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Article updated: 12/16/2011 11:13 PM

Prairie Crossing Charter School board fires principal

By Bob Susnjara

Prairie Crossing Charter School board members fired Principal Brian Greene late Friday, ending a saga that began when he was placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 29 for reasons not made public.

Greene stood staring straight ahead and became emotional after the board voted 9-0 in favor of his dismissal. Some supporters consoled him after he was dismissed.

Greene's attorney, Anthony Esposito, said he plans to evaluate the board's decision before determining his client's next move. He said he tried to work out a deal to keep Greene as the Grayslake charter school's principal.

"I have met very few individuals with as much honor and integrity as Mr. Brian Greene," Esposito said. "Although it appears right now he's a little bit damaged, I think that this school and the students are the ones that are really severely damaged."

Early in the meeting, board President Steve Achtemeier tried to assure the spectators that no matter the outcome, officials have had considerable debate about Greene's job future. He declined to comment after the meeting.

"This is not something we've taken lightly," Achtemeier said.

About 60 parents, teachers and children attended Friday's board meeting, with some wearing green to support the principal. Similar to another meeting that focused on Greene earlier this week, supporters during public comment time said he works well with students and should be reinstated.

Others in the crowd backed the school board, saying the volunteers will make a decision on Greene that's best for Prairie Crossing.

Greene's paid leave was extended through the end of the week by a 9-0 board vote early Wednesday. Based on his $82,500 base salary on a one-year contract, Greene will have received $4,760 to not work at the small, state-funded public choice school since Nov. 29.

He has said he did nothing illegal or unethical before he was placed on leave. Greene, 41, has declined to identify the issue that led to his paid leave.

Esposito said he can't comment on specifics but confirmed Greene was not accused of anything illegal or criminal.

"This pretty much amounted to a witch hunt fueled by self-interests," Esposito said, "and not based on anything that you should judge the worth of a principal and an educator."

Board members didn't emerge from a five-hour, closed-door session regarding Greene and another personnel matter until roughly 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. They spent about two hours in private Friday night discussing Greene.

In a letter to parents issued Nov. 29, Executive Director Nigel Whittington and the board said the reason for placing Greene on paid leave cannot be made public "due to the sensitive nature of personnel issues, labor laws and to protect Brian's privacy."

Greene came to Prairie Crossing from Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School in Chicago for the 2008-09 academic year.

Bronzeville Lighthouse hired Greene after he resigned as principal of Hawthorn Elementary North in Vernon Hills just before the 2007-08 school season began, citing personal reasons. Greene worked in Vernon Hills in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

Prairie Crossing is an environmentally focused school with a 392-student capacity. Parents of children at Gurnee-based Woodland Elementary District 50 and Fremont Elementary District 79 in the Mundelein area 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.

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