Contract approved for Hitch principal


The Hitch School Local School Council at its May 22 meeting approved a 4-year contract for acting principal A.J. Stich and passed a resolution calling for the possible release of the tape recordings of the closed sessions which it held on the search for a new principal.
Stich was not present at the council meeting, as he and his wife were celebrating the birth of their daughter earlier that day. Hitch principal Debby Reese died last February while on medical leave from the school, and Stich, a former assistant principal at Dever School, was named the acting principal last winter.

LSC chairwoman Gayle Czopek said that Stich has been a solid leader at Hitch, creating a smooth transition from the term of Reese, who was the principal of the school for 10 years. Several teachers said that the Stich works well with the faculty.

"It has been an honor and a privilege serving Hitch as acting principal, and I was humbled to learn that the LSC offered me the contract," Stich said in a statement. "Hitch is a great community with stellar teachers. I look forward to the next 4 years together."

LSC community member John Garrido said that Stich’s qualifications stood out from the other candidates and that his performance during his tenure at the school has been outstanding. "He basically has been undergoing an interview process since he became acting principal 3 months ago," Garrido said. "That can work for you or against you, and in this case it worked for him."

The motion to award Hitch a contract was approved by a 10-0 vote, with parent member Diane Mahon abstaining. Mahon said that she did not object to Stich being principal but that she was concerned that the council had not "fulfilled the selection process" and called for the release of the tapes from the closed sessions.

Local school councils are allowed to discuss the qualifications of candidates in closed session, but all votes must occur in public. The councils are required to record closed sessions so that the proceedings can be reviewed in the event there is a legal challenge to whether the council had the right to discuss a matter in closed session.

The council chose Stich without interviewing other candidates or holding a candidate forum for residents to attend. The Chicago Public Schools requires LSCs to advertise for a vacancy for principal and to conduct a review of the applications, but interviews and candidate forums are optional.

The council unanimously passed a resolution to hold an inquiry about the legality of releasing the tapes and the appropriate process for doing so. Some LSC members said that making the tapes available to the public would demonstrate that the council considered other candidates and acted properly.

LSC faculty member Ray Kinzie read a statement at the meeting stating that the council reviewed more than 18 resumes and shortened the list to several well qualified candidates before deciding to select Stich. Kinzie said that the council is confident that it made the right decision.

"At this stage in the process, we felt that Stich was the strongest candidate, and we felt that there was no need to continue the process," Garrido said. Stich reportedly was a finalist for the position of principal at another school, but he has informed the Hitch LSC that he will accept its offer to remain at the school.