Profiles: Intervention team leaders

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Although each intervention school starts with a new principal, in many ways, the intervention team leaders will be as or more visible this year. Principals will spend most of their time in classrooms, observing teachers. On the other hand, team leaders will handle most of the school’s day-to- day operations, including budget management and physical plant operations. Assistant principals will work closely with team leaders. Catalyst Assistant Managing Editor Mario Ortiz interviewed the intervention team leaders and asked them about the job ahead. Here’s what they said:

Under Hellen DeBerry’s leadership, the number of Earhart Elementary students scoring at or above grade level in reading jumped from 33 percent to 75 percent in seven years. After she left Earhart, the board tried to install her as principal at South Loop Elementary, but the LSC voted against her contract. Last year, she spent seven months as an associate principal at Gage Park High. DeBerry, who is team leader at Orr High, was the first on board the intervention staff when it was launched in mid-June. Her team has already ordered $300,000 in new textbooks to replace outdated or missing books. Intervention is an opportunity for teachers at Orr to reach high standards and finally correct what has plagued the school, DeBerry says. “Nobody’s job is in jeopardy. It’s theirs to lose.”

New Ways, New Days. The new school motto for Collins will motivate teachers and intervention team members to work together, says team leader Jerlyn Maloy. A former region 5 coordinator, Maloy was an assistant principal at Carnegie Elementary for six years. Over that time, Iowa basic skills test scores jumped 20 points in reading and 40 points in math, which she attributes to teachers working togethe. At Collins, Maloy says team members will work with teachers in every subject, rather than limiting their efforts to a single core subject.

Maloy says her team will adapt to the needs of the staff. Plans made today may have to change later. “I’m flexible enough to know that can change,” she says. “It’s part of being involved as a team person.”

Barbara Martin was skeptical when school officials asked her to lead the intervention team at South Shore High. She had plenty of questions.

“Where are we going with this?” she asked. “Tell me before we go in.” Martin, principal at Hoyne Elementary School for nine years, says she wanted to know if there were any hidden agendas about intervention before she agreed to take the job. The board’s willingness to spend money to buy textbooks, improve technology and repair the school persuaded her to say yes. A 30-year educator, Martin believes South Shore will improve by focusing on quality teaching and learning. “There’s nothing new under the sun” in education, she says. “We pretty much know what it takes. These children don’t have another year or two to wait.”

Bowen team leader Norma Rodriguez returns to the school where she began her career as a teacher 25 years ago.

Rodriguez was previously a principal at Washington High and had returned to CPS this year after a year away. She believes her team understands they need to offer support to Bowen faculty, who are likely to be wary of intervention. It will take time and more resources to persuade skeptics, Rodriguez says. “This school needs an infusion of resources.”

DuSable team leader Gladys Jones is used to juggling a dozen balls at one time.

The former Langston Hughes Elementary principal was also a probation manager. She says her varied experiences will be handy at DuSable, which has floundered under three previous CPS attempts to turn the school around. First probation, then reconstitution and finally reengineering. Meanwhile, many neighborhood students avoid DuSable in favor of other schools. That means the intervention team and DuSable’s faculty will have to work three times as hard to show improvement, Jones says. ‘We have to learn the community and school very quickly,” she says. Jones says the task will be difficult, but not impossible. Just getting ready, though, has been “extremely grueling.”