Collaboration is ‘the real story’ in Albany Park

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The education reform leaders of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council feel that the article “Tying Schools Together at the Roots” (Neighborhoods, Nov. 2007) fell short of truly communicating the mission and the work that is being done by a local group of education leaders through the Greater Albany Park Education Coalition.

As the leaders who have been involved in crafting this initiative, we felt it was necessary to accurately convey to Catalyst Chicago readers what we see as the valuable story to tell about our initiative.

The real story here, which was watered down by attempts to capture controversy, is the story of a group of school teachers, principals, parents and students who are establishing learning communities that extend beyond their own school buildings. It is the story of a collaboration that holds the potential to be a powerful transformation in the culture of education in one Chicago neighborhood. And it is the story of how this process has been started despite many obstacles that schools encounter on a daily basis.

Though not reflected in the article, we have found that the teacher dialogues during the shared professional development time pushed the conversations beyond finger-pointing and began addressing the root causes of challenges faced in our schools and crafting creative solutions to improve student achievement.

Also, while frequent top-down initiatives from CPS are a backdrop, and sometimes a struggle in our work to educate our students, we are pleased that Chicago Public Schools has been supportive of the coalition’s work to date. It is our hope that CPS will continue to learn from our experiences in Albany Park so that they can figure out ways to support this type of collaboration in this neighborhood, and beyond.

GAPEC Leadership Team, Albany Park

Principal Eileen O’Toole, teacher Karoline Sharp, parent Veronica Solis—Albany Park Multicultural Academy; Principal Carl Dasko, parent Claudia Gutierrez—Bateman Elementary; Principal Debbie Ward, Cleveland Elementary; Assistant Principal Wilma Newchurch, teacher Dan August, program coordinator Mary Ann Brandt—Thurgood Marshall Middle School; Principal Alejandra Alvarez, teachers Joel Piotrowski and Scott Doolittle—Roosevelt High; Principal Roger Johnson, teachers Jaime Perez and Naseem Umar—Volta Elementary; Principal Gil Sanchez, parent Maria Elena—North River Elementary