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Orr students have some questions for Bill Gates

Chicago students want to contact Bill Gates to make sure he knows how his money is being spent.

Gates’ foundation is giving $10.3 million to a plan to “turn around” two high schools and nearby elementary schools.

Orr students gathered outside the Board of Education meeting this morning pointed out that just two years ago Gates gave $21 million to fund curriculum improvements at 14 schools including Mose Vines Preparatory Academy on the Orr campus.

The “turnaround” is the third central office intervention at Orr, which has controlled the school for many years without much success.

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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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