CHICAGO — As the deadline to become a local school council candidate draws closer, local principals expect interest will remain low until the very last minute.
But they're not worried.
"We are lacking [candidates] at this point, but my parents always come through. When it gets down to the wire, we'll have a slate," said Shelley Cordova, principal at Bridgeport's Armour Elementary School, 950 W. 33rd Place.
That seems to be the story at most Bridgeport-area schools and across the city, where, as of Friday, 941 people had filed petitions for 6,000-some available seats for local school councils, the groups created in 1988 to give parents and community members greater input into the running of schools.
Council members serve two-year terms, beginning July 1. They consist of six parent representatives, two community representatives, two teacher reps, one non-teacher staff member and the school's principal. High school local school councils also have a student representative.
At Evergreen Academy Middle School in McKinley Park, Principal Marian Strok said getting the faculty to participate is easy. The hard part is getting busy parents and community representatives to commit.
"You want the parents that are here for the volleyball games and the basketball games. Many times, these are the ones that can't add one more thing to their schedule," she said. "I think more and more parents are working and they have enough to do with their kids after school. But I'm very lucky. I have extremely supportive parents."
June Coutre is one of those busy local parents.
A longtime parent representative at Haines Elementary School, she and another parent are leaving their parent posts on the council at the Chinatown school this year, leaving two vacancies that might be hard to fill.
"We’re going to need two parents to run. ... You think it would be easier because there are more to choose from, but this is not just about going to a meeting once a month," she said.
Coutre said the parent role isn't about activism. Instead, she said it's important because parents get a front-row seat to issues and policies that trickle down to neighborhood classrooms from CPS headquarters.
"If there are budget cuts or classroom sizes are getting bigger or a school is changing to the Common Core curriculum, you kind of have to absorb what's going on. There's more to it than attending a meeting and saying 'yay' or 'nay,'" she said.
Parent reps, which include legal guardians, are required to have a child enrolled at the school. Community representatives must reside within the school's attendance boundaries. Relatives of the principal and employees of the school board are ineligible to run.
Filing for candidacy is relatively simple. Interested individuals need to provide two pieces of identification and fill out three forms: a candidate nomination form (essentially name and address), a criminal conviction form and a telephone number disclosure form.
Forms must be filed in person by either the candidate or their representative. Deadlines are Feb. 19 if filing at the Office of LSC Relations, 125 S. Clark St., Suite 502, or Feb. 26 if filing at the school where the candidate intends to serve.
Council elections are scheduled for for 6 a.m.-7 p.m. April 7.