With the next regular meeting of the Local School Council not scheduled until August, Amundsen Principal Anna Pavichevich called its members together in a special session Tuesday night to discuss staffing and budget issues.
First up came the announcement that the school’s two vacant assistant principal positions had been filled. Pavichevich introduced Amundsen veteran Leonard Evans and newcomer Kristi Eilers as the APs. “These are people who complement my skill set,” said Pavichevich.
Evans, who began his career at Amundsen in 1984 as a social studies teacher, most recently served as dean, implementing a discipline strategy that emphasizes positive behavior supports. His knowledge of the school’s culture and relationship with parents and staff also recommended him to Pavichevich. “He knows all of the parents and all of the kids.”
Having devoted much of his efforts over the past several years toward establishing discipline and safety at the school, Evans is looking forward to tackling a new challenge. “I think we’re at a point now where we can move our kids forward academically,” he said.
A former classroom teacher within CPS and at charter schools, Eilers rejoined CPS as an instructional coach, where she worked with Pavichevich at the network level. “Kristi is brilliant and is known in the district as an expert in curriculum and instruction,” said Pavichevich.
Eilers was lured to Amundsen on the strength of her relationship with the new principal. “She’s a great leader; she’s helped me grow,” Eilers said of her boss. “I knew wherever she went, I would follow.”
But the primary reason for convening the LSC revolved around a different staffing need. For those wondering precisely what an LSC does, the Amundsen meeting offered a perfect example.
As she continues “peeling back the layers of the onion,” Pavichevich discovered that Amundsen’s special education department lacked a Spanish speaker, a critical gap. Every special ed student requires minimally an annual review of their individualized education program (IEP), a meeting that brings together teachers, parents and additional staff. With the vast majority of students coming from Spanish-speaking households, a translator is needed to ensure that parents have a firm understanding of their child’s goals and accommodations and that their own comments and concerns are accurately conveyed.
Pavichevich proposed adding a Spanish-speaking bilingual clerk position to the special ed department; this individual would be responsible for translating during meetings, a task currently falling to other staff members on an ad hoc basis. To pay for this position, she not only needed to justify it to the LSC but to ask them to approve the transfer of discretionary dollars (taken from cell phone tower income) to pay for the clerk, who wasn’t budgeted for by her predecessor. After listening to Pavichevich’s reasoning and clarifying funding for the position going forward, the Council approved the measure.
“Thanks for that,” the principal responded. “This is huge.”
The Council also weighed in on freshman orientation plans, as well as a teacher training program in cooperative learning. Neither necessarily required action by the LSC. “It’s just me being transparent and letting you know,” said Pavichevich.
Of course, as Pavichevich continues to plan for her first year at Amundsen, the ground keeps shifting under her feet. The elephant in the room Tuesday night was the announcement, just prior to the LSC session, that CPS had pulled back on its longer school day for high schools. Amundsen’s proposed block scheduling, created to accommodate an extra 75 minutes, was suddenly in question; none of those present had a firm grasp on the implications for the fast approaching school year.
“I need to go home and watch the news,” said Evans.