Jahn LSC Bypasses Assistant Principal, Hires From Outside to Fill Principal Opening

By Geoff Dankert | Friday, June 15, 2012

Jahn Elementary School. Credit: Flickr/pjchmiel.

When students return to the classroom this fall at Jahn World Language School, 3140 N. Wolcott Ave., they’ll find a completely new face in the principal’s office.

Members of Jahn’s Local School Council voted unanimously Thursday night to hire Stephanie Bloom-Washofsky, who will replace retiring Principal Sulma Grigalunas. According to LSC members, Bloom-Washofsky accepted the offer over the phone, with the formal contract to be signed Friday.

LSC representative Sharon Kennelly said members of the Council reviewed 17 resumes for the position before selecting three candidates to interview. Ultimately, their decision came down to a choice between Bloom-Washofsky, deputy chief of schools for the Chicago Public Schools’ Fullerton Network, or Jahn’s current assistant principal, Dr. George Chipain.

“It was a very tough decision,” Kennelly said. “This was a huge responsibility.”

Kennelly and other LSC members told Roscoe View Journal that while both candidates were “very close,” Bloom-Washofsky’s prior experience as principal of Suder Montessori Magnet School, 2022 W. Washington St., proved critical to her selection. “Having been a principal before was a primary factor,” Kennelly said. “She’s (taken) a school that didn’t have a lot of parental involvement and made it part of the community, which is what we’re looking for here.”

Bloom-Washofsky is a product of the principal intern program at New Leaders, a national non-profit organization that develops what its website calls “transformational school leaders.” In 2008, a Catalyst Chicago article on some of the “resident principals” trained by New Leaders featured Bloom-Washofsky describing a program to improve reading comprehension in grades K-3. LSC members pointed to this work in improving literacy, along with her commitment to maintaining the diversity of Jahn, as being major strengths. For the last year, Bloom-Washofsky has been part of the leadership team for the 41 schools that make up CPS’ Fullerton Network. She has a master’s degree from DePaul University and a master’s in school administration from National-Louis University to complement her B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

It’s not clear what’s next for Chipain, who arrived at Jahn last year after working on math and science curricula for CPS, in addition to serving as a professor at DePaul. Neighborhood groups credit him with increasing the school’s connection to the community: He’s been seen at events including the Hamlin Park Advisory Council’s Easter Egg Hunt and last month’s Hamlin Park Neighbors’ Spring Social. LSC members noted that Bloom-Washofsky will select her own assistant principal, but added that it would be “great” if Chipain stayed at Jahn.

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  • Julie Pomerleau

    “She’s (taken) a school that didn’t have a lot of parental involvement and made it part of the community, which is what we’re looking for here.” As a Suder parent since the day it opened its doors as a Montessori in 2005, I have to disagree with this statement. Suder Montessori had tremendous parental involvement before Ms. Bloom arrived there, and is still going strong a year after she left.

  • Robert J Carrillo

    Ms Bloom is ill-suited to lead. Even before this school year started, Ms Bloom’s earliest communications with the teachers at Jahn were adversarial and condescending and have become more vitriolic, bordering on bullying since. She does not adhere to many of the basic principles of treating people with respect. Ms Bloom has made a regular habit of interrupting teachers mid-lesson to criticize them in front of students. This is one of the earliest and most elemental of no-no’s that every educator is taught. About the praise she’s garnered for increasing parental involvement; that may be true if you belong to a socio-economic class that Ms Bloom deems as worthy but if you’re not, you will be treated with the same dismissive condescension that the teachers at Jahn are now being forced to contend with. Under Sulma Grigalunas and George Chipain’s leadership Jahn had become the kind of neighborhood school we all wish our kids could go to. A nurturing and stimulating learning environment with great teachers who just adore their kids. The kids loved being there too, many staying after school just to hang out. It was a place that had a real sense of community. Ms Bloom was handpicked my Emanuel and Brizard. What do you think that means for the future of this Chicago “Public” school and what do you think Ms Bloom’s true mission is?

  • Robert J Carrillo

    Why were the earlier comments about Bloom’s appointment to Jahn deleted?

    I wish you would do a follow-up on the fallout from Stephanie Bloom’s “leadership” at Jahn. At a time when there have been record setting layoffs of CPS teachers and open positions are nearly impossible to find; I implore you to look into why many teachers at Jahn have voluntarily left the school. Look a little deeper into where Bloom has recruited from to fill these positions. I don’t doubt that Ms Bloom would attempt to spin this in her favor, that she’s tough, that she cleaned house, got rid of bad teachers etc. The truth is that she created a very hostile work environment for everyone there and the teachers who left were willing to risk having no job at all rather than continue working for her. This was a heartbreaking decision for them as they are all very fine educators who adore their students, are profoundly dedicated and believe very deeply in their mission. It would be difficult to know where to begin in relating the many bizarre, disrespectful, dismissive and mean-spirited things Bloom has done to the staff at Jahn. Her behavior is so extreme that it begs for much closer scrutiny given her position around children and the influence she has on them.

  • Robert J Carrillo

    And now that Bloom has almost single handedly destroyed this school in less than 2 years can we arrive at some honest assessment of Mayor Emanuel’s real intent in handpicking her as principal? I feel sorry for the well intentioned LSC members who apparently star-struck by Bloom’s personal relationship with Emanuel, chose her over Dr. Chipain. Fast forward just one year. More than half of the teachers left the school voluntarily. Again, they chose this in the face of massive teacher layoffs. That speaks volumes as to how toxic the work environment had become under Bloom. These are fantastic professional educators, passionately dedicated to their students. Test scores were consistently improving from 2003 to 2011 under former principal Grigalunas and have plummeted dramatically since Bloom took over. In addition to the alarming academic downturn at Jahn, Bloom has fostered an environment in which there is virtually no discipline of any kind for the students, some who desperately need it. Spit in your teacher’s face, call him or her a foul name, bully another student etc. Bloom forbid teachers from starting the implementation of suspensions. Only if and when the incidents were serious enough to warrant police involvement would she act. The students prone to acting out learned very quickly that they could get away with almost anything without being penalized in any way whatsoever. Yet Bloom will very proudly tell you about the “peace circles” she’s created. Meanwhile the school is nearly in a state of anarchy.

    How could so many things at this school go so horribly wrong so quickly? More than half of the teachers quit. Kids are kids, they don’t change like that, at the drop of a hat. Test scores have nosedived. The one alteration to the fabric of this school, the only one thing that could have such a sweepingly devastating effect in such a short amount of time is the school leadership and I use that term loosely in this sad case.

    One is forced to contemplate the real reason that Bloom was “sent” to this school with the personal blessings of Rahm Emanuel. Or, why there has been an unusually large amount of funds suddenly available for this school. Does CPS already have plans on the table to close this school because it is now a failing school?

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