Another 'Broad' entrepreneur... Emanuel administration moves ahead with plans for charter schools to 'relieve overcrowding' on Northwest Side... Chicago Plan Commission approved a new charter school at 4540 W. Belmont over community objections... Noble Charter 'campus' near Prosser HS next?
The Emanuel administration moved full speed ahead with its continuation of the massive privatization of Chicago's public schools through charter schools while most residents of the affected areas weren't even aware of how far the planning had proceeded. On September 19, 2013, the Chicago Plan Commission approved the creation on an "Intrinsic" charter school in a former industrial site on W. Belmont Ave, despite opposition from almost all local residents and local political leaders.
The proposed charter school will be headed by Melissa Meglioa-Zaikos, the former "Network Chief" for what was the AMPS network. As Melissa Meglioa, she was the $153,000 per year "Chief Area Officer" back when Chicago's sub-districts were called "Areas." Megliola-Zaikos left the bureaucracy to become an "entrepreneur" with strong support from both CPS officials and charter school proponents three years ago. She continued in close cooperation with CPS officials, who are working quickly to replace as many real public schools with charters claiming that only charters should be used to "relieve overcrowding" in the city's real public schools.
She told the plan commission that she has worked with the support of CPS staff on the proposal. The complex plan for the Intrinsic school also involved a leasing deal and some computer proposals that have proved hotbeds of corruption across the country in other states. The school, which is supposed to open in two years, is supposed to serve 900 students grades 7 - 12 in the area currently served by Foreman High School and at least three real CPS elementary schools.
Megliola Ziakos was one of the earliest "Broad Residents" to be elevated to a top position in CPS without any training or experience in teaching. With a BA in engineering and an MBA from Harvard, she was brought into CPS by Arne Duncan, and later feted by Ron Huberman. According to one on-line report from several years ago: "Melissa oversees the performance and management of over 100 Autonomous Schools within the Chicago Public Schools. Previously, she was a Broad resident, funded by the Broad Foundation, leading strategic projects at CPS, and a manager for Deloitte Consulting. She is a national advisor to current Broad Residents and sits on the executive committee of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. She earned her B.S. in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University and her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School."
Another charter school expansion which would have added a "campus" of Noble Street charter schools within a half mile of Prosser Vocational High School was tabled for the time being.
While the story was ignored by the corporate media as of September 21, the Daily Whale, a regular publication that tracks government, reported the following story:
Plan Commission passes plan for Intrinsic Schools charter on city�s Northwest Side. Daily Whale, By : Katie Cliff, FRI, 09/20/2013 - 3:39PM
The Chicago Plan Commission on Thursday approved a proposal for the development of a new charter school for seventh through 12th grades at 4540 W. Belmont Ave. in the Old Irving Park neighborhood. The proposal, submitted by Intrinsic Schools, calls for the renovation of an existing vacant structure on the 2.44 acres of land, currently owned by Shannon Holdings Company.
Melissa Zaikos, CEO of Intrinsic Schools and a former Chicago Public Schools employee, said the new charter school would be �a new model for high schools to follow.� She described Intrinsic as a college preparatory institution with a focus on technology as an education tool.
�Each student has a Chromebook or laptop,� she said.
The location for the school is in a predominantly-residential area. Zaikos said she worked with the support of CPS to develop in areas where overcrowding was deemed an issue.
But some residents did not agree the neighborhood needed another school. Scammon, Falconer, and Barry elementary schools and high schools Edwin G. Foreman and Antonia Pantoja are all within one mile of the development site.
Marsha Godard of the Action Now advocacy group spoke out against the proposal, calling it an example of the diversion of CPS funds from neighborhood schools to charter schools.
�Charter schools are predators and our children are the prey,� she said.
When Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) inquired about financing for the charter school, Zaikos pointed to Intrinsic�s partnership with Canyon-Agassi � a charter school facilities fund. First, Canyon-Agassi will purchase the building. �Then we lease from them,� she said. �And when we are at full capacity, we buy [the building] back from them.�
Zaikos also attributed fundraising as a major contributor to funds for Intrinsic. Donations from the Charter School Growth Fund and the Gates Foundation helped Intrinsic raise $5 million, and an individual Intrinsic Schools board member donated another $1 million.
The proposal also calls for the development of a staff parking lot at the north end of the property and an artificial turf athletic stadium, which will be available for the community to use on weekends.
Larry Kearns, principal architect at Wheeler Kearns, the designing firm, outlined the details of the project at Thursday�s meeting. The school will be built upon an existing frame from the vacated building, a former warehouse of Shannon Lumber. Kearns said they will add checker-boarded windows, but will keep the natural materials from before and reinforce them with metal to modernize the look.
He described it as, �putting a jacket on the building.�
Thomas Nelson, an opponent to the proposal, said the many renovations that are going on around the city and replacing old manufacturing sites are �poking holes in Chicago�s layout� as an industrial town.
Nelson also criticized charter school enrollment techniques. �Charter schools are very good at cherry-picking students,� he said, earning a round of applause from some of the audience members.
Other residents were concerned with the proximity of the new school to their homes. One resident, who said he lives 25 feet from the site, said the traffic and congestion caused by the school was going to drive down the value of his home.
�Fifty-seven percent of my property tax is going to schools,� he said. �[The] value of my home is already down � and will further decline.�
Kearns responded to concerns about congestion by highlighting the plans intended to deal with traffic.
�It�s going to be a staggered-start school,� he said, explaining that groups of students will arrive at different times and be dropped off in the loop driveway in front of the school. Exiting the driveway will be right-turn only to help cut down on congestion.
According to Zaikos, the school is slated to open for the 2016-2017 academic year and, at full capacity, would accommodate approximately 900 students and 60 staff.
Also at Thursday�s meeting:
Commissioners approved a 12-year extension for the Englewood Mall Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment Project.
The Chicago Park District�s 2-year Shoreline Protection Project to replace the 1350-foot shoreline stretch between 2300-2500 N. Lake Shore Dr. with reinforced steel sheet piling was approved. Project would extend land into the lake, creating about 5.8 acres of new parkland.
Members of the commission approved a zoning change in Englewood to allow for the Norfolk Southern-47th Street Intermodal Yard expansion. The 10-year project would add 84 acres to the rail yard and create 400 jobs.
Commissioners deferred a vote on the development plan proposed by Noble Network Charter Schools for the site at 5337-5357 W. Grand Ave. in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. The proposal will be addressed at the commission�s meeting next month.