More in the works

Print More

Several groups of South Shore teachers are drafting proposals to open three more small schools next fall.

A pitch to create a Junior ROTC small school that was turned down previously is being recast this year as a School of Leadership. The plan calls for an integrated curriculum that combines political science, criminal justice and service learning with Junior ROTC training.

Another proposal is to open a School of Technology whose graduates would be certified in information technology-related fields. Such credentials are “attractive to employers,” says Olufemi Adeniji, a special education teacher who is slated to become the school’s director.

The third small school would focus on environmental science and community activism, and would be named for local civil rights activist Al Raby, who died in 1988. Planners have not yet selected a director, says teacher Janice Jackson, who is a member of the planning committee.

Teachers for these schools are being recruited primarily from South Shore’s general population school, where morale has been low this year, say several insiders.

“You can’t allow lethargy to set in as you wait for the next conversion,” says Joe McCord, president of the board of the Coalition for Improved Education in South Shore (CIESS), one of several groups that have worked long and hard to improve South Shore.

Some are not yet convinced. Sidney Brooks, an LSC member whose daughter is a junior in the arts school, worries about administrators with little or no experience, large class sizes and internships that are unrelated to fine arts. He would prefer to wait and see how the first two schools fare before opening new ones. “We have no evidence yet on how this is going to work,” Brooks says. “Why add more now?”

Proposals were submitted at the end of January to the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative, which awards and administers the Gates small schools grants. Decisions will be made by March.