On Wednesday, April 20th I received a letter informing me that I’d been reassigned “to home” and that CPS would seek to suspend me without pay. Several days later, I was given the charges CPS used to justify their actions. I plan on addressing those charges in the very near future. The first step, however, is to understand how CPS attempted to remove me. That requires an understanding of the events in the two months prior to my reassignment.
One of my favorite films is a martial arts epic entitled, Hero. The film stars Jet Li as a nameless warrior who carries out a meticulous plan to rid his kingdom of a ruthless would-be emperor. The film takes place in three acts with each act telling the same story from a different—and better informed—view point; just when you thought you understood what was going on, another small detail changes your entire perspective.
That is how Wednesday April 20th unfolded. It was a strange day, even by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) standards. There are three groups of facts you should know in order to grasp the implications of what CPS did. Some may seem unrelated at first, but by the time you finish reading, you’ll see the connections and—more importantly—you’ll see the corruption.
Fact 1: An Unprecedented Inquiry
In late February, it was announced that I was nominated to run for president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA). Within days, the association’s current president, Clarice Berry informed me she had received a call from CPS’s legal department asking for a copy of the CPAA constitution. She told me, “I’ve been in this association for over 27 years and they have never inquired about our constitution or our elections before.”
Fact 2: A Familiar Signature on a Petition
After the CPAA nominating committee selected its slate of candidates, individual principals were free to file petitions to get on the ballot. My opponent submitted his petition. Among the signatures on that petition was none other than that of Janice Jackson–Rahm Emanuel’s hand-picked Chief Education Officer at CPS. If that were not enough, there was a second conspicuous signature on his petition: that of Denise Little, the “special advisor” to Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked CEO, Forrest Claypool.
Fact 3: A Hasty and Shameful Violation of Due Process
On Tuesday April 19, CPS officials sent the following message to my email account:
“We have scheduled an important meeting with you at 2 pm tomorrow regarding ethics and other matters. Please come to the Law Department on the 9th floor at 1 North Dearborn.
CPS later told the Chicago Tribune I missed a disciplinary meeting to discuss my “employment status.” The above message was supposed to be the notice of that meeting. However–as you can plainly see–there is no mention of any possible discipline or misconduct violations. There is no reference to “employment status” or even any direct indication that a policy violation had occurred. Just a vague reference to “ethics.” In addition, the email was sent on short notice the day before the meeting. Finally, it was sent via email. No phone call. No letter. Just a vague email the day before the meeting.
Unfortunately I didn’t receive the email on time because I took a sick day on Tuesday to take care of my son who had a minor surgery scheduled that day. Based on the last minute email-only notification, it appears this was the result CPS officials were hoping for. Why were CPS officials being so clumsy and hasty? What was the internal emergency that made them rush this process? I would soon find out.
Fact 4: The Insider, and Another Corrupt Emanuel Contract
Two years ago CPS entered into a disastrous contract totaling $340 million with the Aramark and Sodexo Corporations to privatize the management of CPS custodians. Schools across Chicago were filthy and today principals continue to do the work these of custodial “managers” who rarely spend more than an hour per week in our schools. Their profit model appears to be to layoff as many custodians as possible in order to decrease labor costs while reaping in the profits from CPS for drastically reducing cleaning services. Two years later CPS officials continue to insult the intelligence of principals by claiming it is going to fix the problem of privatized custodians by spending several hundred million more to privatize our engineers via the Sodexo corporation—a major contributor to Rahm Emanuel’s campaign. Until Sodexo, nearly every CPS school had its own dedicated full-time engineer in the building. Their profit model will be to, once again, increase their profits by reducing the total number of engineers and spreading them thin across multiple schools. This strategy seems particularly reckless and irresponsible given the two incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning in CPS schools this year alone (engineers are responsible for the systems that both produce and detect carbon monoxide).
The Sodexo Contract Meeting
The week before I was removed I received a message on my CPS email account from an insider with detailed knowledge of a CPS contract arrangement. He heard I was running for president of the principals association and he wanted to meet with me to discuss the multimillion-dollar contract CPS was arranging with Sodexo at the same time they’re crying “poverty” to principals and the teachers union. More specifically he wrote: “CPS is about to unnecessarily spend hundreds of millions of dollars.” He told me some important details were hidden from principals when we were informed about the privatization of engineers, and he thought I might be able to help him make principals aware of those details. He also said CPS was in a “rush” to force this contract through.
