Dozens Of Complaints Filed Against Pilsen Principal

CHICAGO (CBS) — Allegations were coming to light on Tuesday against the principal of a Chicago public school in the Pilsen neighborhood.

As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, Josiah Pickard Elementary School principal Rigo Hernandez has been in charge for five years, during which time dozens of complaints have been filed against him.

Hernandez was eager to talk about the allegations and defend himself against those complaints on Tuesday, but when he arrived at school Tuesday morning, he said his bosses wouldn’t let him discuss the matter publicly.

The teachers who made the allegations and the Chicago Teachers Union, however, had plenty to say.

Some teachers, past and present, have painted an ugly picture of what happens inside the school.

“He was ranting about something and then made a threat to us that, if we went to his supervisor, he was going to cut our throats,” teacher Marlene Chavez said.

Chavez has filed several grievances and complaints with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board against Hernandez.

She’s not alone. According to the Chicago Teachers Union, 31 grievances have been filed against Hernandez since 2008.

“Allegations of threats of physical violence; we have assaults and batteries,” said CTU representative John Kugler.

He also said there are allegations of sexual harassment.

“He tends to make sexual comments about teachers’ cleavage, or their hips. He rates teachers,” Chavez said. “Who’s pretty, who has nice hips.”

She said the harassment makes her apprehensive every day when she heads to work.

“It’s really scary, because I don’t know if he’s going to come out of his office and scream at me, yell at me,” she added.

It’s a fear shared by some of Chavez’s former colleagues.

One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was difficult working for Hernandez.

“I wasn’t sure from one day to another if he was going to yell at me,” she said.

When asked if it’s normal for a principal to have the volume of complaints Hernandez has, Kugler replied “Absolutely not.”

CPS officials would only confirm investigating one allegation against Hernandez, and would not say which one.

In a statement CPS said “Chicago Public Schools takes every claim of unsafe and unfair workplace practices seriously and, when appropriate, thoroughly investigates them. We are committed to ensuring fairness and equity for all staff members so that every employee can work in a safe and secure environment. In the case of the allegation against Mr. Hernandez, our investigation found that the allegation was not substantiated by the evidence. Mr. Hernandez met the conditions specified in the resolution and no further action was necessary.”

As for Hernandez, he denied any wrongdoing and, in his words, Chavez is “just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.”

Chavez, who until recently was the union delegate at the school, said Hernandez is trying to fire her because of her complaints. Hernandez said it’s because her work is unsatisfactory.

  • tom sharp

    Tell Da ex-Mayor. It was his political agenda (note: educational agenda) that put patronage losers like this in dozens of schools. I wonder of his Latino patronage partners in crime–UNO is involved.

  • Francis Marion Patterson

    Uno is a charter school which gets a lot of money and gets to hand pick which kids it takes and which kids it leaves behind. Pickard is a public school which takes every child in the neighborhood. The Principal is a former counselor who
    works a schedule that would put the principal of Uno to shame. .

    • tom sharp

      Hey FMP: I don’t know exactly what or whom you’re responding to. I know exactly what UNO is and they existed in the public schools(central office included) long before there were any charter schools in Chicago. They are Da ex-Mayor’s and probably Rahm’s patronage army in Pilsen and other Latino communities. I think we both agree that they know a lot more about patronage than they do education.

      • francis marion patterson

        agree on Uno-friend substituted there til she couldn’t stand it, incomplete sets of books and a certain administrator driving around in a very luxury car- teacher turnover is thru the roof

  • Juana Martinez

    He’s not the only principal who is abusive. Look at Mary Weaver at Scammon School. Teachers and staff members have asked for help from the teacher’s union and CPS for over 4 years, but she is still tormenting her current staff by lying, slandering, and filing fake reports. When a principal bullies their staff, it impacts the whole community. Providing a safe environment where children can learn should be the number one priority at each school. Principals like the ones at Pickard and Scammon are more concerned with keeping their $140,000 salaries than actually doing their job.

  • Marcela Licea

    It is a shame that principals exist who behave so poorly and break rules left and right.

  • Complaints Against Pilsen Principal | District 299: The Inside Scoop on CPS

    […] Dozens Of Complaints Filed Against Pilsen Principal CBS Local:  In a statement CPS said “Chicago Public Schools takes every claim of unsafe and unfair workplace practices seriously and, when appropriate, thoroughly investigates them." […]

  • Paula

    if this jerk is behaving like this with teachers who knows what he is doing to our children. and its happening in the skool this harrasment is also being seen by our children he should be dismissed!

