West Side local school council members gather

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Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) and Austin Coming Together invited West Side Local School Council members to a breakfast Saturday at Bethel New Life. Ford said he wanted to celebrate the work LSCs do and let members know what resources are available to them.

Close to 50 LSC members – teachers, community members and parents elected to the local school boards – attended Saturday’s breakfast.

Because they deal with the budget and hire and fire principals, two driving forces in every school, LSCs are very powerful, said Ford.

But, he said, not every LSC is active or successful.

He wants to help LSC members realize their power and come together no matter what school they are from to improve education on the West Side.

Local school boards work well in certain neighborhoods, but LSCs on the West Side need to be strong so they can deal effectively with the Chicago Board of Education, said Ford.

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil,” he said.

Ford, in office since 2007, held a similar meeting three years ago at John Hay Elementary Community Academy.

But he and Blake Sercye, a candidate running for 1st District Cook County commissioner who led part of Saturday’s program, acknowledged the challenges LSCs face working with the CPS administration.

Sercye asked the group why they decided to become active in their LSC and what challenges they face in achieving their goals.

Several people stood up and said they got involved to bring change and that the LSC is something a parent can be involved in to make a difference in their child’s education.

The group listed several concerns: lack of parent participation, too few amenities that leave schools on the West Side behind, principals resistant to LSCs, budget cuts and lack of support from elected officials.

Some said LSC members need more training on how to improve and be more effective.

Sercye, a former LSC member at John Hay Elementary Community Academy, said the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Local School Council Relations can come to individual schools for training sessions, but many people don’t know about that option.

That office already offers training on the role and responsibilities of LSCs and LSC members, how to conduct effective LSC meetings, the CPS School Improvement Plan, the school budget, evaluation of principals, the retention and selection of principals, and the role and responsibilities of the LSC offices of chair and secretary.

Guillermo Montes de Oca, director of the Office of Local School Council Relations, told the group they play an important role.

“At CPS, we think we are giving you what you need, but we need you to tell us,” he said.

The next LSC election is April 7, 2014.

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