Police to take over school security. The New York City Board of Education will soon vote to put the Police Department in charge of school security, according to the Sept. 16 New York Times. Experts believe the plan would be the first of its kind.

Schools must help parents get involved

One of the things that matters most in school reform is the opportunity for parents to get more involved in their children’s school and education. My children’s school, Darwin Elementary, along with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) and three other elementary schools formed an Annenberg Challenge Network where one of our main goals was more meaningful parent involvement with students and teachers. It’s the basis for our Parent-Teacher Mentor Program, where parents receive training and then work a minimum of 100 hours a semester in a classroom. At the end of the semester, there’s a graduation for the Parent Mentors and we receive a stipend. It’s been a life-changing experience for me and my kids.

Reform reminders from an old hand

In the more than 10 years that I’ve been working in Chicago public elementary schools, I’ve watched quite a few education reform groups and initiatives come and go. In some instances, I was one of the “reformers”; in others, only an interested observer; in still others, I had to help settle the dust after the (so-called) reformers lost interest (i.e., funding).

Reform reminders from an old hand

In the more than 10 years that I’ve been working in Chicago public elementary schools, I’ve watched quite a few education reform groups and initiatives come and go. In some instances, I was one of the “reformers”; in others, only an interested observer; in still others, I had to help settle the dust after the (so-called) reformers lost interest (i.e., funding).

Comings and Goings

PRINCIPALS The following have been selected by local school councils to serve as interim principals: Noemi Esquivel, assistant principal at Sheridan, Addams; Tamara Witzl, head teacher at Telpochcalli, Telpochcalli; and Joseph Gartner, assistant principal at Byrd Community Academy, Byrd. … The chief executive officer selected Cynthia Barron, principal at Addams, to serve as interim principal at Jones Academic Magnet. … Interim principals who have received four-year contracts from their local school councils: Sharon Hayes, Parkside Community Academy; Pamela Strain, Ruggles; and Mamie Harris, Brown Community Academy. … Solomon Gibbs, principal at McNair Academic Center, has received another four-year contract.

CPS expels more students

One reason for the jump: the Reform Board’s zero tolerance policy. It requires principals to report student misconduct to central office and schools to install metal detectors. Both measures aim to crack down on weapons in city schools. Yet, five Chicago public school teens told The Reporter they smuggled razor blades, box cutters and other weapons into school—for self-protection, they say.

Principal selection marketplace

Principal Review Board (PRB)

Of the 464 candidates who have submitted their credentials to the PRB over the last 10 months, 258 have completed all the requirements to become a CPS principal, according to PRB board member Albert Bennett. The PRB certifies that the requirements have been met and then forwards candidates names to the board’s Human Resources Department.

Apprenticeships kick in after summer school at Northwestern

Griggs is learning once again under the wing of Jeannie Gallo, now the principal of Smyser Accelerated School and his mentor in the training program. Griggs is one of 33 aspiring principals working alongside well-respected principals or in probation schools for a one-semester internship. The group is the first to move through the three-part program of the Leadership Academy and Urban Network for Chicago (LAUNCH), which aims to equip participants with the skills effective Chicago principals use everyday.

Old accusations of misspending get new day in court

After two previous dismissals by Green and two rounds at the Appellate Court level, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled last October that the plaintiffs could proceed with the mandamus claim. MALDEF’s amended complaint alleges that diversions of one sort or another continued until 1995, when Paul Vallas became chief executive officer. For example, the board withdrew funding for teachers’ aides, assistant principals and other staff, the complaint says, forcing local school councils, which have disbursed most Chapter 1 monies since 1989, to use these supplemental funds to pay for what had been basic services.

State Chapter 1 timeline

State Chapter 1 timeline:

1973 The State Chapter 1 program is born as the Illinois Legislature adjusts the school funding formula to provide extra money to school districts throughout the state to help them serve their low-income children.

1976 The Chicago Urban League sues the Chicago Board of Education, contending it is not targeting its state Chapter 1 money at low-income children but, rather, using it for general operations.

1978 The Legislature specifies that 60 percent of Chapter 1 funds must be spent on services for low-income students while 40 percent may be spent on general operations, in effect settling the Urban League lawsuit.

