SCHOOL SAFETY   Over the next few months, the Chicago Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications will install remote connections to provide police with access to security camera footage from inside and outside schools. More than 4,500 security cameras are in place in 220 schools. Police and other authorities who respond to emergencies will have access to real-time video from inside schools. Officials will carry out routine monitoring on outside cameras.

NEW NONPROFIT   The board and staff of Illinois ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), has left to form a new nonprofit called Action Now. Led by Madeline Talbott, who founded Illinois ACORN 25 years ago, Action Now will work on education issues, along with fighting foreclosures, offering job assistance, advocating for better health care and living-wage jobs and providing leadership training. More information is available at or by calling (312) 676-4280.

AT CLARK STREET   Jill Wine-Banks, head of the Office of Education to Careers, will leave that position at the end of April. She will stay on as an advisor to CEO Arne Duncan until the end of June. Joann Thomas-Woods, principal of Bowen Environmental Studies Team High, will take over as interim officer.

PRINCIPAL CONTRACTS   John O’Connell, interim principal at Sheridan Elementary, and Thomas Trotter, interim principal at Hyde Park Career Academy, have been awarded full contracts.

FRANCHISE FOLLOW-UP   Among the six new elementary schools that CPS will open this fall are two “franchises” of existing schools: Disney II and LaSalle Language Academy II. Bogdana Chkoumbova, currently a principal intern at Disney, will become principal of Disney II. Other administrators have not yet been chosen. A first-ever children’s engineering curriculum and new Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs are among the choices to be offered. The other schools are Sir Miles Davis, Kershaw and Oscar Mayer magnet schools and Coonley Regional Gifted Center. Catalyst reported last May that CPS was considering the franchise idea. (See related story.)

EASING NCLB   U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings wants to test new ways to categorize schools that do not meet the standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Her plan would give waivers to states, allowing them to differentiate between the lowest-performing schools that need dramatic interventions and those schools that are closer to meeting standards. The Illinois State Board of Education is considering applying for a waiver. Up to 10 states will be selected.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS   The College Board will bring its national initiative to increase the number of Hispanics who go to college to Chicago in May. “Prepárate: Educating Latinos for the Future of America” will be May 22–23 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. The conference, open to all elementary, middle school and high school teachers and administrators, will focus on ways to improve academic performance, and on the services available to Latino students, schools and communities. Registration for CPS staff is $340 after April 15. For more information, visit

PRE-K COMMITMENT   Illinois ranks first in the nation for providing access to preschool for 3-year-olds, but falls to 12th on that measure for 4-year-olds, according to a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research. Illinois ranks 22nd in preschool spending, but meets nine of 10 benchmarks for setting quality standards, such as low class sizes, according to the report, available at

DROPOUT RATING   Illinois reports that 87 percent of students graduate from high school, but the federal government believes only 80 percent do and an independent analysis puts the number at 76 percent, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. In a March report, the Washington, D.C.-based organization reported on discrepancies in how states, government and independent researchers calculate graduation rates. The report labeled 55 of Illinois’ 620 high schools as “dropout factories” in which fewer than 60 percent of students progress to 12th grade in four years.

CONNECTING CULTURES  Clare Muñana, School Board vice president, will receive the 2008 Connecting Cultures Award for her involvement with the Field Museum, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum and the Institute for Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, along with her efforts to advance bilingual education in the district. Muñana was first appointed to the board in 1999 and has been vice president since 2004. Changing Worlds, an arts education nonprofit that focuses on issues of identity and cross-cultural understanding, will present the award at its May 15 annual benefit.

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