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CPS backs down at last minute on six of 22 schools from 2009 "Renaissance 2010 Hit List"

Less than eight hours after the Chicago Board of Education issued the official agenda for its February 25, 2009, monthly meeting, CPS administrative officials announced that six of the 22 schools on the list for closing, phase out, consolidation and turnaround under the controversial "Renaissance 2010" program were being removed from the list.

The agenda had been released as required by law at 10:00 a.m. on February 23, 2009, and it included recommendations that all of the 22 schools that had been proposed in January for the various "Renaissance 2010" changes be changed. Shortly after 7:00 p.m., however, a CPS press release announced that six of the 22 schools had been removed from the list. The six had been slated for their fates according to the agenda posted by the Board earlier in the day.

Parents and children from Peabody Elementary School had planned a silent candlelight vigil to protest the planned closing of their school under Chicago's controversial "Renaissance 2010" program. The vigil in the cold night of February 23, 2009, turned into a celebration when the school learned that it had been removed from what community organizers are calling the "Renaissance 2010 Hit List." Above, some of those celebrating in the cold at the school located at 1440 W. Augusta Blvd. in Chicago at 9:00 p.m. on one of the colder nights of the Chicago winter. The tallest person in the photograph (all the way in the background) is Peabody's principal, who supported the parents, teachers and community throughout the organizing that led to Peabody's successful removal from the list. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.At approximately 7:30 p, m. on February 23, the Board rescinded six of the closings. Two schools slated for "turnaround" -- Holmes and Yale elementary schools -- have been removed from the list.

Four other schools which had been slated for closing were also removed from the list: Peabody Elementary, Hamilton Elementary, Las Casas Occupational High School and Global Visions (small school) High School at the Bowen High School Campus.

The official CPS statement issued by the Board of Education's Communications Department is as follows (CPS words in italic type).

For more information contact:

CPS Office of Communications

773-553-1620--office

Fax: 773-553-1622

Website: http://www.cps.edu FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 23, 2009

CPS WITHDRAWS PROPOSALS FOR PEABODY, YALE, LAS CASAS, HOLMES, GLOBAL

VISIONS AND HAMILTON

Officials Cite Compelling Community Testimony & Improved Scores Dozens of children joined their parents and grandparents to celebrate Peabody's continuation. Many of the families told CPS that three generations of their families had attended Peabody, an anchor in the community. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman announced today that six schools have been taken off the list of school closures, turnarounds and consolidations, after community groups and parents provided compelling arguments in support of the neighborhood schools and their performance

levels. Consistent with the purpose of holding public hearings, a series of community meetings were held where school officials provided public comment opportunities for parents, local school council members, teachers, and community leaders.

"The purpose of conducting public hearing meetings where open dialogue can be exchanged provides school officials with the opportunity to hear first hand from those most affected by the proposed changes," said Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman. "Closing a school is not an

easy task, nor is it popular. But it is our responsibility to be inclusive and open minded so that we achieve an end result that benefits the students, parents, faculty and community," he added. Some of the Peabody students who joined the candlelight vigil celebrating that Peabody will stay open. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Peabody Elementary School was originally slated to close due to under-enrollment. The community provided new insight into space utilization. When this information was taken into consideration, Peabody no longer met the under-enrollment criteria.

Las Casas, a vocational school for special needs children, was also recommended for closure. Parents expressed concern over alternatives for current special needs students, and it was determined that more time was required to work with parents on best options for all students.

Yale Elementary School was recommended as a "turnaround" school, based on its academic performance. However, given Yale's improvement in the areas of reading and math over the last three years, it was determined that Yale would be given additional time to improve its performance.

Despite Hamilton School's relatively low utilization, students at the school performed well in ISAT testing, 82.4 vs. a district average of 65.5 (with English Language Learners included). Given its high performance, it was determined that more needed to be done to address under-enrollment. Hamilton had been recommended for phase-out.

Some of the students, teachers and parents from Holmes Elementary who testified against the turnaround proposed for their school at the hearing on February 9. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Holmes met the turnaround criteria and its long term trends are showing] improvement. At the public hearing, school officials, parents and community members touted teacher dedication, collaboration and initiatives they are putting in place to further increase student achievement. There were also discussions with the Local School Council about working with central office to select a new principal. Given the positive trend in test scores, it was determined that Holmes would be given additional time to continue progress. Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins stated, "We will complete a comprehensive review of the academic, social and performance data to determine the best way to support Holmes' continued progress."

While Global Visions High School had the lowest enrollment of the four existing small schools in the Bowen Campus, the school demonstrated the highest PSAE composite score compared to the other schools within the Bowen Campus. It was therefore determined more time was needed to

review this recommendation. CPS has been, and is committed to continuing to work with all

stakeholders. CEO Ron Huberman stressed that school closings require a comprehensive review that includes the community, students, parents, teachers, principals and union leaders. "We are committed to on-going discussions about the most effective strategies to improve students'

performance."

The decision to withdraw proposals to close or turnaround Peabody Elementary School (1444 W. Augusta Ave); Las Casas (8401 S. Saginaw Ave,); Yale Elementary School (7025 S. Princeton Ave.), Hamilton Elementary School (1650 W. Cornelia Ave.), Holmes Elementary School (955 W. Garfield Blvd.) and Global Visions High School (2710 E. 89th St.) will be presented at the February 25th Board Meeting. Board members are expected to vote on the proposed recommendations.

