AT CLARK STREET Joseph Spagnolo, former state superintendent of schools, is heading up a new Superintendent’s Research Advisory Group, which will both synthesize existing research and spearhead new studies to provide data and background for policy development. The informal group consists of researchers, educators and administrators, including professors Fred Hess of Northwestern University, Kenneth Wong and Melissa Roderick of the University of Chicago, Vicky Chou of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Office of Accountability’s Philip Hansen. … As part of this initiative, James Nowlan, a former state legislator who now heads the Journalism Fellows program at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, has been retained to examine and write about Chicago school reform since 1995. Payments are not to exceed $14,000 in a six-month period.

BENNETT NOW OFFERS PRAISE Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett, who pronounced Chicago’s schools the worst in the nation 12 years ago, has become an admirer. Bennett testified at a House Education Workforce Committee field hearing on school reform flexibility at Jones Academic Magnet High. Prior to the testimony, Bennett noted, “There is no major urban school system in the United States right now that has a more ambitious plan, better leadership and a greater sense of accountability” than CPS.

PRINCIPALS The contract of Principal Larry B. Grant of Beasley Academy has been renewed. … Kathlene L. Orr, recently promoted from assistant principal to interim principal at Grissom School, has received a four-year contract. … The following have been appointed interim principals: Wendy Christian, W. Smith School, a new principal; Leonor Karl, De Diego Community Academy, formerly assistant principal there; and Daya Locke, Calumet Academy High School, formerly assistant principal there. … The board has retained Charles Vietzen, who retired recently as principal of Hubbard High, to work with the principal of Gage Park High School to help the school get off probation. Gage Park’s payments to Vietzen are not to exceed $16,000 in a six-month period.

PRINCIPAL HONORED Marcey Reyes, principal of Seward Academy, has been named one of 10 “Heroes in American Education” by Readers Digest. The honor includes a $15,000 prize. The magazine noted that student achievement has increased substantially under her leadership, and that the school boasts a media studies program where students can create their own television productions and news shows.

URBAN LEAGUE BOARD School Board President Gery Chico has been named to the board of the Chicago Urban League. Chico also serves on the boards of Economic Club of Chicago, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

ANNENBERG BOARD The Chicago Annenberg Challenge has three new board members: John McCarter, president and chief executive of the Field Museum of Natural History; Victoria Chou, dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and James Reynolds, founder, president and chief executive officer of Loop Capital Markets, LLC.

NEW NAMES The Paul Cuffe Elementary School in Auburn Gresham has been re-named the Paul Cuffe Math, Science and Technology Academy to mark the school’s shift in curriculum emphasis. … The “new” Nobel School built in West Humboldt Park a year and a half ago has chosen the name, West Park Academy of Fine Arts and Technology.

TEACHER HONORED Jane Bushwaller, a 5th-grade science teacher at Clissold School in Morgan Park has received the Chicago Academy of Science’s 1999 Teacher of the Year Award. Bushwaller was selected for her innovative ways to improve science literacy, which range from overnight nature trips to archeological digs.

ACADEMIC DECATHLON Whitney Young placed fourth in the national U.S. Academic Decathlon competition in April, marking the tenth consecutive year that the school has garnered a top-10 national ranking. In its first appearance in national competition, the team from Curie High, which had placed third in the state, took home a national trophy for “best solution” in the first annual creative problem-solving contest of the decathlon.

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