As election day approaches, candidates at two South Side schools speak out.
By Hannah Hayes and Amanda Tugade
Nearly 30 years after the Illinois state legislature passed the Chicago School Reform Act, Local School Councils have become a fixture in the Chicago Public Schools system. While critics say their influence has been diluted over the years and the number of participants has declined, many parents and community members still view the LSC as a vital part of their community.
As part of City Bureau’s focus on the Local School Council elections, we asked several candidates at two South Side high schools about the importance of LSCs. We spoke with candidates at Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School at a school forum, while several candidates at Martin Luther King Community College Prep responded to our questions by email. The election for high schools will take place Thursday, April 19.
LeeAndra Khan is one of six candidates vying for the two community representative spots at Martin Luther King Community College Prep, a magnet school in the Kenwood community. Khan has a long history at King. When she left her career as an engineer to become a teacher, she was assigned to King as a student teacher. She returned in 2009 as the assistant principal. “Serving on an LSC is one of the most important roles in the community,” says Khan. “Local School Councils should act as bridges from the school to the community. They provide a voice as well as access to information that parents and community may otherwise not have.”
Fernanda Diane Hopkins is also running for community representative at King College Prep. Hopkins says she is running for LSC to give voice “to the legacy building at the school.” According to Hopkins, King is challenged by the “low morale and engagement among stakeholders,” which she hopes to change.
Other candidates for community representative at King include Cathy Dale, Ebony Lucas, Marcellus Moore Jr. and Erica Mosely.
King has seven parents running for six spots on the council: Cassandra Bogan, Jonathan E. Brooks, Natasha Dunn, Natasha R. Erskine, Janelle E. Jordan, Tineka L. Reed and Jonathan C. Williams. “I believe deeply in reimagining King,” says Erskine, whose child is a freshman at King, and one of six parents running on the “Stand for King” slate. “LSCs must use their power to push for change, equity and social justice and present a school that serves the community.”
Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School straddles the Canaryville and Fuller Park neighborhoods. Like King, it is experiencing declining enrollment, impacted by an influx of charter schools in the community.
Sarah Rothschild is one of six candidates running for LSC spots at Tilden, and along with Matthew Johnson, seeks to fill one of two LSC community representative spots. Rothschild, the mother of a CPS student and an education researcher, wants the LSC to create more awareness about the school and its students, which she thinks can be accomplished through door-to-door knocking and inviting families to visit Tilden.
Michael Finney is looking to fill the sole seat of a non-teacher staff member on Tilden’s council. He says the LSC is a way for parents, residents and staff to be more involved, share ideas and trade resources to continue shaping Tilden into a positive learning environment. “We have great people,” says Finney, who is the school’s “community connector,” a role that includes connecting students with professional opportunities. “We need more. That’s our hope and desire.”
Yvonne Pruitt is running for a parent representative spot. Pruitt, a mother of triplets at Tilden, wants to be a part of the council so she can help foster a more supportive, positive learning environment. Her main concern is making sure Tilden’s students, including her own children, are equipped with the right skills “to be able to survive in the world” and have the chance to pursue higher education or enter the workforce after graduation.
Lashawnda Dowdy and Deon Coley are the two other candidates running for six parent representative spots.
Currently, according to CPS data, only 221 of the 512 schools eligible for LSCs have enough candidates to make up a full council, although schools like Tilden can still operate with authority since they will have a quorum. In the weeks following the LSC election, City Bureau will take a look at impending legislation that could impact the effectiveness of Local School Councils.
For more information, you can check out Chicago United for Equity’s 2018 LSC Voter Guide.