Congratulations on a strong examination of the crucial issue of principal leadership. Elizabeth Duffrin and the other Catalyst (October 2000) writers did a thorough job of addressing the qualities that go into good principal leadership, while recognizing the challenging context within which Chicago’s principals do an incredibly difficult job.
A bit of care with the numbers would demand that the data be challenged. But that approach wouldn’t be consistent with the new party line, and Catalyst has shown a consistent way of adapting its coverage of CPS “news” to each new permutation in the Vallas administration’s party line. Combined with your colleague’s fawning praise of Vallas (and pompous condemnation of the schools facing intervention) in the Op Ed pages of the Chicago Tribune earlier this month, the full weight and credibility of CATALYST (and its parent organization) once again prop up the official line of the present administration of Chicago’s public schools.
While that may seem unremarkable, only 62 of the system’s some 600 principals have such authority. Under a pilot program, the 62 principals can spend School Board funds directly—either by writing a check or using a CPS credit card—on equipment and supplies from board- approved vendors. They also can reimburse staff for minor expenses, such as supplies, without submitting paperwork to the region office.
According to research by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the system’s 8th-grade “brain drain” has been steadily declining since 1995, when the school system achieved stability under new rules set by the Legislature and new leadership appointed by the mayor. In 1995, the percentage of high scoring 8th-graders who left for private or parochial high schools was 27; by 1998, when several college prep high schools were underway, it had dropped to 19; the next year, it dropped to 17.
Payton is one star in a constellation the Board of Education is spreading across the city in an attempt to keep high-performing students from leaving the public schools when they hit high school. Ashleigh lives within five miles of two other college prep high schools, but neither shone bright enough to attract her parents’ interest.
While market research firms are getting more business from school districts, polling experts urge caution in the interpretation and use of the results. Questions on any survey can contain hints that push respondents toward a particular response. The sequence of questions can have the same affect. And the size and composition of the sample can have an impact.
There was no such fanfare for the rechristening of Lindblom Tech as the college preparatory high school for Region 5 on the mid-South Side. Community leaders aren’t even aware of the change. “This is the first I’ve heard that it was a college prep,” admits state Rep. Daniel Burke, who represents the district where Lindblom is located
Jones College Preparatory High School had a similar start-up experience.
In July 1998, the board abruptly decided to convert Jones Metropolitan High School from a two-year business program to a four-year college prep. Like her counterpart at Southside, new Principal Cynthia Barron had a month to get the school ready for fall classes and found herself in charge of two student bodies, one entering the new program and one exiting the old.
Five years ago, the School Board announced it would close Lindblom Technical High School, once the pride of the whole South Side, because of dwindling enrollment. However, the school’s alums rallied, and the board backed off. But the school, which had seen its West Englewood neighborhood deteriorate in recent decades, continued to decline.
Meanwhile, Payton is enjoying the perks of being CPS’ latest crown jewel.
School Board President Gery Chico has hosted media tours of the $33 million building, outfitted with a planetarium, a weather station and observation deck, 10 science labs, two interactive language labs, an orchestra/music room and state-of-the-art projection equipment. Each student gets a laptop computer and an e-mail account. A television studio and an earth lab are in the works.
At my school three years ago, two new playgrounds were built. I would supervise the students for 20 minutes after lunch on the playground, until the principal notified me in writing that school activities were to focus on instruction. And physical development, even though written into state standards, did not qualify as instruction. That’s when I decided to go back to school and put in the time to get my administrative certificate–so that I could begin to make decisions that are child centered.
The crackdown at Collins is focused mainly on faculty. Monitors check daily to see whether teachers have posted the objectives of their lessons and are teaching to them. Teachers with frequent absences and tardies have been “written up,” as well they should be. As with reconstitution, however, intervention ran many of the school’s better teachers out the door, students told Catalyst Contributing Editor Jody Temkin. More teachers want out, but a freeze has been put on transfers, casting them as ducks in a shooting gallery.
PRINCIPAL APPOINTMENTS Rita Stasi, a teacher at Corkery, has received a principal contract for that school. Judith J. Adams, assistant principal at Jefferson, and Christine Ogilvie, assistant principal at Warren, have become contract principals at their schools. Learna Brewer-Baker, assistant principal at Collins High, has been appointed interim principal at Austin High, succeeding Arthur Slater, who is now an administrator in Region 3. Interim principals Miguel Trujillo at Roosevelt High and Rayna Murphy at Burnside Elementary have received four-year contracts. Ron Beavers, former director of truancy prevention, has been appointed interim principal at Chicago Vocational Career Academy. He is the fourth interim principal since Betty Despenza-Green retired last April.