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Comer College Prep principal wins honor for closing ‘achievement gap’

Gary Comer College Prep Principal James Troupis wins Ryan Award for 'superior leadership closing achievement gap.'

Gary Comer College Prep Principal James Troupis wins Ryan Award for "superior leadership in closing the achievement gap."

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Updated: June 6, 2013 7:53AM

Comer high school Principal James Troupis summons Jomari Glover and others to his office every two weeks, not because they’re in trouble but to keep tabs on everything from the springtime school blahs to students struggling with college applications.

That kind of attention to detail — and teamwork, Troupis emphasizes — is part of his formula for success: In June 2012, the Gary Comer College Prep’s first senior class graduated with 100 percent acceptance at four-year universities. The school’s average ACT score is almost two points higher than that of Chicago Public Schools.

Now, Troupis, 32, is being recognized for his leadership. He was surprised Wednesday, during what he thought was supposed to be a routine assembly at the South Side high school, with the national Ryan Award — given to school principals exhibiting “superior leadership in closing the achievement gap.” After fourth period, he walked into the “assembly,” only to be greeted by his wife and baby daughter, a crowd of cheering students and an oversized check for $25,000.

The award, given through the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation and Accelerate Institute, includes a $25,000 honorarium and the opportunity to guest lecture at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Troupis is one of three recipients of the award this year.

“I’ve never seen a great school without a great principal,” said Chicago-native tech entrepreneur and Accelerate Institute founder Pat Ryan, who presented the award to Troupis. “Mr. Troupis will be invited to help others create the magic that he has created at Gary Comer.”

Troupis’ voice shook as he thanked Ryan and addressed the students. “I feel almost guilty taking this money because it’s the work of everyone in here that won it,” he said. “This is the greatest place on earth that I know, so thank you for making it that way.”

Sophomore and Council-member Glover said he deserved the award. “He really focuses on making students better,” Glover said of Troupis. “He doesn’t try to make them perfect, just better, little by little.”

Next year, Troupis will be taking on a new role as chief talent officer for the Noble Network, of which Gary Comer is a part; current assistant principal Nikki Grier will replace him. “I don’t want to leave the role of principal, but if we had 20 or 30 Noble campuses around Chicago, if every single African-American or Latino kid had access to this kind of education, the city would change immediately and for generations to come,” he said. “I really believe that.”

The award winners will be recognized at the annual Impact Dinner in Chicago this September.

Currently in its fifth year, the school, located on South Chicago Ave. and East 71st St. is made up of 650 students, the majority of whom are African American or Hispanic.

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