In Chicago, dozens of lunch ladies are leaving the schools they’ve worked at–sometimes for years. That’s because those schools are being “turned around”–a strategy that involves removing the entire staff at failing schools to “reset” the culture there. It’s a strategy Education Secretary Arne Duncan is now pushing nationwide. But a question is: Is it necessary to remove lunch ladies, janitors, and security guards to create better schools?
In mid-June, the lunch ladies at Deneen Elementary School on the city’s south side were serving up one of their last meals.
LUNCH LADY: How are you? What do you want? Carrots or salad?
Fewer than half of kids meet standards here on state tests, so Deneen is being forced to start over. As a “turnaround,” every adult has to leave, from the principal to the teachers to the seven lunch ladies. Veronica Fluth was Deneen’s cook. After insisting I put on a hair net, she gave me a tour of her spotless kitchen.