Monday night’s gathering of the Local School Council at Amundsen High School, 5110 N. Damen Ave., started like any other meeting. Attendance was taken, motions were introduced and Principal Carlos Munoz presented budget items for approval. “Anything else?” asked LSC Chair Sharon Jones. “Unfortunately, yes,” answered Munoz, who proceeded to shock the council with the announcement of his retirement.
“I’ve been tugging at my heart and my gut,” he said. “It’s not something that I really want to do, but something that has to be done. I will be retiring in June.”
Munoz went on to praise his teachers–”You know how I feel about you guys”–and to thank the LSC for their support of his leadership over the past seven years. “I’m proud and thankful of the confidence you have given me,” he said. “I could not have had a greater school to be the principal of.”
“I hate to see you go,” replied Jones. “We’ve fought a lot across this table…but we always get the job done.”
Though Munoz remained cryptic about the reasons behind his departure, simply stating, “Certain things are scaring me…certain things are happening, I think it’s best I retire in June,” a number of his peers have arrived at the same decision, largely due to the pending expiration of the Pension Enhancement Program.
Recent reports indicate that more than 150 CPS principals have notified the district of their retirement at the end of the 2011-12 school year, causing Local School Councils to express concern that the candidate pool to fill these openings is thin. For its part, Amundsen’s LSC immediately scheduled a closed session in early April to begin the search to find a successor to Munoz.
Munoz began his career with CPS 37 years ago as a phys ed teacher at Tilden High School. He spent 20 years working in the district’s Central Office before being tapped by Paul Vallas’ team to serve as a sort of “utility” principal, sent to replace leaders at troubled schools. When he ultimately landed a permanent gig at Amundsen, he thought, “This is heaven.”
Of his legacy, Munoz said, “We have now a school where the children feel safe, where the children are heard.” He pointed to the establishment of small learning communities–schools within a school–like Freshman Academy and Global Village as a major success under his tenure, but is equally proud of smaller victories.
When he first arrived at Amundsen, the school didn’t even have a band. “When I got here, they used to hire musicians,” he said. “Now we have a band, an orchestra and a string quartet.”