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Two schools slated for 'closing' while no closings were promised... Chicago retreat on school closings

On March 30, 2007, Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan violated a previously announced policy that had told the public that no school closings would be made after January 31 of the the year. On March 30, 2007, Duncan announced that CPS would “close” two elementary schools this school year. The two schools — LeMoyne and Harvard — were being closed in different ways, for different reasons, each strangely.

The Board of Education had already effectively closed LeMoyne two years ago — despite vigorous protests from parents and teachers, effectively destroying a nationally regonized program for children with autism.

The real reason behind the closing of LeMoyne lay somewhere between the attack by CPS officials on special education programs and the program at CPS of allowing real estate development to dictate school policy. The LeMoyne building now houses the Inter American Magnet Elementary School. At its previous location, Inter American was blocking the expansion of Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, which reportedly wanted the land. So Inter American was moved into LeMoyne, the land sold, the LeMoyne programs were evicted, and school officials continued to deny all of the relationships that resulted in the switch. March 30, 2007 began the finale.

The closing of Harvard Elementary School, on the south side and in a different world from the Wrigleyville community around LeMoyne, was another story.

Instead of announcing that Harvard was being closed, Arne Duncan told the media that the school was going to be reconstituted — via something called "turnaround" — under the aegis of the “Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL).” Five years ago, AUSL was given the old Wright College site at 3400 N. Austin Ave. (despite protests in the community that the site should be used to relieve overcrowding in the area’s elementary schools).

By the 2005-2006 school year, AUSL had 380 students in grades 9 through 12 and a mixed bag of results for its efforts, according to CPS data. (Most key data are “N/A” for AUSL in the CPS directory).

Despite the lack of evidence, in 2006, Arne Duncan announced that AUSL had become a kind of corporate “turnaround” entity for CPS. AUSL was sent to reconstitute Sherman Elementary School, a few miles from Harvard.

The 2007 ISAT cycle was ending on the day Duncan announced that AUSL would also get a second school for the 2007-2008 school year. Without any data on the Sherman “turnround”, Duncan has now tapped AUSL to do turnaround Harvard Elementary. 



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