As always, Ben Joravsky is all a journalist should be: unbiased, impartial, fair. It is virtual wizardry that he can get the people on opposing sides to believe the article was written from their viewpoint. Mr. Joravsky has worked his magic in presenting a balanced report of almost mathematical precision in his article entitled "Hard Lessons" (Neighborhood News, April 26) about the local school council elections at Walt Disney Magnet School. That being said, there were but two points Mr. Joravsky and I discussed that did not get covered.
The most significant of these concerns the statement that monies controlled by the LSC have been used exclusively on the school's very real administrative needs. Nearly half our budget goes to plugging holes left by cuts that previous central administrations have imposed on nontraditional settings such as Disney. We have to "buy back" at least eight teachers we lost when the previous Board of Education chose to selectively hold our school to formulae they devised for neighborhood schools. Our Early Childhood Center continues to get the lion's share of our funds because the board cannot find funds for pre-kindergarten programs except from federal government sources that require attendance by 100 percent "poverty" clients.
The second point is that the new Board of Trustees may have overstepped their legal mandates by continuing a high-profile "intervention" after determining that our school was far above the "educational crisis" criteria. The state legislature granted it authority to contradict the internal affairs of a duly elected official state body such as the LSC only in such cases. This interference and the unfortunate timing of this interim report's "debut" is the primary charge in a challenge filed recently (amid nearly a dozen challenges filed) seeking a new LSC election at Disney.
There is also a need to explain the division of the incumbents. Since I happened to have taught for four years in the latter part of the 70s at Disney school's Communications Arts Center, I was the only member of the LSC or 98 percent of the current faculty who genuinely understood the importance of that facility and its innovative programming. There were some members on the LSC that insisted the focus and philosophy of Disney should only be that of any other neighborhood school while I happened to believe that Disney should be far more than just a factory where the only end product is good grades and high test scores. This faction chose to be "spoilers" and ran a full slate including two "community" candidates against me. Mr. Aguina's faction also chose to run several slates of candidates, each of which included the same two community candidates who had never seen the inside of Disney school until they filed as candidates.
In order to give parents at the school a real choice, I ran a partial slate of three candidates that included only one parent (to fill the spot of a current LSC member whose child was graduating in June). Her name is Andrea Diaz and she is a new parent at Disney whose three-year-old child won a spot in the Early Childhood Center in last year's lottery. She holds a degree in communications and journalism from Loyola and was an intern at Fox TV as well as having worked at other print and broadcast-media news agencies before becoming a full-time mom.
The third member of our team was community candidate Todd Bodenstein. He is a class of '76 alumnus of Walt Disney Magnet School and was one of my students when I taught there. A graduate of Northwestern and a recipient of an MBA from that university's Kellogg School of Graduate Management, he is currently pursuing a law degree at John Marshall and is the owner of SUBA Communications, an Internet service provider in Chicago's Lakeview community. He is typical of the graduates Disney was turning out at that time.
Faced with such inexorable evidence of the success of Disney's past, some faculty and even some parent partisans might have felt threatened about raising such high expectations. Such a team would have facilitated restoration of programs like the Communications Arts Center as well as other lost Disney traditions like Art, Band, and Chorus Studios, rather than pushing the LSC to continue overfunding their particular pet project . . . but that's politics.
In the past, Mr. Aguina's faction was hell-bent solely on having the power to fire the principal and seemed to totally neglect any other issues such as the revitalization of the CAC. Now they've run on a platform to restore that program. I applaud them for that and hope they will include us in the process. I think our group's expertise may be of some help. I certainly congratulate them on their well-honed organizational skills. However, they will find that while it takes certain skills and drive to run and win an election, you must acquire a whole other set of skills to govern well.
I'm certainly not discouraged by my misfortunes in Chicago's Grand Experiment in Educational Reform. When we step inside our polling places to elect the president of the United States this November, that process represents the culmination of more than two centuries of refinement. The LSC elections represent only six years. The state legislature should at least consider requiring some minimal qualifications, such as candidates must attend at least six consecutive meetings of an LSC before they are allowed to run for a seat on one.
That way we won't feel like we should offer a tour of the facility before they take office to run it.
Walt Disney Magnet Local
Community Representative (for now)