CHICAGO (CBS) – Students at a prestigious high school in West Englewood began their school year on Monday by walking out of school to demand the reinstatement of a popular assistant principal.
Former assistant principal Karen Fitzpatrick-Carpenter, known by many students as “Momma Eagle,” was let go from Lindblom Math and Science Academy after two decades. She was someone who students said stepped up and led the school when other principals abruptly left during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our junior year, Ms. Fitzpatrick-Carpenter carried the weight of our school on her back,” senior and student board president Shelby Holloway told CBS 2’s Steven Graves last week.
Dozens of Lindblom students walked out during first period on Monday to protest Fitzpatrick-Carpenter’s dismissal, as parents and alumni cheered them on.
The Lindblom community learned of Fitzpatrick-Caprenter’s dismissal in a letter from newly-hired principal Abdul Muhammad, who said the school is “saying farewell” to her.
A follow-up email from Fitzpatrick-Carpenter said it was not her choice to leave.
Ms. Fitz told CBS 2 over the phone she is “heartbroken” and “at a loss for words” as the new administration brought in its own staff. She said she wants to come back as her heart is with the kids.
Students and alumni at Lindblom made it clear Monday they believe Ms. Fitz should have been allowed to stay, even as the new principal brought in his own staff.
“We did have one assistant principal slot open. So he could have compromised and brought on one of his assistant principals while leaving Ms. Fitzpatrick-Carpenter,” Holloway said.
“We’re voicing our concern. This is a lot of students out here today, and Mr. Muhammad is inside. He knows what’s happening. He knows what’s going on. He knows that the student body is not on his side,” senior Patrick Howebowen said.
“This is their mom. She raised them. The reason why you see all this Lindblom culture, you hear all this swoop, you hear all this passion, is because people like her instilled it into us,” Lindblom alumnus PParis Jackson said.
The students who walked out Monday morning spent about an hour protesting before returning to the school, so as not to miss their first period. They said they have signed a petition asking for Ms. Fitz to be reinstated, and plan to speak up at an upcoming school board meeting.
Lindblom students have been speaking out about Ms. Fitz’s removal since last week.
“It’s really hurtful, especially when you know how much they care about you,” senior Arielle Warner told CBS 2’s Steven Graves last week.
Another senior, Kennedy Ross, said “We call her Momma Eagle, because she was literally like our mom.”
Ross has been with “Ms. Fitz,” as she’s known, since she was 12 years old. She found out the assistant principal was being replaced, like most people, through a letter from a newly-hired principal Abdul Muhammad.
Students said the support goes deep. As news hit the community, parents and alumni spoke up in outrage and plan to come walk out as well to get their beloved administrator back.
“We just want Ms. Fitzpatrick back,” Holloway said.
Ross added, “She is the glue that holds this building together.”
In a statement, Chicago Public Schools said the district “entrusts our principals to create a positive environment for students and staff. Principals work with District leaders as they develop their staffing decisions but it’s ultimately up to each principal to develop their team and determine how to best use their resources.”