Posts filed under ‘LSC’

LSC Deadline is Friday 3/23. Does your school have candidates?

Thanks to those who posted/sent me this link.  Take a look to see if your local elem or high school still needs candidates.  We all complain about the high schools and it sounds like there are a few that need community member candidates.

People have said that Shurz appears on this list, but actually has 2 communicaty candidates.  Amundsen has a few running, as I have been speaking with them and will post more info on that later.

Being on an LSC can be a rewarding and interesting experience.  There are plenty of LSCs who are utterly passive, run mostly by the principal (for better or for worse.)  Many of the LSCs need a good strong voice to question things in a constructive way.  This is YOUR chance to speak up in a place where you just might make a difference.

I know someone mentioned that it is “just once a month – no big deal.”  Keep in mind that members need something like 8 hours of training.  That takes time.  If your school is going through a principal contract renewal or anything where you may want to survey the school, that takes extra time.  A school that is seeking and hiring a new principal may need a much greater time committment to do it right.   If you really only want to spend one hour a month, I would defer to someone else in the community who can spend a little more time on it.  I feel that most schools need more than just an hour a month. 

If you have news on specific schools, candidate recommendations, news on candidate forums, questions, etc. please post below.

We spend a lot of time here complaining (heck, it was whay I started the blog) and the LSC is a chance for many of us to put our money where our mouths are when it comes to “why don’t you work to improve neighborhood schools?” comments.

Also, if anybody has pointers on how to move a plethora of assembled Lego creations to a new home, please share.    The Lego Death Star is particularly vexing as it took a good 30 hours to assemble….



March 22, 2012 at 10:58 am 38 comments

Principal evaluation time

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.

January 21, 2010 at 11:00 pm 8 comments

Cell Phone Antenna – the Tribe Has Spoken

The LSC on which I serve (as a community member for the neighborhood school) voted unanimously not to move forward with the cell phone antenna.  While the discussion took up a lengthy bit of time during the meeting, the best thing to come out of a controversial decision is that everyone in the group finally spoke up and expressed an opinion.  Would have been much more interesting had people been split in their opinions, but nonetheless it was good to see people engaged.  So much of what the LSC deals with is a bit mundane so this added a small level of excitement.

The school principal made a good point about people who seek out other schools (magnet, gifted (that would be me, heh hehe) but don’t bother to ask about the cell phone situation at those schools.  And its true… people are largely unaware of the issue.   It does make me wonder which other north side school have the antennas (and whether the school’s parents even know about it.)

Well, in 20 years if we find out that the antennas are totally harmless I’ll feel like a chump for passing up all that money.  But for now, nobody will have to worry about being right under the antenna for days, years, or possibly even a couple decades on end.

November 10, 2008 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

Cell Phone Tower Trauma

Watching the cell phone tower offer unfold at the our neighborhood school (where I am on the LSC) has been interesting, to say the least.  The LSC decided to solicit opinions from the school population via several methods: email, a mailbox in the school, and a group message board.  In all, 22 families made their opinion known on the matter, only one of which was in favor of erecting the antennas in exchange for upwards of $72K per year.   So what does that mean about the remaining 260 or so families that didn’t express an opinion?  They don’t give a rip?  They forgot to write in?  They figured that other people were posting negative comments so they didn’t need to?  It’s hard to interpret.   How does an LSC take the votes into account?  And assuming the majority doesn’t care, do you nix the tower because of a small but vocal group?   And for that matter, should the LSC even be polling the school on issues when they were elected to represent that school?

It has also been interesting to see the level of concern over the antennas.  There is no proof that they cause any harm, nor is there any proof that they don’t.  Basically, the things are untested over time, much like many things we encounter in life.  It makes me wonder if parents in the 1950’s worried about TV’s emitting dangerous waves.  Come to think of it, has long term TV exposure actually ever been tested?   I suppose it’s safe or I would be a mutant by now based solely on my rate of watching Scooby Doo during the 70’s.

In any case, one of the most compelling arguments I have heard so far against the tower comes from a teacher who’s classroom would likely be located directly under the antenna.   Despite any hardcore evidence, I can’t say that I’d personally feel comfortable having an antenna sitting over my head day after day for what could be years (CPS teachers need to be in service for something like 34 years to get their pension.)  If she or one of the kids in the school got seriously ill in the next decade I don’t think I’d want to always be wondering if that cell antenna that we voted for had been related in any way.

Many of the parents who are opposed to the antennas follow up their opinion with the comment, “there are other ways to raise the money.”   Now that is the million dollar question (or $72K question in this case.)  WHAT exactly are those other ways?

October 30, 2008 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

Roofs for Sale

Did you know that many CPS schools are “selling” their roof space to cell phone companies in exchange for putting up cell phone towers?  Schools that are offered this opportunity can earn $24,000 per antenna, with a typical offer of up to three per school.  That is some serious money for schools that are getting minimal funding from the city.   Supposedly there are over 100 schools that now have cell antennas on their roofs including Bell and Bateman on the north side.   The cell companies need to fill in their dead zones and schools often have the highest roof in residential neighborhoods. 