I proposed we meet the following Wednesday, April 20th in the afternoon: the same afternoon I had scheduled a separate unrelated meeting with principals and other CPS administrators at Stevenson school, regarding the CPAA election. So I’d scheduled a meeting about the Sodexo Contract, and an election meeting with principals on the same afternoon. This was also the afternoon on which CPS officials decided I needed to be removed me from my position. Here’s how that afternoon unfolded.
Fact 5: Attempted Shutdown of an “Illegal Principals Meeting”
As part of my efforts to transform CPAA into a more powerful member-driven organization I set up a series of public information and Q&A sessions and invited principals and other school administrators across Chicago. These meetings were all scheduled to take place in three CPS schools after hours (Stevenson, Alcott, and Whitney Young). The first of these informational sessions was also scheduled to take place on Wednesday afternoon, April 20th. The location was Stevenson school.
However, when the principal who helped me organize the Stevenson meeting arrived at the school, there were two central office security guards and a network chief at the door (A network chief is a CPS official who is in charge of a group of 40 to 50 schools). The chief told her our meeting would not be allowed because it was an “illegal” principals meeting about Aramark and Sodexo.
CPS security guard following orders from City Hall to notify principals their right to assemble was being violated.
CPS Network Chief Megan Hougard standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent CPAA members from entering.
Having done what City Hall sent them to do, Chief Hougard and CPS security exit the building. Afterward, the security guards sat in a car and monitored as principals and assistant principals arrived for a meeting at a locked school.
“Sodexo?” I thought. What is she talking about? Our meeting was about the upcoming CPAA election. I wondered, “How in the world did they come to think this was a meeting about the Sodexo contract?”
The only Aramark/Sodexo related meeting I was having was the one I’d tentatively scheduled with the CPS insider whom had detailed knowledge of the Sodexo privatization deal—the one who emailed me on my CPS account. Then it hit me. About five years ago CPS switched over to using Google email services. The very first time I opened my CPS/Google email account—and only the very first time—I had to click a button to sign off on a statement that informed me that my account is not private and is subject to being accessed by CPS officials. I also thought about a WBEZ story on how the Mayor’s Office uses taxpayer dollars to pay staffers to follow reporters around and eavesdrop on their conversations with members of the City Council. If they were paranoid and unethical enough to do that, then were they above regularly reading the emails of a principal often described as their “biggest critic”?
While my meeting with principals at Stevenson had been publicly advertised, I hadn’t told a soul about my meeting with the Sodexo contract insider. The only way anyone in CPS could have thought I was having an Aramark/Sodexo related meeting is if they had read our email exchange and thought—erroneously—that since the insider said he wanted to “make principals aware of the details of the contract” that the principals meeting at Stevenson was for that purpose. Then CPS moved with reckless haste to shut that meeting down.
Then– with their next move–they acted to shut down any future meetings.
Fact 6: A Conspicuous Delivery
CPS failed to stop the meeting. We simply moved it to a nearby restaurant. We talked about the major obstacles CPS puts in the way of our ability to do the best job we can for our students, and we discussed some concrete strategies for removing those obstacles. Most of them told me that—despite an underlying culture of fear and intimidation in CPS–many of their colleagues were going to attend the meetings at Whitney Young and Alcott.
Although I was encouraged by the turnout and the great planning session, I was disturbed by the reckless and hasty attempt to shut down our meeting. I drove to Beverly to see my son and his mother, Margaret. After getting defeated in several wrestling matches with my son, I went into the living room to talk with Margaret. We’ve known each other since we were children. I met her when I was seven years old. There’s no one I trust more than her. I told her about what had occurred and we both sat silently for a moment. More than ever before we were beginning to see—not only the power I was up against—but the threat I might pose to those powers if I could use the role of CPAA president to call attention to private companies’ plans to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from our schools into their bank accounts. There I was—the kid from a 43rd street slum—standing squarely in their way.
