After nearly three decades with Chicago Public Schools, Debra Crump doesn’t think her work is done.
Certainly not at Frederick Douglass Academy High School, where’s she’s been principal for 8 ½ years.
But next week Crump said she will break the news to her 400 students and 25 teachers that she’ll be leaving her post.
CPS brass, who did not return calls for comment, aren’t happy with Douglass’ graduation rate, drop-out rate and test scores, Crump said, so she expects to soon leave the school at 543 N. Waller Ave.
“I’m going to look for a job and try to save my integrity and my career,” Crump said in a phone interview earlier this afternoon.
Some members of Douglass’ Local School Council attended the monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting on Wednesday to push for more information about Crump’s future. While CPS officials declined to talk about the principal, CEO Ron Huberman directed Chief Area Officer Rick Mills to meet with the LSC.
LSC parent member Misty Brown implored Huberman and the board to keep Crump, saying she had worked tirelessly in a difficult environment.
Douglass Academy has seen a big drop in enrollment, from about 1,100 middle-school students when Crump began to a neighborhood high school of about 400 with a concentration of special education students.
Douglass has had to deal with many challenges since Austin High School closed in 2007 and Douglass became the de facto neighborhood high school, Crump said.
“We were made a high school when Austin shut down, but (CPS) didn’t give us the resources.”
For instance, with the influx of special education students from Austin High School, Crump said Douglass had to offer these students extra help for three summers without additional resources.
And “with the new breed of students came a new breed of violence,” she said.
Douglass had to buy a metal detector and expel gangbangers to protect the rest of the students, Crump said. Of course, the drop-out rate has gone up, but that reason isn’t reflected in the data, she added.
The same is true for the graduation rate, which she said was 72 percent in 2008-2009. That number has dropped because the students who came from Austin High School are now graduating – or not – Crump said.
“You can’t compare us to a school like Northside Prep because they don’t have students who are shot and killed every year.”
Crump said last year just over a four-month period, six Douglass students were shot, including a boy who’s now paralyzed. Attendance in the weeks after that shooting dropped because students were too scared to come to school, Crump said.
Still, LSC member Catherine Jones told the Board of Education Wednesday that she wants Crump to be removed.
Jones and fellow LSC member Brown did agree on one thing – that there hasn’t been enough communication between the Austin community and CPS headquarters.
That’s a concern shared by others in Austin, who say LSCs at Douglass and other West Side schools aren’t being allowed to make decisions without interference from CPS officials.
The school board signed off earlier this year on a new four-year contract for Crump that started July 1. It was a contract that had been endorsed by Douglass’ Local School Council.
“I just think it’s unfair that if you work 30 years on the job and you’ve had a decent record and you’ve worked with the community and the students, that this can happen,” Crump said. “What’s the purpose of a contract if you’re going to negate it?”
Crump said Douglass teachers are worried that they could be pushed out, too, and she fears this will convince some to leave.
“It doesn’t just affect me; it affects the students, the teachers, the community.”