BOLINGBROOK – Bolingbrook High School senior Robiel Barredo approached the podium at Lukancic Middle School on Monday, imploring the Valley View School District Board of Education to reject the resignation of Principal Michael White.
"I have learned through three principals during my time at Bolingbrook High School," Barredo said. "After freshman year, it was never clear what my purpose as a student was – I tried to keep my grades up and stay out of trouble despite the constant disruption of some students."
One of more than 30 students, parents and residents to address the crowd during the public comments portion of Monday's scheduled meeting, Barredo – like many of the speakers – voiced his support for White.
"When Mr. White came, I was indifferent, considering him another principal that was assigned to a school with a bad reputation," Barredo continued. "But within a week, I saw this man challenge the audacity of the student population. He made it clear to me what my purpose was: to learn, to get a quality education and be held accountable for my actions."
Others described White as "tough, but fair," an "agent of change" and a man "committed to creating a safer learning environment" at the school. A few said that he has overstepped boundaries with disciplinarian tactics, even labeling him a "bully."
On Jan. 17, Valley View School District announced that White had resigned, effective at the end of the school year.
Within days, a group formed under the name "Support Mr. White!" and vowed to host a rally Friday night and turn out for Monday's meeting in protest of White's resignation, claiming that White "does not want to leave BHS" and that he "feels extremely limited due to the policies put in place by [Superintendent James] Mitchem and the school board."
The group also put together a petition asking the school board to reject White's resignation. The petition garnered 1,200 signatures and was presented to the board Monday night.
Still, following two-and-a-half hours of public testimonials Monday night, the Valley View board voted 5-2 to approve White's resignation.
Valley View President Steve Quigley told the crowd the Bolingbrook principal made the decision on his own accord and now all parties must move forward. He said contrary to multiple commenters' claims, the district did not force White's hand.
"We will not go backwards," Quigley said. "At no point was [White] ever asked to step aside – not by me, not by [Superintendent James Mitchem]. At no point has he asked us to rescind his resignation. Those are indisputable facts."
When White finally addressed the board and the crowd, he spoke of a disconnect between himself and the Valley View Board of Education, which led to a falling out.
“My decision [to resign] was that I felt that I was limited in my ability to do my job as a building principal,” White said. “That means when curriculum is not a part of my daily routine I’m not doing the full job that is required of me.
“I felt I had reached the limits of what I could do at Bolingbrook High School. So, I submitted my resignation after many, many, many conversations. Don’t think this was just a one-time deal. I decided it was time for me to move on as a result of the fact I couldn’t get senior leadership to make some decisions that would help me do my job.”
White, who retired as principal of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Mich. after the 2011-12 school year, came to Bolingbrook High School in July 2012.
His resignation will take effect at the end of the current school year.
The board did not address a search process for the next principal at the meeting. When hired, they will be fourth principal to lead Bolingbrook High School in five years.
"I decided it was time for me to move on as a result of the fact I couldn’t get senior leadership to make some decisions that would help me do my job.”
– BHS Principal Michael White, speaking publicly for the first time since he resigned Jan. 17