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School Superintendent Hardy Murphy attempted to explain to parents Wednesday night why he relieved Dewey School’s principal of his command after nearly 13 years on the job.

There were few empty seats in the Dewey Elementary School auditorium Wednesday night as Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy, constrained by legal counsel, attempted to explain to concerned parents why he relieved the school’s principal of his command after nearly 13 years on the job.

When the superintendent finished his opening statement and asked for questions, there were murmurs of “why?” and “what did he do?”

Those questions remained largely unanswered nearly 90 minutes later when the meeting broke up and many parents expressed puzzlement about how they could explain the situation to their children who attend the school in Central Evanston.

All they knew for sure was that Principal Andrew Krugly had been absent for the past several weeks and had been offered a job of an undisclosed nature at the district’s central office while his post at Dewey School would be filled for the remainder of the school year by Patricia Mitchell, described by Murphy as “a veteran District 65 principal who is no stranger to the Dewey community.”

Murphy apologized to the parents for being unable to disclose the entire story because of advice from legal counsel on such a sensitive personnel matter, but he said it all started about a month ago, when “we heard he was ill. As time went on, it became obvious that he would not be coming back anytime soon.”

There was a series of allegations from Dewey staff members, Murphy said, “that told us there was a need for administrative intervention.”  Murphy declined to say what Mr. Krugly’s duties would be at district headquarters, but said “it is not a promotion” and that “he (Krugly) did not have a choice” about the reassignment.

Krugly, who was not available for comment, said in a letter distributed to the parents that he was “very sad to be leaving, as Dewey School has been a huge part of my life and my second family for almost 13 years, but the time has come for me to move on. Dr. Murphy is providing me with an opportunity to become part of the central office staff…and hopefully this new position will allow me to use the best part of my skills.”

As far as rumors about his health, Krugly said that part of his absence “was to obtain some medical assistance and to recover. Beyond that I would very much like to keep it both personal and private. I am on the mend.”

He acknowledged there are lot of rumors and accusations flying around right now, but he cautioned the Dewey community that “just because accusations are made does not mean that they are true.”

When asked if a grievance had been filed, Murphy paused a few seconds and then said, ”an official concern was registered with us and that concern came through the union.”

Murphy assured the parents that a search for a new principal has already begun and that he hoped to have a permanent replacement by the end of this school year.

“If the kids want to know why their principal is not returning,” he advised, “tell them the truth…Mr. Krugly took another job. You can talk to them about how lucky they are that Mrs. Mitchell was able to come back to Dewey School to help out.”

Above: Superintendent Murphy, back to camera, speaks to Dewey parents.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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12 Comments

  1. District 65 Review Process

    Although we do not know all of the details, what can be surmised is that one or more grievances were filed with the  District 65 board, and that such grievance(s) was credible enough to merit further investigation and to result in the resolution that was disclosed yesterday.  That the School District's attorneys were involved means that the nature of the grievance(s) was serious.  Dr. Murphy did mention potential criminal allegations (this actually shocked me). 

    All that said, I want to discuss the manner in which District 65 handled this matter, as well as, what District 65 can do to avoid situations like this from occurring in the future. 

    Contrary to some of the reports, we parents received a total of three emails from the School District over the past month.  The first email (delivered near the end of February) began with an "as you may already know" tone, and then it conveyed that Andrew Krugly had been absent from the school since winter break.  My wife is pretty involved with volunteering at Dewey, and she did not know that Krugly had been absent for such time.  The first email was quite vague about the important details.  As a result, we were left with more questions than anything else.    So the email piqued our curiosity more than anything else.  In fact, it made us discuss the issue at the school amongst other parents.  Then on March 16 (last week), we received a second email from the District saying that there were personal issues which could not be disclosed, but that the District "anticipate[s] soon having information to share about his return."  That's nice lawyerese and intentionally vague.  To most, that statement meant that Krugly would be returning to Dewey soon.  But what it really meant was that Krugly will return to the District soon.  Regardless of this, the second email did nothing to assuage anyone's curiosity.  Finally, this past Tuesday, we received the final email conveying that Krugly would be stepping down from Dewey and taking a position in the central office, and that there would be a meeting at the Dewey library on Wednesday at 7pm to discuss this issue — implying that we would get all of the information (which we did not by a long shot).  

    District 65's performance in this matter exhibited great ineptitude.  Its communications to the Dewey parent community did nothing to quell the various rumors that have been flying around, but rather inflamed such rumors.  I partly understand District 65's need to disseminate some information, but the communications landed decidedly in the fertile field of equivocality.  Ambiguity was the order of the day rather resolution.  District 65 was grappling with the findings of its "investigations" and apparently the grievance(s) was too big to ignore, and therefore, it communicated with us in vague terms which could not be used against it at a later time as being false.   Perhaps if the District had just told us that certain grievances were filed against Andrew Krugly and as part of the process he would be temporarily relieved of his duties.  Then at the end of the review process tell us what was decided.  Since personal/private issues were involved, it's okay to say that.  Instead, at last night's meeting we were still left to speculate whether  Andrew Krugly was a victim of a witch hunt.  

