As the plan to consolidate underutilized schools continues, one of the best resources for affected schools are their Principal Transition Coordinators (PTC’s) – former educators who bring experience, creativity and compassion to the transition process.
“These people are the real deal,” said Catherine Sugrue, Director of School Transition for CPS. “They are retired principals, network administrators and superintendents who have taken on this challenge so that our District can benefit from their expertise.”
The primary goal of a PTC is to help students transition as smoothly as possible from their sending school to a better performing welcoming school. At least one PTC has been assigned to each closure, colocation and turnaround, with additional support in the network offices. Their responsibilities are multifaceted, but center on creating a support system for everyone involved in transition – students, families and staff from both sending and welcoming schools.
“PTC’s try to get school communities to see the change as an opportunity,” said Sugrue. “To get past the emotion and personal sacrifice and focus on the big picture, which is the students and their education.
One of the first tasks for a PTC is the creation of a Transition Welcoming Team – a group of administrators, teachers and parents from both the sending and welcoming school. The PTC facilitates dialogue among these adults so that they can design welcoming events that will create strong cultural integration among all students.
“We’re going to roll out the red carpet as if the President was coming to visit,” said John West, a former counselor and principal who is now acting as a PTC in the Ravenswood/Fullerton Network. “We want students to feel completely welcome and happy in their new school.”
The PTC’s are helping to plan numerous social events for students, including reading nights, field trips, and shared assemblies, and they have encouraged students from sending and welcoming schools to become pen pals. Because family involvement is an integral part of a child’s education, the PTC’s are also encouraging parents to be as involved as possible.
“I tell parents, come to the welcoming schools and look around,” said West. “See the classrooms and walk the Safe Passage routes, then tell us what you think. We want parent ideas and feedback”
West, a 37-year veteran of CPS, considers it an honor to work as a PTC, and has been impressed with the effort that is coming from schools on both sides of the transition.
“There are outstanding principals in these schools,” he said. “It’s easy to see that they are doing everything they can to make the transition as smooth and soft-hearted as possible for their students.”
The role of PTC’s is not limited to students, however. These professionals also act as a support system for the faculty, guiding their colleagues through the transition process.
“They’re doing a superior job,” said PTC Joann Roberts of her colleagues. “They’re good listeners, and they bring compassion and understanding to their roles, but they’re always focused on getting the job done.”
Presently, the approximately 80 PTC’s assigned to CPS are spending the bulk of their time working with sending schools. During the summer, they will concentrate on bringing school communities together, and by the time school starts in late August, they will be focusing their attention solely on welcoming schools. They expect an end date of sometime in late September, but will not consider their work complete until every child in every welcoming school has been provided with the supports they need.
“When we know things are up and running, and we see the culture of the school begin taking responsibility for itself, that’s when we’ll know our job is done,” said Catherine Sugrue. “Until then, we’ll continue with our mission of creating a smooth transition for every child.”