  • Nanci Sklar

    seriously- skool????


    Paula went to Pickard!

  • C

    “At Pickard, we are looking for the most academically rewarding and enriching programs for this year’s after school activity curriculum. We would like to continue the “In Search of Genius Science Program” at Pickard this year.

    Another important part of the program was the “College-Age” students. The students are Science Majors. These college students became mentors and inspirations as role models to our students.

    These college mentors interacted with and helped the students in their hands-on activities. Their valuable knowledge enhanced the students’ learning capacity. The mentors had a profound impact on our students. One of the Science Mentors was a female and our female students were amazed that a woman could be interested and working in the science field. The female students felt empowered and motivated by the fun and challenging activities. By the end of the program, the students were excited about their participation in this innovative and progressive type of academic program.”

    Rigo Hernandez
    Principal, Pickard Elementary School


    • Pickard Teacher

      Actually that was written by a teacher, and signed by Hernandez, to pass on to CPS to encourage funding for the program. The fact that we want to have more women in science fields is why it was included that in the letter. I should know, I wrote it. You’re reaching with that my friend.

    • Larry Fredricks

      Sounds like very good programs. I agree with Hernandez, it sounds like Chavez is just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. I would like to hear more about that teacher rating system. Ass, cleavage, hips? I wonder if any of the Pickard teachers achieved hottie status!

      • who's a 10?

        apparently chavez didn’t

  • juju

    Yes, you have x-ray vision.

  • Monica

    I’m appauled at the way CPS is so corrupt. Our tax payers money is paying for the services of this Sick perverted male.? I do agree that our children should NOT be around people like Mr.Hernandez. I hope these teachers finally get justice from a system that has already abused their services.

  • kitten graffiti

    At least one principal at District 228 should be investigated too for being a useless waste of space and money. Many times the higher you go, the more corruption you’ll find. School districts are a perfect example of this.

  • Border Agent69

    The public school system is ran by the brainwashing GOVERNMENT throughout the nation they only teach you what they want you to learn.Public school are just open campus detention camps and this is what you will deal the abusive principle aka WARDENS this is why you can’t pack your kids a lunch anymore because they’re in charge
    Hey and for Mr.Hernandez it’s in the blood it’s part of their culture to sex offenders see in Mexico it’s lawless.

    • Local resident

      Please do your research as Mr. Rigo Hernandez is not Mexican…he is Cuban!

      • C

        I agree Mr. Hernandez!

      • C

        Another Fidel Castro!

      • johnny can read

        cuba has a 100% literacy for teens- perhaps they are doing SOMETHING right over there

  • Teacher

    I completely believe this staff. This isn’t the only school that has ABUSIVE principals. SCAMMON SCHOOL’S principal is also abusive. Mary Weaver has run out all the former teachers from Scammon School and hired her family friends and their children. All the current staff is afraid of her so they do whatever she wants.

  • Juan Morales

    Why is the media focusing on Pickard. The school is steadily improving. The scores are the envy of the network. I heard that Occupy Chicago is down the block on Cermack. Coincidence?

  • Bridgett Sullivan

    I have heard plenty of complaints regarding this “principal.” He has made a good amount of the teachers in the school very uneasy and I believe this creates a horrible learning environment for tomorrows generation. I actually heard of a story where he played tennis with a woman’s position, cutting her, and then rehiring her, only to cut her position again. He creates such a negative environment, and from what I know, he lies to the teachers and plays the innocent victim, always blaming the board; however, who is REALLY to blame? In addition, it’s fairly obvious that he is trying to fire Ms. Chavez for personal reasons. He is a horrible principal and should be fired immediately. If CPS cares anything about the children, they would actually put the children FIRST for once and create a positive atmosphere for them, where teachers can teach without the negative and abusive comments by Hernandez. He’s a manipulative person who seemingly knows how to play the system and it’s a shame that he’s fooled the board for so long.

    • C

      He did play tennis with her, he is on a massive power trip that needs to end.

  • speaking my mine

    I worked there. There are no lies in the complaints. it was very uncomfortable there. The man has no respect to female employees.

    • LRosales

      No, it’s because he saw the quality of education you were giving the children which was poor like your spelling. I am speaking my MIND!!!!!!

