DECATUR SUGGESTION BOX
Have a suggestion? Or a great idea for making Decatur even better? Submit your ideas here. We'll check the box regularly and share each and every idea with the LSC on a monthly basis. All submissions are CONFIDENTIAL unless you wish to leave your name, email, and/or phone number so an LSC member can follow up with you personally. All ideas will be considered and discussed. And remember, if you have a question that needs immediate attention, please directly contact your child's teacher, the administration or the school office. Thanks for your ideas.
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DECATUR EXPANSION COMMITTEE
Decatur Expansion Committee 2015-2016
LSC Committee Chair: Tim McCaffrey
Decatur’s current building was originally designed as a primary grade school for K-2, built with expansion in mind. But more than 30 years later, it now has nearly 300 K-6th graders in the very same building. It has space limitations, and it also does not extend to 7th and 8th grade. This committee’s purpose is to address these multiple unique challenges, and ensure that Decatur students have the opportunity to continue their Classical education at their current pace through 8th grade.
August 2016 Update
On August 16, Alderman Joe Moore of the 49th Ward announced his proposal to relocate the Decatur Classical School into the Eugene Field Elementary School building at 7019 N. Ashland Ave. Here is Alderman Moore’s proposal:
Ms. K and the LSC announced Alderman Moore’s proposal to the Decatur Community that same day.
Please find Ms. K's letter here.
There will be a meeting to discuss this proposal at Sullivan High School (6631 N. Bosworth) on August 30th at 7:00pm and we encourage all members of our community to attend the meeting if possible.
June 2016 UPDATE
During the course of the past year, the LSC and Expansion Committee worked hard to expand the Decatur Classical School to 7th and 8th grade, and to secure for our students the facilities that we currently lack, such as a suitable gym, cafeteria and space for teaching and programs.
Early in the year, parent Kim Manning took the opportunity to talk to Mayor Emanuel about Decatur when she ran into him at another school. This helped us get a meeting early in the year with CPS decision makers, including Janice Jackson (CPS Chief Education Officer). We described our need for a solution and relayed that we are open to creative solutions.
We were hopeful, then discouraged, about the possibility of the Trumbull school becoming available to us. We worked with Ald. O’Connor’s office to see whether it was a possibility for us in the event the sale to a theater/condominium developer did not work out. That sale appears to be moving forward, but Ald. O’Connor agreed to support us in our efforts to expand.
And local media has reported on our facilities issues. In December, DNAinfo reported on the pressure our 5th and 6th grade students go through as they test for 7th grade programs without a defined Decatur program in place for 7th and 8th grade. [Find ARTICLE here.]
We met with our Alderman, Debra Silverstein, several times during the course of the school year. We told her that our community would love to expand on our current site, but that most important is that we expand. She said she wants Decatur to stay on its current site, and promised her support. We told her that we had been contacting, and intended to continue contacting, our elected representatives to enlist their support of our efforts. She encouraged us to continue engaging those elected representatives.
Our work recruiting politicians to help us paid off. Numerous parents met with their aldermen and other politicians, some alone and others in groups. We asked them to express their support of Ald. Silverstein, and to assist in her efforts to secure our expansion. Ultimately, we were able to secure expressions of support from nearly 15 politicians, including aldermen, state senators, state representatives, and our own Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Lou Lang.
Our Committee has been looking into a number of possible short- and long-term solutions. One solution we have presented in our discussions at Committee meetings and with CPS is the possibility of putting a Decatur 7/8 grade in a nearby school that has capacity. The Committee is also looking into the feasibility and cost of mobile classrooms at Decatur. And with knowledge that the Archdiocese of Chicago is closing and consolidating many of its own schools, we have reached out to the Archdiocese about the potential availability of its facilities.
We then met with Fr. Garanzini of the Board of Education. The meeting went well, and Fr. Garanzini really seemed interested in understanding our issues and pushing for a solution. We spent some time going through all of our issues (7/8, space, etc.), and we focused a lot on the stress the kids go through in 5/6 at Decatur. Everyone seemed in agreement that the question is not whether Decatur should have a 7th and 8th grade, but how to accomplish it. We emphasized that we are open to all options. We said that we want a permanent solution, but we really need some solution right away because our kids keep going through this year after year.
We had a follow-up meeting with CPS in June to re-iterate our need for a solution. CPS told us they are working to try to address our concerns, but of course financial constraints are substantial. We remain optimistic that CPS will identify and present a solution to our issues, and we are confident that they hear us and are making it a priority to work to resolve our issues. In fact, CPS recently released its Preliminary Draft Update to the Educational Facilities Master Plan eff. July 1, 2016. In that document, CPS identified as one of its Facilities priorities “addressing the space constraints of other area schools, including identifying options to provide a defined, accelerated 7th and 8th grade program for Decatur students.”
