WBEZ | Wendell Smith Elementary School http://www.wbez.org/tags/wendell-smith-elementary-school Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Local school council votes for a charter school takeover http://www.wbez.org/story/local-school-council-votes-charter-school-takeover-91281 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-01/schoolsSUB.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483681-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-august/2011-08-31/wendell-smith-110831-w-intro.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>Parents at a low-performing public school on Chicago’s Far South Side say they’re fed up with the their kids’ failing school and Tuesday night, they voted for a takeover.</p><p>Two dozen parents and neighborhood residents sat in the Wendell Smith school library, quietly waiting for the revolutionary act they understood was coming. With no flourish or preamble, local school council chairwoman Lynn Evans stood up and read a resolution…</p><p>EVANS: Whereas Wendell Smith Elementary School has been on probation for seven consecutive years, and whereas…</p><p>It ended like this:</p><p>EVANS: …Be it further resolved that the Wendell Smith Local School Council calls upon the Chicago Board and district leadership to change this school to a charter now.</p><p>There was a roll call vote and then, this pronouncement:</p><p>LSC MEMBER: OK, It was seven yes and three nos.<br> EVANS: To change to a charter school.</p><p>All the parent and community members on the LSC voted in favor of making Smith a charter school—which is a privately run, publicly funded school. Such schools usually have no teachers union, and no big Chicago Public Schools bureaucracy.</p><p>The council’s two teacher representatives and the principal voted no.</p><p>It’s the first time any local school council has ever taken such an action.</p><p>ARMOUR: This school, while it has never been one of the better schools in Chicago, this is the worst that I’ve ever seen it.</p><p>Parent Karla Armour, a Wendell Smith graduate herself, was just named to the council Tuesday night. She says casting her vote felt meaningful. Ironically, the council will cease to exist if a charter is brought in to run the school. That doesn’t bother Armour though, whose kid is in kindergarten—in a class of 45.</p><p>ARMOUR: Being part of a council—that’s not important. What’s important is that I’ll be part of a much better school environment. Right now I see the defeat in my five-year-old’s eyes when he comes home and his teachers couldn’t really get to him.</p><p>LOCKET: It’s a great example of what many local school councils should do across this city.</p><p>Charter school champions are jazzed by this vote. Phyllis Locket is the director of New Schools for Chicago. That’s a well-heeled, politically connected, pro-charter group that’s been helping parents at Wendell Smith. For Locket, it’s also personal. Smith was her grammar school. This vote is a turning point, she says.</p><p>LOCKET: Usually when this has happened, it’s been the Chicago Public Schools making the decision and sometimes forcing the decision on the community. To see the community saying they want to do this, I think is pretty breakthrough.<br> Along with their demand for a charter school, Wendell Smith parents want a guarantee that their children will be allowed to continue there. Charters are open to kids from all over the city. Locket says a never-used provision of a state law could allow kids to stay.</p><p>Wendell Smith Principal Johnny Banks says Tuesday night’s vote really doesn’t do anything.&nbsp; It’s the Board of Education that makes decisions about charter schools, not an LSC. And he says this is not the way you fix a school—to do that, you have to do something about the world kids come from.</p><p>BANKS: If you’re gonna speak about Wendell Smith you need to speak about the community and how we can support the community to bring the schools in this area up.</p><p>Behind Banks, the library books are lined up neatly, but they’re not in order. Fiction is mixed in with nonfiction, nothing’s alphabetized.</p><p>During his campaign for mayor, Rahm Emanuel supported the notion of a so-called “parent trigger”—where parents could vote to shut down their school, or “charterize” it.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools isn’t saying yet how it will respond to the LSC vote at Wendell Smith.</p><p>But just Tuesday, speaking to civic leaders, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said he wants parents to demand more from their schools. He also talked about charter schools. He said about a third of them are great, a third are middle of the road, and a third are “lousy.”</p><p>Parents at Wendell Smith say they want the great kind.