I will not comment on a smear campaign. If you’re qualified for a particular office, you have a right to run.”

The committee’s choice for president, Calhoun North Principal Henry Thompson, III, says his campaign involves no ill will toward the incumbent. “I don’t fault Bev Tunney for anything she’s done,” he says. “I’d just like the opportunity to take representation to a higher level. It’s nothing personal.” Specifically, he explains, the organization needs “more of the recognition aspect of what we do, all of us, not just the select few. You kind of get the impression that you only have 10 to 20 principals that are doing an admirable or satisfactory job.”

Thompson adds that, as president, his first initiative would be to solicit members’ ideas and concerns. “I don’t see it being done to a satisfactory degree,” he says.

Off the record, some CPAA members cite other possible causes for dissatisfaction with Tunney: What some consider a too cozy relationship with schools chief Paul Vallas, her failure to prevent assistant principals from losing salary and job security, and her support of the board’s new hiring and retention requirements for principals.

In response, Tunney notes that in her five years as CPAA president, she has established three professional development programs, won a substantial pay hike for principals and expanded the organization’s membership. She says having a friendly relationship with Vallas has only helped the cause. “Anything we can do to work with the administration to make schools better is my priority,” she says, adding, “We had confrontation for years, and we didn’t get anything out of it.”

Tunney says there is a limit to her influence, though. For example, the Reform Board imposed a city residency requirement on principals over her objection. “We have been in there fighting for principals to the best of our abilities,” she says, “but I can’t change the law, and I can’t control the board.”

A few CPAA members contacted by Catalyst also say that racial considerations played a role in the slatemaking— the 4 to 3 vote for Thompson was along racial lines. The association’s current officers include two whites, two African Americans and an Hispanic. The slate drawn up Mar. 12, which includes some Tunney supporters, has five African Americans, two whites and an Hispanic, with the top three slots filled by African Americans. (Three offices are being added this year in the wake of a reorganization.)

Joining Thompson and McCann on the nominating committee slate is Hay Elementary Principal Sandra Crosby, who was tapped for secretary. Joining Tunney as a challenger are the current secretary, Doris Scott, principal of Medill Primary, and the current treasurer, Joe Garvey, principal of Foreman High—each must get 50 signatures on petition to get on the ballot.

At press time, the nominating committee’s choices for vice presidents were not locked in because not all of them had accepted their nominations. They are Fiske Principal Clarice Berry, elementary principals; Bogan Principal Linda Pierzchalski, high school principals; Park Manor Assistant Principal Amarita Rodgers, elementary assistant principals; Amundsen Assistant Principal Ken Hunter, high school assistant principals; and Dolores Gonzalez, director of the Illinois Administrators Academy, central office administrators.

April 6 is the deadline for accepting nominations and submitting petitions. Ballots will be mailed to the association’s 1,289 members May 6 and must be returned by May 16.