ChicagoRise falls

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ChicagoRise, a subsidiary of Chicago International Charter Schools, has dropped plans to “turnaround” Dulles elementary school this summer. The Chicago Alliance for School Excellence—in partnership with Victory Schools, a New York-based education management group that operates two schools under the Chicago International flag—has also killed its negotiations with Chicago Public Schools for a turnaround contract at Johnson elementary.

In their stead, Chicago Public Schools will once again create a performance school with the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a Chicago management group with expertise in teacher training. The outfit runs turnaround efforts at one high school and four elementary schools, and—in addition to the Johnson and Dulles projects—has committed to turnarounds at two other schools this summer.

Chicago International Executive Director Elizabeth Delaney Purvis would not name any specific sticking points that spoiled the negotiations. But she did describe a number of hurdles that ChicagoRise and district lawyers faced during negotiations—from how to pay for building renovations to financial responsibilities associated with extra building engineering services as the school day and year at Dulles are expanded.

 

ChicagoRise, a subsidiary of Chicago International Charter Schools, has dropped plans to “turnaround” Dulles elementary school this summer. The Chicago Alliance for School Excellence—in partnership with Victory Schools, a New York-based education management group that operates two schools under the Chicago International flag—has also killed its negotiations with Chicago Public Schools for a turnaround contract at Johnson elementary.

In their stead, Chicago Public Schools will once again create a performance school with the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a Chicago management group with expertise in teacher training. The outfit runs turnaround efforts at one high school and four elementary schools, and—in addition to the Johnson and Dulles projects—has committed to turnarounds at two other schools this summer.

Chicago International Executive Director Elizabeth Delaney Purvis would not name any specific sticking points that spoiled the negotiations. But she did describe a number of hurdles that ChicagoRise and district lawyers faced during negotiations—from how to pay for building renovations to financial responsibilities associated with extra building engineering services as the school day and year at Dulles are expanded.

Other hurdles: Who would pay for maintaining two student information systems, since Chicago International uses a different system than the one a turnaround school would need in order to accommodate district oversight. Potentially adding yet another layer of unwanted supervision, Purvis says the district would have to review any contracts that ChicagoRise struck with its new hires.

In the end, she says, time ran out, and the community needed to know who would manage the turnaround project. A public hearing for Dulles takes place this afternoon; a hearing took place yesterday for Johnson.

“There are hundreds of subtle differences between a contract turnaround and a charter,” says Purvis, crediting the district for its good-faith negotiations. “It’s a different model of school, and we felt we needed the same level of autonomy as we have in a charter.”

The role of community input was also rumored to have played a part. But Purvis says ChicagoRise was comfortable with an alternative local school advisory board similar to the ones in place at other turnaround schools.

Chicago International launched ChicagoRise in partnership with California-based NewSchools Venture Fund. Purvis says the fund granted about $300,000 in start-up funds but that nearly $2 million in expected operating grants from the fund and the Chicago Public Education Fund will be lost.

“I still think it’s going to happen some day,” she says.

The district’s controversial “turnaround” approach calls for a wholesale replacement of staff at struggling schools and a revamping of school culture and curriculum.