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Recruiting LSC candidates

“The community here takes LSC elections very seriously — just as seriously as Hillary and Barack,” said Darryl Bell of Teamwork Englewood.

The group is one of a dozen around the city working with “minigrants” from the CPS Office of LSC Relations to recruit candidates for April LSC elections. The deadline for candidates to file is March 12.

PURE recently posted an updated guide to LSC elections (pdf).

Bell reports enthusiasm among community residents for the elections — in part motivated by concern over the consolidation of the Miles Davis Magnet and Vernon Johns Middle Schools. He said the change could create trouble by requiring students to cross gang boundaries.

Bob Vondrasek at South Austin Coalition reports a bit more difficulty in recruiting candidates. Organizers have encountered some negative attitudes toward LSCs, he said.

“Some go bad. Some are controlled by the principal,” he said. “But even with all the flaws, they’re still doggone worth having. They’re the only way you can have some kind of voice in the school.

“At it’s best, a good LSC and a good principal are the two key things. You get more parental involvement and more community involvement.”

“It’s extremely difficult motiving parents to run for LSCs when the board continues trying to close or turn-around schools” — acting unilaterally, without consulting their LSCs, said Wanda Hopkins, a parent advocate at PURE and LSC member at Lewis school who’s working with SAC on candidate recruitment.

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Small Schools to Get LSC Choice

More than a dozen small schools will begin a process to choose whether to have elected or “alternative” local school councils this fall, according to Jeanne Nowaczewski of the CPS Office of Small Schools.

The announcement comes in the wake of unsuccessful efforts by parents at several small schools to form LSCs.

At Mose Vines Preparatory Academy, a small school on the campus of Orr High
School, 730 N. Pulaski, the parent advisory committee filed papers requesting an LSC last year, spurred by difficulties with a new interim principal.

Teachers and parents who interviewed and approved interim principal Patricia Woodson now say she misled them when she agreed to support the school’s intensive curriculum and its collaborative management.

“The school’s curriculum is being dismantled and its core teachers are leaving,” said parent advisory committee chair Roger Steels. “What was promised to parents has not materialized.”

Woodson sharply scaled back the freshman mastery math and reading programs, which teachers had designed, and eliminated a sophomore composition course. The mastery reading program had been “wildly successful” in raising reading levels, according to English teacher Cindy Zimmerman, who helped plan the school. “It’s been very frustrating.”

After the parents sought assistance in forming an LSC, “we were told by the principal that it was not going to be,” said Steels, and the CPS Office of School and Community Relations “refused to acknowledge us.” In May the committee submitted a petition calling for Woodson’s removal.

Principals at Mose Vines and other schools will form committees with representatives of teachers, parents, students, community members and school partner groups, which will submit statements of preference for elected or non-elected councils, said Nowaczewski.

The Board of Education will make a decision on the basis of the committees’ statements and CPS chief Arne Duncan’s recomendations, she said. Those schools chosen for elected LSCs will participate in the Spring 2006 LSC election.

Wanda Hopkins of Parents United for Reponsible Education, who has been advising parents at Mose Vines, said CPS hasn’t followed its own policy requring a governing body at all small schools from their inception. Such independent bodies, and not principals or the Board, should be making decisions about schools’ governance structures, she said.

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