Most schools still lack candidates for local school council elections

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The deadline for local school council candidate nominations is next Friday, but so far less than a third of schools even have enough parent candidates to fill available seats on the governing boards.

In order to encourage parents and community members to run for the councils, CPS launched an interactive online map today that shows the number of candidates – and vacancies — at each LSC in the district.

“We created this tool to provide those who are interested in running for their LSC an understanding of what schools are still in need of candidates,” said CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. “I encourage parents and community stakeholders that want to make a difference at the school level to submit their LSC nominating form.”

CPS extended the original Feb. 26 deadline for nominations until March 14 in order to get more parents and community members involved.

CPS data from March 4 shows a wide range of interest from parents and community members at schools across the city. The most contested parent race, according to the data, is Skinner North Elementary School, on the Near North Side, where 17 parents have filed to run for six available spots on the LSC.

Meanwhile, not a single parent has filed to run at 86 schools, including Harte Elementary and Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park, King College Prep in Bronzeville, Shields Middle School in Brighton Park and DeVry Advantage Academy High School in Avondale.

Checks and balances

Similarly, just over half of all schools don’t have enough candidates to fill available seats for community members. At 144 schools, not a single community member has submitted an application to run.

Swift Elementary School in Edgewater has garnered the most interest so far among community members, with seven nominations.

Elections at elementary schools will be held on April 7, while elections for high school LSCs will take place the following day.

Each LSC is made up of six parents, two community members, two teachers, one non-teacher staff member and the school principal. High schools also include one student representative. Elected LSC representatives will serve a two-year term that begins with the 2014-2015 school year.

The councils are responsible for approving schools’ budgets, developing and monitoring annual School Improvement Plans, and hiring principals.

Valencia Rias-Winstead, a consultant for LSCs and a long-time LSC representative herself, said the councils are an important system of checks and balances.

“What we’ve found is that whenever you have parents that are at the decision-making table that are knowledgeable about the complete and accurate status of their school, they can help make good decisions,” she said. “Nobody knows the school like the parents, the teachers and the community.”

Rias-Winstead said there has been a noticeable drop in contentious LSC elections since they were created more than 20 years ago.

“People sometimes have to get riled up” in order to consider running, she said. “It’s when you have a principal’s contract coming up or problems with leadership, or unpopular decisions about uniforms or discipline, that you have contested elections.”

Jamila Johnson, a deputy press secretary for CPS, said she expects an uptick in nominations as the deadline approaches. “A lot of people wait until the very last minute,” she said.

Johnson said CPS has been encouraging parents and community members to run for LSCs by working with clergy, elected officials and the media.

“We are seeing our numbers grow every single day,” she said. “Of course when you have more candidates you have more people with ideas. You want to have people who really care and want to get involved at the school level.”

If a school doesn’t attract enough candidates to fill vacancies, CPS will hold a supplemental election to fill the seats, Johnson said.

The school district expects to update the data used for the online, interactive map early next week.

For more information or to download a nomination form, visit www.cps.edu/lsc, or call (773)-553-1400.