Parents Petition For Assistant Principal at Bessie Rhodes

While District 65 appointed an interim principal at the magnet school Monday, parents believe Bessie Rhodes should have an assistant principal as well.

Parents presented a petition with more than 200 signatures to the District 65 board of education Monday, asking the board to hire an assistant principal at Bessie Rhodes Magnet School.

After current Principal Adrian Harries Jr. announced he would resign last week following two years at Bessie Rhodes, parents say they are concerned about leadership at the school. Although the district appointed an interim principal on Monday, parents believe that an assistant principal is also necessary to retain current teachers and future principals.

Speaking to the board of education, parent Jennifer Phillips said the news of Harries’ departure spurred parents to action.


“We asked ourselves a question: what does it take to succeed? What does it take to have a principal that wants to make a permanent second home in our community?” Phillips said.

Counting the 2012-2013 school year, Bessie Rhodes will have had four different principals in five years. Harries took the reins from interim principal Jason Ewing, who helmed the school for one year after Pat Mitchell retired in 2009, following a decade at Bessie Rhodes.

“We don’t want to see any backsliding,” parent Victoria Vye told the board of education Monday. “We believe an assistant principal is imperative.”

Housing students in kindergarten through eighth grade, Bessie Rhodes is the only District 65 school that enrolls middle school students but does not have an assistant principal. It is also one of the smaller schools in the district, with two classes of 20 students per grade and about 350 students overall. But parents say its size should not prevent it from having an assistant principal.

“The size of the school is irrelevant,” the petition reads. “The demands on a K-8 principal encompass the full slate of responsibilities of a K-5 and a middle school principal.”  

According to Vye, other District 65 schools have a 1.26 principal figure to student ratio, while Rhodes has a 1.35 principal to student ratio.

“As parents, we believe a K-8 school requires more than an exceptional principal,” Vye said. “We don’t want to see teachers leaving.”

Jennifer Fisher May 24, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Good question, Lucas. From talking to the parents who presented the petition, it's my impression that most, if not all, of the signatures come from Bessie Rhodes parents.
Sona Rejebian May 24, 2012 at 04:39 PM
As a former parent at Bessie Rhodes (one graduate and one pulled out after 4th grade), the problem isn't the principal to student ratio, or lack of an asst principal. The problem is lack of respect for the principal/teachers by the students and between students. After seeing girls punching boys and boys punching girls in the classroom and lunchroom, it is clear to me that the students have no respect for each other and for any authority figure. Any principal/teacher/parent who tries to teach the kids to be respectful is stymied by parents who think their kids are angels. The ultimate was listening to an African-American parent who claimed Mrs. Mitchell (also African American) was racist because the child's behavior was out of control. Good teachers cannot teach when the classrooms are chaotic, good principals cannot lead.
J May 24, 2012 at 08:09 PM
If the school board cannot afford to fund this proposed extra position because they're already on the verge of massive layoffs, then: 1) How in the world did they plan to pay for the many new staff positions that would have been needed if the referendum had passed to build a new 5th ward school? 2) If there are teacher layoffs, how will the school board deal with the projected surge in enrollment that is anticipated to overflow the existing classroom space at Haven and possibly other middle schools in the near future? More students, less teachers...what is the plan here?
Charles May 25, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Mrs. Rejebian, Obviously it has been some time since you were last at Bessie Rhodes. The school has made quality strides over the past few years to where those problems that you eluded to are no longer issue. Hence the request for an assistant principal. The school is worried about maintaining what they have built over time.
Dan May 26, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Seems like a simple solution to me. Promote a longer standing assistant middle principal from one of the other D.65 schools to be principal of Bessie Rhodes. A administrator, such as an assistant principal, already familiar with navigating D.65 and committed to the district should have a higher probability of success. Then the middle school can hire and grow a new assistant principal. This way there is no new head count and Bessie Rhodes gets some senior leadership. Principal Adrian Harries lives in Bolingbrook. That commute everyday would be enough to cause most people to resign. It is about a 42 mile drive taking about 1 hour, if traffic is favorable. While I have no idea if the physical distant of his home to his work in Evanston fed into his decision to resign, it probably didn't help matters. @Charles, Principal Harries was dealing with discipline issues for his whole first year (2010), when he took his post. It was only this past year that the discipline issue calmed down. My personal view is that there should be a 3 strike policy. 3 discipline issues and you are removed from the magnet school and must attend your neighborhood school.


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