“I’m floored by the number of community members who’ve come out,” said Matthew Fasana, teacher candidate for LSC at Lake View High School, 4015 N. Ashland Ave.
Where most schools struggle to draw community LSC candidates, Lake View boasts a dozen competitors for just two positions. Nearly all were on hand to stump for votes at last week’s candidate forum, held in the school’s auditorium. By contrast, two parents are running unopposed for six available seats.
“I was excited,” said Principal Lilith Werner of her reaction to the number of community contenders. “It’s very hard to get people to run for LSC in the first place. That shows a level of interest that has never happened before.” (Werner noted that once the new LSC is seated in July, parents will be recruited to round out open positions.)
The cause of this unprecedented community participation? With more families opting to stay in the city – whether out of actual desire or because of the real estate climate – neighborhood schools are receiving increased attention, none more than Lake View.
Though situated in the midst of a thriving residential area with highly-rated feeder elementary schools, Lake View has long seen neighborhood families send their students to selective enrollment or private schools, or move to the suburbs, rather than consider the school around the corner. “What I want to see,” said candidate Stephanie Biederman, a member of Friends of Blaine and parent of a seventh-grader, “is a fabulous neighborhood school that parents want to send their kids to.”
The recent announcement of Lake View’s designation as an early college STEM school has done much to raise the school’s profile and energize the community.
“It sounds like there’s so much cool stuff that’s going to happen here,” said candidate Lauren Garry. “We believe this school can make a difference.”
The sense that Lake View is on the cusp of significant change attracted a wide-ranging field for LSC. “My wife suggested I run because there’s a capital improvement plan,” said Henry Kurzynski, who believes his training as an architect and 20 years of working as a project manager could come in handy. Jacquelyn Rosa emphasized her experience as a counseling aide at Sullivan High School. “So I know CPS,” she said, in addition to working daily with students.
Attorney Michelle Ramirez, formerly a teacher, volunteers at Lake View as the mock trial team’s coach. Like many of her fellow candidates, she was surprised to find herself facing such stiff competition for the LSC. “I think it’s such a reflection of Lake View,” she said. “We can make our community thrive.”
The neighborhood’s newly-found enthusiasm for the school is palpable, according to staff. “With the new administration and new programs, it does feel like Lake View’s chance to shine,” said Kate Sanford, art department chairperson. “We need to take this interest and grab it.”
Though grateful for the attention, Principal Werner, named to the post just last June, is also concerned about managing expectations.
“It’s very difficult to explain the intricacies of a high school organization,” she said. “We’ve all gone to high school but we haven’t all taught in and run one.” Anyone operating under the impression that the STEM announcement will translate into an immediate spike in ACT scores is bound to be disappointed. “We have to have measureable, achievable goals,” she said.
To that end, Werner will be devoting the majority of the rest of the school year to strategic planning, working with CPS Central Office, STEM partner Microsft and a teacher team to develop short- and long-term benchmarks, as well as a common vision and mission for STEM. She spent her spring break at a model dual-credit school in Massachusetts, looking for best practices to bring back to Lake View.
“It’s awesome, it’s overwhelming and also a little scary,” Werner said of implementing STEM. “We want to do this well and with integrity.”
In other Lake View news: After touring an art exhibit at the school during a visit last month, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma decided to buy a couple of works by students, according to Kate Sanford, art department chairperson at Lake View. Congrats to Christian Arenas and Kenia Ramirez, who can now call themselves paid artists. Sanford said she hopes Ma pays with a personal check, so the students will have a memento of their first art sale.