Principal Search: Burley Progressing Faster Than Jahn

By Geoff Dankert | Monday, May 7, 2012

Jahn Elementary School. Credit: Flickr/pjchmiel.

With dozens of principals retiring from CPS this year, the race is on for schools to recruit and hire replacements by the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. Among those in hiring mode: Burley Elementary, 1630 W. Barry Ave., and Jahn World Language School, 3149 N. Wolcott St., which differ widely in the pace of their progress. At Burley, committee members have established criteria for their principal search and have begun combing through resumes. By contrast, the search committee at Jahn has yet to review any resumes and only posted the job on CPS’ internal website Wednesday.

The disparity in timing appears to be at least partly related to the amount of advance warning received by each school’s Local School Council. Burley’s outgoing principal, Barbara Kent, informed LSC members March 27 of her impending retirement. At Jahn, principal Sulma Grigalunas notified the LSC of her plans April 11, after she’d given notice to CPS administrators.

A limited pool of individuals are certified by CPS to apply for the principal spot, which translates into a great deal of competition for qualified candidates. In addition, a slate of CPS initiatives, such as the longer school day and new teacher evaluation criteria, make it even more vital for schools to have principals in place by the start of the academic year on July 1 without resorting to “interim” placements.

Search committee members at Burley posted their principal opening on the CPS job site last month. The Burley ad makes mention of the school’s status as the state’s sole winner of the International Reading Association’s Exemplary Reading program, notes that 91.5 percent of students at the magnet cluster school are reading at or above grade level, and stresses the need for a “dynamic, passionate educator” who “is easy to approach” and is willing to “maintain an open door for staff and community.”

The posting gave applicants until April 25 to send in their resumes, and committee members met last week to review submissions. That meeting was closed to the public because it dealt with specific personnel issues; however, Burley’s Principal Selection Committee has been meeting on Mondays to discuss issues related to the search.

At Jahn, LSC president Jemy Evans says members are not planning to meet until May 16 to discuss resumes received for the position, in order to give applicants the 10 days required to respond. When asked what criteria the LSC would be using to select their next principal, she said, “We don’t know, because we haven’t had resumes yet.” She added that the board would “have to get together and brainstorm and come up with the questions we want to ask” applicants.

One of those applicants is likely to be the school’s current assistant principal, George Chipain, who announced his intent to apply at a recent meeting of the Hamlin Park Neighbors. Chipain arrived at Jahn last summer after heading up math and science program for CPS schools on Chicago’s north lakefront. He also teaches education at DePaul University and told Roscoe View Journal last August that one of his biggest goals at Jahn was to reconnect with the local community. However, Evans said that neither Chipain nor any other candidate has personally approached her about applying.

The next LSC meeting at Burley Elementary is May 21, 6 p.m.; the next LSC meeting at Jahn is June 6, 6 p.m.

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