We will continue working with CPS and our elected representatives to resolve our facilities issues and to expand to 7th and 8th grade. We will provide periodic updates here, so please check back from time to time.
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What are the Local School Council’s Responsibilities?
The Illinois legislature has given Local School Council’s the primary responsibility for school governance and improvement under the School Reform Act. The powers and duties of the LSC are described in the CPS LSC handbook called “Chicago Public Schools Office of Local School Council Relations: A Quick Resource Guide for Local School Councils”. The powers and duties, as summarized from this Quick Resource Guide including the following:
Principal Performance Evaluation, Retention and Selection
Annually, the LSC evaluates the performance of the principal. The LSC decides whether to renew the principal’s four-year contract or to hire a different principal at the end of the contract term. If necessary, the LSC selects a new principal for a new contract term or to fill a vacancy. According to Illinois School Code (105 ILCS 5/34-2.3) the principal evaluations must focus on “(i) student academic improvement, as defined by the school improvement plan, (ii) student absenteeism rates at the school, (iii) instructional leadership, (iv) the effective implementation of programs, policies, or strategies to improve student academic achievement, (v) school management, and (vi) any other factors deemed relevant by the local school council including, without limitation, the principal’s communication skills and ability to create and maintain a student-centered learning environment, to develop opportunities for professional development, and to encourage parental involvement and community partnerships to achieve school improvement.” The LSC may choose to involve people from outside the LSC in some aspects of the evaluation such as gathering information or making recommendations, but only the LSC members may vote to determine the actual evaluation ratings.
Continuous Improvement Work Plan (“CIWP”)
The CIWP document is the blue print for the improvement of the school, and the education of its students. It is an accountability tool for the LSC, the school, and the Illinois State Board of Education. The LSC reviews and improves or asks for amendments to theCIWP and reports progress and problems with respect to its implementation at least twice a year at two well-publicized meetings with the entire school community. The LSC evaluates the allocation of both teaching and non-teaching staff resources, to determine if such allocation is consistent with instructional objectives and school programs as reflected in the CIWP. The CIWP serves as an internal review of progress towards the school’s priority goals.
Budget and Internal Accounts
The LSC approves the School Expenditure Plan prepared by the principal in respect to funds allocated and distributed to the school by the Board of Education. The LSC approves, in accordance with Board of Education policy, receipts and expenditures for internal accounts of the school, and approves all fund-raising activities by non-school organizations (IE: the PTA). The LSC has the responsibility and authority to review, revise and approve the entire school budget; monitor the school spending throughout the year; review, approve and monitor the school’s internal accounts (cash the school gets for student fees, fundraising, vending machines, special events, gifts, etc.); direct the principal to shift expenditures within funds to change how money will be spent, and to close positions and open new ones (to the extent consistent with existing laws and collective bargaining agreements); and to approve amendments to the budget. The LSC has the authority to approve all internal account receipts and expenditures over $1,000 by an affirmative vote of a majority of serving members. The LSC has the authority to review and approve receipts and expenditures for all school internal accounts on a monthly basis. While General Funds, which pay for the school’s basic program, are locked into required teaching, administration and staffing positions, the LSC can recommend that new teachers have certain skills that follow the LSC’s vision for the school and the CIWP, for example teachers with knowledge of technology, the arts, or gifted education.
Curriculum and Textbooks
The LSC makes recommendations to the principal on textbook selection and curriculum, as long as those recommendations are consistent with the curriculum objectives of the Board of Education.
Advising the Principal
The LSC advises the principal concerning the attendance and disciplinary policies of the school (Illinois School Code 105 ILCS 5/34-2.3.6). The LSC makes recommendations to the principal concerning respective appointments of persons to fill any vacant, additional, or newly created positions for teachers or non-teaching staff at the school.
The LSC may adopt a school uniform or dress code policy.
Public Use of School Building
The LSC may grant the use of the school assembly halls and classrooms, when not otherwise needed, for public lectures, concerts and other educational social activities, in compliance with Board rules.
The LSC is to encourage the involvement of additional non-voting members of the school community. Public participation should be encouraged and time should be provided for such participation at each regular LSC meeting. Chicago Board of Education policy specifies that the LSC is responsible for involving the school community in the development of the CIWP. The goal is to have every member of the school community know the priority goals and strategies of the CIWP. The LSC is directed to figure out ways to increase school progress through increased school community partnerships and active parent involvement. See VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES to see our progress
Students With Disabilities and the Least Restrictive Environment
The LSC must review the principal’s report on services to students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.
The LSC must comply with the Illinois Open Meetings Act and the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Closed executive sessions are necessary in some cases, such as when the LSC or its committees are discussing confidential personnel information.
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