Douglass Local School Council members prepare for change

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With the likely removal of their principal looming, members of the Douglass Academy High School’s Local School Council are bracing themselves for what could be a tumultuous few months, which begins today.

The LSC will hold its monthly meeting at 5 p.m. at the school, 543 N. Waller Ave, during which Principal Debra Crump’s status will be discussed. On Tuesday, some LSC members plan to protest her probable removal, which is expected to be made official at the Chicago Board of Education meeting Wednesday, at 125 S. Clark St.

“Douglass is on probation for the third year,” said CPS Chief Area Officer (26th) Rick Mills, who oversees the West Side school. “I’ve reviewed the data and the annual growth, and the school is not moving forward in key areas, and it hasn’t been for a long time.”

LSC members have the power to fire and hire principals, as long as the candidate is on the approved list from CPS, while CPS policy states officials may remove a principal who is not meeting standards.

Mills said Crump was placed on a corrective action plan – a process that requires more student achievement – a step often taken with lower-performing schools such as Douglass.

He declined to comment about Crump’s future but said rumors that Crump had been given 60 days were untrue and that it would ultimately be up to the Chicago Board of Education.

Should Crump be removed, Mills said he plans to work with the LSC on the selection process for a new principal, but he noted the CPS’ CEO has final approval.  CEO Ron Huberman has turned in his resignation, effective Nov. 29, so it’s not clear if that person would be chosen before or after his departure.

“We are all not on the same page,” Mills said. “But I’m keeping them all informed and sharing with the LSC and the community.”

At last month’s CPS board of education meeting, LSC members attended to both support and oppose Crump’s removal, but they were united in their plea for more communication from the district’s top officials.

Mills said he met with LSC members last week to discuss the status of Crump, as requested by the board.

CPS spokesman Bobby Otter also declined to comment, saying the board doesn’t comment on personnel matters that haven’t occurred and that the agenda for Wednesday’s monthly meeting’s won’t be published until Tuesday.

“It’s my understanding that on this month’s CPS board meeting agenda, that there will be a resolution to remove principal Crump,” said Dwayne Truss, a local school council member at Ella Flagg Young School. “Making a mid-school year leadership change would be crazy, it would be ludicrous to lose an institutional year in terms of adjustments. CPS earns the name miseduaction in these situations very well.”

Many challenges face Douglass, which has about 400 students, down from 1,100 since 2001.

Crump, who has been at Douglass the past 8½ years, said in an interview last month that the school has become some what of a dumping ground for students with special needs and other struggling pupils, since Austin High School closed in 2007, making Douglass the de facto neighborhood high school. (The Chicago Sun-Times writes today about nearby Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory High School; the private school has a higher graduation rate than Douglass.)

Crump said a big challenge has been finding the resources to provide the services these students need.

Many in the freshman class at Douglass come in reading and doing math at about the 5th grade level, which is an obstacle to getting the students college-ready in three years, said LSC member Misty Brown.

And half of the freshmen have babies at home, a large portion of the students have probation officers and some have drug addictions, Brown said.

“All of this is going on in a high school, and CPS is only concerned about test scores,” Brown said. “We never got the services needed for this. We need a full-time social worker and psychologist. Dr. Crump has created programs to attempt to address these issues but all without the help we asked for from downtown.

Mills could not be reached to explain why Austin High School was denied that help.

“His calendar is full all day today,” said Mills’ secretary, when asked for a good time to catch him last week. “He won’t be answering any more of your questions.”

LSC member Catherine Jones attended the meeting last month in support of Crump’s removal and implored the board to make a leadership change quickly so Douglass can move forward.

“Other members want to keep her, but there needs to be a change, the record speaks for itself,” Jones said last week. “We need intervention here, someone to come in and get organized, help mentor the kids and pull them up. This is their cry for help.”

Jones said Crump hasn’t been willing to allow people from the community to come into the school to help and that she hasn’t been communicating with the LSC for some time now.

Crump, who says she has kept LSC members abreast of what’s going on, said until she’s told otherwise, it’s business as usual, which means getting in early to meet with teachers and sometimes staying late to help watch the babies of students attending night school.

“I’m here until CPS makes a decision otherwise, but I’d like to keep my job,” Crump said. “Our scores will never be tip top, but we will move them forward. We are a neighborhood school with no support.”

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