To become a principaly you need:
A six-week unpaid internship with a principal who has applied and been accepted by the regional education officer and the Office of School Leadership Development as a “contract principal mentor.” This requirement would be waived for candidates from outside the Chicago public schools who have had two or more years of experience as a contract principal.
Following the internship, four days of New Principals Institute preparation courses, administered by the Office of School Leadership Development. Topics would include state and federal laws, union contracts, managing finances and creating a school improvement plan.
Early ’70s The Chicago Principals Association took the board to court, charging that some local school councils were overlooking candidates on the rank-order list for racial or other personal reasons. The association won the case, and all candidates then on the list were given principal jobs until the list was depleted. The School Board then abolished the rank-order system, permitting local school improvement councils to recommend anyone who had passed the principal exams. The superintendent typically appointed a council’s top choice.
As far as process is concerned, the proposal for restructuring vocational education is part of the larger high school redesign plan, which was released Dec. 6. Both board employees and members of numerous outside organizations sat on the high school redesign project’s steering committee. Moreover, the vocational education task force included representatives from the high schools, school reform groups, foundations, community organizations, central office and private industry. This plan will not be formally submitted to the trustees until after a series of public hearings have been held, a practice that has been followed with many of the board’s other major policy initiatives.
ONE-TIME CRITICS ‘IN FROM THE COLD’ Parent activist Calvin Pearce now directs the Time Dollar Cross-Age Peer Tutoring Network, a School Board-sponsored initiative, in Englewood. “It was about time to come in from the cold,” says Pearce. … Lafayette Ford, former executive director of the now-defunct CityWide Coalition for School Reform, started working for the School Board in late November as Region 3’s local school council facilitator. Salary: $55,557. Ford replaces James Deanes, once head of the Parent/Community Council, who has a new title: special assistant to the chief executive officer. Salary: $61,244. … Ron Sistrunk, who preceded Ford as CityWide head, also has become a regional LSC facilitator, in Region 5. Salary: $28,020.
“On Dec. 3, I got an invitation, which was more like a summons, to show up at this thing on Dec. 6 and 7,” complained one principal. “Talk about giving people enough notice: If you had something planned that weekend, you’d just have to cancel. And once you got there, you had to sign in and sign out as if they were afraid you were going to slip out.”
The 1995 law allows the Reform Board to combine several local property taxes into one fund. The board quickly took advantage of its new power by re-directing $90 million into its general operating budget. The biggest chunk—$62.2 million—came from teacher pension funds. (At press time, figures for 1996 were not available.)
The atmosphere is calm; the educational program, exciting. For example, art is taught by a Golden Apple Award winner. And vocational offerings include a print shop that produces, among other products, four-color Christmas cards—for sale; and an in-school restaurant, Tryme’s. Unlike many alternative schools, this one is accredited by both the state and the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.
Used to be worse:
Until the Chicago School Reform Act was passed in 1988, the School Board cut teachers throughout the school year as enrollment declined. Further, seniority rules allowed “cut” teachers to “bump” less senior teachers, setting off a game of musical chairs that disrupted the education of thousands of children. The Reform Act ended seniority-based bumping, as well.
Public school personnel agree that trust has been a problem. “There are several alternative schools … different schools with different philosophies,” notes Andrew Denton, dean of students at Kenwood Academy High School, which referred six disruptive students to alternative schools last year. “I’m not familiar with any of the schools. What are they doing? What kind of teachers do they have? The [public] schools do have a blind spot.”
The master principals, who won that designation from the school system last spring, support the idea of standards but challenge a number of the particulars proposed by a board task force. In the hiring category, the main objections are to requirements for previous administrative experience and for an internship; in the retention category, objections center around continuing education requirements. At Catalyst press time, Chief Education Officer Lynn St. James said modifications were being made in all three areas.
At Chavez and Seward schools, both in New City, and Douglass Middle School in Austin, about 50 percent decided to stay. At Lozano School in West Town and Hope School in Englewood, 35 percent stayed. Meanwhile, Hancock School in Ashburn, which had no 8th grade last year, recruited students to add a 9th grade.
As students trudge up the walkway to Lincoln Park High School, freshmen bypass the behemoth columns of the school’s massive main building for a more humble structure and entrance across the path. The smaller, two-story school, which once housed elementary students and a district office, is now the academic home to more than 400 freshmen who enrolled in September.
Both elementary schools are part of the Starting on the Right Foot, a cooperative program with Hyde Park High School that aims to prepare upper-grade youngsters for high school. As a result, both Crystal and Karlton had some experience with multiple classes and multiple teachers and with working independently.
No longer a free-standing unit, high school restructuring now is a responsibility of the Office of Accountability. Powhatan Collins retains the title of high school reorganization director but reports to Chief Accountability Officer Pat Harvey. And Beverly LaCoste, who was named director of high school restructuring last summer, has been transferred to the Office of School Leadership Development. She now handles professional training programs for high school teachers and principals.
INTEGRATED CURRICULUM Teachers in core academic classes and electives would work together to coordinate projects and homework so that courses would complement each other. The idea is to increase students’ engagement by putting subject matter in a broader context and showing them how one subject can be used to understand another.
For some high schools, like Hyde Park and Robeson, the board’s campaign is validation: They have been laboring over academy-like features for years, creating a cadre of freshmen-only teachers or doubling up class periods to allow for alternatives to teacher lectures.