Comings and Goings

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SCHOOL FOR ARTS About 115 people attended a kickoff breakfast to announce plans to create Chicago Public Schools’ first citywide high school for fine and performing arts. The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust and its sister institution, The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, have already provided planning grants. “Performing arts organizations have been looking at ways to improve diversity among professional performing artists in Chicago,” says Polk Bros. Foundation President Sandra P. Guthman, who is involved with the planning and noted that Chicago is the only urban school district that does not already have a performing arts high school. Admissions would be based on entrance exams and auditions. Others who are participating in planning for the school include Terry Mazany, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust; James L. Alexander, co-trustee of The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust; Charles Slamar Jr., co-trustee of The Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust and senior vice president for Bank of America; and civic leader Pamela Strobel. Planners are looking at models in other cities and working with the Chicago Academy for the Arts, a private high school in the city.

CONTRACT DISPUTE At a City Council education committee hearing on Oct. 18, Ald. Anthony Beale chastised School Board President Rufus Williams because the board did not ratify the new principal contract for Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep. “For some unknown reason, you pulled the contract,” Beale told Williams. This past summer, Principal Dushon Brown was awarded a four-year contract by Brooks’ local school council. At the hearing, Williams declined to comment on the contract specifically, noting that the district is seeking to ensure that school leaders were able to “elevate all the schools.” Julie Woestehoff, director of Parents United for Responsible Education, says legal precedent is on the LSCs side and that the contract would hold up in court. Before Brown accepted the job at Brooks, she was principal at Curtis Elementary, where in 2005 about one in four students met reading standards, and where, over the past five years, pass rates in math have been declining.

PRINCIPAL CONTRACTS The following interim principals have been awarded new principal contracts: Mirna Diaz-Ortiz, Nobel; David Hannsberry, Harvard; Nicole Jackson, Wells High School; Mary McAloon, Christopher; Theresa Plascencia, Farragut High School; Jeffrey Wright, King College Prep. … The following principals have had their contracts renewed: Celia H. Coleman, Banneker; Noemi Esquivel, Addams; Senalda Grady, Pirie; Maurice Harvey, Jordan; Cynthia Hughes-Hannah, Calhoun North; Saundra Jones, West Park; Nancy Mayer, Vaughn; Teresa Moy, Clinton; Miguel Trujillo, Kilmer; Richard Gray, Chicago Military Academy; and Tamara Witzl, Telpochcalli.

AT CLARK STREET Peggy Davis, former chief of staff for CEO Arne Duncan, is the newest member of the School Board. Her term runs through June 2007. She fills the vacancy created when Rufus Williams was appointed board president.

LAWSUITS The Chicago Teachers Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the right of the district’s new online charter school to receive public funds, alleging that dispersing those funds would violate the Illinois School Code because the school is “home-based.” Cook County Circuit Court Judge James F. Henry will decide whether the lawsuit can move forward. At Catalyst press time, a hearing was scheduled for Oct. 31. … Lawyers for plaintiffs who filed a class action lawsuit to reverse special education budget cuts are trying to determine the extent to which students are now being denied aides and may ask a federal judge for another hearing on the case. The plaintiffs lost the first round in U.S. District Court when a judge ruled that they had not submitted enough evidence. The cuts resulted in the elimination of some 950 special education teachers and aides. The suit argues that the cuts violate the 1999 Corey H. settlement agreement, which prohibits the district from segregating disabled children from the rest of the student body.

NATIONAL AWARDS The U.S. Dept. of Education noted the work of 9th-grade biology teacher Brent Hanchey of Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative High School by selecting him for the American Star of Teaching award for Illinois. … Rana Khan, a teacher at Sexton Elementary, won a $25,000 Milken National Educator Award.

CPS ‘HAMLET’ Teachers and students from eight CPS high schools performed “Hamlet” onstage at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the first citywide Shakespearean production in partnership with the district. Participating schools included Kelvyn Park, Chicago Vocational, Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville, Farragut, Clemente, Manley, School of Leadership at South Shore campus and Von Steuben.

Comings and Goings

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PRINCIPALS MOVING ON James Lalley, principal of Northside College Prep since the school’s founding in 1999, will step down at the end of the current school year to seek new opportunities. The school is conducting a national search for a replacement to take over in July 2007. … Gertrude Hill, principal of Harlan High, was removed and has had her contract terminated. Reginald Evans, former assistant principal at Simeon High, has replaced her.

