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Chicago principal resigns over claims of unprofessional behavior

The principal of a prestigious elementary school in Chicago has stepped down over a damning investigative report compiled by Chicago Public Schools, which has laid bare some of the educator’s ‘indefensibly unprofessional’ actions towards parents and staff, including throwing chairs and bottles, using purportedly racist nicknames and belittling parents. 

Kurt Jones resigned from his $152,000-a-year position at the helm of Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center last Friday, a month after Chicago Public Schools issued its report into his conduct. 

In it, the veteran educator, 46, was accused of giving black and Hispanic staff members nicknames like ‘Aunt Jemima,’ ‘chicken wing,’ ‘KFC’ and ‘burrito boy’; addressing black mothers at the school as ‘girl’ and ‘sister’; berating parents in front of their children, and throwing metal chairs, garbage cans and food.

Kurt Jones, 46, on Friday stepped down as principal at Chicago's prestigious Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center following the release of a damning report about his conduct

Kurt Jones, 46, on Friday stepped down as principal at Chicago’s prestigious Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center following the release of a damning report about his conduct 

Jones served at Franklin Elementary for four years, earning a six-figure annual salary

Jones served at Franklin Elementary for four years, earning a six-figure annual salary 

The school sent out this letter to parents on Friday announcing Jones' resignation

The school sent out this letter to parents on Friday announcing Jones’ resignation 

Jones admitted some of the allegations outlined in the report, but denied others and defended his actions.  

A high-ranking education official told the Chicago Sun-Times, which has been covering the story for months, that Jones would have been terminated had he not quit on his own. 

In a comment to the paper, Jones touted his record as an educator and said that he is looking forward to sharing his side of the story.  

Jones, who was voted into office by the Local School Council in 2016, first came under fire in March, when Faye Jenkins, a cafeteria worker at Franklin Elementary, accused the principal of hitting her in the face with a water bottle and giving her a concussion. 

Jenkins filed a police report and the Chicago Police Department launched an investigation, which is still ongoing three months later. So far, Jones has not been criminally charged in connection with that incident.

Since March, other current and former employees at Franklin Elementary filed additional complaints against the principal, prompting the full-scale investigation.  

In his interviews with CPS officials, Jones acknowledged throwing the bottle ‘during a game of dodgeball’ with staff inside the school. 

He also confessed to throwing a metal chair from a school balcony inside the cafeteria. Jones told investigators he wanted to startle staff in an effort to create a lighthearted work environment.

He further admitted to dropping metal chairs as many as 10 times over the past four years, despite getting a verbal warning about his conduct two years ago.  

CPS officials have concluded that Jones conducted himself in a ‘categorically unprofessional’ manner and deemed his behavior ‘indefensibly unprofessional and unsafe.’ 

Jones first came under fire in March after hurling a water bottle at cafeteria worker Faye Jenkins, 49

This bottle hit the worker in the face

Jones first came under fire in March after hurling a hard water bottle (right) at cafeteria worker Faye Jenkins, 49 (left) . The woman was hit in the face and suffered a concussion

Jones, pictured above with former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, admitted to throwing the bottle during a game of dodgeball inside the school

Jones, pictured above with former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, admitted to throwing the bottle during a game of dodgeball inside the school 

According to the report, Jones, who is white, inflicted upon some employees of color ‘various feelings of harassment, discrimination and humiliation.’ 

Black and Hispanic teachers and support staff complained that Jones regularly used racially charged monikers for them, including ‘Aunt Jemima,’ ‘watermelon,’ ‘burrito boy’ and ‘KFC.’ 

Jones denied calling anyone at the school ‘Aunt Jemima,’ but said that the other nicknames were giving to one another by staffers.  He claimed the nickname ‘chicken wing’ was an inside joke with a Black employee that had to do with their shared affinity for food from the restaurant Harold’s Chicken. 

Jones insisted to investigators that none of the monikers were meant to deride anyone’s race. 

Some staffers reported hearing Jones refer to older teachers as ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa,’ while others said it was not uncommon for the principal to call them a ‘dizzy ho.’ 

A member of the school’s Local School Council, which includes parents, said the LSC had previously received a complaint that Jones is racially biased.

Another parent told investigators that when speaking to black mothers at the school, Jones used a different tone or slang, and sometimes used the words ‘girl’ and ‘sister,’ instead of calling them by their proper names. 

Staffers spoke to Chicago Public Schools investigators, accusing Jones (third right) of giving black and Latino staffers racially charged nicknames

Staffers spoke to Chicago Public Schools investigators, accusing Jones (third right) of giving black and Latino staffers racially charged nicknames 

Other black parents accused the principal of singling them out and picking on them for bringing their children late to school, or failing to put their phone away in the hallway. 

At least two parents told CPS that Jones threatened to call child services on them for arriving late for pickup, or for allowing a student to miss too many school days.

Some black parents accused Jones of addressing them differently because of their race and picking on them

Some black parents accused Jones of addressing them differently because of their race and picking on them

Multiple parents described the principal’s conduct as condescending and belittling. They said Jones often yelled at parents in front of their own children and teachers. 

The report also mentions allegations of questionable conduct toward students, including pulling on children’s hair, hugging them and giving them back and neck rubs. 

Parents reported hearing, or being told by their children, that Jones, who is gay, routinely called himself a homophobic slur at school.  

Some members of the LSC defended Jones, calling the allegations against him exaggerated and arguing that student safety had been his top priority. 

Jones taught math at Franklin Elementary for five years before he was hired as principal at Libby Elementary in 2007.

He returned to Franklin as principal in 2016. This past January, the LSC voted unanimously to extend his contract through 2024.  

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Written by Angle News

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