LSC members cite successes, frustrations of service

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Arlene Washburn

Registered Nurse, 44

Parent LSC member

Sutherland Elementary

What is your LSC’s proudest achievement?

We worked with the administration in seeking an annex for the school to relieve overcrowding. We received one, and the annex is completed.

Is there something you attempted to accomplish but failed?

We wanted to get our windows fixed, the roof repaired, landscaping; and the playground needs repairing. That hasn’t been done, because there’s some communications problems with the board. At times it’s frustrating trying to reach some of our goals in reaching higher-ups, but we keep trying. … We are lucky at Sutherland, we always put our kids’ needs first. We have a great group of people who continue to work together.

What is the role of the LSC today?

Its main duty is to hire and evaluate the principal. Also to be a liaison between the community, parents and administration. We work with the principal and develop policies for the school.

We make phone calls and contact state legislators to notify them about proposals that affect our school. We also meet with the alderman, and we’ve been very successful.

Does the council network with other councils on school issues?

One representative from all the LSCs are brought together at the Beverly Area Planning Association to talk about school issues.

Wanda Hopkins

Education Coordinator, 41

Community Representative

Lewis Elementary

What is your proudest achievement?

When I was an LSC member at Truth School, we were able to implement a reading program that we put together, not the board. The assistant principal read about the program. We then learned about the program and adopted it. Now the kids are doing great; their scores are going up. Being a member at five different LSCs [also Schiller Elementary and Lincoln Park and Near North high], made it possible for me to help select three principals at Schiller, Truth and Lincoln Park.

Has the LSC tried to accomplish something but failed?

We had a teacher at Truth who physically abused some kids at the school. We tried to get her removed. The board sent her back to the school, and we don’t know what that was based on. We are still trying to get her out of the school.

We tried to get more parents involved in the accelerated reading program. There are six parents who read to kindergarten students. We need six more parents to go to the computers with the kids after the other parents have read to them.

Is it easier for the LSC to get things done compared to 1989-90?

Now we have a person [Paul Vallas] in place who thinks he’s God. The local school council doesn’t have control anymore. [Lewis is on probation.] He tells us what we can do. We are not a part of deciding where the money is going to be spent. We have a list of things that needs to be done, but Vallas has control. Everything in the school could be worked out, if we weren’t told what to do. The board has to be open to listen.

What is the role of the LSC today?

We meet with the administration and staff monthly to find out what’s happening on a day-to-day, month-to-month basis. I don’t see a lot of policy-making, just information being given. The administration and principal don’t think they have to answer to the LSC. According to law, principals have to give internal accounts to the LSC. Some principals don’t do that.

Does the LSC lobby the state Legislature and politicians on proposals that affect the school?

We are all responsible for educating the state legislators on decisions. Several parents talked to the state legislators about funding for CPS.

Does the council network with other LSCs?

We are part of the Chicago Association of Local School Councils. We meet monthly with other LSCs who choose to talk about various school issues. Right now we are talking about the Capital Improvement plan, how some schools are being built and some are not.

What about central office?

We don’t have any problems with the central office staff, because we know who to talk to. Other LSCs that are having problems with central office are not talking to the right people.

Joseph Slowick

Police Officer, 55

LSC Chair

Lenart Gifted Center

What is the LSC’s proudest achievement?

We are very happy to get the best principal, Linda McCarthy-Klawitter, at our school. (William Harnedy was the principal at our school for 9 to 10 years; he was great but was promoted.) Linda McCarthy-Klawitter worked in gifted education for over 20 years, and has a degree in psychology. I was the first person to see her resume, and I thought there just can’t be anybody else like this. She was born for the job. She got the job hands down. She’s doing really exciting things at the school. My youngest son is in 8th grade, so this will be my last year on the council. I’m sorry I won’t be around to see what she will be doing next.

What is the role of the LSC today?

The LSC is more of a partnership to the principal and parents in operating the school than anything else. For the LSC to be successful, we must have a partnership with the entire school staff. In the beginning, everyone perceived that the LSC was the boss, the overseer of school reform, but it’s not. It’s more of a caretaker of reform, as with the staff and parents.

Do members of the LSC try to lobby state legislators or other politicians to take a certain position on proposals affecting school reform?

