Taft LSC discusses crowding; some classes short of books
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Local School Council at its Oct. 1 meeting discussed concerns about overcrowding, the lack of books for some classes and drug dealing near the school.
LSC chairwoman Lisa Schwieger said that Taft’s enrollment of 3,200 students exceeds the school’s "ideal enrollment," as determined by the Chicago Public Schools, by about 1,000 students and that in 3 years enrollment could reach 3,600. "Almost every grammar school that feeds into Taft is overcrowded," Schwieger said.
Schwieger said that reducing the size of Taft’s attendance area may be the most feasible solution given that nearby high schools can accommodate more students and that an addition to Taft may not be feasible. "Steinmetz, Schurz and Roosevelt all have space available, according to CPS numbers," Schwieger said.
Taft principal Mary Kay Cappitelli said that a significant number of nonresident students have enrolled at Taft using a fraudulent address. Cappitelli said that she would like to implement tougher proof-of-residency requirements.
Students can get around the residency requirements by saying that they are homeless, and some parents have changed names on utility bills, which are shown as proof of residency. Two ago about 40 students used the same address to register at Taft, and several students have addresses that register to storefronts, Tatt said.
Representatives of the North/Northwest Side High School Network said that schools cannot set their own proof of residency requirements and that two students were required to leave Taft last school year because of falsified addresses. School system guidelines require that investigators document the location of a student’s residence for several days before making a determination.
Taft offers several programs which out-of-area students can apply for, but there are no plans to move those programs, including the Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center and the U.S. Naval Junior ROTC Program, to another school despite the overcrowding issues facing Taft, Cappitelli said.
The academic center was an integral part of the school’s recent application for its Middle Years International Baccalaureate Program, while the ROTC program is a valuable asset to the school, Cappitelli said. "In this day and age, we need ROTC," she said. "It is a program for building character."
Also at the meeting, it was reported that some classes were without textbooks for the first month of school because a change in business managers caused a delay in ordering new books. "The teachers are being creative," Cappitelli said. "They are taking things from online or taking things from other sources."
Teachers also expressed concern at the meeting that the school lacks the resources to purchase additional books which are on the reading list for the International Baccalaureate Program, a curriculum which the school is implementing.
There also have been delays in hiring a new physics teacher and a Spanish teacher in part because of a new vetting process that teachers who are entering the school system must go through, Cappitelli said. The school hopes to have the teachers in their classrooms by the end of the first week of October, she said.
The temporary teachers in the classrooms have been given lesson plans, but in some instances none of the work being done by the students is being graded. "It is not an ideal situation," Cappitelli said. "I am not going to say it any differently. We’re doing the best we can."
LSC parent member Joe McFeely reported that there have been reports of drug dealing and fighting in an alley at Nagle and Summerset avenues. A police car often was parked at the alley last school year, but not this year, and some those hanging out in the alley may be former Taft students, according to LSC members. Network chief Dr. Leslie Boozer told the LSC that she has asked the school system’s security staff to work with Chicago police to address the problem and that a staff member is planning to attend the council’s Nov. 5 meeting.
It was announced at the meeting Taft once again received a "Level 2" performance rating by the school system. Taft missed being a "Level 1" school, which is the top rating, by one point.
The performance criteria include a school’s average ACT score, dropout and attendance rates, and the number of students who are meeting or exceeding state standards. "In almost every category, we improved," Cappitelli said.
The high school performance scale is based on a 42-point total, and a school must receive 28 points to become Level 1 (excellent rating). The minimum for Level 2 (good rating) is 18.67 points, with schools below that score being rated Level 3 (probation).
The LSC also approved a resolution which will increase the spending limit on purchases which the principal can make without council approval from $2,500 to $9,999. Schwieger said that the LSC will have to amend its bylaws before the change can take place.
Cappitelli said that an increasing number of purchase orders cost more than $2,500 due to the recent enrollment gains at the school. She said that bids must be solicited for purchases of $10,000 or more.
The council also is requesting additional information on school purchases, such as gym uniforms, in which the school is reimbursed through student fees. Some LSC members said that the council should know what percentage of such items went to students who requested a fee waiver due to economic hardship.
The Korean Education Center has made a $5,000 grant in support of Taft’s new Korean language class, and the school has been awarded its Creative Schools Certification by the school system. The certification is part of a plan to provide every in with experience in fine and applied arts and for each school to appoint an arts liaison.