A Chicago Public Schools hearing officer dismissed a challenge against a Local School Council (LSC) candidate at Hyde Park Academy High School Tuesday, a month after her victory in the race for a community representative position at the school.
Maira Khwaja, who ran on a platform of finding alternatives to police in schools, won the Nov. 19 election by a large margin, garnering 47 votes. Two candidates, Sheila Scott and Lorenzo Sanchez, finished in second with 18 votes each. Since there are only two community representative positions on the LSC, the incumbent council was set to break the tie at a meeting last week.
The tiebreaker vote, however, was put on hold after Scott filed a challenge last week against Khwaja, alleging that her address rendered her ineligible to run for the LSC, according to documentation shared with the Herald.
The petition had exactly 5 signatures from those who live in the district, three of which came from other community representative candidates. (According to the rules of post-challenge petitions, the challenger must receive at least 5 signatures from those who were eligible to vote in the LSC election and believe the accusation to be factual.)
None of the petitioners responded for comment on the post-election dispute.
The hearing in Khwaja’s case took place Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. through Google Meet, with more than 100 people in attendance. Chaclyn Hunt, Khwaja’s legal representative, asked for the challenge to be dismissed as none of the petitioners were in attendance for the hearing. The motion was granted by the hearing officer.
Khwaja told the Herald that she believes Scott was working on behalf of a person who works in Hyde Park Academy’s front office.
“I think it's suspect that she would have my address and would question it,” she said. “To me, the fact that it was filed on election day, and the time of it — it was after the election — that it was actually organized by someone in the school who was frustrated by the amount of work that they had to do on election day.”
Khwaja said on the day of the election she complained that there was no signage up about curbside voting, to which the school official replied that they didn’t have any. (Hyde Park Academy did not respond to a request for comment from the Herald.)
“I think that upset this person who facilitated, (they were angry) about this challenge, I think she was probably like, ‘I don't want to deal with the person,’ ” said Khwaja.
Khwaja, the director of public impact strategy and outreach at the Invisible Institute, has been working with students in the broadcast and media class at Hyde Park Academy, leading conversations around their interactions with police through the Youth/Police Project.
She has also worked with the organization Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) which campaigned during this LSC cycle for the removal of police officers at the school.
“This is a sloppy political situation that is about trying to keep progressives and STOP affiliates out and keeping the LSC weak,” said Khwaja before her hearing on Tuesday.
Dixon Romeo, a member of the Local School Advisory Board, which advises the CPS Board of Education on issues pertaining to LSCs, was prepared to speak as a witness during the hearing in favor of Khwaja.
“I think a lot of folks who were at the hearing today also voted for Maira because she has done so much work in Hyde Park and does live in the community and does, I think, really represent and listen to the needs of the students, teachers, and staff at the school,” Romeo said.