The trouble, of course, is the nagging questions of whether these antennas are causing a health risk to the students and teachers who spent all day every day in the buildings.  You can search the Internet until eternity and find “research” that supports both sides.  The American Cancer Society says there is no theoretical reason why a cell antenna should cause health problems.  But we live in reality, not theory.  The antennas DO emit microwaves. The questions is whether prolonged exposure to these waves affect the human body.  There has been no long term definitive study that proves either safety or danger.

So what is a school to do?  Making up for $72K through fund-raising is daunting, if not impossible.  But if a kid in a school gets seriously ill a couple years after the antenna goes up, who wants to be left wondering if their decision was part of the cause?  On the other hand, these microwaves are in tons of products are us every day and if the phone companies don’t get their antennas on the schools, chances are they’ll find some other building nearby who is eager for the money (so the microwaves will be nearby anyhow.)  Its easy to argue each side.

The guy from CPS who brokers these deals is an impressive smooth-talker but left me on the defensive based on two things from his pitch that reminded me of a late night infomercial:

  • The school needed to “act quickly” so they wouldn’t lose the opportunity.
  • He would provide the research about safety only after we made an official expression of interest.

Any comments are appreciated.  I think only people in the city with kids in CPS can really understand a school’s desperate need for money.

October 13, 2008 at 11:35 pm Leave a comment

LSC – Power to the People

I learned this week in LSC training that Chicago is the only major city where a parent-majority board evaluates, retains (or not) their principal, and selects a new principal when needed.  In some ways it makes total sense that the local community  decides who will run their local school.  In other ways, its seems crazy to have hundreds of these small groups across the city reinventing the wheel over and over again when it comes to figuring out what makes a good SIPAAA (school strategic plan,) Budget, and Principal Evaluation.  

Even stranger is the staggering of the LSC term with the school’s strategic plan.  The SIPAAAs were all approved at the end of the last school year, around the same time as LSC elections.  So each new LSC is working off a SIPAAA that the previous LSC approved (or even helped create.)

CPS provides training, but there is also a rogue parents rights group called PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education) who also provides training.  I’d advise anyone who needs LSC training to check them out.  They are a true “Power to the People” group, in a way that makes you look inside yourself and wonder why you haven’t stood up more often and shouted “WE WANT RESPECT!”  Wanda, who leads the groups is a force to be reckoned with and apparently is well known (and sometimes despised) in CPS.  She knows exactly what information parents have the right to see and she knows how to get it when all other efforts fail.  Her motto is basically “why are people being paid $100K per year when Johnny doesn’t know how to read and write.”  Well… good question.  The million dollar question, actually.  But unlike many of us who complain, avoid CPS, or just sit and blog about it, she is out there doing something about it.  In a big way.

Some of my favorite tidbits from training:

– “I like a person with a big pile of data.  It’s easier to send them to jail.” (joke)

– “The principal doesn’t have the paper you asked for, stop the meeting and tell them to go to their computer and get it (is that before or after I cower under the table?)

I can’t rave enough about this group.  Schools in crisis should contact them.  People needing LSC training should contact them.  And Chicago parents should realize that the power really is in our hands.  We just need to figure out how to harness it.

September 24, 2008 at 11:00 pm 1 comment

First LSC Meeting – Will I Be Able to Walk the Talk?

OK, I hate that expression about walking/talking, but it actually fits for once in my life.  I’ve been talking (some may interpret as lecturing, yammering, complaining, informing, gossiping, instigating, or agitating) about CPS for a couple years now to anyone who will listen.  Or even just pretend to listen.  I got myself onto the local LSC with the mission of making a difference, pushing the school to do more, to stretch themselves, fix some things, listen to the voice of the people, etc.  It all sounds great in my head.  Problem is, I’m not sure if have what it takes to actually push for stuff.  I’m a rebel in my mind, but my reality is to avoid confrontation and not rock the boat.

I can’t help but wonder if I will have the guts to keep pushing.  And I’m not even quite sure what exactly I’m pushing for, specifically.  I know I want better communication between all parties involved in the school and ideally I’d like to see the academic standard bumped up a bit both in terms of getting more kids at/above that magic level of test scores and making sure that the bright and/or motivated kids get challenged.  And to work with another LSC member who has a great vision for more progressive, hands-on learning for the kids. 

My impression is that my LSC has gone along for a while, acting in general agreement, and conducting their two main functions: approving the school budget and the SIPAA plan (school’s strategic plan.)   The other job of an LSC is to determine whether to retain the principal when their contract is up.  We’ll be doing that in two years.  I think it’ll take some “chutzpah” (or “balls” if you don’t know Yiddish) to push the group out of their standard routine.  It means that I need to figure out exactly what I want to happen, throw it out there, and not back off as easily as I normally do.  Frankly, I would feel better if I had an alliance.  Like on Survivor.  I am terrible at being the lone dissenting voice beyond a first peep.  I know that some other new LSC member are also eager to make a difference.  But inertia is hard to fight.  We want to lead a revolution (in reality, an evolution) without making waves and that probably isn’t possible.


I think I will take inspiration from the Gatorade commercials… “Is it in you?”  I’m quite sure that when the ads were written the copywriter wasn’t thinking about some over-zealous-yet-a-bit-hesitant mom taking on the local school board.  But hey, you gotta take inspiration where you can find it, right?


July 1, 2008 at 11:29 pm 17 comments

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