AT CLARK STREET Reorganization of central office staff continues. CPS Budget Director Pedro Martinez is being promoted to executive finance officer and will oversee the offices of finance, purchasing, grants management and budget. Tyra Newell, former deputy director, takes over as director of the Office of Management and Budget. … Mercedes Laing, a lawyer and former non-profit and business consultant, is the new chief of internal and external affairs, taking over from Peter Cunningham, who will continue as a general strategic consultant. … Norma Rodriguez, former Area 22 instructional officer, is now officer of the new department of high school curriculum and instruction. … High school area instructional officers now report directly to Donald Pittman, chief officer of high school programs. … David Roche, former director of the Old Town School of Folk Music, was named to the newly created position of director of fine and performing arts.

PEER REVIEW BOARD As part of a pilot peer evaluation and mentoring program launched this fall in eight Fresh Start schools, a nine-member board that includes CPS and Chicago Teachers Union representatives will make decisions on whether to keep probationary teachers at the end of the year. The board will be chaired by Sandra Westbrooks, dean of the School of Education at Chicago State University. Its members are: CEO Arne Duncan; Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins; Flavia Hernandez, an officer in the Office of Elementary Areas and Schools; Amanda Rivera, director of the Department of Learning and Development; CTU President Marilyn Stewart; Mary Hanson, a National Board-certified teacher; Marvin Irizarry, dean of students at Logandale Middle School; and Victor Ochoa, an arts teacher at Kelvyn Park High. The participating schools are Attucks, Bass, Burke, Chalmers, Hamline, Piccolo, Richards High and Wells High.

NEW BLOG The Chicago Teachers Union coalition that was ousted in the last election has launched a new blog to discuss teaching and learning conditions in CPS. Find it at The coalition, known as PACT for ProActive Chicago Teachers & School Employees, is finalizing a slate to challenge the United Progressive Caucus in next May’s election, says former CTU president Deborah Lynch. She declined to say whether she would run again.

BOUNDARIES REDRAWN To accommodate the district’s new student information system, CPS is redrawing elementary school attendance boundaries that run down alleys, cut through city blocks or even “through somebody’s living room,” says Jimm Dispensa, director of school demographics and planning. The redrawn boundaries will align with streets and waterways so that the district can merge addresses in its new system with the city’s official Geographic Information Systems maps. Five percent of schools will lose or gain more than 20 students from their attendance areas, Dispensa reports. Students already enrolled will not have to switch schools, but new students will be subject to the new boundaries, which are expected to go into effect on Nov.1st.

MOVING IN/ON Juana Andrade, a parent from Cooper Elementary, was recently named president of the Chicago Multilingual Parents Council, a group that advises the district on bilingual programs and policy.

COLLEGE READINESS Kennedy, Morgan Park, Roosevelt and Al Raby are among 11 urban schools in three districts selected for the College Board’s “EXCELerator” program, a college readiness initiative for low-income and minority students. Chicago is sharing a $16 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will pay for web-based tools to prepare students for Advanced Placement courses, professional development for staff, assistance in analyzing student test data and other services. The two other districts are Washington, D.C. and Duval County, Fla.

EXTRA CASH FOR TURNAROUND Four principals will earn bonuses worth as much as $69,000 over four years for taking over leadership at struggling schools. Keith Foley, former principal of Lane Tech High, will mentor a new principal at Marshall Metro High, where principal Gwendolyn Boyd was removed; Adrian Willis of Keller Gifted Magnet is now principal of Earle; Denise Gamble of Herbert is now principal of Medill, replacing Frederic W. Metz, who was removed; Kimberly McNeal of South Chicago is now principal at Mahalia Jackson, replacing Doris Spivey-Tompkins, who was removed. Gamble, McNeal and Willis will receive training from the University of Virginia.

PRINCIPAL CONTRACTS New principal contracts have been awarded to Pedro Alonso, Von Steuben High; Leslie Martin, Dumas; Sean Stalling, Manley High; Blanca A. Trevino, New Field Primary. … William Harris, Julian High, has had his contract renewed.