Peabody, Yale, Las Casas, Hamilton, Holmes and Global Visions are among 22 Chicago Public Schools proposed for changes earlier this year.

Johnson Elementary School (above) at 1420 S. Albany in Chicago is still slated for "turnaround" even though the community around Johnson has been deprived of public schools by the systematic creation of charter schools over the past six years. Six schools were originally slated for reconstitution (in Chicago, called "turnaround" in the corporate jargon), but two (Holmes and Yale) were removed late on February 23. Bethune, Johnson, and Dulles elementary schools and Fenger High School are still targeted for "turnaround" as of February 24, 2009. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 405,000 students in 650 schools. It is the nation's third-largest school district.

Critics of the Board of Education's "Renaissance 2010" program and the school closings, turnarounds, phase outs, and consolidations noted after the announcement that the majority of the schools on the original list of 22 are still being recommended for their fates, despite the fact that in most instance the schools made their case as strongly as Holmes, Yale and the others.

Unless something changes by the evening of February 25, when the Board will actually take its vote, four schools will still face "turnaround", which is "reconstitution" by law. Critics have noted that reconstitution has been shown to be a failed strategy for improving schools for more than ten years, with virtually all of the research concluding that reconstitution does not fix schools.

The fours schools still facing reconstitution are Dulles, Bethune, and Johnson elementary schools and Fenger High School. All of the schools still slated for reconstitution are 100 percent African American serving student populations that are also virtually all living in poverty. The Board also plans to go ahead with plans to close Carpenter Elementary School, in the same community as Peabody, to house the new "Ogden High School." Critics have noted that the Board still owns a vacant high school building (Near North) which is closer to the Ogden Elementary School than Carpenter.

Despite the fact that two schools in the South Chicago community (Bowen Global Visions and Las Casas Occupational High School) will not be closed, critics note that two schools in the same community -- South Chicago Elementary and Davis Developmental -- are still going to be closed. MORE TO BE ADDED TO THIS STORY AS THE STORY DEVELOPS.

Copyright 2009 Substance News Service, all rights reserved. Please contact Substance by e-mail (Csubstance@aol.com) or phone (773-725-7502) to discuss our very very reasonable reproduction guidelines. Any republication of this article should give full credit to Substance as follows: Copyright 2009 Substance, Inc. This article first appeared on the Website substancenews.net on February 23, 2009.



Comments:

February 24, 2009 at 9:15 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Holmes Retired Teacher

I am very pleased to see that Holmes was removed from the list for turn-around and just as happy to see that Carpenter remains on the list. My experience at Carpenter was very bad due to violations of my Civil Rights by the person who was then principal and choose to ignore EEOC attorneys, Bd. attorneys and the Union. There were also later scandals involving failure to secure the test so that the results were compromised. I think that school is long overdue for closing.

February 24, 2009 at 10:46 PM

By: Jim Vail

Holmes Retired Teacher

The comment from the retired teacher is exactly what we don't need, and will only lead us teachers and the union to total obliteration. To cheer some school closings is to support the argument of the Board that there are necessary school closings. That is a slave mentality - yea, you can beat these slaves because they were bad. Because this person had a bad experience at the school - therefore all the teachers, parents and students should be condemned to suffer the closing today is idiotic at best. Such a toxic comment should be discarded in the garbage quickly. Hopefully the person who wrote this will retract what she said and understand the harm it does to the many good teachers, students, parents and current administration she has slandered.

Thank you.

February 24, 2009 at 11:00 PM

By: Kugler

All Sides

I do not know what happened to the Retired Teacher but it must have left a lasting impression. What needs to be done is open up a true dialog of on school reform that includes all stakeholders INCLUDING THE STUDENTS. not taking onside or another there needs to be a system in place that is proactive rather than wait until things are "so bad" that drastic measures are taken that create even more problems.

All I remember form McCormick grammar school I attended 30 years ago, is the consistency and reliability of our neighborhood school. Granted I did not experience any adult problems but there must have been something going on that allowed me to attend the same school two blocks away from our home for 8 years and get a decent education. I do not long for the "good old days" but a system that ensures that the students' best interests are always served needs to be put back into the running and managing of the city schools.

February 25, 2009 at 5:08 PM

By: Anonymous

Retired teacher

I agree that we need a dialog rather than condemning each other. I believe some school closings may be justified and I don't read or hear about people banding together to protest them (like the community, staff, and students did at Holmes and schools like that). Saying that all schools should stay open is the same as saying that no teacher ever deserves to lose their position. Each school/each individual should be taken on a case by case basis. Unless you have been in an atmosphere where a principal threatens you on a regular basis, ignores direct orders from the EEOC and legal department and see the school change in many negative ways under this individual's leadership then don't condemn a person for voicing their opinion.

March 14, 2009 at 5:10 PM

By: anonymous

best school in the entire world

thank you for not closing the most spectacular school in chicago, PEABODY ELEMENTARY in 1440 W. Augusta. you have made the school very happy.

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