Amundsen LSC Opts for New Blood, Chooses Outside Hire for Principal

By Patty Wetli | Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Anna Pavichevich, moments after her announcement as the new principal of Amundsen High School. Credit: Patty Wetli

After deliberating in closed session for nearly two hours Tuesday night, members of Amundsen’s Local School Council returned to the school’s auditorium to address the handful of people, including Ald. Ameya Pawar, who had waited out the conclave to learn the identity of Amundsen’s new principal. The candidates–Brian Rogers, Amundsen assistant principal, and Anna Pavichevich, interim principal at Kelvyn Park High School–seated themselves at opposite ends of the front row to await the verdict.

LSC chair Sharon Jones stepped to the podium: “The council has made a decision. It was a tough decision. We went round and round and round and round.” Following a dramatic pause, she announced, “The principal contract is going to be offered to Anna Pavichevich.”

Well that was unexpected.

At a candidate forum earlier in the evening, Rogers had received a standing ovation from supporters simply by appearing on stage to deliver his opening statement. The original coordinator of Amundsen‘s showcase IB program and an AP at the school for seven years, Rogers was the clear favorite among faculty members, who made up a large number of the nearly 100 people that packed the auditorium for the forum.

During the portion of the agenda set aside for public comment, a number of teachers took to the microphone to stump for Rogers. “Amundsen needs Brian Rogers as our principal,” Laura Westervelt succinctly stated. John Barnes, special education case manager, delivered a petition with 125 staff signatures backing the AP for principal.

But the LSC, which included CPS North/Northwest Network Chief Leslie Boozer in its confab, opted to move in a different direction.

The seven to four vote in favor in Pavichevich bore out Jones’ claim of a difficult decision. “Everybody stood their ground,” said Jones of the council’s debate. Though LSCs are typically tight-lipped about discussions that take place in closed session (hence the term “closed”), Jones did reveal that the huge community outpouring during April’s LSC elections influenced the council’s choice.

“[Voters] made it clear they wanted change,” she said.

Pavichevich now inherits a school on probation–the average ACT score hovers around 17–but one that’s also been targeted for improvement by neighborhood residents and Ald. Pawar’s Grow 47 initiative. The newly-formed Friends of Amundsen is poised to provide fundraising support but with that increased attention comes raised expectations.

The incoming principal is well aware of these challenges. While Pavichevich may be new to Amundsen, the school has been on her radar for some time. She’s lived in the neighborhood for the past 16 years and in various capacities within CPS–as instructional support director and director of teacher leadership development and support–she’s had the opportunity to visit the school on numerous occasions. During a brief chat with CSJ, Pavichevich confessed that Amundsen was the only school to which she submitted a principal application. “I’ve always wanted to come here.”

Though Rogers clearly had the home field advantage, a strong contingent of Pavichevich’s present and former colleagues turned out to speak on her behalf. (Her resume includes 20 years as a classroom teacher, including a stint as a special ed instructor at Mather High School.) They painted the portrait of a teacher who would pre-take student exams to identify potential pitfalls and praised her time and again for her inclusive management style.

“She reinvigorated professional collaboration,” said Erik Olson, a co-worker at Kelvyn Park.

Added another Kelvyn Park staffer: “Each day Anna comes to work with vitality,” creating an environment “to produce brilliant and compassionate human beings.”

For her part, Pavichevich, who spent days crafting her two-minute opening statement (“the most important speech of my life”), vowed to to hit the ground running.

“I have my gym shoes in the other room; I’m ready to put them on,” she said. “My goal is to make this the school of choice for the neighborhood.”

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