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Members of Jones College Prep Local School Council take serious issue with Principal Joseph Powers' record

Jones College Prep Local School Council takes issue with principal's record 03:06

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A longtime principal of one of the top high schools in Chicago is now the subject of serious allegations.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Thursday, members of the Jones College Prep Local School Council have raised red flags about school finances and about student concerns being ignored - and they say principal Joseph Powers has a habit of not showing up for work.

All the accusations are detailed in a scathing letter sent to the head of the Chicago Public Schools. Kozlov received a copy.

Letter to CEO and IG 2.28.2022 (Redacted) by Adam Harrington on Scribd

Dr. Paul Joseph Powers has been principal at Chicago's prestigious William Jones College Preparatory High School, 700 S. State St., since 2008. But three members of its Local School Council say there is serious trouble at the top.

Those are just some of the many concerns they have detailed in an 11-page letter to CPS Chief Executive Officer Pedro Martinez.

"We have concerns about what we're hearing about the principal's residency. We have concerns about wrongdoing that's been reported over years, and things have not been responded to," said Jones College Prep Local School Council Chair Cassie Creswell.

The residency question surrounds the fact that Powers rents an apartment in Chicago and owns a home in St. Louis in his and his wife's names.

The charges also include questionable financial practices. The letter alleges "lack of reporting donations, grants, and gifts awarded to the school," "check requisitions over the threshold requiring LSC approval," "unsupported fundraising activities," "lack of appropriate documentation for rental activity," and "inappropriate collection of student fees."

The LSC further takes issue with what they say is Powers' chronic absenteeism.

"He missed nine out of 11 Fridays in the fall of 2021," said Jones Prep LSC member Sarah Ma.

LSC members Ma, Creswell, and Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth say red flags about Powers' leadership started appearing last school year, when they started hearing about claims of abuse in the school that went nowhere.

"The people who reported it and experienced it told us," Creswell said.

They wrote Martinez the letter after their outreach to other departments, such as the Inspector General's office, were met with silence. They sent the letter Feb. 18, and asked for a receipt by Feb. 25.

Five days after that deadline, they still haven't heard anything.

"CPS is totally shirking their responsibility to answer our concerns, and they're also kind of punting it to us," Ma said.

But soon after we reached out to the district, they finally got as response in the form of a letter from the Board of Education's general counsel, Joseph Moriarty.

Moriarty wrote they have received similar allegations over the past several months, which have triggered "active and pending" investigations. Moriarty went on to say they will not remove Powers during the investigation.

Creswell said if the district does nothing, she is seriously considering putting a vote to remove Powers for cause on the upcoming Local School Council meeting agenda.

"The whole thing needs to be investigated," Creswell said. "If we're not going to get a response, then we're going to bring it to the full LSC."

Kozlov called Dr. Powers directly, reaching him on a St. Louis cellphone number that records show is connected to a home he owns in Missouri.

Powers told Kozlov on Wednesday that he hadn't seen the letter, so she sent it to him.

Meanwhile, we learned on Thursday that Dr. Powers sent an email to Jones faculty about the group's letter, defending his home in St. Louis and his record, and claiming this group has an agenda - which is to force him out. 

Three student members of the LSC also are speaking out, saying they were blindsided by the letter and its accusations. They believe the letter's authors did not follow procedure and take issue with the fact they were never given a heads up about it or asked for their opinion. And some parents at Jones feel the group of LSC members who sent the letter overstepped their authority.  

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