Jones College Prep’s principal, P. Joseph Powers, PhD, will continue at the high school despite local school council (LSC) efforts to oust him.
In February, three LSC parent representatives wrote a letter to Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez and Chicago Board of Education Inspector General Will Fletcher requesting that Martinez and Fletcher initiate immediate investigations and remove Powers from his position pending investigation.
Martinez responded with a statement saying he would not begin dismissal proceedings against Powers, citing “insufficient evidence” to remove Powers “at this time.”
At the end of March, the LSC received a copy of a report titled Racial Equity Assessment Findings, developed by Davis Squared Consulting. According to LSC chair Cassie Creswell, the report was “really damning, both about the school culture/climate and the fact that there is no buy-in from the administration to change things.”
The report recommended Jones’s administration focus on “developing a strong, authentic, and collective leadership voice, particularly in regards to racial equity. This voice should proactively communicate the administration’s values regarding racial equity at Jones and their approach to teacher/administrator accountability.”
In late April, Martinez sent a letter encouraging the LSC and Powers to “hit the reset button on their relationship and focus their energies on productive actions that will advance the interests of students.” He also noted that “investigations are ongoing.”
According to Creswell, the Martinez letter provided no information on which charges the district is investigating. “It has now been 90 days since our vote, and it is not clear how a residency investigation could take longer than 90 days,” she said, referring to the LSC’s allegation that Powers had violated the district’s residency requirements by maintaining a private home in Missouri.
Creswell and other LSC members had worked for months to have Powers removed as principal, accusing him of ignoring problematic teachers and doing little to disrupt an alleged culture of racial- and gender-based discrimination at the school. CPS launched a Title IX investigation into Jones earlier this year following allegations of discriminatory practices concerning the school’s athletic teams.
In April, the LSC voted 8-2 to approve written charges against Powers and begin the process of removing him after 14 years at Jones. Following Martinez’s statement that he would not dismiss Powers, the LSC sent another a letter restating the allegations’ seriousness. “Your letter lacked details to help the school community move forward,” the letter said. LSC members further encouraged Martinez to attend a meeting with the LSC and increase the pace of the ongoing investigations. According to Creswell, the LSC did not receive any reply or acknowledgement of that letter.
Current LSC members’ terms ended on June 30. “I do not know what plans the incoming LSC has, but the majority of them ran on a platform of fully supporting the principal,” said Creswell. “I doubt they will have any will to hold him accountable. That said, I believe that the current LSC has done everything in our power to hold the principal accountable for his conduct up to this point, and the district is negligent to continue to let him serve as Jones principal given both the past and ongoing harm that is taking place due to his leadership.”
Powers could not be reached for comment.
Jones is located at 700 S. State St. For information, log on to www.jonescollegeprep.org.