Local School Councils might be stripped of one of their main duties of selecting principals due to the controversial firing of Curie High School Principal Jerryelyn Jones in February. Many educators and activists think this decision, based on one bad example, will cause great detriment to schools that largely benefit from LSC influence.
What is an LSC?
Local School Councils are on-site school management teams composed of the principal, two teachers, six parents and two community members. In high schools, a student representative completes the group.
The LSC develops and monitors the School Improvement Plan, selects and evaluates the school’s principal and develops and monitors the budget for the school year.
“I think that in most of our schools, the LSC plays a positive role where the needs of students are identified and addressed,” said Bill Rice, consultant for LSC relations. “They make sure the main issues are brought forward.”
LSC members are elected and/ or appointed. Parents and community representatives are elected through a voting process.
“Anyone who is 18 years of age and lives in the community of the attendance or voting boundary of a school is eligible to vote,” Rice said. “The parent of any child can vote.”
As for teacher and student reps, they are appointed by the Board of Education after a voting process in the school. Teachers vote for teachers and students vote for students. The results are passed on to the board, which then reviews the records of those with the highest votes. The board usually appoints those with the most votes but is not obligated to do so.
Parent, community and teacher reps serve for two years, beginning on July 1 after each election and ending on June 30. Student reps serve for one year.
LSC elections are held in April on report card pick-up day of every even-numbered year.
History of the LSC
In 1988, the Chicago School Reform Act was passed, which shifted key decision-making responsibilities to parents and LSCs. The first LSC was elected in October 1989.
Rice said from 1989 until now, there has been a “significant improvement across the entire [school] system.”
Beginning in 1995, incoming LSC members were required to take an 18-hour training program within six months of taking office. There are six mandatory lessons that LSC members are required to take and for the remaining three lessons, they can choose from a variety of Board-approved topics.
But recent studies suggest that Chicago Public School leaders are pushing to restrict LSC power in one of their main responsibilities: hiring and firing principals. This loss of power may hamper the efficacy of the LSC as a whole.
“Leadership makes a difference,” said Valencia Rias, senior leadership development associate for Designs for Change. “Some schools have changed their entire curriculum based on LSC influence.”
Rias said students are more successful and the parents and community are going to be at an optimum, if LSCs are allowed to continue their positive influences on the community.
As to whether the LSC will lose its principal selection duties, the debate continues.
Rice said there are rumors in Springfield, but he has no knowledge of any proposals being submitted. “I haven’t seen any specific legislation,” he said.
Chicago Public Schools spokesman Mike Vaughn said, “We’re still talking about what that campaign would entail and when we’d start talking to state legislators about it.”