Constraints on LSCs’ power

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Remediation, probation, reconstitution. The 1995 amendment to the Reform Act gave the school system’s CEO the power to place a school on remediation based on a failure to “develop or implement a school improvement plan;” in practice, the administration has used test-score trends. A remediation school is visited by a board “intervention team,” which designs a plan and arranges for “external partners” to work with the school.Under the law, a school that does not improve under remediation is put on probation; again, the board has used test scores as the main criterion. Board officers and external partners closely guide a probation school. The next step is reconstitution, in which the board may dissolve the LSC, replace the principal, or dismiss other staff.

Intervention, educational crisis. The 1995 amendment provides two other ways for the system’s CEO to intervene at troubled schools. If the CEO deems a school “chronically underperforming,” he may select a new principal, reassign or fire teachers or dissolve the LSC, taking over its authority until new members are in place. If he considers a school to be in “education crisis,” a more immediate and severe condition, he may subject the school to all the penalties associated with probation. In both cases, the LSC has a right to a hearing, and the School Board must agree with the CEO’s decision.

Financial supervision. In January 1996, the board ratified CEO actions against Clemente High School, adopting a policy allowing the CEO to place a school under financial supervision if it violates “mandates governing internal accounts and the maintenance of proper documentation of school account activity.” Examples include missing or sketchy financial records and misuse of funds. Sanctions include close financial supervision of the school and LSC by board officers, and mandatory budget training for school staff.

In addition, a 1997 amendment to the Reform Act gives the CEO the power to assign a business professional to advise, monitor and check the financial records of any LSC that is “not carrying out its financial duties effectively.”

Principal selection. A 1996 Reform Act amendment gave the board the authority to impose requirements for becoming and remaining a principal. It moved quickly, requiring Chicago residency. It then adopted task force recommendations for six years’ work experience with superior or excellent ratings for the two most recent years, training beyond what’s required for a state administrative certificate and an internship. The internship will be served with selected principals, whose evaluation will determine whether candidates may proceed.

Principal retention. The 1996 amendment charged regional education officers with making their own yearly evaluations of principals, using criteria developed by the board. A negative evaluation is grounds for the CEO to veto an LSC’s decision to renew its principal’s contract. The School Board serves as a court of appeal.