New guidelines urged for state Chapter 1 spending

In the early 1990s, the Clemente LSC used Chapter 1 money for a number of activities that, critics charge, served to support the Puerto Rican independence movement and efforts to win the release of jailed Puerto Rican terrorists. For example, a famed Puerto Rican writer and a ballet troupe that were brought to the school allegedly participated in political fundraising while they were in town.


The measure has undergone heated debate over the past five years. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has lobbied for the police takeover as a step toward improved school safety. The plan would shut a School Board security unit, which is being called the “F troop” in the wake of staff convictions. Critics of the plan say a police presence would give schools a prison atmosphere and could undermine principals’ authority in discipline matters. Former city schools Chancellor Ramon Cortines resigned in 1995 largely because of his “bitter feud” with Giuliani over the issue, according to the Times.

‘Balanced’ article hides the truth about LSC training

Regarding “Board bumps reform groups from LSC training,” (September 1998), we understand your effort to give a balanced report. But we don’t understand your assumption that when there is contention, each side necessarily bears equal responsibility for it. In this case, there is clearly a correct position, and it’s that which stands for a diverse delivery system for local school council training. This is the position that stands for children, schools and communities. The other position is concerned more with power plays and asserting its authority, actually at the expense of its constituents.

‘Double flunking’ a disaster for kids, teachers, system

The Chicago Board of Education’s recent decision to “double flunk” 1,300 students is an educational disaster not only to the children being retained, but also to the teachers, the staff and the school system itself. The board’s hard-line approach may satisfy those who wish to draw a line in the sand for academic “standards,” but others believe double flunking children is ill-advised and short-sighted.

More to come

In July, Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas promised Cabrini-Green residents a new alternative school following the closure of Marion Nzinga Stamps Academy, a 2-year-old alternative school operated by DePaul University and housed in Near North High School.

Dugan Institute born of hard work, tragedy

Father Bruce Wellems, associate pastor at Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, suggests the picture isn’t that simple. “He’s having terrific struggles because he wants to be on the street between 3 and 9,” he says, referring to the satellite’s class hours. Wellems seems prepared to hang in with the young man; they’ve already had one 40-minute conversation about staying in school.

Last resort becomes a happy ending for dropouts

Illinois state law requires public school districts to serve students under the age of 21. However, re-enrollment can be denied to dropouts who lack sufficient credits and can not graduate before their 21st birthday. Such students receive counseling on alternative education programs. Catalyst Associate Editor Maureen Kelleher talked to students at two such programs, Latino Youth Alternative and Garfield Alternative high schools. These are the stories they shared.

Dropping out, recovering . . . BY THE NUMBERS

15.5 Percentage of Chicago Public Schools high school students who dropped out in 1996-97.

Source: Office of Accountability, Chicago Public Schools

4.8 Percentage of Illinois public high school students, excluding Chicago, who dropped out in 1996-97.

Source: Illinois State Board of Education

School Board’s charter school feels its oats

By late August, the School Board and its Youth Connection Charter School had reached a compromise that allowed most GED programs to stay in the charter and continue receiving financial support from the board. At press time, negotiations were continuing over other issues, including the number of students the charter could serve through its various subcontractors.

Recipe for success with dropouts

College and career placement. Students visit colleges and take a weekly ACT prep class. Graduates who seek job training don’t have to look farther than down the hall. Greater West Town, the school’s parent organization, offers training in woodworking, and shipping and receiving to anyone with a diploma or GED. The program boasts a placement rate of over 90 percent.

GED basics

What is the GED?

The Test of General Educational Development (GED), developed by the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., measures competency in high-school level skills and knowledge. A passing score earns a high school equivalency certificate. Most colleges and universities accept the certificate in place of a high school diploma although the cutoff score for admission may be higher than the passing score. One or more sections of the test may be retaken until a desired score is achieved.

Board reaches to retrieve dropouts

CPS pays for a site coordinator, engineer and security staff. City Colleges provides instructors through its Adult Learning Skills Program, paying them $15.21 to $21 an hour for a maximum of 24 hours a week. Unlike the community-based programs that offer GED classes, the City Colleges partnership provides few support services, such as child care or job counseling, to keep students coming to class.

Schools need community connections

Maureen Kelleher’s reporting this month on efforts to serve dropouts who want a second chance suggests another requirement, a strong community connection. To Wuest, that’s probably self-evident. But it bears mentioning now that the Chicago Public Schools bureaucracy is working to create more second-chance programs.