The historic closing of 49 elementary schools in Chicago left many parents bitter and feeling left out as they try to get involved in new schools. Yet parent engagement is essential for school improvement, and principals are faced with the challenge of building trust at schools that scored poorly on surveys of parent involvement.
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For the Record: Elected School Board
It is a common misconception that the Chicago mayor acquired the authority to appoint the School Board in 1995. In fact, in Chicago, the mayor has always appointed the School Board, at least during the lifetime of anyone now living.
This issue has come up recently as activists and some aldermen have started to push for an elected school board.
The 1988 Chicago School Reform Act, which decentralized the school system, created a complicated, grass-roots nominating process that restricted the mayor’s choices. Indeed, former Mayor Richard M. Daley left some seats open rather than choose any of the nominees. The 1995 legislation abolished the nominating process, thus returning unfettered control of the system to the mayor.
That legislation also clipped the Chicago Teachers Union’s wings by letting the board decide whether to bargain over class size, staffing and other issues now in play.
For more details about the 1995 law, see the September 1995 issue of Catalyst. http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/issues/1995/09/new-regime