When you’ve known someone for as long as we’ve known one another, sometimes you don’t have to say anything to say everything. We looked at one another. I knew what she was thinking, and she knew I was thinking that same thing. Despite our shared apprehension we both knew I could not stop. As she has always done, Margaret gave me some words of encouragement and I prepared to head home.
She walked out onto the porch with me where we noticed an unfamiliar car parked in the front of the next-door neighbor’s home. A large man emerged from the vehicle and began walking toward us. I motioned for Margaret to step back as I walked down the stairs. The man approach and asked, “Are you Troy LaRaviere?” I responded, “That depends on who you are.” He then pulled the right flap of his partially open jacket away from his chest and reached inside. He pulled out a badge and turned it toward me. Before I could recognize the jurisdiction of the badge, he put it away and handed me a piece of paper.
This letter serves as official notification that effective April 20,2016, you are removed from all duties and responsibilities as the principal of James G. Blaine Elementary School. Your reassignment is based upon acts of misconduct that have occurred after your receipt of a Warning Resolution issued to you by the Board. You will be notified of your due process rights in the near future.
The letter explicitly directed me not to return to “any CPS location for any reason….” I couldn’t have my CPAA campaign meetings at Whitney Young and Alcott. Meanwhile I’d been informed CPS officials were allowing my opponent to travel from school to school during the day, interrupting principals during their workday to campaign against me.
What it all means
CPS officials—for the first time in history—made an official inquiry into a CPAA election after they found out I had been nominated; then the mayor’s appointed Chief Education Officer and the special advisor to CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, signed the petition of my only challenger. Next, they mistakenly assumed I was attempting to hold a meeting to inform principals about dangers posed by the corrupt effort to privatize our engineers. Then—within the span of about 28 hours—CPS did all of the following:
- Sent me a vague last-minute email about a meeting that they later claimed was about my “employment status”
- Attempted to shut down what they described as an “illegal” principals meeting at Stevenson school.
- Within hours of the attempted shutdown they had someone waiting outside the home where my son and his mother live to serve me with a reassignment letter (If they sent someone to my home to deliver the notice you would think they could have at least picked up the phone to notify me of my discipline meeting).
- Banned me from all CPS schools–effectively handicapping my ability to campaign–while they allow my opponent to interrupt principals during the school day to campaign against me.
I normally offer my own commentary when I write, but in this case, the facts are what they are. I have laid them out above with little to no commentary. They speak for themselves.
The lengths this administration has gone to influence the election of a private professional association–and the clumsiness with which they did it–are yet another reminder of how much work we have to do in Chicago.
I remain focused on creating a school system that prioritizes the best interests of students and families above all else. I hope to be the next president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association and serve the children, families, and educators of Chicago in that role.
With this background I will release a statement and/or hold a press conference soon in response to the specific charges CPS has leveled against me.
If you are a CPS principal or assistant principal, click here to join CPAA.
If you are a teacher with a Type 75 or equivalent certificate, click here to join.
If you are a retired CPS administrator, click here to join.
Chooljian, Lauren (November 10,2015). Mayor’s Press Team Defends Eavesdropping on Reporters’ Conversations with Aldermen.
56 thoughts on “THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: How and Why CPS Removed Me from My School”
Troy I pray that all goes well for you and I applaude you for the work that you have done keep up the good work God favors you!
We want to stand with you and support you. Can you please provide us with the information about your hearing?
The hearing is a perfunctory. In the end the Board of Ed–the one handpicked by the mayor–will make the decision.
Troy please let us know how to help your wrongful termination
Troy I also believe the flint h2o crisis was no accident, and in its wake Chicago public schools are being tested by labs associated with ANAB. Who have deep connection/controversy. Also be aware that Facebook when your story gets traction Removes posts (so that is looks like there is no interest in u story). FB majority share holders also own ANAB, Sodexo, and numerous other agencies that have a very different agenda then the well being of Americans.
I am watching and listening and hoping and praying because your right to speak is also my right to speak along with everyone who is a citizen of this country. I cannot sit by and allow our voices to be silenced.
I commend you. I will share your story with everyonr.
I am from a family of CPS teachers. My Aunt Mildred Minogue was principal of two schools that have been shut down. They all poured their heart and soul into education.
