BRC Redux

The Dad, the kids and I rolled back into town after our first ever family road trip on Monday night around 11 p.m. Less than 24 hours later, I was back in the auditorium of Lane Tech, listening to the same CPS administrator review this year‘s proposed changes to SE/magnet enrollment policy (see page 6). Unlike at last year’s presentation, which was sketchily announced and scarcely attended, yet expertly presented, the crowd this year was huge. Public comment extended beyond the allotted 2-hour window. (CPS is learning that the best way to contact parents is not to stick a print ad next to the obits in the Trib.)

Like last year, I spoke to the Blue Ribbon Commission. Unlike last year, the moderator responded to comments and questions from the crowd. My comments were not news–either to the audience, which included the Raise Your Hand Coalition steering committee and a few teachers and fellow parents from the kids’ school, or to the CPS powers-that-be: we need more high school options, we need to increase the size of the pie all-around. This sentiment was oft-repeated by those who gave testimony at the hearing.

Another common theme among commenters was how unfair CPS’s 2009 SE enrollment policies are to their junior high children. The prevailing sentiment was that their (“our”) northside children are more deserving of a spot at Northside Prep, Walter Payton, or Jones because they  scored 20 points (or 50 points or even 100 points) higher than a kid who has to bus in from the west or south sides. You’ll soon be able to read the transcript online, so you’ll be able to verify that a man said, “the smarter kids are going to become disenfranchised” by CPS’ current SE enrollment policy/system. Really? I’d like to see some research on that. Because I know there is a whole lot on how black, Hispanic, Asian, and poor children become disenfranchised by a dearth of opportunity. More on this issue at another time.

And the other major theme at Tuesday’s hearing was the issue of enrolling the children of school staff at magnet schools. I had read about the policy-change proposal drafted by the Friends of Mayer group several weeks ago on NPN, but it wasn’t until I attended the hearing that I realized the import of such a change. The proposal asks that CPS/Blue Ribbon Commission replace principal discretion at magnet schools with a new, transparent policy that would allow teachers, principals and staff to enroll their children at the school where their parent(s) work.

I was directly and positively affected by the Board of Education’s 2009 decision to keep families together by giving siblings priority in the magnet enrollment process. Keeping siblings together in their schooling minimizes family stress and maximizes educational outcomes for students. Likewise, keeping school employees’ children with them in the school communities they serve is critical for the continued success of great CPS elementary schools.

As I listened to parent after parent and teacher after teacher speak in support of keeping families together, it struck me that our school community and our children will bear an incredible loss if our extremely dedicated teachers, administrators or staff were forced to measure their time between their children and their students.  Can you imagine our school without the excellent teachers who have been with the school since its inception and, I believe, are an integral part of its success? I do not want to do so.

You can show your support for fabulous teachers, administrators and school staff everywhere within CPS by submitting public comment in favor of allowing teachers, administrators and staff to enroll their children in the magnet schools where their parent(s) work by submitting public comment here.

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