How to manage a multiplex

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As home to three small public schools, Cregier Multiplex was a CPS model for shared space. This summer, it also became a cautionary tale for how not to manage a multi-school campus.

Cregier Principal Dyanne Dandridge-Alexander was hired with the support of parents and teachers over a year ago. But in July, the award-winning administrator was fired. During the months of conflict, flaws on all sides were exposed, but most significant were the structural flaws of the job itself.

The issue of how best to manage multi-school campuses has also confounded district high schools that are being subdivided into multiple smaller schools. In two cases, incumbent large-school principals wielded heavy-handed authority and were yanked as a result.

To solve the dilemma, CPS created a new position, campus manager, to coordinate small schools sharing a single building. Unlike principals, campus managers have no responsibilities for evaluating teachers or improving instruction. They work with small school principals to create space-sharing agreements and to oversee custodial, food and security services for the building. Campus managers also supervise shared staff, such as librarians and technology coordinators.

The first campus manager, Mary Williams, an interim principal at Phoenix Academy, began coordinating four small schools at the former Orr High School last winter. Though she is the first to hold that title, others have blazed the trail for how to handle the job.

Before he retired, Principal Fausto Lopez mentored teacher leaders who led new small schools at Bowen High School and developed a formal memorandum of understanding to govern how space would be allocated, a model that CPS is encouraging other schools to use.

At Williams Multiplex, former Beethoven Principal Frances Oden advises four small schools, three of them contract schools. “I’m not here to tell them, ‘Do this, do that,’ but to come together and share ideas and find a feasible plan,” she says.