I am not involved with CPS but I certainly would like to help.
Ann, need to ask. Was your aunt principal at Armstrong School in the 1950’s? I went there and I was her helper for 3 years because of excellent grades. I went on to become a teacher in the public schools in the suburbs for 36 years but for the past 11+ , I have been a professor at DePaul and a supervisor of student teachers. I am back in the Chicago Schools. In fact, as a touch of irony, I had a student teacher at Blaine from January through March.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Must one be a current CPS employee to become an associate member? I am a retired CPS teacher with a type 75.
Corruption! Kickbacks! Mr LaRiviere, if you EVER need a great teacher to work with you, I will be there. Finally, someone who has integrity and courage. Thank you.
You are a model of everything an educator and public official should be.
Bless you and thank you
Reblogged this on KathyPowers1.
Despite the corrupted efforts to silence a man of great worth, your perseverance will ultimately pull through and defeat this machine. Continue to fight……educators like yourselves are rare and must be heard.
Speak truth to power Troy. You are an inspiration for all of us who fight to defend public education!! <3
Reblogged this on matthew.
CPS is corrupt at every level, its very very sad.
Violation of your rights, lots of employment and human rights violations not following disciplinary protocols or grievance hearings. Can you refer to a code of conduct handbook? There are laws and if they were not followed this is a great case for an employment attorney. You are a victim of politics and obviously you stood in the way of CPS and their self-dealings, corrupt nature. They are the same jokes that have allowed the Gulen Concept Schools to exist because of nice bribes made by Niagara Foundation to Rahm Emmanuel and his part in the property used for their newest Horizon Science Academy locations that were initially turned down then low and behold overturned. Don’t even go there on their other school CMSA., they have been trouble since Day 1, even the parents stormed the prinicipal’s office over 4 years ago and demanded answers and nothing- no action at all.
We need to follow $$$ Sodexo, FB (which remove this post & numerous conversations about CPS and this recent fire of Troy) the Federal reserve, the bogus water accreditation ANAB, even the Flint water crisis is connected. trying to get all states to be under its control have the trail of $$$$ in coman, WHY?
I am not an Educator, I am a Retired Chicago Police Officer and I am appalled but not surprised at the underhanded attempts to keep the CORRUPTION of this City, under the covers. I support you 1000% and will do WHATEVER you need done to get your TRUTH heard. It DISGUST me how LOW City Officials in every Department have stooped for the Love of Money ….From CPS to The Park District to CITY HALL, the corruption runs deep….We HAVE to take this City and the Power away from these Hoodlums and return our City and our Public Schools BACK TO THE PEOPLE!
Troy, have you thought about running for mayor? It would be great to see RAHM’s face after that was announced. You are a driven and courageous man. Thank you for speaking out against this craziness. I hope every CPS teacher, staff member and principal are outraged by the events leading up to your “dismissal.” Stay strong, and never give up. Come to Western Ave. on a Friday after school. The Beverly-Morgan Park teachers would love to meet you for a beer to discuss how we can peacefully “fight the fight”right along with you!
Dear Troy LarRaviere, when I first saw your commercial endorsing Bernie Sanders it reminded me of everything i have gone through when it comes to education. Keep up the amazing work. I hope to meet you one day.
Sodexo is a plague that de-stablizes every institution it infects. Corporate evil incarnate. Their business model is to sweep in on distressed school systems (or convince them that they are distressed) and then suck the resources dry by exactly the model you described. Lay off workers, hike prices and reduce service. All with long-term contracts. I’ve seen happen to the school with which I am affiliated (a local community college). It’s horrendous. It’s the shining symbol of the blatant corporatism that’s has conquered all of academia. Keep fighting.
A shocking story, yet not surprising considering how Chicago and CPS has been run over the past years. Thank you for speaking out and I wish you all best as you battle this horrible injustice.
I am curious, though: Did you ever have that meeting with the CPS insider about the Sodexo contract?
