“You don’t want to see me cry.”
That was Sulma Grigalunas’ admonition to a visitor before Wednesday night’s Local School Council meeting at Jahn World Language School, 3149 N. Wolcott Ave. The reason for her emotion was understandable: Grigalunas was about to confirm to LSC members that she would be resigning after seven years as Jahn’s principal.
Grigalunas joins dozens of CPS principals retiring before new guidelines take effect next year that would effectively reduce pension benefits. However, she told Roscoe View Journal that the coming pension change was just one of the factors fueling her decision.
“Things are really changing, and it’s making it difficult,” she said. “It’s a tough, tough decision to make, because I love my school, I love my community, and … it’s a great little school.”
Grigalunas would not elaborate on the changes that nudged her toward retirement, but CPS is embarking on an unprecedented series of new initiatives, including a new formula for evaluating teachers and a longer school day.
Principals planning to retire had until March 30 to register their decision with the CPS central office. Grigalunas gave no reason for waiting nearly two weeks to notify the LSC, which is charged with finding her replacement. LSC president Jemy Evans said the school’s LSC facilitator notified her by email of Grigalunas’ intention to retire before Wednesday’s meeting, but said she did not inform her fellow board members. “I thought that it had to come from her,” said Evans.
Evans said the LSC had been meeting weekly to work on Grigalunas’ evaluation as principal when she received the notification. “I started to freak out,” she said. “It’s a long process and we have basically two months to find someone. [Board members] shared some concern, saying, ‘We wish we had known ahead of time,’ but it’ll be fine if we continue to work together.”
Evans, who’s running for her third term on the Jahn LSC, said she’s “very pleased” with Grigalunas’ tenure as principal. “I told her, ‘I’m thankful that you worked here, and the school has definitely improved,’” she said. “What I’m looking for now is someone to take the school to the next level. We don’t know if we’re going to look internally or go outside.”
For Grigalunas, who told LSC members she’s looking forward to spending more time with her husband, the final months of the school year will be a time to reflect on her work as principal and chief marketer of Jahn and its unique focus. “My decision was to build the school first and make it a great place,” she said. “And now the community is taking notice.”