A Question of Trust

This morning, I stood for an hour in high heels in support of Disney II Principal Bogdana Chkoumbova and 3rd grade teacher Adrienne Garrison, Fiske grandparent Shirley Calhoun, and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard while they and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel spoke at a press conference held in the Disney II gymatorium. The event was to announce a revision to the longer school day. I did this because I believe in Disney II’s principal and teachers, just as I believe in the positive impact that a 7.5-hour elementary school day and 2h50m preschool-for-all day has had on my three children.
Will a one-size-fits all mandate work for every student, teacher, aide, and principal? No way. But it seems to me that what is lacking in this discussion is micro-level trust. That is, trust on the individual school level. Disney II works because it’s a group effort: a principal with a clear vision, teachers who believe in the vision and put it into action, students who come to school ready and eager to learn, and parents who are committed to setting their kids up for success–academically and through the rest of their lives. This is a great base. We also probably couldn’t do it if the school did not have per-pupil funding (instead of a quota-based funding formula) and a Local School Council (currently the Interim Advisory Council) that is willing to spend a lot of time on the budget to make it happen. 

When Principal Chkoumbova told me of the 7.5-hour day plan in September 2011, I quickly realized that I had no reason not to trust that the teachers and administration at Disney II were doing the right thing for our kids. Even if the impetus to lengthen the school day by another 45 minutes came from the top. If you don’t trust your principal and teachers, you probably shouldn’t send your kids to that school. And fortunately for the 13 percent of CPS’s student population that belong to middle-class families, their parents do often have the option to change schools or move out of the city to a suburb whose education system better fits their philosophy.

As a child, I grew up in a household where education was important. Education was paramount. It came in many forms in addition to the six hours and 45 minutes I spent in school every day: travel, after-school activities and classes, a trip to the Woolworth’s lunch counter on State Street in the mid-1980s. But none of these additional educational opportunities were as important as school itself. In my family of origin, my job was to do well in school. 

I’m fortunate that I can afford to take the same attitude with The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot (Who’s Not). I’m moderately certain that if a greater percentage of CPS parents were able to take the same stance, our students wouldn’t need a 7-hour day and/or no CPS parent would complain about the proposal for increased time. 

Part of me–the part who has an incoming kindergarten male next fall–is a bit relieved by the revision. But the balance of me is bummed out. At Disney II, our students were doing great things with all that time, and the plan for next year looked even better. But, although no one in the room dared to utter the word, I think it’s a good compromise between the Mayor’s vision and the vocal opposition.

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One thought on “A Question of Trust

  1. Perfect. For me personally, I have no grand plan – or desire – to fix CPS, but I will fight tooth and nail to protect what we have at Disney II. I think the silent majority of CPS parents support the full day initiative. I think these same parents would organize a ticker tape parade for Rahm if he could tell us how he intends to pay for it. It is the funding uncertainty that prevents a huge groundswell of public support for the full day.

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