DePriest a battleground over longtime principal

On Jan. 22, the local school council at DePriest Elementary School in Austin voted 5 to 4 not to renew the contract of Principal Ruth Lewis Knight, capping two years of disagreement over the school’s academic direction. Since then, a large section of the community has been up in arms, refusing to take “no” for an answer.

Tunney forced to run as challenger

Slatemaking for officers of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA) was one of many school activities that got postponed by Chicago’s early March snow storm. Even so, when the rescheduled session was held Mar. 12, only seven of the 13 nominating committee members showed up. In a vote of 4 to 3, they rejected the group’s president, Beverly Tunney, forcing her to run as a challenger.

Drug testing OKed

In January, the Reform Board approved a policy giving the chief executive officer, or his designee, the power to require drug testing of a board employee when there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the employee may be using drugs or alcohol in the workplace.

Proposed requirements

To become a principaly you need:

A six-week unpaid internship with a principal who has applied and been accepted by the regional education officer and the Office of School Leadership Development as a “contract principal mentor.” This requirement would be waived for candidates from outside the Chicago public schools who have had two or more years of experience as a contract principal.

Following the internship, four days of New Principals Institute preparation courses, administered by the Office of School Leadership Development. Topics would include state and federal laws, union contracts, managing finances and creating a school improvement plan.

Gimmicks spark more student reading

Beneath the hoopla, however, is serious business: getting schools to include independent reading sessions in their school improvement plans and establish links with nearby libraries, getting teachers to set up “reading corners” in their classrooms and getting parents and community members involved in children’s reading activities. Parents sign forms confirming that their children have read books outside class, and community members—sometimes celebrities—serve as guest readers.

Lessons from Kentucky

The Kentucky Department of Education has been training and sending out its own kind of “probation manager” since 1994. Called Distinguished Educators, or DEs, they are experienced teachers and administrators who leave their jobs for two years to work as consultants at struggling schools, modeling ways to boost student performance.In Kentucky, every school is given an improvement target every two years; schools that fall short are assigned DEs and get a share of a special $5 million state grant, which must be used for academic improvements.

Constraints on LSCs’ power

In a 1997 amendment to the Reform Act gives the CEO the power to assign a business professional to advise, monitor and check the financial records of any LSC that is “not carrying out its financial duties effectively.”

Five other cities

Below are sketches of five districts. We included New York and Los Angeles because they come closest to Chicago in size. We selected the others by asking five well-informed observers to name districts with the most promising efforts. Memphis came out on top; finalists Boston and Charlotte-Mecklenburg were selected for geographic diversity.

Tunney slate beats challengers to lead principals

Since none of the three candidates for vice president for high school assistant principal received a majority, the election is being re-run, an association spokesperson reports. The candidates are Ken Hunter of Amundsen, the nominating committee’s choice; Sheryl Brown- Rivers also of Amundsen and Sandra Fontanez-Phelan of Mather. The results will be reported June 12.

CTU lends hand to teachers axed by reconstitution

The teachers now have until the end of October—past the peak hiring season—to find a job elsewhere in the system or be dismissed. Further, the union is forming a committee to help match them up with vacant positions, says spokesperson Jackie Gallagher. “There has been a problem with principals letting the board know where there are vacancies,” she explains.