It’s part of our job to lobby state legislators. Being a gifted school, we feared we would lose our funding, but we didn’t because we kept on them.

Does the council network with other councils on school issues?

We communicate with the other councils. We are in the process of setting up tutoring programs with schools in the Scottsdale area. Some of our 6th-graders do volunteer work at a neighborhood school with a handicapped program.

Stanley Hitchins

Telecommunication Specialist, 46

LSC Chair

Taft High

What has been your proudest achievement as an LSC member?

My proudest achievement on the council was when we implemented a dress code three years ago. One side of the LSC wanted to go with uniforms for the students. Several other parents wanted a more lenient dress code, which included shorts. We debated over this issue for two months. Originally, the teachers requested a dress code because kids were coming to school in mini-skirts, midriff tops and tee shirts with unacceptable wording. We finally reached a compromise. The students don’t have to wear uniforms, but they can’t wear shorts. We now have something on paper that shows students what they can and cannot wear to school.

Esmeralda Valencia

Homemaker, 37

LSC Chair

Plamondon Elementary

Is it easier or more difficult for LSCs to get things done today, compared to 1989?

You have to know someone willing to help you, whether it be at the board or educational organizations. When we were selecting a new principal for the school, a board official came to the LSC meeting and explained the procedures and the principal contract.

However, I remember one time when we were trying to get uniforms at our school and we had some opposition from parents, I called the board to ask for assistance. A woman referred me to an office at the board. I called the office and nobody answered the phone. I spoke to a machine. I left my name, number, school name and requested information, but I never got a call back.

But other times, they can be very helpful. For example, at central office they organize free workshops and meetings. If they didn’t want us to participate, why would they organize all these activities?

Al Rodgers

Retired Maintenance, 65

Community Representative

Morrill Elementary

What is the LSC’s proudest achievement?

Getting an addition at the school. Also working with a new board, because the old board was more difficult. We have a new principal, Lorenzo Flores. The old principal was snatched away from us by the superintendent. There’s so many things they can do, it’s just common sense.

Has there been an instance when the LSC wanted to accomplish something but failed?

We were the first ones to have additions done, but it wasn’t done properly. The wiring wasn’t there. When we get all of that work done, we will be a success. We still need more room because the school is overcrowded, but kids get lost in elementary schools that are too large. Marquette School had an addition made, and now it looks like a jail. They don’t even have a playground.

Is it easier or more difficult for LSCs to get things done today compared to 1989-90?

It’s more difficult now because we don’t have the support from the business community. The business community was trained in ’89 and ’90 to help the LSC, but little by little that evaporated. The people don’t understand the positive role the council plays. Most LSC members are hardworking people. It’s more strict now, there’s more commitment and understanding of the process.

Cathy Dillard

Nurse, 47

Parent LSC member

Doolittle West

What is your proudest achievement?

The area used to be very violent, but now children aren’t fighting anymore. The discipline is much better, and the kids’ grades are going up. Parents are becoming more involved with the school by teaching children to communicate rather than fight. Parents are being trained in workshops to find a career path, make resumes, and get employment. When the parents receive employment it benefits their children, because they are working with the school. Some parents joined the board’s program. They went to preschool children’s homes and other schools. They were able to help students through the tutoring program at the school. There is also an after-school math and reading program for students. Parent involvement has been going on at the Doolittle West School for the last three years.

Has the LSC been able to accomplish your goals ?

We reach our goals sometimes. There are times when there is a breakdown in communication between the principal and the council. Everyone wants to be in charge at one time or another.

We haven’t reached our full potential yet, but we’re getting there.

Is it harder or easier now for the LSC to get things done?

It’s easier now to get things done, there’s much more training. There are more support systems, like Catalyst, CALSC, the board’s school reform and PURE. I have noticed most councils have more members who have been there for a while, whereas years ago we were all new. We do have a good working relationship with the board. They have always been there to give advice, and more willing to help.

What is the role of the LSC today?

The role of our LSC members is different personalities working together for a common purpose.

How has that role changed over the years?

The LSC is more involved with the school and administration then they were years ago. We are now more active, and involved with the curriculum. More members are aware of the true meaning of school reform than they were years ago.