Unlike many in the Dodge school community, Dolores Thomas was not terribly upset when the School Board closed the school in June 2002 for exceptionally low performance. She even volunteered to serve on a planning team for the school’s reopening. But she is upset now.
“Betrayed is the word I would use,” she says.
Thomas and her friend Geri Bleavings-Booker, another parent on the planning team, say they were led to believe their school’s advisory council would have the same powers as a local school council. But that is not the case.
Dodge is one of the system’s six new “contract schools,” each operated by one of four non-profit education organizations. The first contract school, Chicago Academy, opened in 2001 as a training ground for new teachers. That school, like Dodge, is governed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), which was created by Martin “Mike” Koldyke, founder of The Golden Apple Foundation.
Contract schools are a type of board-designated “alternative school” that is not required to have an elected local school council.
It’s not that Bleavings-Booker and Thomas are unhappy with their new school. “We have a very cooperative, community-oriented principal,” says Thomas. But they worry about what might happen if she does not stay.
Unlike LSCs, advisory councils do not have the power to hire a principal and approve a budget. “If you exclude [us from] principal selection and budget,” says Thomas, “we’re back to making cookies and punch.”