South Loop School picks new representatives

By Patrick Smith

South Loop community leader Enrique Perez flexed his considerable muscle in last week’s local school council election at South Loop School, 1212 S. Plymouth Court.

Perez, who e-mails “Enrique’s Community Updates” several times a month to more than 1,000 South Loop residents, helped spur five candidates to victory on April 21. The election results determined who would represent parents and the community on the committee that oversees the neighborhood elementary school.  Along with having influence over the operations of the school, the Local School Council is responsible for approving the School Improvement Plan for Advancing Academic Achievement, overseeing that plan’s budget and hiring and evaluating the school’s principal.

All five parents Perez endorsed in his e-mails, election blog and in-person politicking outside the school won election as parent representatives. Those elected will serve two-year terms.

“Elections matter at all levels,” Perez said, explaining his dedication to local elections. “You elect people into positions that have real power to do something. Maybe not a lot of power … but it has the power of the bully pulpit to advocate for something, to get out there and take a position and take a stand and do something that’s positive for all the stakeholders of the school.”

Perez’s children are too young to attend the kindergarten-through-eighth grade South Loop School, but he said they will attend it one day, and he stressed the decisions made at the school affect residents of the South Loop, whether they have students there or not.

“I think there are a lot of issues in the next couple years that face the school—over crowding, under funding—that I want to help out with,” said John Mathew, one of the winning parents endorsed by Perez.

The voting took place at the school during report card pickup day, when students were not in school. Candidates, as well as Perez, stood outside of the school talking with parents, urging them to vote as they walked up to South Loop School to pick up report cards. Voters did not need to have children at South Loop School to vote for the local school council, just two pieces of ID proving they lived in the residency area. Still, most who streamed into the school during the day were parents of South Loop School students.

Throughout the city, local school councils held elections last week. The day after South Loop School’s voting, Jones College Prep, 606 S. State St., held its own round of voting for the Local School Council.

Voters were able to choose up to five parent representatives, as well as one community representative, who is someone without a child at the school. Separately, teachers will select teacher representatives to round out the council. In total, there are six parent, two teacher and two

community representatives.

School volunteer Ellen Lorden was the lone parent to win a spot on the South Loop Local School Council without Perez’s endorsement. Her husband, Gary Lorden, was outside the school most of the day asking parents to vote for his wife. Gary Lorden said the voter turnout and response was strong throughout the day.

One of the moms sharing a slate and a victory with Lorden was Emily Farr, who was supported by Perez.

“I think the LSC acts as a sort of liaison between the community and the school,” Farr said. “It’s our job to make the decisions that are in the best interests of the people.”

According to Perez, Chicago is unique among major cities because it has councils which oversee individual schools, along with a city-wide school board. Unlike the local school councils, Chicago’s school board is not elected, but rather appointed by the mayor.

Former community representative on the South Loop Local School Council Perez said this was “the first competitive election in a decade” for the South Loop School’s local school council, so he thought it was important he get involved.

“I picked the five parents I thought would be most effective at working together,” Perez said.