I am glad you are fighting back despite the obvious corruption and power. Our daughter went to Blaine last year. We are sad to see our neighborhood schools deteriorating to the point where they have to raise money for their own teachers and aids salaries. As neighborhood parents we believe in CPS because of people like you. Despite being fortunate enough to be able to afford alternatives, we think it’s important to help our local schools thrive. But ultimately we don’t want our kids to be in classes with 39 kids and our already over-worked teachers to be more over-worked and continually assessed on standards that make no sense. However, if you keep fighting we will too. Thank you for having the courage.
As an IT professional in public education I need to remind ALL of you to NEVER use school owned accounts or equipment for anything you want to remain private, Schools can, and will monitor activity on their networks. I would guess that the CPS insider with information about the Sodexo contract is also under pressure, if not terminated. As far as holding association meetings in school buildings, while it may be technically permissible, it is highly inadvisable to do so – an alternative would be a public library, a union hall or even a church. This is the reality of things when you have a vindictive administration in control. Keep speaking out because some of us can’t.
Sir, there is a growing contingency of my colleagues who believe you need to run for mayor of the city of Chicago. Mull it, and if it’s a possibility, Godspeed and go for it. This city needs fixing and you’re the man to do it.
Again, thank you for choosing not to stay quiet. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
As a retired CPS teacher (31 years) and the grandmother of two current Blaine students, I have experienced both the atrocious actions of CPS and the amazing job you have done as Principal of Blaine. You may recall our conversation on the playground of Blaine about a year ago when I warned you about your vulnerability in the face of the vindictive behavior of the CPS administrators. I told you that although I admired your courage, I was concerned that CPS would come after you due to your actions on behalf of the students of Blaine and CPS schools. Sadly, this has now come to pass, and my grandchildren have lost a great principal. However, I applaud your courage, intelligence, and charisma and look forward to your continued success as a leader who fights for truth, justice, and Chicago Public Schools! Thank you, Troy.
If you don’t go back to CPS, PLEASE consider running for a political office in the future!
You’re the type of guy that people can trust and there aren’t many of those in politics. People need your leadership!
Wow. We need courageous principals like you who put principles and the kids’ best interests before threats and power calculations!
The citizens and taxpayers of Chicago should start a drive for you and your 1st amendment right, to free speech and let this elected official rham know his days are number and we won’t forget his arrogance and the abuse of the rights of the taxpayers of this Great City of Chicago. When we do vote, let not forget him and his rubber stamp council, that is letting and giving rham his way and not looking for the the right way of doing business!
Seriously? Creating a space for dialogue and then silencing those who don’t pat you on the back? Nice way to create an echo chamber.
I don’t agree with Ms. Lewis about a lot of things, but one area where she speaks the truth is in saying that they are broke because they want to be. And why do they want to be? So they can privatize. Everything. It’s disgusting. Study after study has shown that the privatization of government functions rarely adds any cost savings to the operations of said management. If anything, it adds to the costs. It has already rung true with the first installment of Aramark’s contract. It’s hard to say whether or not Sodexo had any added-on costs and invoices in the manner which Aramark did, but I am willing to bet that Magic Johnson bet a $250,000 contribution to Mayor Emanuel’s re-election in order to keep any of those overruns very private. And just where is Mr. Middle-Management Motorola Man Tim Cawley these days? Who is his replacement (he of Hispanic descent and two, COUNT THEM TWO DEGREES FROM NORTHWESTERN, and what does he know about operating budgets in the world of Academia, aside from debits and credits as a function of his numerous years of service with KPMG? It’s as though all of the beans that I learned to count with as a youngster have been taken out of the classrooms and moved to the boardrooms of the new and improved CPS headquarters downtown and on West Washington.
Here is a question: what happened when those 50 schools shut down? Wasn’t there a company that was to oversee the transition of the schools along with a retired Marine? Who are these people? And who is GWS, and just what did they do to warrant a $30 million-plus contract for furniture and supplies that went missing? Books, desks, chairs and really nice and expensive kitchen equipment…And just where is GWS today? Are all of these empty schools safe and secure, or have some been broken into, robbed and pillaged in the name of furthering CPS’ speedy decline? What about the buildings that have been sold? What have they been sold for, and where have those millions of dollars gone that were to plug the gaping holes in the budget?
