hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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August 22, 2013

City native takes over school on Chicago's south side

Principal from Haverhill faces low-income, violent setting

Kevin Powers wasn’t looking to become a school principal, not until he got more experience as a teacher.

But the 27-year-old Haverhill native got a call from the Archdiocese of Chicago leaders earlier this year, saying they were in a jam and one of their most underperforming schools needed help.

It was a school in trouble both financially and educationally, they told Powers, who was teaching at another Archdiocese school. They said test scores at St. Margaret of Scotland Elementary School in Chicago’s south side were some of the worst in the district, parents were unhappy with many of the teachers, and the school was left without a leader after its principal quit early in the school year.

Powers happened to have experience working in just this kind of school.

“They said I was the guy they wanted,” said Powers, who was hired to become principal of St. Margaret at the end of April while he was still teaching at Our Lady of Charity Elementary School in Chicago.

“They definitely rushed my plan as becoming a principal wasn’t on my radar for another two or three years,” he said. “I love being in the classroom, but probably the biggest factor in a school’s success or failure is having a leader. And this school hasn’t had a leader who was a good fit for years.”

Powers didn’t waste any time giving his new school a spring cleaning. He cleaned out closets to make room for new curriculum and got rid of eight teachers who weren’t certified and weren’t doing their jobs, he said. He also fired a secretary who wasn’t doing her job and a janitor who wasn’t doing his.

Powers hired new certified teachers, whom he personally interviewed, and welcomed back four certified teachers he said he has faith in.

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