      • E

        Why are you assuming that the employee is a teacher?

    • Jose Juarez

      ok, it’s speaking your mind….mind….get it. Not representing yourself or teachers very well

    • jpatterson

      M>A>, it’s speaking your mind not speaking your mine!

  • MC

    This is ridiculous. I worked for this man. He is very animated and he means business. Does he have high expectations? Absolutely. That does not make him abusive. I know that he has open communication with his staff. He distributes all materials that he receives from his superiors.

    He is well liked by the parents in the community and his LSC. His door was always open and he always took time to talk to teachers to find out how things were going.

    Some people. Wow.

    • Joanne

      I agree, Mr. Hernandez has his door open to his teachers but it is only to hear gossip about other teachers. If he never harrassed you than count yourself lucky. I applaud Ms. Chavez for coming foward if only more teachers would be as strong as she is and come foward as well. Yes, Pickards scores are going up but at whose expense? Do teachers really have to be yelled at or threatened in order for them to do thier jobs? Do they really have to lower thier moral standards in order to keep thier jobs? Yes, parents do like him, but they don’t know what happens behind doors. Pickard is home to low income families who have little to no education and many come from abusive families so they don’t know any better. However, if he would to speak to well educated parents, they would be surprised to see how unprofessional he is. He resorts to threats because that is the only way he can accomplish anything!

      • Joanne

        You are to busy assuming things and correcting other people that you lose focus. 31 complaints are lies? I am not a teacher at Pickard. I am a concerned community resident.

      • Joanne

        I don’t mean to offend anybody if I did, I apologize. I was only stating facts based on statistics. Not all are created equal unfortunately. There are some that do however, fall under that category. Nevertheless, that does not make anyone uncaring, but as parents we do well to consider the type of education our children receive. I have children and I do my homework. My children would never attend a school that has been under probation for years and until this year has not been in good standing academically! Mr. Marco I stated facts only and I stated that MANY come from abusive families I did not say ALL. It is good to feel ofended when someone offends you, but did I? Do you come from an abusive family? It is easy to know these statistics just visit and type in Pickard and educate yourself.

      • Marco

        How dare you call me uneducated Joanne! So due to me living in Pilsen and my chidren being students of Pickard says I more then likely came from an abusive home!!!!! Joanne SHUT the hell up you just sounded very stupid or better yet uneducated!

      • Jason Sklar

        then count yourself lucky….
        their not thier

        a little concerned about all the spellng and grammer errors by the Pickard teachers…instead of being concerned about yelling, perhaps brush up on English since you are preparing second language learners for the future. He understands that education is the way out for the kids….and when I have visited he is there before the teachers….and stays later.

    • C

      Speaking of DOORS, my sister goes there and the bathroom stalls are missing doors, but Rigo has two new security doors in his private office.

      • Sarah

        Not only that, but the school is really dirty and some railings are loose. No sink has hot water and some teachers dress like if they are going out on a hot date. Maybe thats why Mr. Hernandez rates his teachers they dress up for him!

  • local resident

    This controversial event is nonsense. Mr. Hernandez is an excellent principal who truly cares for the students and their well being. Yes, this school is located in a poor neighborhood, however, the expectations of learning are the same as anywhere else within the Chicago Public School System. Social encomic barriers have nothing to do with the school principal who sets the standards high. Mr. Hernandez is a tough principal who excels at holding everyone accountable to achieve superior academic results. If the complaining teacher failed to deliver results she should invest in preparing her work for class instead of claiming being abused. I personally have visit the school multiple times during the week and at different times and have never witnessed Mr. Hernandez approach teachers with threats, or embarrasing words. On the contrary, I have observed him working long hours trying to motivate the students that often times lack vision for their future. In addition, he has seeked resources outside the school to help students cope with their emotional traumas as they are surrounded by crime and risky behaviors including drugs, gang activity, and alcohol. To summarize, Mr. Hernandez takes pride of his work and accomplishments and he is always willing to listen to parents, teachers, students, and anyone else who comes to seek his advise as his door remains open long after most teachers punch out at 3pm sharp! You be the judge…

  • patterson

    I left a school where the principal hid in her office when parents showed up.She had no respect for the community and took a job at a new school without telling her teachers, who stayed in terrible conditions because of loyalty to her. Mr. Herandez understands the community as witnessed by the loyalty of the LSC. Do not confuse poor or uneducated with uncaring. Those parents would go to CPS if they heard ANY child being screamed at by a principal. Yes he screams…and it’s not a pleasant experience. But he knows all the children and all the families and as an immigrant himself, he truly believes that education will be the key to their future. He is a boss. responsible for over 600 children and reporting to coaches and leaders downtown. Have you looked for witnesses to these “sexual comments” or threats? Have you talked to other female support staff or teachers.? As the saying goes, ” not happy- don’t forget, the door swings both ways” Perhaps it’s time to dust off the resumes

    • c

      Nobody is saying he is screaming at children. Focus!