It’s an intriguing dilemma, and one that begs the question of where else is the waste in the system? It isn’t the teachers, custodians or any of the other departments that serve as the glue to keep these communities together. The answer lies on the Fifth Floor and that little dictatorial tyrant known as Rahm Emanuel. True to his sociopathic nature, he gets off on lying and cheating before putting on a fuzzy sweater and making you believe and trust in him again, only to become that lying and conniving boyfriend who lets the dust settle enough to start ripping open your heart again. I’m sorry but, it’s high time that Rahm and his ilk get the hell out of Chicago and go back to DC, Wilmette or wherever somebody will have him. He is not for us and with the reckless abandon with which he has governed this city, he belongs in jail, and not just because he is a poor leader. No, because he tried to be like Daley and he just isn’t smart enough. Say what you will about that man from 35th and Lowe, but he did actually love this city and care for its citizens. Not all and not by a longshot. But he had more humanity and humility in one of his digits than this sick and disgusting sociopath has in his 9.5.
Please go Rahm, please go. If you go now, you won’t have to worry about heading to jail like Hot Rod. And sad as a Trump presidency would be to see, the one redeeming event that might take place would be for Rahm to take that perp walk we all wish he would.
God Bless you Troy! Keep up the fight and turn up the heat on these people. Hiding behind a face of faux compassion, they are the heart and soul of Lucifer himself!
There is a very big corruption case here. Flint mi is no accident, follow the $$$
This is incredible. I was really sorry to hear what happened a few weeks ago. I was pleased to see protest from the students and parents at the school. You’ve made an impact on them and others that have worked with you and watched you grow. I am not an educator nor have I ever worked with a public school system so there are some things I don’t fully understand, but I do understand fraud/dubious conduct when I see/read about it. Thank you for your audacity and sharing this important information with your publics. Know you will move beyond this and students and families will continue benefit from your committed service to them.
Here in New Mexico compliance with corporatization of public entities has occurred insipidly over time. It is so important for people to have someone to look to who is isn’t afraid to stand alone and speak and write and speak and write and speak and write until others feel strong enough to do the same. Then there is movement. It seems that is what the corruption in Chicago is now facing. I saw “Schoolidarity” in January. I’m in solidarity and believe that talking it up out here can’t hurt your cause. Make them work hard to put the genie back in the bottle is what I say. Your cause is our cause I believe.
This is exactly why quit teaching at CPS and took early retirement, even though I loved my job, my school, my colleagues, my students and their parents. I also moved away from a city Ioved. Rahm Emmanuel will be the downfall of Chicago.
Reblogged this on David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education.
I’ve been following your actions on Diane Ravitch’s blog. Thank God for principals like you. Seriously. The world needs more people willing to take a stand. I live and teach in Pennsylvania, where things aren’t fabulous, but not terrible, either. I keep wishing for common sense to prevail, and corruption to be punished. I hope you are reinstated, the students need you.
Stay strong. We are with you.
P.S. Please consider running for Mayor.
I’ve been following your blog for a little while now and I, like the other applaud your courageous spirit to fight for our children. What can we do to get more involved?
Good question. Join an organization of people who are already involved. If there isn’t one you’re interested in, start one.
Hi Mr. LaRaviere it’s Arsheen I don’t know if you remember me but I was your student at Blaine a few years back! i have been keeping up with everything that has been happening and it is all awful and completely unfair! This week in school I’m actually doing a current event about everything that has happened. I complete support everything that you have said and I think it is ridiculous that this is all happening to you just because you spoke out about the corruption that has been present in CPS for the past few years. I will continue to help make people aware of everything that is happening and how unfair it is! You continue to inspire me!
I listened intensely as you spoke today on Rainbowpush.org and wish to lent my support despite not being a member of your organization, or a Chicago resident. However, I am an educator who has been following the injustices many of our schools, teachers, and honest officials experience in communities like yours across this country. It is appalling, shameful, and despicable that some leaders in local government can go to such lengths to attempt to disrupt the education of our children. That is a deliberate act to continue their system of economic slavery, to stop the growth your efforts brought into the CPS system, to force the youth into the paths of crime, to continue to state that blacks are illiterate, to destabilize the foundation of your philosophy. Put your trust in God and no weapon formed against you shall prosper.