    As a result of this experience, it is my great hope that District 65 will reevaluate its policies on workplace grievances and the process in which such grievances are reviewed and handled.  Furthermore, prior to letting a situation get to a point where vague emails are disseminated and all sorts of rumors are left to fester and grow, District 65 should have at least conduct annual reviews of all of its employees.  The teachers are reviewed all of the time.  This should also be the case for administrators.  The teachers and staff at each school should be allowed to provide honest appraisals of their principal without fear of reprisal.  This way, if negative evaluations arise or increase, the onus would be on the District 65 board to address that with the particular person.  Thereby, nipping a potential problem before it grows out of control like the current case.  While this process may not be effective for all grievances or situations, it would probably be sufficient for the majority of them.  And perhaps Andrew Krugly would have remained Principal of Dewey Elementary.

    As an aside, I also inferred that given the tremendous amount of recognition and achievements garnered during Andrew Krugly's tenure, the District was initially very hesitant to act on any grievances.  It seems that the District is willing to avert its eyes with respect negative issues so long as the kids' test scores are good.  That's Machiavellian behavior this community should not abide.   We can all argue the pros and cons until the cows come home about this, but where I stand is that I want an environment where my child's teacher can focus completely on the business of teaching the children rather than being distracted by collateral workplace issues.  I think if District 65 had effective procedures in place, we can have an effective Principal who manages, represents and fights for the school and teachers who employ their considerable skills to educating our children.  This is one instance where I feel we can have our cake and eat it too.

  2. that’s not the truth

    Mr. Krugly did not "take another job" so I won't tell that LIE to my kids.  HE was reassigned against his will despite years of success at improving this school.  

    Also, they don't like Ms. Mitchell so I won't tell them they are "lucky."  They were lucky to have Mr Krugly who they respected and admired.

    Has Dr. Murphy heard of a little thing called the Americans with Disabilities Act?  Yeah, it means you can't fire, demote, or force a change on an employee while they are sick.  So the story they are telling is clearly BS also.

    What a bunch of crap.  Another huge mistake by the administration and a bunch of lies and half truths to try to get people to shut up. 

    District 65 is broken.

    1. Disabilities?

      Dear Me Again, your understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act is lacking to say the least.

      Being on medical leave does not grant an employee protection from being terminated or reassigned, it protects the employee from being terminated or reassigned directly because of their disability. Are you insinuating that the school board reassigned the principal as a result of his medical leave?

      The fact he was on medical leave seems to be the reason you believe he was reassigned, when in reality that would have no influence on an administration's decision and the investigation would have commenced prior to his absence as a grievance/complaint was made prior to his leave.

      Procedurally, the conduct that resulted in the reassignment would have preceded his absence.  If what you are saying is true, and the principal does have a disability and that played a role in conduct in question, he can still be terminated or reassigned as the ADA does not insulate employees from the consequences of violating conduct requirements even where the conduct is the result of the disability.

      The ADA exists for the protection of those who live with a disability and should not be construed as a loophole to avoid the repercussions of one's poor judgement. There are processes in place to adhere to the ADA and the FMLA and the district would not subject themselves to the liability by ignoring such processes.

      Please do not cheapen something like ADA with your ill-founded conclusions. I'd suggest that the community respects this decision and takes comfort in knowing it was made in the best interests of the students and the teachers who devote so much time and effort to the school, students and community.

      The teachers can now focus on what they hold paramount to their careers at Dewey; teaching our children.

      1. actually

        I should have known someone would say something like this.  I know more about the ADA than I wish I did.  Believe me.  

        I never said (and never would say) that it should be seen as a "loophole for bad judgment".  That is a gross misstatement of what I wrote and think.  

        Sounds like you think you know a lot about what happened.  Good for you.  

        Obviously you know little about the law this district chooses to ignore.  Look up lawsuits against District 65 for personnel matters if you have access to the right databases.  You'll find loads of them.  

  3. Time to move on

    I applaud the staff that stood up and had the courage to speak out against the wrong-doings of this principal.  It seems, as a community, we've ignored far too much for far too long from this man.  I'm glad he was finally held accountable.  As far as I see it, the school thrived in spite of this man, not because of him.  I expect that to continue to be the case.

    1. You know more that we do

      I have heard nothing but good about this man.  Dewey is in a much better place than it was before he became principal.    What specifically do you mean?

    2. Move on to what?

      Yes, those terrible wrong-doings: the rising test scores, the regional recognition for excellence, the safe and nuturing environment, the increase in attendance – all signs of school led by a man that needed to be "held accountable."

      In truth, Andy Krugly was the leader that took Dewey from average to good to great. Apparently if he'd been less concerned with creating a safe, nuturing environment for the children, less worried about test scores and fighting for Dewey's share from D65, and more concerned with gladhanding the grown-ups, he'd be better regarded.