</p></p> Wed, 31 Aug 2011 10:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/local-school-council-votes-charter-school-takeover-91281 Parents to CPS: Make our school a charter http://www.wbez.org/story/parents-cps-make-our-school-charter-87848 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-14/IMG_0986.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>When Chicago closes low-performing schools, the district often faces fierce <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/education/why-parents-fight-keep-8220failing8221-schools-open" target="_blank">resistance from parents</a>, who fight to save their children’s teachers and their neighborhood's institution. Now, for the first time in Chicago, a group of parents is publicly asking CPS to shut down their school—and reopen it as a charter school.</p><p>Lynn Evans spends a lot of time at her children’s school, Wendell Smith Elementary in Pullman.</p><p>EVANS: I’m here—let me see. Out of a five-day week, like four days—sometimes every single day. I’m helping out, I chaperone, if they need more chaperones, if they need more parents, I’ll pull some parents in to help out.</p><p>Today, Evans is sitting in a little 10-pew, cinderblock church across the street from the school, with a handful of other parents and community residents. It’s a strategy meeting on how to turn Smith into a charter.</p><p>Evans is the chair of Smith’s local school council. But she says she still hasn’t been able to fix what’s wrong: only half the 8th graders are graduating this week. Computers don’t work. Wendell Smith’s school report card is full of red marks.</p><p>EVANS: And this has been going on for years now. And, nothing’s being done about it. We’re constantly fighting and saying something. It’s like beating your head up against the brick wall.</p><p>Evans and the other parents are at the center of a national phenomenon known as the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/education/supporters-talk-parent-trigger-chicago-and-beyond-85112">parent trigger</a>. California has a law allowing parents in failing schools to “trigger” major overhauls, including converting a school to a privately run, publicly funded charter. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he supports a parent trigger here.</p><p>Smith parents, though, aren’t waiting. They’ve already picked out a group to run Wendell Smith.</p><p><em>ambi from L.E.A.R.N.: Lions, lions, what do you eat? So he’s writing about the lions we saw last week at the zoo.</em></p><p>After touring charter schools across the city, Smith parents liked L.E.A.R.N. Charter School, which runs four campuses and has a federal grant to expand.</p><p>Parent Marcus Gary said a visit to L.E.A.R.N. reminded him of his Catholic education.</p><p>GARY: My environment was conducive to learning. There wasn’t any wandering—you know,&nbsp; students just aimlessly wandering. There weren’t teachers or faculty dodging their responsibility.</p><p>Gary says the hallways at L.E.A.R.N.&nbsp; were quiet. Kids were learning Spanish.</p><p>The tours Gary went on were organized by the Renaissance Schools Fund—now called New Schools for Chicago. The pro-charter group is tied closely to Chicago’s business and civic elite. Adrienne Garner, a New Schools staffer, says the case of Wendell Smith could fundamentally change how school closings in Chicago work.</p><p>GARNER: It’s never been the case where the actual community has demanded—let alone a sitting LSC chair. Maybe this could be a pilot for this to come from the community, from the bottom up rather than the top down.</p><p>NATHAN: Because Chicago has dramatic and often emphatic politics, it doesn’t surprise me that a group of parents would say we have tried and tried and tried and tried and tried to get some changes in the kind of school we want, and ultimately we don’t feel we’ve been able to do that, so we want to try this approach.</p><p>Joe Nathan directs the Center for School Change in Minnesota. He notes that Chicago parents went on a hunger strike to get a high school built here, and he says this kind of parent involvement can mean better schools for kids, though it’s not a guarantee.</p><p>Nathan says the board of education needs a policy for dealing with parent requests to overhaul their schools.</p><p>Parents trying to convert Smith to a charter say they expect resistance—from their principal, teachers, even from CPS. And it’s still unclear how many parents will jump on board.</p><p>LUTTON: What would you think if they closed down Wendell Smith and made it a charter school?<br> BOOZER: Okay, what’s basically a charter school?</p><p>Parent Calvin Boozer told me he’s satisfied with Smith, because his first grade son is doing well there.</p><p>Those hoping to convert Smith to a charter say they know they’ve got homework. They’ll try to teach parents like Boozer what a charter school is, then convince him he wants one.</p></p> Tue, 14 Jun 2011 21:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/parents-cps-make-our-school-charter-87848