During Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s announcement of performance bonuses for principals at 82 schools, he touted the broad diversity of schools represented as proof that, with good teachers, good principals, and involved parents, all children can learn.

“If you have these three things, every kid regardless of who they are, where they’re from and their background, can succeed in our schools,” Emanuel said.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett added: “It does not essentially matter where a child comes from. We cannot change that, but we can change the arena a child comes into.”

In a press release, Emanuel’s office said the scores were calculated based on four factors: improving test scores, raising the percentage of students who graduate and who are ready for college, and decreasing the achievement gap. Principals who met CPS’ bar in two of the factors earned $5,000. Those who showed improvement in three factors earned $10,000.

Principals could have the bonus check made out to themselves or their schools.

Principals at four schools – Chavez, Lowell, Keller Gifted and Lavizzo – received the highest bonus of $20,000 for improving in all four areas.

Even so, not all schools are doing equally well.  Principals at schools with the most low-income students, and those at the most segregated high schools, were less likely to earn bonuses. Principals at schools with more white students were more likely to earn bonuses. (Click here for a list of the bonus amounts principals received.)

A Catalyst Chicago analysis shows that:

*Principals at the elementary schools where fewer than half of students receive free or reduced-price lunches had a 38 percent chance of receiving bonuses. At the other end of the spectrum, principals at elementary schools where more than 95 percent of students are on free and reduced lunch had just a 10 percent chance of getting a bonus.

*Among elementary schools where at least one-fifth of the students are white, almost twice as many principals – 23 percent – received bonuses compared to other elementary schools, where just 12 percent did.

*Principals at high schools where more than 95 percent of students receive a free or reduced-price lunch were a little over half as likely as other high school principals to receive bonuses: 4 percent vs 7 percent elsewhere.

*More than half of all high schools are at least 80 percent African-American or 80 percent Latino students. But just two of the 10 high schools where principals got bonuses fall into this category.

*Gifted and magnet schools make up 12 percent of elementary schools in CPS, but 24 percent of the elementary schools whose principals earned bonuses.

Promising signs in struggling schools

Some neighborhood schools, however, showed promising signs of improvement despite the disparities. In high-poverty Roseland, principals at four schools – three of them neighborhood schools – received bonuses.

They included Lavizzo Elementary, a long-underperforming school which narrowly escaped a turnaround several years ago. But today, that school’s principal, Tracey Stelley, took home a $20,000 bonus. The percentage of students meeting and exceeding state standards on the ISAT composite has increased by nearly 20 points in each of the last two years, to 75 percent today.

In West Garfield Park, principals at six schools earned bonuses. They were among 11 elementary schools in the Garfield-Humboldt Elementary Network who received bonuses, a third of the schools in that network.

One principal at a school for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, Montefiore, also received a bonus. The percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards on the ISAT composite increased from 8 percent in 2011 to 26 percent in 2012.

Principals at five elementary schools in the wealthier neighborhoods of Norwood Park, where median household income is $64,477, and Forest Glen, where it is $87,394, also received bonuses.

Overall, the 78 elementary schools where principals got bonuses included four turnaround schools, seven charter schools, eight schools with gifted programs, and nine magnets.

The 10 high schools included two charter schools: Young Women’s Leadership Charter School and Noble Street-Chicago Bulls. They also included two selective enrollment schools, Northside College Prep and Whitney Young High School.

Principal recruitment, retention a struggle

Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told principals gathered at the press conference that “we will continue to do everything we can to support you, retain you.” And turning directly toward them, she added: “You ain’t going nowhere.”

CPS has long struggled with principal retention and quality, and the bonuses are one part of a strategy to improve principal recruitment and training. CPS also began offering $25,000 signing bonuses for out of town principals, but no candidates have received them since the year-long initiative began in March. Officials were aiming to recruit 50 principals through the program.

Starting with this fall’s class of incoming principal candidates, the district also kicked off an effort to improve principal training, called the Chicago Leadership Collaborative.

Stanley Griggs, a bonus winner who is the principal at Owen Elementary Magnet School in Ashburn, says he is not sure whether the bonuses will improve retention.

“It feels great because finally I feel like someone has recognized not only my efforts, but the efforts of my assistant principals, teachers, parents,” he said, adding that the recognition helped him feel energized.

