Part of the Solution...Part Two (What Makes Great LSCs)
As the saying goes, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Running for Local School Council (LSC) or CEL (Concilio Escolar Local) is an invaluable step you can take towards being ‘at the table.’
But you being at the table does not effect positive change in and of itself. For that, you need teamwork. So what makes a good governance team at a public school? No doubt you’ve heard of dysfunctional or moribund LSCs. This handful of Councils live in infamy as the only kinds that wind up in the media. I guess no one wants to read about how a school facilitated a really smart budget in a fiscally trying year, or how a new principal worked with school leadership to create a transformative SIPAAA (school improvement plan).
Scandals are sexy. Democracy is not.
I went to the north side LSC rally at Lane Tech High School on Monday. Not enough people were there. Hopefully more people will attend the other rallies. There's a West Side rally today (Feb 29) at DePriest Elementary, 132 S. Parkside, then South: Thursday, March 1 at Simeon H.S., 8147 S. Vincennes Ave. and Central: Friday, March 2 at Parent Resource Center, 4655 S. Dearborn.
What should a good LSC look like? A good elected body should:
- Be Representative: reflect the school community;
- Be Inclusive: ensure the needs of under-represented groups (e.g., children with special needs, English language learners, etc. are brought to the forefront;
- Leverage Strengths: use your community’s social, intellectual and cultural capital to the benefit of your school;
- Encourage Independent Thinking: good teams don’t always agree-- in fact something may be wrong if your LSC always does. Schools don’t need group think or a rubber stamp;
- Support Community Engagement: communicate well, facilitate dialogue and don’t make decisions in a void;
- Advocate, Advocate, Advocate: councils can turn over every two years, but the team must always try to advocate for the long term benefit of the program;
- Make Mission-Driven Decisions: push to facilitate meaningful solutions, not hold ‘popularity contests’;
- Third Solution: If there’s two or more sides to an issue, try to see things from the opposing point of view. Is there any common ground?
- Be Honest: integrity is of the utmost importance in an elected leader;
On a personal level, when you get elected, know your responsibilities:
- Be On Time: Don’t be late to meetings, or worse, risk your team not getting quorum because you didn’t show up;
- Be Prepared: LSCs are the only elected body that undergoes training (18 hours) to serve – I recommend the independent trainings from Designs for Change and if still available, PURE;
- Brush Up: If you’ve been on an LSC for consecutive years, you are exempt from re-training. Go anyway;
- Don’t Overstep: First and foremost, your duties are tasked with responsibility for the school budget, improvement plan and principal evaluation/selection;
- Be Responsive: What, you got elected and now you’re too cool (or busy) to talk to the hoi polloi. Don’t be that guy;
- Be Realistic: Schools have issues. Solutions will never make everyone happy.
- Don’t Overshare: Don’t discuss school politics in front of your children. Filter what you say, and let your child focus on his or her studies.
If you’re not elected, remember that you can still be involved by volunteering to serve on an LSC commitee. Committing to run for LSC presumably means you want to be an active stakeholder in your child’s school’s visionl Just because you’re not elected does not you get to disappear into the school’s woodwork until the next election happens two years down the line.