Nick Ward lives in the Edgewater neighborhood and has been a member of the Goudy Elementary LSC as a community representative since 2020. Nick is a member of Chicago DSA as well as 48th Ward Neighbors for Justice. Nick is also running for alderperson of the 48th ward in the 2023 election.
How long have you served on your LSC? And how did you end up there?
Nick Ward: I’ve been serving on the LSC since October or November of 2020. I can’t remember the exact first meeting that I was appointed. I was initially appointed as a community rep, because there was a vacant seat, and I had been attending LSC meetings throughout the summer and early fall. I was really interested in learning about what the school community was like at the school that was across the street from where I’m living.
What’s it like being a socialist on your LSC?
NW: Well, it’s occasionally lonely. The thing that I think about when I think about being a socialist on an LSC is not necessarily what are the initiatives that I’m going to bring to dramatically reorganize this LSC. It’s more thinking about what are the values that I’m bringing to each meeting, as we’re going through initiatives, proposals, report outs, etc. So an example of this is that this past year, as we’ve been continuing to deal with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, it’s become really important to start tracking the data in the school around who was getting sent to the care room, which students had to go into quarantine, how many students were getting tested, how many of those students who did go into the care room were being sent home. We didn’t really have a lot of infrastructure going into the school year. CTU’s agreement with the district necessitated a safety committee at every school. Our safety committee was largely inoperative until folks on the LSC, myself included, started really pushing for better transparency. So if we think about socialism through the lens of not just an electoral frame, but socialism through the lens of good governance, what we’re pushing for is transparent data being reported to the democratically elected body of the school. And that’s a thing where socialism can influence the dynamic and the development of the school that is not inherently this big, “capital S” socialist talking point. It’s more, let’s be more transparent, because this is about the safety of the school.
What challenges and struggles have you and other LSC members faced?
NW: At the risk of this being all about COVID, the struggles that we’ve faced on the LSCs when talking about COVID safe policies mirror in many ways the struggles that we’ve seen in the outside world, in the city, and in the country, around COVID. There’s a real push to normalize this deadly pandemic. That has been really challenging from the perspective of somebody who was still very much aware of the devastation that the Coronavirus pandemic has wrought and is continuing to bring to our communities, particularly immunocompromised people, disabled folks, and children under the age of five. Also, children in schools writ large are largely still unvaxxed. A lot of what has been really challenging is trying to continue pushing COVID safety policies to a larger body politic, that in some ways, wants to just get over that and get on with business as usual. But it’s my belief that we can’t get on to the business as usual, without actually understanding what it is that our school communities and the communities around the school need to be safe. And that’s been a real sense of tension.
What has organizing in your LSC looked like?
NW: Our LSC has a couple of different kinds of strands of it, all LSCs do, but there’s the wider body, but then there’s also the committees. One of the things that I was able to do last year was create a housing and enrollment subcommittee that used my relationships with the assistant principal and parents to understand some of the issues around housing and enrollment that the school was facing. We’ve been able to use the work that came out of that subcommittee, to take that not only to the wider school body, but also to utilize that work in relationship with other schools around the community. So we’ve been able to make our relationship with Peirce Elementary School, who is facing very similar housing related challenges, but in a very different way.
Can you also speak about organizing across the LSCs in your ward?
NW: One of the things that’s been helpful for not only knowing LSC members on other LSCs, but also having the 48th Ward Neighbors for Justice IPO, as a kind of framework, has been able to put us in greater relationship together and actually give us a guiding principle. If I’m feeling a little bit lonely as a socialist on my LSC, I actually know that there are folks across LSCs in the ward and beyond, where we actually have relationships. Another example of that was our [48th Ward LSC members] ability to mobilize support for a letter demanding that our alderperson Harry Osterman support a safe return to schools at the beginning of 2022. The only way we were able to do that so quickly was because of the relationships we have in schools across the ward, so that’s relationships with Peirce and Hayt and Swift and Senn. Having those built in was able to really explode the possibilities of that open letter.
If you could give any piece of advice to a newer LSC member, what would you say?
NW: First of all, watch as many LSC meetings as possible. It’s important to know the political dynamics of the existing LSC, even if that ends up being a different group of people if and when you get elected. Definitely know what you’re about to step into. Also be bold. There’s a lot of people on LSCs who aren’t bold, and so the loudest voices generally tend to dominate. Being humble is important, but it’s also okay to be blunt. In being bold, you’re going to find common cause with folks you didn’t know and maybe didn’t expect. That has been super useful and that’s something that I was able to notice, in some of the work that I’m doing is folks that I didn’t know at all reaching out directly or privately to say ‘Okay, thank you for doing this [work]’. Great. Come on in. Join us. So I would say that’s really important. Something I wish I had initially was having like, one clear thing you want to work on as part of a project within your time on an LSC. I wish I had it previously, just to know, okay, I’m going to have exactly one very specific thing I want this LSC to work on, and that’s going to be the focus.
What is the most important thing an LSC member can be doing as an LSC member?
NW: Ultimately, at the end of the day, the most important thing is students, and that sometimes gets lost. People have very different opinions about the best way to educate our children — their children, I don’t have a child. This is about making a space where children feel and are safe in their own communities with the space to learn and grow. Anything that increases the chances of that happening is amazing. LSCs have very particular and prescribed duties. But it’s also okay, in my opinion, to stray from them if the answer is advocating for the children.