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LSC candidates describe their important volunteer role

Fri, Apr 20, 2012

ALocal School Council (LSC) member for 22 years, Wanda Hopkins recalls when banks and other Chicago organizations recruited their employees to run for the elected, yet volunteer, positions in Chicago Public Schools.

“They [employers] told them it was a great thing to do and it’s still a great thing to do,” despite restrictions Chicago Public Schools has placed on schools, Hopkins said during a March 21 press conference at CPS headquarters, 125 S. Clark St. She noted that the Board of Education had just sent a letter that said LSCs of schools on probation no longer had the right to exercise two of their three essential functions: the power to do a School Improvement Plan (SIP) and a discretionary budget. Their third role is to hire and evaluate the principal.

“We may not have the last say, but we definitely can make a recommendation to the Chief of Schools,” Hopkins said.

CPS Spokesperson Becky Carroll issued a statement that said that “CPS has been and continues to work closely with LSC represen- tatives to create a high quality education for every child in every community in our city. We are committed to supporting our LSCs in every way, which is why we have launched a rigorous campaign to raise awareness of the upcoming elections.”

LSCs include parent, teacher and community representatives, as well as a student rep at the high school level. Principals preside over meetings and recuse themselves during evaluation.
The press conference was the day before the deadline for filing as a candidate in the April 18 and 19 LSC elections, which coincide with report card pickup in CPS elementary and high schools. Although the event received public relations assistance from the Chicago Teachers Union, those speaking at the press conference were uncommitted candidates.

“We encourage the citywide community to complete applications for LSC; we cannot be discouraged from participating in school-based management,” said Carmen Palmer of Wendell Smith Elementary School, 744 E. 103rd St., and Educational Village Keepers. Advocates had succeeded in extending the date for LSC applications and had recruited parents to complete applications even if they were in turnaround schools, she said.

“Underfunding must be addressed, along with scapegoating teachers when in fact the CPS Board is failing them by un- derfunding,” Palmer said.

“At a time where our schools are being closed, restructured, re-staffed and moved toward privatization, it is imperative that we maintain a strong and consistent voice for our children and the schools they attend,” wrote Becky Malone of 19th Ward Parents in a statement read by Palmer.

Malone protested the 105-minute longer school day proposed earlier this year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, because she said many schools already lack libraries, text books and adequate technology. “A longer school day will further stretch these limited resources, forcing schools to make cuts,” ranging from larger class sizes to after-school tutoring and enrichment, she wrote.

According to the CPS website, students will generally be in school for 450 minutes during the longer school day, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. They will have 390 instructional minutes, 90 minutes more than the minimum required by the Illinois State Board of Education. They will have 45 minutes off for lunch and recess, 15 minutes for passing wperiods; teachers will also have 60 minutes of prep or collaboration time.

If schools agreed to a longer day by a simple majority vote of teachers, the schools received a lump sum equal to two percent of the average teacher salary to help pay for technology, intervention programs or extra staffing for music, art, library and physical education.

Jose Hernandez of Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language, 3456 W. 38th St., said that test scores have improved at his school, where the LSC used its discretionary funds to extend the school day by 45 minutes, with teacher approval. Besides a 10-minute recess, the elementary school has an additional 35 minutes Monday through Thursday, which it uses to extend three subjects by 10 minutes each. Schools that started in September received $150,000; those who started in January, $154,000.

Hernandez also said that 150 schools will be replacing principals this year, yet CPS does not provide LSCs with up-to-the-minute lists of candidates.

Steven Guy is an LSC candidate at Fuller Elementary School, 4214 S. St. Lawrence Ave., where he has a grandson. Guy has four other grandchildren at Sherman School of Excellence, 1000 W. 52nd St., and he charged that Fuller’s test scores are just a few points lower than those at Sherman, which is an Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) turnaround school that he said has received $7 million from CPS since it opened in 2006.

CPS expenditures for turnaround school facilities range from $750,000 to $2 million, according to an AUSL Illinois Partnership Lead Zone proposal to the ISBE, available online. Sometimes AUSL has also created consortiums of local donors to fund projects ranging from classroom white- boards to playgrounds and athletic fields. Sherman was AUSL’s first turnaround school. Its reading and mathematics went from 28.9 of its students at or above state levels to 51 percent meeting those levels after three years with the program, according to this proposal. After two years, 40 per- cent of its students met state standards, an 11 percent improvement over two years, according to the Chitown Daily News. Fuller scored 60 percent at reading and 40 percent at math, according to Trulia.com.

Written by Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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