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Jones College Prep’s Controversial Principal Will Stay After CPS Boss Rejects Vote To Fire Him

The local school council at Jones voted last month to begin the process of removing Joseph Powers. But CPS CEO Pedro Martinez cited insufficient evidence to fire him.

Jones College Prep at dismissal on March 16, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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PRINTERS ROW — Jones College Prep’s controversial principal will remain at the high school after the head of Chicago Public Schools opted not to remove him — despite the local school council’s vote to oust him.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez issued a statement saying he would not go forward with dismissal proceedings against Joseph Powers, citing “insufficient evidence.”

Several members of Jones’ local school council had been working for months to oust Powers, accusing the principal of ignoring problematic teachers and doing little to disrupt a culture of racial and gender-based discrimination at the school. CPS launched an Title IX investigation into Jones earlier this year after allegations of discriminatory practices involving the school’s athletic teams.

Tensions reached a fever pitch when Powers reversed a previous decision to allow a budding cross country star to train with the boys’ team due to inadequate facilities on the girls’ teams.

The school’s LSC voted 8-2 last month to ask Martinez to approve written charges against Powers and start the process to fire him after 14 years at Jones. The post-midnight vote came after a tense and combative seven-hour virtual meeting.

Martinez had 45 days to approve or reject the school council’s request to take administrative action. Powers could not be reached for comment.

Local school council members Cassie Creswell, Sarah Ma and Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth have accused Powers of failing to prevent discrimination against students and teachers, financially mismanaging the school, and not addressing years of complaints of inappropriate behavior against two teachers, including a drama instructor who was suspended in October amid a misconduct investigation

They also accused him of violating the district’s residency policy, saying he owns a home in St. Louis but rents an apartment in Chicago.

Creswell, the outgoing local school council president, told Block Club she was disappointed with Martinez’s decision.

“Martinez said that if you fail to report student abuse while that abuse is being investigated, you should be pulled out of the school. This is what he’s done after [a scandal at Logan’s Square] Marine Leadership Academy … now it doesn’t apply. It comes off as a double standard,” said Creswell.

People turned out in large numbers for the school’s LSC election last week, with over 600 voters casting ballots. Parent and incoming LSC member Gregg Rzepczynski sees the turnout as “a positive sign of support” for Jones’ administration, the faculty and students.

“There is much work to be done this summer by listening to the administration, faculty and students in order to seek what they want Jones to be in the future.  The new slate [of LSC members] will be working with the stakeholders in having accountability and transparency with the school community. As a new member of the LSC I have much work to do in serving the needs of the school and students,” said Rzepczynski.

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