Northside Students and Parents Elect Local School Council

Greg Schaefer, Opinion Editor

After a modified election on Nov. 19, four new and eight returning members were chosen as representatives of Northside’s Local School Council (LSC). Students reelected Senior Luna Johnston (Adv. 108) as student representative. Mr. Brad Hack, Ms. Sandra Morales-Mirque, Mr. John Lynch, and Ms. Lisa Barrow were elected as new parent representatives. 

Chicago Public Schools introduced a hybrid voting model, offering both in-person and mail-in ballots for parents, teachers, and school staff. Students voted for their representative through an online ballot Nov. 13 through 17.

 The LSC is responsible for making decisions about the school’s goals and budget, yet many students and parents are unaware of its decision-making capabilities.

Chicago Public Schools launched LSCs in 1998 to improve academic achievement by giving parents, teachers, and staff primary governing power.

According to Northside’s website, “the LSC is responsible for approving the School Improvement Plan, principal selection and evaluation, and allocating discretionary funds to school programs.”

The School Improvement Plan is implemented through a planning process called the Continuous Improvement Work Plan (CIWP). “The Continuous Improvement Work Plan is like a guiding plan…things that Northside wants to work towards,” said Luna Johnston, Northside’s student representative to the LSC. “The LSC approves the CWIP, and then we base all of our decisions for the rest of the year on those principles.”  An example might be a decision to allocate funds toward funding a consultant to help families understand financial aid. 

Beyond the CIWP, the council evaluates the principal annually and makes the decision to renew the principal’s contract.

Northside’s Local School Council held a traditional monthly meeting on Dec. 15. Ms. Mulligan explained that “the council’s ongoing work is to support the principal, the administration team, and the whole staff in fulfilling the mission and vision of the school.”

LSC members adhere to a strict protocol at their meetings. Agenda items include allotted times for public comment, the principal’s report, and approving the agenda itself. “We’re an elected body,” said Johnston, “so we have to make sure that everything we do is in line with protocol and is transparent to our community. So there definitely are a lot of formalities.”

Last summer, the Northside LSC became the first school to terminate the SRO program.  The vote was 11 in favor and 0 against, with 1 member abstaining.

The engagement with this issue put the LSC into the limelight. Johnston explained that “Last year, [the LSC] would be lucky if there were two people sitting in on our LSC meetings, and now there are usually 20-40 people in our LSC meetings.”

The council has become more accessible to students, parents and community members because of its transition from in-person to virtual meetings. “Before,” says Johnston, “if parents wanted to come, then they would have to drive all the way to Northside and find us in the teacher’s lounge and then sit in for an hour, which takes a lot of time and energy, and makes it really inaccessible especially for people who live really far from Northside.”

LSC members hope this heightened engagement will continue. “The LSC is a huge resource,” said Johnston, “And the LSC has a huge impact on all of the decisions that Northside makes and all of the things that contribute to what our school community looks like.”

Ms. Mulligan agrees that LSC’s are important to school decisions. “LSCs have approved expenditures of many resources that students enjoy: tutoring; new equipment for the gym, pool, field; athletics expenses; auditorium improvements….the list is long.” She expanded on her statement, “It’s also important to note that since Chicago does not have an elected school board, LSCs are the only way for people to really be involved in the governance of schools.”

Northside’s Local School Council holds meetings every month. All students, parents, and community members can sit in on these meetings.  More information can be found on the LSC and meeting minutes on the LSC page of Northside’s website.