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State: Channing violates federal parental involvement law

Updated: November 9, 2011 5:23PM

ELGIN — Channing Memorial Elementary School in Elgin is in violation of the parent involvement requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

ISBE’s findings were presented to the Elgin School District U46 Board of Education by Channing parent Krista Badani at Monday night’s regular board meeting.

Badani, of Elgin, is one of 59 parents who filed a complaint with ISBE in February that the school was not involving parents, a requirement to receive federal Title I funds. That was after “parents did everything within our means to bring attention to the problems and get the district to comply with these federal guidelines,” she said.

“U46 has all sorts of committees and written policies and beautiful words on paper like, ‘Parents are our partners,’ and ‘Our goals are to increase communication and advocacy through family and community engagement.’ But your actions show otherwise and it is getting in the way of kids getting a good education at our school and parents helping them to get there,” Badani told the board.

The mom of three — a third-grader, a first-grader and a kindergartner, all in the dual-language program at Channing — said she and other parents had addressed their concerns with former Channing Principal Ernie Gonzalez “dozens and dozens of times.”

They joined the U46 Citizens Advisory Council’s Committee for Family and Community Engagement; spoke to the district’s director of communication, chief of family and community engagement and school board; and sent emails and copies of Title I requirements for parent involvement to Gonzalez and U46 Superintendent Jose Torres. They also met with officials from the Kane County Regional Office of Education and sought guidance from ISBE, according to Badani.

“What astounds us most is that even when parents follow protocol and the chain of command, remain polite, and bring forth data and evidence of wrongdoing, this administration and the school board continue to fail by their inaction. … Somehow along the way, the administration has forgotten that this is about what is best for the children and families at Channing, the lowest-performing school in the district,” she said.

Knew about

Torres admitted Monday, “We had heard concerns about Title I parent involvement. We believed they had been addressed.”

But, the superintendent said, he couldn’t recall what those specific concerns were. He had not yet seen a copy of Channing parents’ formal complaint or ISBE’s findings Monday, he said.

No Child Left Behind makes Title I funding available to provide supplemental instructional services for specific students — or entire schools — who have been identified as failing, or most at risk of failing, to met state standards, according to the ISBE website.

In its findings, the state board conceded the Elgin school had involved parents in its school improvement plan and explained it was the lowest-performing in the district and what the district was doing to correct that in a September 2009 letter notifying families their students qualified for School of Choice. But it still has given U46 30 days to prove the strategies in the 2009-10 school improvement plan actually took place and that parents are involved in the current plan, according to the document.

And it agreed with parents Channing is in violation of No Child Left Behind by not having a parent involvement policy, a parent-school compact developed with parents or Title I meetings.

30-day deadline

Those findings give the school and district 30 days to ensure parents are part of the school support team, develop a written parental involvement policy with parents and revise its parent-school compact to include input from parents. The document also gives U46 three months to prove a Title I meeting was held at the school and that parents were involved.

That document is dated Aug. 25.

U46 Chief Legal Officer Miguel A. Rodriguez said he received ISBE’s findings last week and plans to meet today with the new principal of Channing, Selene Stewart, and the district official responsible for overseeing Title I funds.

“We have to be in compliance,” Rodriguez said.

Gonzalez took a leave of absence from the school in February, and U46 announced he would not return as principal in mid-March. The district has declined to comment on the reason for his leave and said he has asked to be reassigned to a classroom for next school year.

Badani said parents have not gotten a response from the district about Title I funds, but it has met with Stewart.

“She, in turn, has shown us that she is indeed excited to work with families to achieve great things at our school,” she said. “We are confident that together, with her leadership and actions, we will get there.”

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