H-F High board tries to quell anger after principal is ousted

Dean Armstrong offers comments at a special
school board meeting Thursday about the 
recent dismissal of Ryan Pitcock as principal
of H-F High School.
(Photo by Tom 
Houlihan/H-F Chronicle)

Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233 residents asked school board members Thursday to reinstate Principal Ryan Pitcock.

Nearly three dozen people spoke at a special board meeting Thursday, June 30, voicing frustration and anger with the board’s decision to relieve Pitcock of his position. They recognized him as a great leader for the school, an inspiration to students and someone who worked hard to keep H-F’s high standards.

  H-F school board members 
  Tim Wenckus, left, and John 
  Farrell, right, listen as board
  member Debbie Berman addresses
  the audience at a special board
  meeting Thursday that was called
  to address residents' concerns about
  the dismissal of Ryan Pitcock as
(Photo by Tom Houlihan/
  H-F Chronicle)

The board agreed in a special meeting on June 21 to buy out the last year of Pitcock’s contract. The board attorney, Darcy Kriha of Franczek Radelet PC, said the board began its investigation of Pitcock in October 2015 and held numerous meetings on the issues that led to his dismissal.

“He did a tremendous amount of good for this school and community,” resident Dean Armstrong told the board at the June 30 meeting.

Others recalled how Pitcock got H-F students inspired with his daily message, “It’s a great day to be a Viking!” and reminders to make H-F a better place than they found it.

And speakers applauded Pitcock’s efforts over eight years to raise H-F’s profile by establishing the International Baccalaureate Program and a research partnership with the University of Chicago.

Several female teachers countered the support by thanking the board for its actions. They said Pitcock was a bully, especially to those who disagreed with him.

Richard Lites, school board president, agreed with the assessments, saying Pitcock was a great leader with “terrific strengths” at H-F and was “a student magnet in many ways. I’m disappointed it came to this end.”

Despite their best efforts, members of the District 233 board of education seemed unable to reassure an audience of more than 500 community members at the special school board meeting Thursday that their actions on Pitcock’s contract were justified.

  Young people hold up photos of 
  former H-F High School Principal 
  Ryan Pitcock while decked out in 
  "Pitcock Pride" T-Shirts prior to a 
  special school board meeting 
(Photo by Marilyn 
  Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

The board will not discuss the reasons behind the action, saying personnel matters remain confidential and addressing the issues could open District 233 to potential liabilities.

The special board meeting was conducted because of the volume of phone calls, emails, text messages and other comments the district received, Lites said.

Several residents said they have lost their trust in the board. Others questioned the expense of buying out Pitcock’s remaining year of salary and then spending money to hire an interim replacement.

Still others wondered why the board didn’t let Pitcock complete his contract. That would have left a leader in place while the board searched for a principal for the 2017-18 school year.

Speakers argued if Pitcock’s actions warranted releasing him from his obligations, the board wouldn’t have paid his salary for the coming year.

The board hopes to have a new principal in place by July 2017, and will work with a select committee of H-F students and staff, parents and community members to find the right person for the job.

Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun said the school board must work to restore confidence in its role by selecting a principal’s search committee that residents will believe has their interests at heart.

Persons interested in serving on the committee should contact the board secretary at 708-799-3000.

Homewood-Flossmoor High School statement of July 1, 2016

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