Local School councils elect new members

Some schools, including Michele Clark H.S., still have seats to fill

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By ELLYN FORTINO

While 6,500 Chicagoans ran for a seat on their Local School Council two weeks ago, 31 schools across the city and one in Austin still have seats to fill.

The LSC elections took place the week of April 23rd. But according to Chicago Public Schools, 31 schools across, and at least one in Austin, don't have a full elected council.

As a result, supplemental elections for those schools will take place on May 18. Michele Clark High School, 5101 W. Harrison, is the only Austin school slated for a supplemental election. Just two parents ran for the six open slots, and none of the teacher, student or non-teacher positions are filled.

Piccolo Elementary, just outside Austin's borders at 1040 N. Keeler, will also have another election. Not one candidate ran for the council there. Other schools in Austin have vacant seats but are not on CPS' list for a supplemental election.

Some of those schools include Louis Armstrong Elementary, which is short one community representative; Frederick Douglass Community Academy, short two parents and one teacher; Horatio May Elementary, short one parent; and McNair Elementary; short a parent and non-teaching school staff member.

At these schools, the elected LSC - slated to take over July 1 - will have to appoint candidates to fill the spots, said Don Moore, executive director of Designs for Change, an organization that works to improve urban public schools. Designs for Change also helped recruit candidates for this year's LSC elections.

"That's the way it's always been," he said.

This procedure, according to Moore, is not only used to fill vacant seats during an election year, but also in situations where elected LSC members move or say they are no longer interested in serving on the council. The LSC will appoint a candidate, then vote the candidate to the council, Moore said.

Although some schools have vacant seats, Moore considers the turnout of candidates a "tenacity test" of the people who want to serve on the councils despite CPS' "uncoordinated" recruitment process this election cycle.

"The fact that we have just as many candidates as we did in the last election is a testament to the fact that people are really determined to use the democratic powers that they were given by the legislation in 1988," Moore said.

Voter fraud charged by candidate

One candidate who ran for re-election on April 19 but lost her LSC post at Douglass Academy is charging election wrong-doing at the high school. Catherine Jones said electioneering took place within the polling place. Electioneering, such as promoting a candidate or passing out flyers, is only allowed outside of the polling place.

Jones, who said she believes she lost her community representative seat to candidate John Oliver because of the alleged electioneering, filed an election petition shortly after the results were announced to CPS' law department.

"They cheated," she said in a phone interview on April 20. "I was told staff was saying to vote for Mr. Oliver ... that's electioneering. You can't do that."

She's also calling on CPS to look into the election results at Emmet Elementary School, 5500 W. Madison, where she suspects voter fraud took place.

Jones said she voted for parent candidate Latrice Parnell, and claims she knows that Parnell also voted for herself. Jones said there should have been at least two votes for Parnell, but the results summary posted at the school says the candidate received zero votes.

CPS spokesperson Robyn Ziegler said the school district's legal department has received the complaints and are reviewing them to determine whether a Post-Election Challenge hearing is warranted.

Visit AustinTalks.org for more coverage of the LSC elections. Schools will hold candidate forums on May 14 and 16, with the election on May 18.

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