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New Rich Central principal getting early start

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Rich Central High School’s new principal has a background of overhauling struggling schools, which could help him in his new position.

Jammie Poole Jr. will take the helm on May 2, the Rich Township High School District 227 Board announced this month. He will be the Olympia Fields school’s third principal in three years.

Rich Central has been plagued with low test scores. Between 30 percent and 40 percent of its students have met state standards in the past 10 years compared with about 54 percent across the state.

Poole, 37, earned recognition when he was principal of Orr Academy High School in Chicago. The public school was closed, privatized under the nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership and reopened under Poole’s direction in fall 2008. Poole shook things up at Orr — including hiring new teachers and having them track student progress with regular quizzes, asking parents to patrol hallways and requiring black-and-gold uniforms for students.

But test scores didn’t increase by much. Nine percent of students were proficient in reading in 2008 before the school was reorganized, and 11 percent read at a proficient level in 2010.

Math, science and writing scores also stayed low. Just 7 percent of Orr students met state requirements in those subjects in 2009 and 2010, compared with about 29 percent citywide and 53 percent statewide.

Poole didn’t return to Orr after last summer and has been helping to establish the South Shore International College Preparatory High School in Chicago, which opens next fall.

But student attendance rose and student conduct improved during Poole’s time at Orr, according to District 227.

“We’re very excited about having him on board,” District 227 Supt. Donna Leak said. “I believe very strongly that he’ll be able to walk in on day one and meet with staff, with students and with parents and start to move us in the direction that we want Rich Central to go.”

Poole said he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“My experience has been pretty good,” he said.

Poole said he will focus at Central on a strong coaching program for teachers and using data to identify every student’s need.

“We want to make sure that all those kids who are not performing, that we have an individual plan for (them) and use the kids who are (doing well) for tutorial and mentorship,” he said.

External partnerships with businesses to help out with resources — from ACT college prep materials to laptop computers to incentives for studying late — also are important, he said.

Poole will work during the final month of the school year with Patricia Welch, who has been interim principal at Rich Central this school year, to smooth the transition, district officials said.

Welch took over for Maceo Rainey, who was reassigned to another position in June in a controversial move by the previous superintendent and then was dismissed in January.



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