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Elected school board?

At Saturday’s hearing on LSCs, speaker after speaker — grassroots activists working to improve neighborhood schools, some with many years of service — called for an elected school board.

With LSC elections Wednesday and Thursday, PURE has just announced a petition drive for a citywide advisory referendum on whether the Board of Education should be directly elected.  Supporters need to collect 40,000 signatures in the next four months.

LSC candidate deadline extended

CPS has extended the deadline for candidates to file for LSC elections to Monday, March 24.  The news was reported on PURE’s blog, and apparently nowhere else —  even the CPS website has no word of the extension.  Indeed, CPS still has the original March 12 deadline on its LSC election timeline (pdf) and on the nomination form available here.

There are currently just over 5,500 candidates signed up, according to Julie Woestehoff of PURE.  According to Catalyst (in an article on declining resources for LSC candidate recruitment), there are 5,700 open slots on 550 LSCs in the city.  CPS had set a goal of 8,500 candidates, a steep increase over 7,000 who ran two years ago, according to PURE.

“CPS is now completely in control of elections, and they’re not doing a good job,” commented Woestehoff.  “And groups that are committed and willing to do the work on recruitment don’t have the resources, and we’re seeing the results.”

This afternoon PURE posted a list of 59 schools reporting too few candidates to form an LSC (a council with a quorum can fill vacancies) — including 43 with no parent or community candidate at all.

Senn to present community plan

Senn High School’s local school council and its strategic planning committee will present their five-year strategic plan at a community meeting Monday, March 10, 7 p.m., 5900 N. Glenwood.

The plan calls for keeping Senn as a general community school, enhancing its academic programs and publicizing its “unique and rich learning opportunities.”

A few weeks after the committee released a draft of its plan last September, Ald. Mary Ann Smith announced a counterproposal — closing the general high school and opening four small schools.

 Smith is the major supporter of the Rickover Naval Academy at Senn, which has generated widespread controversy.

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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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