School Climate & Safety Opinion

Black-Hispanic Tensions On Display In Chicago Local Control Crisis

By Alexander Russo — March 13, 2007 1 min read
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About six weeks ago, I started getting emails and comments about a conflict between the African-American principal of one of the city’s high schools and the Latino head of the local school council, which is in charge of hiring principals in Chicago, on my Chicago blog, District 299.

Since then, the Curie crisis has been just about all anyone wants to read or comment on at the site, and the turmoil finally burst onto the front pages of the city’s newspapers last week when the local council voted to oust the principal and the Mayor intervened -- unsuccessfully so far -- to get that decision overturned.

What makes this more than just a Chicago story is that, at a time when cities like New York are going back to some forms of school-based governance, the Curie situation illustrates just how difficult “local control” can be, just how messy representative democracy is (whether it’s a school council or a condo board), the shift from black-white tensions to black-Hispanic ones, and the mixed blessings of having a mayor who’s nominally in charge of the city’s schools but whose superintendent still can’t pick and choose principals.

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