Through a series of investigations, this 1994 book documents how corruption, apathy, incompetence, and politics undermined the Chicago Public School system. It addresses social promotion of students, corruption among staff and contractors, student discipline, teacher dismissal processes, the role of the unions, revolving leadership, and the lack of a political will. Reclaiming Our Schools provides specific recommendations for improvement and was used as a roadmap for the reform movement launched in the system in 1995. Most of its recommendations have since been implemented.
Maribeth Vander Weele was appointed in 1998 by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley as Inspector General of Chicago Public Schools. Previously, she joined the management team that began overhauling the nation's third largest school system in 1995, focusing on reforms addressing social promotion, truancy, corruption, employee ethics and management systems. From 1990 to 1995, she investigated the system as an education writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, where she received several journalism awards. She has been a freelance contributor to Prime Time Live, Washington Monthly, City Journal, America's Agenda, and Executive Educator. A frequent lecturer on urban education, she is certified as an Inspector General by the Association of Inspectors General. She is a graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.