From the Chicago Tribune by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah:
A year ago, students at Marshall Metropolitan High School seemed oblivious to the class bell. They'd linger in the hallways, chat with friends, talk on cellphones.

Then last summer the adults in the building were fired, a new staff was brought on board and the state poured in millions of dollars to turn the school around.

Today, the bell rings and security guards usher students along. Four minutes into the break, the Chicago Bulls theme song kicks in as a warning and stragglers sprint. When class starts, the hallways are clear.

Marshall, one of the state's persistently lowest-performing high schools, is wrapping up the first year of the drastic process known as turnaround. At the same time, Chicago Public Schools is embarking on a turnaround of its own.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and incoming schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard have promised dramatic interventions including more turnarounds for some of the city's chronically underperforming schools. They've also talked about developing strong principals who can drastically change the cultures of failing schools.

In fact, as educators across the country pay close attention to reform efforts at Marshall, this year's triumphs have been due in part to the tattooed, spiky-haired principal in 3-inch heels who walks the halls between classes, striking a measure of fear and respect.

"Put your IDs on," Kenyatta Stansberry hollers.

She grabs a student by the arm. "Baby, where's your shirt?" She helps him put on the maroon T-shirt, part of the school uniform. She gives the evil eye to another student who has worn blue pants instead of khakis for the second day in a row.

"Come on, y'all," she says. "Let's go."

Stansberry, 39, is among a new breed of principals charged with reforming some of the worst schools in CPS. This is her second turnaround high school. Where other educators run from buildings paralyzed by violence, chaos and virtually no learning, Stansberry thrives.

Once school's out, Stansberry, affectionately nicknamed "the Marine," doesn't let up. She patrols Facebook into the night, looking for signs of a brewing school fight or just to tell her students, "It's 11 p.m. Time to go to bed."

"The minute you slip up, the minute they think you're not paying attention, they're going to think, 'It's OK. We're about to get away,'" says the mother of two and former preschool teacher who now butts heads with the most challenging of CPS students. "You have to be consistent."

That consistency has helped Marshall, a school that habitually landed on the bottom rung of the state's high schools, show signs of improvement this year. Attendance has gone up by 22.7 percentage points. Seventy percent of freshmen are on track to graduate, up from 30 percent last year. Results for the most recent Prairie State Achievement Examination won't be available until July, but because of improved interim assessment scores, school officials expect significant gains over 2010, when only 2.6 percent of Marshall students met or exceeded standards.

The signs of change at Marshall are not due to Stansberry alone. She is bolstered by reading and math experts, data analyzers, beefed-up security, and extra social workers and counselors, a special turnaround staff not available to the average high school principal. Still, there's a reason CPS keeps turning to her to lead drastic makeovers.

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