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Principal Mendoza Widely Praised at McPherson Retention Forum

By Sam Charles | Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Faculty, staff and parents listen during the Principal Retention Forum at McPherson Elementary on Monday night. Credit: Sam Charles

In compliance with the Local School Council’s mandates, McPherson Elementary’s LSC held the first Principal Retention Forum in recent memory last night in the school’s auditorium, 4728 N. Wolcott Ave.

The approximately four dozen attendees, made up of faculty, staff, parents and community members, had near-universal praise for Principal Carmen Mendoza and the work she has done during her time at McPherson.

“I see a lot of kids from all over the city,” said Dr. Todd Ochs, an area pediatrician who has enrolled several children at McPherson. “I’ve actually sent patients [to McPherson] because I know that Mrs. Mendoza … will give those kids what they need.”

The LSC’s three-person subcommittee on principal retention led the two-hour forum. Attendees were asked to break into small groups of about seven people for 20 minutes, discuss how Mendoza has or has not met different criteria set forth by the LSC, then share the smaller group’s feelings with the entire forum.

The McPherson LSC’s seven criteria are:

  • School Leadership
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Student-Centered Learning Climate
  • Professional Development and Human Resources Development
  • Parent Involvement and Community Partnerships
  • School Management and Daily Operations
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness

Those in attendance were asked to submit their comments to the committee after the meeting. After one faculty member raised issue with the process, subcommittee member Sarah Evans acknowledged that the comments may have been more thought out had the questions been issued further in advance.

One parent who initially registered to speak in front of the forum, later declined because she felt the environment was not welcoming to dissenting opinions.

Chad Kirkpatrick, a teacher at McPherson, had glowing praise for Mendonza, saying that she has worked to make the school more inclusive to all students.

“When I first started here at McPherson about 14 years ago, we were under a different administration at that time,” said teacher Chad Kirkpatrick. “My classroom was put where it is now, room 111. We stayed there, we ate lunch there, we had recess there. We did everything there. The only places we could go was to the basement and to the bus. When Mrs. Mendoza took over, the door was opened and we’ve been able to be a part of McPherson Elementary School, and I think that says a lot. That says a whole lot.”

Ted Hajiharis, a first-year physical education teacher at McPherson and former candidate for President of the Chicago Teachers Union, said that while running for office he met more than 200 principals in the CPS system. From what he saw, he said, there is no reason for McPherson to remove Mendoza as principal.

“For the past seven years I’ve been employed, prior to coming here to McPherson as the physical education teacher, I was at the Chicago Teachers Union as a field representative,” Hajiharis said. “I had the pleasure, honor and privilege of meeting, personally, over 200 principals. In 2010, I ran for president of the Chicago Teachers Union, and at that time I visited over 400 of the 600 elementary schools in the City of Chicago. I see absolutely no reason why Carmen Mendoza shouldn’t be retained as principal of McPherson Elementary School.”

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