Principal evaluation time

January 21, 2010 at 11:00 pm 8 comments

I was very busy last week with my LSC duties at our neighborhood school (I’m on the Local School Council as a community member.)

If you’re not familiar with the LSCs, each school has a board comprised of 2 teachers, 2 community members, and 8 parents (+ the principal.)  The LSC in some ways wields an enormous amount of power in that every 4 years they decide whether the principal’s contract will be renewed for another 4 years.

In other ways, they have no real power over what happens at the school.  They can make recommendations to the principal, but can’t actually MAKE the principal do anything.  I guess if a principal ignores everything the LSC suggests, they probably aren’t going to renew the contract… so there’s a little power there.

The whole process leading up to this evaluation has been stressful.  I thought  I was going to write about my time on the LSC this past year and a half but it’s actually been too contentious to get into.  Maybe now that it’s winding down I can finally organize and share my thoughts.

 Anyhow, as usual, I’d like to point out some of the absurdities of the principal review process in CPS:

Each principal reports into an AIO (area something officer…actually these people have new titles now, can’t remember what.)  This person is the boss of a whole “area” in CPS which is a bunch of elementary school.  I dunno… maybe 40 schools?  This boss comes in once a year to do a school walkthrough where they observe the school and teachers and make notes about things that are done well/need to improve.  They then create a report about that principal/school.   So the AIO has an impression of each principal in their area.  I’m sure test scores factor into those impressions since Huberman is so into “performance” now.  (As a side note, do you really think the AIO sees the school in its true light during a planned walk-through?)

Simultaneously, the LSC has to evaluate the principal each year and is given a form with criteria and a 4 point rating scale from CPS on which to base the review.  The LSC can do surveys among parents and teachers, can hold interviews, can ask for input, or do nothing and just make their best guess (certainly the easiest way.)  A lot of the criteria involves stuff about the curriculum and teacher-management that parents really have no way of knowing unless they really dig.  So the principal is basically being evaluated by a group of people who are by no means experts in the field of education (other than being parents.)  That, in and of itself is weird.  I wouldn’t want to be reviewed by a bunch of people who knew nothing about my field.  Then again, one could argue that the parents are “customers” of the school, expressing their opinions.

So, the AIO does their thing.  The LSC does their thing.  And never the two shall meet.  I have no idea what our principal’s boss thinks of her.  I have no idea whether someone in the field of education thinks improvements need to be made at our school.  And that AIO person is going about reviewing our principal without getting any input from the LSC.

At our evalution meeting, we asked to see the report for the walk-through that was done this year but because of bureaucracy, it wasn’t available for viewing yet.

In Year 4, when it’s time to renew (or not) the principal contract, the LSC holds the power.  Even if that AIO thinks the principal is a goddess of education, the LSC can vote her/him out.  Even if the principal got a good evaluation from the LSC, they can still vote  her/him out.   Sometimes it feels like a strange amount of power in the hands of 10 people who lead busy, distracted lives.

In the end, we worked around (didn’t work through) the contentiousness and gave some valid input to the principal, along with some praise.  I like to think that our effort has paid off somehow and that by serving on this school board I may have helped make a small difference in the quality of one Chicago public school.  Certainly not the sweeping changes some of us envisioned going onto the LSC, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

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Entry filed under: LSC, Uncategorized.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. hopeful  |  January 22, 2010 at 11:51 am

    How much training did you have to go to in order to be on the LSC? I thought I remember a time when members had to go to something like 20 hours of training to be on it. I at one time was interested in being on an LSC but the thought of that much extra time was prohibitive to me. Just curious!
    Anyways, thank you for your work on your local LSC…..schools can’t run without them! Plus they serve as some form of control for principals who often need it.

  • 2. cpsobsessed  |  January 22, 2010 at 11:59 am

    You have to go to maybe 8 training sessions. Many are run by CPS and are fairly torturously boring (although from the discussions I heard some shocking stories about issues with principals at other schools!)
    Personally, I don’t think the class-taking is seriously enforced, unfortunately. I think they could cram the basics into one 2-hour session. And SO much of it is about how to run a meeting on the standard rules that need to be followed.
    There is also a group called PURE who runs rogue training sessions. They are very much into Parent-Power and the classes are highly engaging (but they do count for credit!)

  • 3. RL Julia  |  January 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Went through the principal hiring process a few year’s ago with a completely different experience. Worked pretty closely with the Area Office and the AIO (and what seemed at the time with about another million people).

    I cordially invite you to attend one of my kid’s school LSC meetings to see the level of well, trust and disclosure that can happen with an LSC. At its worst the LSC is a pretty and manipulatable rubber stamp. At its best it cen support the different interests of the school, open lines of communication and facilitate communication between different entities.

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  January 22, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Thanks Julia. I would love for my whole LSC to attend a meeting like that. I think they would be unable to process it. And that is part of what the contentiousness arose from. You probably need half (or better, a majority) on the LSC to make it happen. When there’s just a couple it gets tiresome to make the fight.

  • 5. Mayfair Dad  |  January 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I, too, proudly serve on our neighborhood elementary school’s LSC. I am a community rep now that my kids are attending school elsewhere. A few ideas you might find helpful:

    1.) Your CAO – Chief Area Officer – has a much firmer handle on what goes on in your school than you think. Most principals find the seemingly endless reporting they are required to do onerous, but this is one tool the CAO uses to monitor your school’s progress.

    2.) Your monthly Principal’s Report given at the LSC meeting should mirror the items he/she is being evaluated against. These priorities are driven by your SIPAAA. The CAO receives the same monthly report.

    3.) You may want to consider bringing in the regional LSC liaison to an upcoming LSC Meeting for a refresher course on principal evaluation. You can go into closed session for this.

    4.) The monthly LSC Meeting is not the venue to discuss fundraising, teacher grievances, which kid used the f-word in the lunchroom, etc. All of the rough-and-tumble debate and robust exchange of ideas happens at the committee level. The purview of the LSC is clearly defined, and evaluating prinipal effectiveness is a big part of the job.

    5.) Invite the CAO to your next LSC Meeting. You don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to do this. They are a valuable resource – use them.

    Selecting and retaining a great principal is the single most important thing you can do to improve a school. Period.

  • 6. Adele  |  February 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Training is everything if you want to be a knowledgeable and effective an LSC member. Contact Designs for Change, an excellent non-profit that offer wonderful training. Also, get to a monthly Board of Ed meeting to find out how parents, LSC members, and teachers with problems can address the Board and Ron Huberman directly and for the public record.

  • 7. Caught-in-the-middle  |  October 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Unearthing an old subject.

    Once the LSC makes their decision to NOT renew the Principal’s contract, what happens next? Can the Principal contest? Does the area officer get involved if their evaluation was stellar?

  • 8. curious neighborhood parent  |  October 18, 2013 at 11:41 am

    i’m interested in your inquiries too.
    Can’t the LSC invite the principal to ‘reapply’?
    I don’t think the principal can contest and I don’t think the network can disavow a legal vote.

    I’m watching the opposite play out…. principal supported by LSC and not supported by network. And I dont see the network interfering in that case.

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