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Community Leaders, Parents and Teachers Demand Improvements in CPS

The climate of the Chicago Public Schools has been a shaky one, and the signs of improvement vary within each school. In our last article on CPS schools, we covered how several elementary schools in Englewood—Bond, Bass and Nicholson—were showing some signs of hope and improvement.

However there is work that still needs to be done. Currently there are talks of another possible Chicago Teachers Union strike, an unresolved budget crisis and the possibilities of more closings (one which happens to be Amandla Charter School in Englewood).

In the last articles we looked at data on enrollment patterns and how the schools were performing academically. There is a lot at stake in CPS and many are demanding a change within the decision making process in CPS. Parents and teachers are in agreement on many issues, which they feel are impacting the efforts to provide a quality education to local youth.

In a recent poll sent to stakeholders and residents who have students currently enrolled in a Englewood CPS school asked:

What do you think are the main challenges facing Englewood Public Schools? The concerns voiced by parents and parent leaders include improving racial diversity, after-school programming and safety.

According to Patricia Robinson, Local School Council Chair at Nicholson, the schools in Englewood lack racial diversity within their administration and there has not been many substantial educational after-school programs due to recent budget cuts.

“Most Englewood schools are testing below state average in reading and math. We need innovation in education; the traditional methods are not working. STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] is the hot button, but reading comprehension is the key to critical thinking,” says Rosalind Moore, the Programs Director at Teamwork Englewood.

The poll also asked, Do you feel that changes within CPS, including the recent budget cuts, impacted the quality of life in Englewood?


Overwhelmingly  85 % responded yes.  Some respondents said there will be a ripple effect when money is cut from the schools. One wrote that cuts will mean “overworked teachers, overcrowded classroom, change in climate and cuts to beneficial educational programs.” Another mentioned that the safe haven for students that schools provide for working parents during the evening hours are at risk.

Same Voice. Same Concerns.

In a Chicago Teachers Union bulletin published early this month, CTU noted it will begin voting by December 9th to decide if once again their teachers would go on strike. This time around they have included stakeholders, community leaders and parents to be a part of the process to bargain the next contract with the Board of Education’s bargaining team. This is the first time in CTU’s history to allow the community to be a part of these contracts talks.

“Once again we’re at the same fork in the road. Why do we as a community wait until something is wrong before we decide to get involved? If we can’t get these parents involved what’s the point?” says Deborah Payne, Southwest Federation Block Club President in Englewood.

An active volunteer at Sherwood Elementary (in Englewood), Payne says she has seen first hand how students are suffering from a lack of engagement with parents, how parents are left out of the decision-making process and how the school administration does not keep the parents engaged.

Vote for Change

The proposal of having an elected school board could be the solution many parents and even CTU teachers want. Community organizations like Englewood Votes!, Teamwork Englewood and elected officials are rallying for an elected school board. The goal is to have the general assembly pass House Bill 4268 in Springfield, and currently there are more than 50 state representatives who have co-sponsored the bill.

Chicago is the only city in Illinois without an elected board. Moore points out that appointments by the mayor and accountability to only the mayor lends itself to the kind of patronage and rubber stamp of questionable contracts. One example is former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who plead guilty in October 2015 to a kick back scheme.

If House Bill 4268 gets passed the “decision making would go back to the people who live within those school district and it is needed” according to Sonya Harper, 6th District State Representative, who is fighting for an elected school board.

Harper adds, when you have an elected school board, there is more community input because of the people who are voting live within those school districts and wards. In the last election there was unanimous vote cast at the polls by Chicagoans who want an elected school board.

Chicagoans are essentially tired of the same problems occurring in CPS and feel there has been little progress in academic achievement and other educational improvement under the mayor-appointed board.

A 2011 study by the University of Illinois of Chicago on the effectiveness of the mayoral appointed school board notes there has been no definitive evidence that mayoral control improves achievement.

The study states: “Chicago’s mayor-appointed board is comprised of elite decision makers who are neither representative of the student population of CPS nor directly accountable to the public. Board structures and processes severely limit public input in decisions. The Board is composed primarily of corporate executives, while the district is 92 percent students of color and 86 percent low-income students whose communities have no role in school district decisions. This is problematic because perspectives and knowledge of parents, educators, and students are essential to good educational decision-making," the study’s authors wrote.

The vote to have an elected board could be the possible change needed to restore power back into the hands of the community. This would allow communities to oversee important issues like the demands of the teachers, budgets, hiring of staff, salaries, curriculum and much more.

The vote to have an elected board could work, just as long as it does not turn into politics as usual in Chicago.

Keywords: CPS, CTU, Elected School Board, Englewood Schools, Good in Englewood, House Bill 4268

Posted in Neighborhood News, Education

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