      His mistake, to judge from comments like yours, was to focus too much on the children and not enough on the care and feeding of the delicate, precious flowers that are Dewey's teachers and parents.

      1. An appraisal

        Like most of us, Andrew Krugly is a mixed bag.

        He did many good things for Dewey. In a district where competition for resources is ruthless, Krugly excelled at advocating for Dewey and making sure his school got its share and then some. Everyone at Dewey benefited from that–teachers, parents, students.

        However, as another poster noted, Krugly was not a warm and fuzzy guy. Heaven help you if he didn't like you. Heaven help your child if that child was in a classroom led by a teacher that Krugly didn't like. It doesn't matter how good or bad the teacher is, that teacher's performance will be worse if he or she doesn't have a decent working relationship with the boss. This isn't about delicate, precious flowers, and I will grant that none of us know the current circumstances of Krugly's departure. But a person in a school leadership position has to be able to lead everyone effectively and cordially, even those he doesn't like.  Otherwise, the children are the ones who suffer.

        Krugly is also very good at delivering on what his superiors ask.

        Given NCLB goals and a mandate to get kids to pass the ISAT, Krugly raised the pursuit of test scores to a high art. He succeeded at it, and this is a large factor in why Dewey has gotten such high praise and why parents scramble to get their kids into the school. (Those of us who have had the Dewey experience might also argue that the fantastically involved parent community is a factor, and one that will likely contribute to the next principal's success.)

        Given PBIS to implement, he implemented it to the letter.

        Given a single strand of TWI to install in a school that had no significant Latino enrollment and a reluctant PTA and parent body, Krugly installed the single strand of TWI and made it work.

        No doubt, if he stays at the Hill Center, Krugly will be a fierce advocate for D65, and whatever task Hardy Murphy assigns him.

        Still, I don't know what to make of Krugly's removal. Does this signal a change in emphasis on the part of the district? Or is it simply a personnel matter?

    3. Applaud what?

      Applaud which staff for standing up for what? Unless you are one of the few people that were embroiled in this unfortunate situation, how would you know what actually happened or whether it should be applauded or not.

      I to applaud anyone who stands up against an injustice and I am not belittling any of the staff, but I also recognize there are many instances where a person in a leadership position is very disliked by those who are under them.

      There are also many situations I have witnessed where employees across industries and parents that are not given exactly what they want when they want it fly off the handle without the facts. It is an unfortunate consequence of the entitlement we all, sometimes to a fault, feel we deserve. This is more a shot at us as a community, and our behavior in this situation.

      I need to trust that the people involved in the investigation thoroughly looked into the circumstances and did not cave to the whims of a few. It sounds like they did the job they were tasked with.

      I am not discounting that something happened, I am just saying very few people really know exactly what happened. On a larger picture the most unfortunate thing is that whether through his own actions or through a piling on effect a man that has affected many kids in a positive fashion is not doing so anymore.

      While sitting though this episode one thing has become very apparent to me. I think we all need to take a step back and recognize that something happened. Exactly what we don’t know, and I doubt we ever will.

      Maybe we should take this time to reflect on our own behavior. Those of us who have spread the gossip, spoken behind people’s backs and are all to happy to jump on the bandwagon forgetting that Mr. Krugly is a man that has spent almost 13 years of his life trying to make Dewey and our kids excel. How many of us can say we have made the same commitment towards children’s education, not just our own but just as importantly to those kids around us before we jump on someone without knowing all of the facts.

      Something that has gone very unreported is the amount of love and praise many people feel towards Mr. Krugly and the care he has taken with the kids and the school through the years.

      Thank you,
      Rich Sims
      Dewey Parent

    4. Wow – I’m not even a Dewey

      Wow – I'm not even a Dewey parent, but I've been following the Dewey/Krugly news like any other news story,  and I find your statement offensive and illogical.  Unless you have some inside information that no one else has, you are blatantly violating the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty, and making a wholly unsubstantiated and irrational accusation.  Maybe you should obtain some hard facts before you reach such conclusions and decide to share them with the community.

  4. Sickened

    Hardy Murphy is an empty suit.  We need to take charge of our community.  Leadership, as always, comes from within Dewey, not outside.  We must talk to one another, really listen to each other, and help heal this community.  I've heard words all day like "sickened," "nauseous," "depressed…"  we are grieving.  We are confused.  Some of us are angry.  We have got to come together.  "Hardly" Murphy will look out for Hardly Murphy.  But he is not our concern, at least till the next election.  In the meantime, Dewey, let's come together, let's listen, let's even cry, and then let's figure out the best way forward. 

  5. Early Voting Ends March 31st @ 5 pm

    Evanston School Board elections

    Early voting ends on Thursday March 31st @ 5pm

    It's easy to do – go to the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center – 2100 Ridge Avenue – Room 1700

    9:00 am – 5:00 pm

    All you need is a drivers license

    Election Day is April 5th

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