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ASPIRA charter school CEO fired

Updated: April 29, 2012 8:22AM

The controversial president of ASPIRA charter schools was fired late Monday evening during a stormy board meeting that included a chorus of community protests about ASPIRA’s management.

But despite the protests, the audience was stunned by the 5-4 decision of the charter school operator’s board not to renew the contract of ASPIRA CEO Jose Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is no stranger to controversy. In 1997, as president of the Clemente Local School Council, he was accused of steering the spending of poverty funds in the early 1990s to pro-Puerto Rican terrorists speakers and activities. More recently, under Rodriguez’s leadership, ASPIRA schools were investigated in 2008 for strip-searching high school girls and altering grades.

But in the end, according to sources, it was the test scores of ASPIRA students that led to Rodriguez’s dismissal. ASPIRA students have underperformed Chicago Public Schools averages for at least the last six years, according Illinois Report Card data.

Neither board members nor Rodriguez responded to Chicago Sun-Times requests for comment.

Rodriguez will serve as acting CEO until June 30, when the board hopes to hire a replacement. He earned $187,000 in 2008, the last year for which figures were available. ASPIRA operates three high schools and one middle school.

Samantha Kipp, an ASPIRA teacher and council president of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, presented a litany of complaints to the board, including a lack of resources such as textbooks and computers and administrators showing disrespect to teachers in front of students.

After the vote, Kipp said teachers are hopeful. “We do believe that at least part of the board does want to facilitate change in the schools.”

Neighborhood activist Larry Ligas, who was there to protest a planned new ASPIRA school building near Milwaukee and Central Park, called the decision “a step in the right direction.”

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