Minutes before last week’s Local School Council meeting at Hancock High School, several dozen teachers, parents and students staged a protest at the school’s 64th Place entrance. They chanted their support of Principal Vanessa Puentes and demanded that the LSC reverse their vote not to renew her contract. --Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Cosmo Hadac

Minutes before last week’s Local School Council meeting at Hancock High School, several dozen teachers, parents and students staged a protest at the school’s 64th Place entrance. They chanted their support of Principal Vanessa Puentes and demanded that the LSC reverse their vote not to renew her contract. --Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Cosmo Hadac

‘We want to know why’

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Frustration mounting over Hancock principal’s ouster

By Tim Hadac

Frustration over the apparent ouster of Hancock College Prep High School Principal Vanessa Puentes appeared to grow this week, in the wake of a marathon Local School Council meeting that failed to yield answers many teachers, parents, students an Clearing community members sought.

“We want to know why,” said Clearing resident Lizbeth Marrero, one of several dozen people demonstrating at the school’s entrance, 5437 W. 64th Place, at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7. “We just want to know why the LSC wants to dump one of the city’s best principals, a leader who has helped make Hancock into the jewel it is today.”

That question went unanswered by the LSC, even after a meeting that lasted more than four hours in a school lunchroom where the air conditioning had been shut off for the day.

GSWNH FrontPageHancockProtest 091523

Minutes before last week’s Local School Council meeting at Hancock High School, several dozen teachers, parents and students staged a protest at the school’s 64th Place entrance. They chanted their support of Principal Vanessa Puentes and demanded that the LSC reverse their vote not to renew her contract. –Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Cosmo Hadac

LSCs across the city typically do not publicly discuss personnel matters, including decisions on principals’ contract renewals.

But LSCs are required to share their evaluations of principals with principals themselves—who, in turn, are not prohibited from going public with the information.

Earlier this week, there were indications that Puentes might do exactly that. If she does, the information will be shared at southwestregionalpublishing.com.

That information could help explain why the LSC initially voted 8-1 in June to renew the popular principal’s contract, but flipped that decision on a 5-4 vote over the summer.

Last week’s meeting contained a considerable amount of discussion and debate among LSC members regarding what the body is allowed to do under its own bylaws—a fact not lost on those in attendance.

“It’s my understanding that LSC members have to undergo [Chicago Public Schools] training regarding their positions: the expectations, the rules they operate under and so on,” said Kloudia Guerrero, the mother of a Hancock student. She attended both the protest and the LSC meeting. “It’s clear to me that this LSC needs re-training. They’re extremely unorganized. They’re all over the place. They don’t seem to know their own protocols.”

Judging by a change.org petition drive launched by a group of Hancock alumni, Puentes is popular. The drive’s goal was to gather 500 signatures in support of keeping her. Earlier this week, some 2,333 people had signed.

Stephanie Casillas, a Hancock sophomore, added her support.

“She was there when I needed help, and I’ve seen her be helpful with other students,” she told the Greater Southwest News-Herald as she held a homemade sign at the protest. “Our hope is that the LSC can somehow change their vote and renew her contract. We need Ms. Puentes.”

One teacher who asked that her name be withheld said the LSC’s actions “don’t pass the smell test. One month, they support [Puentes] with an 8-1 vote of confidence, and then a month later it’s a 5-4 vote against her? Now come on! I suspect somebody on this LSC either wants to be principal or has a candidate they’re pushing behind the scenes. This is all so dirty, or at least it feels that way.”

No LSC member reached by the Greater Southwest News-Herald would comment on the situation.

LSC meetings are open to the public. The next is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5 at the school.

1 Comment

  1. Tom Chapman on September 18, 2023 at 1:36 pm

    Education, not politics.



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