And then there were two-or maybe not.

The search for a permanent Oak Park and River Forest High School principal took an unexpected turn last week as one of the finalists, a former OPRF teacher, dropped out of selection process.

Lionel Allen, a former history teacher at OPRF and current principal of Chicago’s Sherman Elementary School, informed District 200 administration he was removing himself from consideration.

Allen was one of three finalists to become the high school’s next principal. All three candidates were scheduled to meet students, parents and staff last week and to take part in separate community forums this week. Supt. Attila Weninger was scheduled to make a final selection and recommendation to the Dist. 200 school board at their meeting next Thursday. Allen’s withdrawal puts a wrinkle in that timeline, administrators said.

According to Weninger, Allen indicated he wasn’t finished with his work at Sherman.

Allen taught history at the high school from 2002 to 2005. He left in ’05 to become principal of the then-troubled South Side elementary school. He has since been recognized by CPS for turning the school around.

As for OPRF, administrators will look to add one person to the current finalist pool with possibly another candidate added to the mix, explained Jason Edgecombe, Dist. 200 assistant superintendent for human resources.

The current finalists are Don Vogel, a 34-year OPRF administrator who’s currently serving as interim principal, and Nathaniel Rouse, an assistant principal at Highland Park High School.

Weninger expressed disappointment in Allen’s withdrawal but stressed that the school will move forward.

“We’re going to step back, grab two other candidates, and I think we’ll have a strong pool again,” he said, adding that the school was taken off-guard by the announcement.

All three candidates were asked to see the process through once they were named finalists.

Weninger said he received an e-mail from Allen last week saying he was withdrawing from consideration.

Allen was set to take part in open community forums this week. On Monday evening, Vogel met with a group of 10 parents and staff in the high school faculty lounge.

He was asked about his many years at the high school, whether that was an advantage or disadvantage in becoming principal. Vogel indicated that his time at OPRF was an asset in knowing the school’s problems and pulling people together to address them.

Vogel was set to retire in 2010, but said he’ll stay on if he gets the job permanently. Rouse will meet the community Wednesday at the high school. The community forum starts at 7:30.

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