Interim at Ray resigns old post

Staff Writer

Ray Elementary School’s Interim Principal Antonia “Toni” Hill resigned from her position as principal of Pershing East Elementary School. Pershing East was consolidated with Pershing West Elementary School and its local school council is searching for a new principal to lead its expanded pre-k through 8th grade curriculum.

Hill was appointed as the interim principal at Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., by John Price, chief of schools for the Burnham Park Elementary Network at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), in April after the abrupt removal of principal Tatia Beckwith and assistant principal Jeff Alstadt. Price did not disclose why the previous administrators were removed as it is against CPS policy to discuss personnel matters.

On July 1, Hill officially resigned from her position at Pershing East Elementary School, 3113 S. Rhodes Ave. She said she couldn’t effectively hold two positions.

“I’m taking a big risk, “Hill said. “I wanted to be fair and give [Pershing] their opportunity to find a principal.”

Hill said should the principal’s position at Ray become officially open she would apply. The Ray LSC seems to be amenable to the idea of having Hill as a permanent replacement.

At its June meeting, the Ray LSC voted to send a vote of confidence letter to Price stating that Hill is doing a good job in her appointed position.
“We feel like the school is in better shape than before,” said Gordon Mayer, chairman of the Ray LSC.

The Pershing LSC has 90 days as of July 1 to find a new principal or CPS will appoint one to them. In addition to making the transition to a new principal, the school is also being consolidated with Pershing West Middle School, 3200 S. Calumet Ave. Together, the schools will now be referred to as Pershing Elementary School. Michael Brown, chairman of the Pershing LSC, said the CPS action is being referred to as a “reverse consolidation.”

“The two schools were together until CPS separated them about 8 years ago.” Brown said.

Pershing East, which is a Pre-K through 3rd grade magnet school, is the welcoming school for Pershing West, which has 4th through 8th grade classes. However, Pershing East is moving into the Pershing West Building at 3200 S. Calumet Ave., because the building is underutilized.

Cheryl Watkins, who had been the principal of Pershing West since its inception, was appointed as the interim principal of the consolidated school.

Brown said because of the school action Watkins would have to go through the interview process again in order to be considered for the position and “because she knows the school so well we hope she applies and gets the job.”

Brown said the LSC is looking for a leader who can interact with all stakeholders, parents, community members and local business owners; someone who can build community partnerships with those who can help enhance educational offerings at Pershing; an administrator with experience and knowledge of education who will be able to provide teachers with the resources they need and provide professional development; a person who is knowledgeable and can implement the strategies needed to take the school from the CPS level 2 good standing ranking to level 1 excellent ranking.

The deadline for applications is July 19. Over the next month, the principal selection committee will vet the applications, conduct interviews and make site visits. The committee is planning to pare down the list of candidates to three and host a principal selection forum at 6 p.m. Aug. 13 at Bright Star Church, 735 E. 44th St. There will be a meet and greet with the final candidates and then a question and answer session.

To read qualification requirements and apply for the position, visit