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CHICAGO — A state appeals panel has rejected an attempt by a suspended Chicago international school principal to challenge the Chicago Board of Education's hearing process that resulted in his removal from his job.
The decision from the three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court upheld a Cook County judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Michael Beyer and several members of a Local Schools Council, accusing the Chicago Public Schools of improper discipline and attempting to undo his Beyer's removal.
Beyer, who had served as principal of Ogden Elementary and Ogden International High School since 2015, sued CPS in November 2018 after the district sent him notice it was removing him from his job. The removal was allegedly based on a report from the Chicago Board of Education Inspector General's office that Ogden staff had falsified attendance reports. According to the Inspector General, the school had reported some students had transferred, when they only had extended absences.
Cook County Judge Anna Loftus denied Beyer’s request for an injunction, prompting his appeal. First District Appellate Justice Maureen Connors wrote the opinion, issued Dec. 27; Justices Joy Cunningham and Sheldon Harris concurred.
On appeal, Beyer said Loftus should have halted his suspension; alleged CPS CEO Janice Jackson unlawfully reopened his pre-suspension hearing; and that his co-plaintiffs, Christopher McCabe and Jezail Jackson, have standing because they are members of Ogden’s local school council and have children attending Ogden.
According to the panel, the substance of the inspector general’s report — which Beyer disputes — weren’t at issue on appeal. Rather, the concern was the termination process and pre-suspension hearings from November 2018 to January 2019.
The first hearing began Nov. 15, a day after Beyer filed his complaint, and continued on Dec. 6. Although a third day of the hearing was scheduled for Dec. 20, it didn’t happen. On Dec. 10, Beyer filed a motion to terminate the suspension hearing, and since a Cook County Circuit Court hearing on that motion was set for Jan. 11, the parties advised the hearing to postpone the Dec. 20 session. On Jan. 9, however, CPS lawyers told Beyer the pre-suspension hearing was finalized.
On Jan. 24, Beyer learned a second pre-suspension hearing had been set for Jan. 31 and that Jackson amended dismissal charges, alleging he disclosed confidential information without authorization. Beyer’s team objected to that hearing as unlawful, but CPS announced it would suspend him without pay effective Feb. 22; Loftus stayed that decision. On Feb. 7, Beyer filed a motion to declare the Jan. 31 hearing unlawful.
According to the panel, Loftus construed Beyer's motion to declare as a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Finding the hearing was proper, she dismissed three counts of Beyer’s second amended complaint. The panel agreed, noting Beyer’s motion before the first hearing seeking a restraining order to halt the hearing until CPS produced written rules. Jackson issued those rules in January before the Jan. 31 hearing now contested as unlawful.
Beyer “should not be allowed to escape a suspension without pay altogether because the board and CEO Jackson did as they were asked,” Connors wrote, adding Beyer at one point argued the first hearing was void without written rules, and the remedy for that is a second hearing such as the one conducted Jan. 31.
With respect to standing for the school council plaintiffs, Connors noted “The School Code gives the board authority to dismiss a principal. Nothing in the School Code gives an LSC the right to protect a principal from that dismissal.”
The fact those council members also were parents of Ogden students doesn’t provide them legal standing, regardless of their sincere interest in having a skilled administrator at the school. Even if the panel overturned the second pre-suspension hearing, Connors wrote, it wouldn’t put Beyer back on the job but simply allow him to be paid while awaiting a hearing on his dismissal.
Beyer and the council members were represented by William J. Quinlan and Eric T. Schmitt of The Quinlan Law Firm LLC of Chicago.