Douglass Academy High School Principal Debra Crump recently announced she will retire at the end of the school year, and some Local School Council members are wondering what that means for the school’s future.
Catherine Jones, community representative for Douglass’ Local School Council, said the high school’s enrollment, test scores and graduation rates are low, and if Crump’s replacement can’t get them up, Jones worries the school could close by the 2013 school year.
“A lot of kids don’t want to come here, and families are moving out of the area,” Jones said. “They say there’s nothing (at Douglass).”
Chicago Public Schools spared Douglass earlier this month when the district released the list of schools slated to close at the end of 2011-2012 school year. Douglass was one of the more than 140 public schools that met school-closure criteria with a Level 3 rating, CPS’ lowest level of school performance, and being on academic probation.
No schools in Austin were on CPS’ list of proposed schools to shut down, AustinTalks reported earlier this month.
Jones said she hopes Douglass can improve before officials release the 2013 CPS academic improvement plans and other possible school closures lists.
Currently, the school is under-enrolled – at about 485 students, according to Illinois’ Interactive Report Cards – and that’s a problem, Jones said, adding the building at 543 N. Waller Ave. can hold about 1,000.
“We need to get our enrollment up.”
This year, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard is “not doing anything to the Austin schools,” Jones said. “We can’t say for next year.”
Douglass LSC chairwoman Misty Brown said Crump’s retirement “comes on the heels of a rising trend in test scores and attendance, and a sharp decline in discipline issues” at the school.
“While there has been a decline in enrollment at Douglass and other schools in Austin, one must consider that this is due in large part to the high foreclosure rate in the Austin community,” she said. “I have read that it is one of the highest in the nation.”
Bob Johnston, management support director of Chicago Public Schools West Side Network, a branch of CPS that oversees the West Side schools, had no comment on Crump’s retirement, saying she has not made it official.
If and when she does make that announcement, “the normal procedure will take place in which the local school council will seek out candidates for the position and select one,” Johnston said.
“I really don’t care to go into any other details on it.”
Frank Shuftan, a CPS spokesman, was unable to confirm directly with the principal that she intends to retire at the end of the school year. But he was able to confirm that the Douglass LSC has begun the process needed to hire a new principal.
The LSC has begun the first step of the hiring process: principal-selection training with CPS’ Office of LSC Relations, Shuftan said.
Douglass’ LSC was to hold its monthly meeting Dec. 12, but it was cancelled unexpectedly and for unknown reasons, Jones said.
The school council was to discuss when it will put out a notice for the open principal position, how to bring in more school resources and student recruiting strategies, among other topics, Jones said.
“We have a lot of stuff to be doing,” Jones said. “It shouldn’t been canceled.”
The next LSC meeting is set for Jan. 23 at 5 p.m., said chairwoman Brown.
“Cancellation of Monday’s meeting had no effect on this principal selection process,” she said. “Members of the LSC are aware of this, as they are each a part of the process. There is no confusion.”
The LSC will continue to follow the principal selection process outlined in the LSC handbook with the guidance of trainers from the Local School Council Relations Office, she added.
Wanda Hopkins, parent advocate at Parents United for Responsible Education, said “that’s totally unacceptable” to cancel the LSC meeting when the process of finding a new principal is underway, regardless if it was on the agenda.
But, she added, the LSC “still has the right to chose to do what they want to do.”
“It looks like some politicking is going on,” she said. “Why would you cancel an LSC meeting when you are going through the (principal-hiring) process?”
In order to hire the school’s new principal, the LSC is required to:
- Advertise the principal vacancy in the CPS Personnel Bulletin.
- Review resumes and candidate profiles in the CPS Principal Eligibility Pool.
- Select a candidate for the position who is in that pool because he or she has satisfied the CPS requirements for eligibility to be a CPS principal;
- Have at least seven LSC members voting in favor of awarding a new contract.
The final selection of a new principal must be made no later than 45 days before the current principal’s contract expires, said Shuftan, who did not say when Crump’s contract would expire. Crump did not return AustinTalks’ interview requests.
If a new principal is not selected 45 days before Crump’s contract expires, the LSC has to submit a list of three candidates for the principal to the CEO, who may select one of the candidates, Shuftan said.
Hopkins said the community needs to be involved in selecting a new principal.
“The community at large can always come to the meeting,” she said.
“We can come and voice our opinion.”
Brown said parents are encouraged to attend all LSC meetings.