LSCs have little say in choosing new panel

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The School Reform Board finally has an local school council advisory board, but leading LSC advocates aren’t happy about the way it was selected.

An interim advisory board had recommended three options, each of which provided for an elected majority. However, the School Board created a 15-member body with only six elected members, one from each region.

“That was not one of the recommendations the interim council gave,” notes Lafayette Ford, a member of the interim group and co-chair of the CityWide Coalition for School Reform. “In fact, the board reversed the interim council’s recommendation.”

Leonard Dominguez, the board’s policy chief, says the School Board chose to include more appointees than elected members in order to ensure a majority of parents and a balance of regions, interests, races and ethnicities.

“The [interim board’s] numbers couldn’t be adhered to as stated because the numbers wouldn’t give the board the flexibility they needed,” he says. “The interim board’s recommendations were just that—recommendations to be changed as the board saw fit.”

LSC advocates also contend there wasn’t sufficient notice about membership or voting.

Applications for membership were released the first week of December and due Jan. 2; however, information about the advisory board’s structure was not available until the beginning of February. “There was no information for applicants about expectations,” says Ford.

Ballots for the election were mailed to school principals; letters were sent to LSC members explaining the election format and telling them to contact their principals for ballots and more information. The ballots and letters were mailed the first week of February and due back by Feb. 20.

“Most councils meet only once a month, and the speed of getting information to members is slow at best,” says Ford. “I’m not saying people were not notified; I’m saying the job they did was not as beneficial as it could have been.”

Only 229 of the city’s 542 local school councils participated in the election.

“Those numbers really don’t surprise me,” observes Wayne Frazier, a member of the interim board, chair of the Gale Elementary LSC and a board member of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE). “I think a lot of people have been disappointed with the process and are waiting to see what will happen. My concern is that it not be a rubber stamp. If it doesn’t do that, it could have a great effect by opening up the process for people to participate and voice their concerns.”

The Legislature mandated creation of an advisory board when it amended the Chicago School Reform Act last May.

Following are the elected members of the Advisory Board: Alys Lavicka, parent, Jackson Language Academy; Larry Nowlin, community, Scanlan Elementary; Norberto Paredes, community, Funston Elementary; Victoria Pawlukowsky, parent, Volta Elementary; Marina Rey, teacher, Seward Elementary; William Rohde, parent, Lee Elementary.

Following are appointed members: Thomas Gray, community, Douglas Community Academy; Inez Grey, teacher, Bethune Elementary; James Gutierrez, parent, Gallistel Language Academy; Claudia Ingram, parent, Barton Elementary; Beverly LaCoste, principal Kenwood Academy High; Gloria Lewis, Westinghouse Vocational; José Luis Lopez, Tonti Elementary; Catherine Smith, principal, Solomon Elementary; Rita Yu, Healy Elementary.

The board appointed Gray, who had been chair of the interim board, as chair of the new, permanent board.