      • patterson

        c- read the earlier posts-if this jerk is behaving like this with teachers who knows what he is doing to our children (paula inferred that he did and other might as well)


    Jason Sklar and/or Local Resident of Feb. 9: Are you Phillip Yasenak, the Assistant Principal of Pickard School? You sure defend this tirant! Rigo Hernandez is rude, crude, unprofessional and the most disrespectful man I have ever met. He pulls on female teacher’s bra straps (as stated in one of his 31 grievances). His LSC loves him I heard someone say. They must not have heard him call one of his members a “fat slob” and say that “she should be at home cleaning her home instead of always being at the school”. The man is NOT human material, muchless Principal material!!!

  • not yasenak

    tirant =tyrant
    muchless=much less

    can any of the accusers spell? perhaps that’s the problem

    • Joanne

      You are to busy correcting others, Is that all you got?

  • Student

    ^ Really, I don’t think that’s the problem. I would rather be a bad speller than have low moral standards like Mr. Hernandez. He deserves to be fired because he is the worst principal I have ever meet.

    • doesn't anybody have spell check?

      or the worst you have ever met? how many principals have you met in your life,”student”
      and Joanne, too busy correcting others. If you concerned about the school, have you thought about volunteering there?

  • Student

    I really don’t know why you get so mad over my spelling errors.

    This is not a forum for perfect spellers. Everyone has an opinion, and they can share it. Furthermore, you can neglect my spelling errors. At least, I am genuine and I have high moral standard to know that what matters here is that Mr. Hernandez does not deserve to be principal of Pickard School because he is not respectful towards his staff and students. He is a poor leader who creates a suffocating environment. I was honestly a student at Pickard School, and I can confirm that he very opinionated and dishonest. Why? Because over the course of one year, I had over 5 teachers. I don’t think students should have 5 teachers in one year because Mr. Hernandez wants to move (or fire) them all. Thus, I will voraciously and consistently advocate against this principal.

    • miguel luna

      I care about your spelling because it reflects poorly on this school that you claim to love. if you (or whoever wrote this letter for you) can use terms like suffocating environment, you can use spell check or proofread. Seriously-voraciously and consistently advocate….you did pretty well, in spite of having five teachers.(plus I don’t believe you)

      • Student

        I don’t care what you think about me. For all that matters, you don’t even know if I am a gifted high school student or college graduate.

        I honestly don’t think you can judge me based on my writing. Everyone one can make a simple mistake from “met” to “meet.” At least, I can speak fluent English unlike Mr. Hernandez. I had an arduous time understanding his English because of his accent.

        You write:
        I care about your spelling because it reflects poorly on this school that you claim to love. if you (or whoever wrote this letter for you) can use terms like suffocating environment, you can use

        ^If I was you, Mr. Luna, I would not be talking about my mistakes because at least I can use capital letters when I start a sentence.

        Mr. Luna, I have overcome many challenges. Yes, I have had 5 teachers while in Pickard. I have legal proof, and I am thankful to have been taught by a plethora of wonderful high school teachers and a dedicated principal at my current high school.

        Instead of criticizing my spelling, you should be practicing your own punctuation and spelling, too. I saw a myriad of errors in the above paragraph. You don’t know what I’ve been through at Pickard. No one wrote this for me. My parents cannot comprehend English. If your sons/daughters went to Pickard School I think you would act differently because the quality of education at Pickard is tremendously inferior to that of Orozco, Ruiz, Finkle, and all the others school. I should know.

  • Student

    Yes, I have thought of volunteering there. Because while I was there, Mr. Hernandez did not care what so ever for my class. However, as a student, I cannot volunteer unless I am over 18.

    But, I will volunteer in the upcoming years to immensely ameliorate my school.

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