PRINCIPAL CONTRACTS Demetra Kirksey, interim principal at Parkman, was named contract principal. … Principals whose contracts were renewed are: JoMarie Cooper, Oglesby; George Huff, Brownell; Allan J. Singer, Hitch; Gregory Strickler Poe, Mt. Vernon.

APPOINTMENT President George W. Bush has named Sunny Penedo Chico as Midwest regional representative for the U.S. Department of Education. Chico, who is married to former School Board President Gery Chico, will report to Secretary of Education Rod Paige. She previously served as executive director of institutional advancement for Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Ill., and before that served as education assistant to the Illinois Lt. Governor.

EDUCATIONAL CRISIS The Chicago Board of Education placed Smith Elementary at 744 E. 103rd St. in educational crisis, which by state law allows the board to take over dysfunctional schools and disband the LSC. After hearings in February, the board found that long-standing conflicts between the LSC and Principal Antionette Patton had led to declining academic results and a failure to devise a school improvement plan or budget. Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins will oversee all school expenditures and the school improvement plan through June 30. The board will allow Patton to remain, but it will dissolve the LSC. However, many of the ousted LSC members are slated as candidates in this month’s election.

POLICY The board adopted an amended intervention policy for chronically low-performing schools. The new policy calls for intervention to be phased in over three years, setting annual goals that intervention schools must meet. External partners may also become involved with intervention schools. By contrast, the old policy was imposed on schools at the last minute and did not set academic benchmarks for them to meet. (Last spring, the board suspended intervention when test scores dropped in four of its five intervention schools.) Unchanged are provisions for intervention schools to be led by newly installed interim principals who will assess all staff, and teams of core subject specialists who will work in each school, reporting to the Office of High School Development. Second-year intervention schools will implement board-approved academic plans; third-year schools will get additional staff training and professional development. Teachers who do outstanding work will get financial incentives, and schools that improve will be removed from the program and placed on probation.

CHARTER SCHOOLS Nuestra America Charter High School in West Humboldt Park will close in June; its charter was not renewed due to poor academic performance. (Catalyst Feb. 2002) Only 10.4 percent of its students scored at or above national norms in reading. CPS Director of Charter Schools Greg Richmond says central office will help students get into another high school for the fall, but their first choices are not guaranteed. Nuestra America’s closing means CPS has a slot open for one new charter school. Currently, 14 charter schools are operating in the city; state law allows up to15.

TEACHERS ACADEMY The National Teachers Academy of Chicago, a pet project for Mayor Daley, will open this fall, a year later than originally scheduled. The Teachers Academy will serve 850 students in pre-kindergarten to 5th grade with plans to expand through 8th grade. The $47 million school, located at 55 W. Cermak Rd., aims to be a laboratory for teacher training, with a full-time faculty comprised of National Board-certified teachers or those working toward certification. A high school based on the same model is expected to open in 2003 in a site yet to be determined.

AWARDS Two seniors from Mather High won academic scholarships worth about $90,000 in the “Who Wants to Win a Scholarship?” competition on April 4 against students from nine Chicago area high schools. Olga Kolovskaya plans to attend Loyola University; Mohammed Ahmed is going to DePaul University. The contest, in which students answered academic questions a la the TV game show, was sponsored by Chicago GEAR UP Alliance, a partnership of universities, business groups and CPS, which received a five-year, $31 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. GEAR UP is an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

SMALL SCHOOLS CPS will host a Small Schools Expo at the Field Museum of Natural History on May 9 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. More than 60 small schools will present their programs, including new schools slated to open this fall. For more information call the Office of Small Schools at (773) 553-1438.

CAPITAL BUDGET Beginning this month, CPS will hold a series of capital budget hearings where school and LSC leaders are invited to testify about their building and facility needs. One hearing will be held in each region at the following locations: Region 1, Clinton, May 6; Region 2, Wells High, May 16; Region 3, Clark Middle, May 30; Region 4, Davis, May 9; Region 5, Harper High, May 13; Region 6, Lavizzo, June 4. All hearings begin at 6 p.m.; registration opens at 4 p.m. For more information, call the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group at (312) 939-7198.

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