Local school council elections attract 4,384 parents and community members as candidates
There’s an election in the city of Chicago Monday and Tuesday that you may not even have heard about—and thousands of candidates are running.
Local school council elections happen every two years (Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks he voted in the last one). Just about every Chicago public school has a council—something like a mini school board. (Charters don't have LSCs, but there's a bill afoot to change that.) Councils are made up of six parents, two community members, two teachers, and one “non-teaching” school staffer. The councils are unique in the nation because they have some real power. They hire and fire the principal, and along with the principal they determine parts of the budget and curriculum, and outline the school’s strategy for improvement.
Under mayoral control of the schools, the councils’ power has been scaled back; schools on probation get less say over budgets and principal selection. Many of Chicago’s new schools and privately managed public schools have only “advisory” LSCs.
Despite that, and despite many schools struggling to get enough candidates to fill their council, there are still 4,384 parents and community people running for local school councils this time around, along with 1,736 teachers and other school staffers. Elections at grammar schools are Monday, at high schools Tuesday. Polls are open 6a.m. to 7p.m.. Any Chicago resident can vote—no citizenship or voter card needed. Candidate statements must be posted in each school and made available for the public.
WBEZ filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the list of candidates from all schools (we’re not sure why the school district doesn’t post this list for the public, or why it takes a FOIA and 10 business days to produce it). We present it here, along with a few things we noticed about the candidates:
- Indicted state representative LaShawn Ford, who denies allegations of bank fraud, wants to become a community representative at George Rogers Clark Elementary.
- Ninth Ward Alderman Anthony Beale, who most recently ran for U.S. Congress (he came in third in the special election to determine who would replace Jesse Jackson, Jr.) is on the ballot as an incumbent community representative at Brooks College Prep, which is in his ward.
- Former Chicago Board of Education member Rodrigo Sierra, who was hand picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the school board, is running at two schools—at Blaine as a community rep and at InterAmerican Magnet as a parent. It’s believed to be the first time a former Chicago Board of Education member has run for LSC. Sierra is a former deputy press secretary under Mayor Richard M. Daley; he resigned from Emanuel's school board when he was asked by the mayor to join the Chicago Housing Authority Board, where he still serves.
- The two schools where teachers announced publicly they would refuse to give the ISAT exam this spring—Saucedo Scholastic Academy and Drummond Montessori—both have contested parent races. At Saucedo, all races (parent, teacher, school staff and community) are contested.
- Two high-performing elementary schools that have had no LSC until now have the most hotly contested parent LSC races in the city. Eighteen parents are running for six seats at Skinner North, a selective school, and 16 parents are running at STEM Magnet; both schools opened in the last five years.
- Earle Elementary in Englewood, which has had a rocky consolidation with Goodlow, one of Chicago's 50 closed schools, also has 16 parents running.
- The two schools attracting most community member candidates are South Shore International and Roosevelt high schools, with 10 candidates each.
- Ames Middle School—which the Chicago Board of Education recently converted to a military high school despite noisy community opposition—will not hold elections. Current LSC members were given a letter saying that “next fall, a non-binding advisory poll will be conducted at Ames on report card pick-up day to nominate candidates for appointment to the parent and teacher representative positions on the newly constituted Board of Governors for Ames.”
- The school with the greatest number of total candidates is Farragut High School in Little Village, where 38 candidates are running—12 parents, 7 community members, 5 teachers, 7 non teaching staff, and 5 students (high schools elect one advisory student representative).
- Some very troubled schools have not attracted enough candidates to fill their councils. At Austin Business and Entrepreneurship High School, where WBEZ reported students went much of first semester without teachers in key subjects, only three parents are running for the six seats available on the council. At Hirsch High School, where low enrollment is also hurting educational offerings, just one teacher, one parent and one non-teaching staffer have signed up for the 11-person council.
- A few Chicago Teachers Union staffers pepper the list. Union researcher Sarah Hainds is running as a community rep at Amundsen High School. Joey McDermott (a union organizer featured in Chicagoland) is running as a parent at Sayre. Active Chicago Public Schools employees are not allowed to run as parents in their children’s schools, or as community reps.
- Several charter school advocates are running, which has prompted “vote no” Facebook campaigns by activists and parents who believe the charter advocates are trying to undermine the traditional public schools from within. Three employees of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools are running: Jodie Cantrell as a community rep at Blaine, Eric Johnson as a parent rep at Audubon, and Jelani McEwen as a community rep at Kenwood.
- Some other names that caught our eye: Vicente "Vince" Sanchez, Jr., chief of staff to 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis, is trying to keep his seat as a community rep at two schools in the ward, Whittier Elementary and Juarez High School. Juliana Stratton, executive director of the Cook County Judicial Advisory Council under Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is running as a parent rep at Kenwood Academy High School. Lori S. Yokoyama, running as a parent rep at Payton College Prep, is the 4th Ward Republican Committeeman and has been a candidate for alderman and Cook County State’s attorney. Charles R. Bowen, an Emanuel appointee to the Illinois International Port District and “the link that connected the African American communities to the Daley Administration,” will keep his seat as community representative at Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville. Marc Kaplan, unsuccessful 2010 aldermanic candidate in the 46th Ward and co-chair of Northside Action for Justice, which has organized “to defend public schools from closure and privatization,” is seeking another term as community representative at Uplift High School. Another unsuccessful 46th Ward aldermanic candidate, Scott Baskin, the former CEO of Mark Shale retail stores in Chicago, is running as a community rep at Northside College Prep, where he served seven years as a parent rep. Theresa Mah, senior policy advisor and liaison to the Asian-American community for Gov. Pat Quinn, is running for another term as community rep at Kelly High School. Ahmed Khan, the unsuccessful 2010 candidate for alderman of the 50th Ward (and chair of the West Rogers Park Community organization), is trying to hold onto his seat as community rep at Stone Academy. Wanda Hopkins, a vocal opponent of many CPS policies and an activist with PURE, a group that helped write the law that created LSCs, is running for seats on three councils—as a community rep at Prosser High School and Lewis Elementary (now privately managed by AUSL), and as a parent at Young.
We invite you to use the comment section below to tell us what you know about the candidates. The list is in alphabetical order by school. There’s also a downloadable version (scroll down for that).
Contributing: Tony Arnold, Kathy Chaney, Natalie Moore, Odette Yousef.
Linda Lutton is an education reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.