He said the bonuses could make a difference “for some, maybe, (but) for myself, no.”

“I don’t think we do it for the money. It’s in our hearts to do this right for the kids,” Griggs said. But, he added, “It doesn’t hurt.”

This story has been updated to include additional information from CPS, including a list of the specific bonus amounts principals received.


Elementary schools where principals earned bonuses

1.    Demetrius Bunch    ARMSTRONG, L
2.    Estuardo Mazin    BARRY
3.    Sandra Caudill    BELL
4.    Troy LaRaviere    BLAINE
5.    Staci Bennett    BRADWELL
6.    Christopher Brake    BRIDGE
7.    Donald Morris    BURROUGHS
8.    Joe Piela    CHAPPELL
9.    Barton Dassinger    CHAVEZ
10.    Christy Krier    CICS-BUCKTOWN
11.    David Lewis    CICS-WRIGHTWOOD
2.    Jose Barrera    COLUMBIA EXPLORERS
13.    Greg Zurawski    COONLEY
14.    Bud Bryant    CULLEN
15.    Susan Kukielka    DECATUR
16.    Kathleen Hagstrom    DISNEY
17.    Elizabeth Alvarez    DORE
18.    Pamela Creed    DULLES
19.    Chandra Byrd-Wright  DUNNE TECH ACAD
20.    Janice Kepka    EDGEBROOK
21.    Shirley Scott    ELLINGTON
22.    Brian Metcalfe    FIELD
23.    Cynthia Miller    FISKE
24.    Barbara Kargas    GOETHE
25.    Yvette Curington    GOLDBLATT
26.    Donella Carter    GREGORY
27.    James Gray    HAMILTON
28.    Alfonso Carmona    HEALY
29.    Jacqueline Hearns    HEFFERAN
30.    Juliana Perisin    HENDRICKS
31.    Mable Alfred    HIGGINS
32.    Pam Brunson-Allen    HINTON
33.    Matthew Ditto    JACKSON, A
34.    Catherine Jernigan    JENSEN
35.    Alice Henry    JOHNSON
36.    Delena Little    KELLER
37.    Brenda Browder    KELLMAN
38.    Elisabeth Huetefeu    LASALLE
39.    Tracey Stelly    LAVIZZO
40.    Mark Armendariz    LINCOLN
41.    Gladys Rivera    LOWELL
42.    Carolyn Epps    MARCONI
43.    Jo Easterling-Hood    MCDOWELL
44.    Nancy Hanks    MELODY
45.    Julious Lawson    MONTEFIORE
46.    Catherine Reidy    MOUNT GREENWOOD
47.    Sonia Caban    MOZART
48.    Estee Kelly    NOBLE STREET- COMER
49.    Renee Blahuta    NORWOOD PARK
50.    Elias Estrada    ORIOLE PARK
51.    Stanley Griggs    OWEN
52.    Hassan Okab    PECK
53.    Vicky Kleros    PEREZ
54.    Kelly Moore    POE
55.    Angela Johnson-Williams PROVIDENCE – BUNCHE
56.    Pat Baccellieri    PULASKI
57.    Ana Espinoza    SANDOVAL
58.    Isamar Vargas    SAUCEDO
59.    Christine Munns    SAUGANASH
60.    Suzana Ustabecir    SAYRE
61.    Deborah Clark    SKINNER
62.    W. Delores Robinson   SUMNER
63.    Sean Clayton    TILTON
64.    Sabrina Jackson    TURNER-DREW
65.    Molly Robinson    UNO – SANDRA CISNEROS
66.    Joann Lerman    UNO – FUENTES
67.    Martin Masterson    UNO – PAZ
68.    Krish Mohip    WALSH
69.    Relanda Hobbs    WARD, L
70.    Dina Everage    WENTWORTH
71.    Mary Beth Cunat    WILDWOOD
72.    Tamara Littlejohn    WOODSON


High schools where principals earned bonuses

1.    Barry Rodgers    NORTHSIDE COLLEGE PREP HS
2.    Yashika Tippett    AIR FORCE HS
3.    Patty Brekke    INFINITY HS
4.    Chris Jones    MATHER HS
6.    Mary Dolan    RICHARDS HS
7.    Sue Lofton    SENN HS
8.    Todd Yarch    VOISE HS
9.    Joyce Kenner    WHITNEY YOUNG HS

Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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