Outspoken Chicago educator resigns with blog post blasting Emanuel
After a tumultuous five years, a Chicago Public Schools principal who publicly criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his administration's school reforms used a blog post this week to announce his resignation and take a few parting shots as he went.
"One might think that after witnessing the unprecedented academic gains of Blaine students, you and your appointees might call on my school leadership team to help you understand how we improved at such an incredible rate," Troy LaRaviere said in a blog post published Tuesday. "Instead, at your direction, your appointees are pushing forward with efforts to terminate my employment. It is clear that I am being punished for my advocacy, and that this retribution is more important to you than effective public education for Chicago’s children."
LaRaviere is best known for being the outspoken principal of James G. Blaine Elementary at the corner of Southport Avenue and Grace Street in Lakeview from 2011 until he was reassigned this year in a move Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials claimed was not retaliatory.
Chicago Magazine this year ranked Blaine as the No. 1 neighborhood school in the city and No. 3 Chicago public school overall.
"In a word, the biggest obstacle to Blaine becoming the No. 1 neighborhood school in Chicago was politics," LaRaviere said in his blog post addressing Mayor Emanuel. "And while many people contributed to this problem, nobody in our great city is more responsible for that political obstruction than you. I spent a lot of time fighting those politics during my first two years at Blaine. Some of the people I fought had good intentions, but it was abundantly clear that they did not understand effective education policy. Rather, they came with ideology and politics. We came, instead, with empirical research and evidence."
The near epic tit-for-tat between LaRaviere, Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools reached something of a watershed in 2014 when the Chicago Sun-Times published a letter to the editor from LaRaviere that since has been republished in many other publications. The letter criticized Emanuel and his administration for ignoring and disrespecting city educators and leaving principals without a voice.
"The world’s 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," the letter said in part. "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."
The letter did little to endear LaRaviere to city and school system administrators and disputes between them continued. During a budget meeting July 13, 2015, LaRaviere was accused of insubordination directed toward the CEO. The following month, LaRaviere was formally censured by Chicago’s Board of Education as part of a warning resolution, an early step in the school district’s termination process.
This past March, LaRaviere was part of a television campaign ad by presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT).
"In Chicago, we have endured a corrupt political system," LaRaviere said in the ad, in which he also endorsed Sanders. "And the chief politician standing in the way of us getting good schools is our mayor.”
The following month, LaRaviere was reassigned away from Blaine, an action he'd been fighting ever since while still receiving his salary and benefits. He'd also been elected president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, which negotiates administrator salaries and other nonunion issues with the district.
His blog post effectively announced LaRaviere's decision to stop fighting that reassignment but he won't be going away.
"In closing, should you ever decide to prioritize student learning over the profits of your campaign donors, feel free to reach out to me and the principals I was elected to represent," LaRaviere said in the end of his blog post. "We have an abundance of ideas for improving the system for the students we serve. In the meantime, we will continue in our efforts to vigorously advocate for the kind of effective evidence-based education policies and practices that your office does its best to ignore and suppress."