UPDATE — April 19, 2022: After a deadline extension to attract more applicants, the Local School Council elections are scheduled for this week: Wednesday, April 20 from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for elementary schools and Thursday, April 21 from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for high schools. 

According to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) website, the elections are being held in person.

UPDATE — March 2, 2022: This afternoon, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced an extension of the deadline for people interested in applying for candidacy in the Local School Council (LSC) elections. The new deadline is Wednesday, March 9 at 3:00 P.M.

Election season is gearing up for a small but vital body of decision-makers within the Chicago Public Schools: the Local School Councils (LSCs). Serving as the governing body for schools, LSCs are composed of parents, community residents, school staff and principals. There are more than 500 LSCs in CPS, and each one has the power to evaluate, hire or renew a principal’s contract, and approve a school’s budget and curriculum. 

Most recently, the importance of LSCs came into play during the 2020 uprisings; a nationwide moment of reckoning around police brutality against Black people. In Chicago, while organizers rallied around defunding the police and prison abolition, youth organizers in CPS joined the fight with their #CopsOutCPS campaign, demanding CPS to remove Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers — who served as School Resource Officers (SROs) — from their campuses.

Northside College Prep in North Park was the first LSC in the district to vote to remove SROs from its school on July 7, 2020. In the end, more than 70 high-school LSCs voted on whether to keep or remove police, only 17 LSCs voted to oust their SROs, according to Chalkbeat Chicago.

With the application window for the 2022 LSC elections being open until March 4, current LSC members are encouraging parents, community members and students to apply in the upcoming election. As of Feb. 3, according to CPS press secretary Evan Moore, 112 LSC elections applications had been submitted.

For Hilesh Patel, an Edgewater resident and Senn High School parent, joining the LSC in 2021 was crucial. He’d watched the conversations unfold around police in schools the previous year, and wanted to become more involved in his eldest son’s school.

“I didn’t want SROs in the school, but I also wanted to make sure that I was coming to the table asking questions about why they were there,” Patel said. “I wanted to come into the LSC space making sure that I was able to ask questions, critical questions around that specifically, but also around student voices to make sure student voices were heard.”

As for Trina Reynolds-Tyler, a South Shore resident who joined her neighborhood high school LSC in 2020, she did so to amplify the voices of young people who, she said, aren’t always heard or represented in LSC meetings. She’s one of the community representatives on the LSC at South Shore International College Preparatory High School. 

“I love young people, and I feel like a lot of times their voices are not represented in these rooms. For so long, they haven’t even necessarily been conditioned to come to these meetings for their voices to be heard,” Reynolds-Tyler said. “So the meetings end up typically being like a place where adults are making decisions about things that impact these young people’s lives.” 

Interested candidates have until March 4 at 3:00 p.m. to apply to be a candidate in the 2022 LSC election.

The Office of Local School Council Relations will host an informational webinar on Tuesday, Feb. 22, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A panel of current LSC members will give guidelines on the role and the LSC application and election process. The panel will also be available to answer questions.

Here is the link to register for the webinar. 

Below are some important details to know about the LSC application process and what the role entails.

Understanding the roles within CPS local school councils

LSCs in the CPS district typically have 12 members for elementary schools and 15 members for high schools. Traditional LSCs for CPS high schools consist of a principal, six parents, two community representatives, two teacher representatives, one non-teacher representative and three student representatives. 

However, some schools have appointed LSC members — like Collins Academy High School on the West Side. It’s one of seven schools where the district appoints LSC members based on recommendations from the CPS Chief Education Officer, and it has nine LSC members instead of 15.

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Then there are some schools with LSC board of governors, which applies to CPS military academy high schools such as Carver Military Academy High School on the Far South Side. Its LSC board of governors has 16 members, including a principal, parents, teachers, community members, two advocates, and a JROTC instructor and a student representative.

Starting on July 1, 2022, one student representative can be added to an elementary school’s LSC in elementary schools that serve students up to eighth grade. This will increase the number of members allotted for elementary LSCs from 12 to 13.

LSC elections take place every two years. People allowed to vote in the LSC elections include parents, school staff and community members that reside within the school’s zone. 

Adult LSC members serve two-year terms, and high-school student representatives serve a one-year term. Elementary school student reps will serve a one-year term. There’s no limit on how many terms an LSC member can serve. More information on terms here.

To find out more about the LSC membership for a specific elementary or high school, check out a full listing from the district’s website.

How to apply to be a candidate in the 2022 LSC election

The application window for the 2022 LSC elections opened on Jan. 3. To apply, candidates — adults and students — will need to download and complete the application forms. Then, submit them in-person —with two forms of identification on-hand to present — at the school where they plan to run as a candidate by Friday, March 4 at 3:00 p.m. Here are the candidate application forms for the LSC election. 

Candidates can also file their applications in-person at the Office of Local School Council Relations at the CPS district’s Garfield Park Office, located on the third floor at 2651 W. Washington Blvd. Emailed, mailed, faxed or copied application forms will not be accepted.

After applications are filed, each LSC will host a candidate forum where candidates can introduce themselves and answer questions from the school community. The candidate forum for each school will be held between March 21 and March 25. 

Elementary school LSC elections will take place on April 20 and high school elections on April 21.

As for what makes a good LSC candidate, Dixon Romeo said good candidates listen to the needs of teachers, students and parents, and work collaboratively with the LSC to ensure the school has what it needs to thrive. Romeo is the LSC community representative at Parkside Community Academy in South Shore.

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“You got to be willing to listen, willing to roll up your sleeves and do work, willing to be honest about what’s working and what’s not working,” Romeo said. “Also, be super upfront about understanding that the council is a group and that you guys got to work together. So, be willing to make relationships with other folks on your LSC, talk to folks [and] support each other.”

Not sure about running for your LSC? There are other ways to get involved

Although being a member of the LSC is one way to enact change in CPS schools, it’s not the only way. Reynolds-Tyler encourages community members to physically go to LSC meetings, or virtually tune into them, whenever they can. 

“You will be surprised at the things that you hear because, at the local school council, that’s where things come to a head, whatever kind of small things are working up within the school that may become or maybe are major issues it comes to a head in the local school council meetings,” she said. “So even as a community member, you have every right to hear what’s going on with the young people who are being raised in your community. I want people to feel empowered and encouraged to be a part of that.” 

There’s also an opportunity to be an election judge during the LSC elections. Their role is similar to how election judges function in municipal, state and presidential elections. 

LSC elections judges verify votes, issue ballots to verified voters, count votes and present the results to the school community. Here is a link to the application form for election judges. 

Applications for election judges can be turned in to any CPS school hosting an LSC election or at the Office of Local School Council Relations at the district’s Garfield Park Office. The LSC election judge application deadline is March 8. 

LSC election judges are paid $250 per day that they work. 

For more details about the LSC election, visit: https://www.cps.edu/about/local-school-councils/lsc-elections/

is a multimedia producer for The TRiiBE.