Prairie Crossing Charter School Principal Brian Greene says he didn't do anything illegal or unethical before he was placed on paid administrative leave last week.
Greene spoke about his job status for the first time at a Prairie Crossing board meeting Tuesday night in Grayslake attended by about 50 parents. Many in the crowd voiced frustration with not being told by school officials why Greene has been off the job for about a week.
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In a letter to parents issued last week, Executive Director Nigel Whittington and the board said the reason for placing Greene on leave cannot be made public "due to the sensitive nature of personnel issues, labor laws and to protect Brian's privacy."
But at Tuesday's board session, Greene said he asked board President Steve Achtemeier this week to provide some clarity about his absence. He said in the wake of scandals at Penn State and Syracuse universities, he wanted it known he hasn't done anything illegal or unethical.
"I urged Steve Achtemeier to make an official school statement to the school community stating that my leave was not due to any illegal actions or actions that impacted the health, well-being or safety of students, staff or families. Unfortunately, no such statement was issued," Greene said.
Achtemeier said Prairie Crossing officials have been following legal advice in being vague about why Greene was placed on paid leave. Board members were behind closed doors late into the night discussing whether Greene should continue to be paid while not working.
Greene, 41, also played a recording of best-selling author Andy Andrews reciting a short story called "The Butterfly Effect." Greene held two speakers plugged into a laptop computer as the clip he found on YouTube played for nine minutes.
"Everything you do matters to all of us and forever," Andrews said in part.
During a break in the meeting, Greene said "The Butterfly Effect" was a way to illustrate his situation with another voice.
"I think when you hear it from someone else, it makes you stop and think," he said.
Greene came to Prairie Crossing from Hawthorn Elementary North in Vernon Hills in the 2008-09 academic year. He previously worked at the private Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School in Chicago.
Prairie Crossing officials stated in the letter the decision to put Greene on leave was "in the best interest of the children, the teachers, the school and the charter."
Meanwhile, some parents who spoke during public comment time criticized school officials for not providing any level of detail about why Greene is on administrative leave.
"There's a lot of rumors out there and it's not pleasant," parent Diana Conlon said.
Spanish teacher Ray Martinez has been named to cover principal duties and to provide administrative support for Whittington.
Prairie Crossing is an environmentally focused school with a 392-student capacity. Parents of children at Woodland Elementary District 50 and Fremont Elementary District 79 may send their children to Prairie Crossing, which determines enrollment by lottery.
Illinois' per-pupil financial aid follows Woodland and Fremont children who attend Prairie Crossing.
Greene was optimistic he'll return to Prairie Crossing.
"The truth at any point will come out because I'm not hiding behind anything," he said. "I love this school and I expect to be back in my office."