updated 8/25/2006 5:23:08 PM ET 2006-08-25T21:23:08

An interim principal has been fired after refusing to enroll more students at an overcrowded high school on the city's southwest side.

Martin McGreal, 37, said accepting more students at Gage Park High School would boost some classes to more than 40 pupils.

"At some point you have to say no to what this system is doing to kids," McGreal said. "It's why the system is where it's at. You compromise all the time."

McGreal was fired Wednesday from the $113,820-a-year position for disobeying board policy, said Chicago Public Schools spokesman Michael Vaughn.

"It is unacceptable that two to three weeks before school is set to start that he was turning away neighborhood students with no place to go," Vaughn said.

Gage Park is located in a neighborhood with a surging Hispanic population. In the past, the school has been on "controlled enrollment," meaning it could turn away neighborhood students who then had to find another school.

This year, the district took Gage Park off controlled enrollment and told McGreal he would have to accept at least 250 more students.

Because of space issues and a teachers union contract that limits class size to 31, the school might have to add a third shift of classes, beginning at noon and ending at 6 p.m., McGreal said.

"That is not fair to these kids. They would not be getting what they need to succeed," said McGreal, who took in another 110 more students before closing enrollment.

Vaughn said other schools have successfully adopted the extra shift. "It's not the ideal situation, but schools are doing the best they can with the third shift," he said.

Some parents applauded McGreal's action.

"Mr. McGreal was standing up for students and not being political and he got shafted," said Alejandro Garcia, president of the Gage Park High School local school council.

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