Huberman grants reprieve to five schools slated for actions

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CPS officials announced late Wednesday that they are taking five elementary schools off the school action list, saving them from being turned around, closed or consolidated.

CPS officials announced late Wednesday that they are taking five elementary schools off the school action list, saving them from being turned around, closed or consolidated.

At least three of the reprieves were in response to community concerns about safety of the students as they traveled to receiving schools, despite promises by district officials that they could ensure safe passage. The others seem to be in response to protests by community members and staff. 

Guggenheim, Paderewski and Curtis–all located in rough neighborhoods and slated for closing–will stay open; though Curtis in Roseland will be turned around by the Academy of Urban School Leadership. Mollison will not be consolidated with Wells Academy, a small elementary school housed in Phillips High Schools.

And Gillespie Elementary won’t be turned around. The district press release said it found evidence “the school’s leadership has been engaged in locally driven changes” to improve the school. 

The Wednesday evening announcement can be interpreted several ways. Some will say that district officials hadn’t done their homework before announcing the actions in January. Others will applaud their willingness to listen to community concerns. 

John Chisum, pastor of Gifts from God Ministry Church in Englewood, says the announcement is a good thing. Five years ago, he and other pastors told the Arne Duncan administration that closing Englewood High School would cause trouble.  But, at the time, no one listened. 

The result was an increase in violence at Hyde Park High School, which received many of the Englewood students. 

When they issued warnings about Guggenheim this time, they were taken seriously, he says.

“It’s one of the first times the board has responded to community pressure (in Englewood),” says Chisum, noting that the pastors also had the backing of Operation Push. “This victory will be an encouragement for the community to get further involved.”

Mollison also was saved, at least partly, by a strong community group. Officially, district officials said they wondered whether “Wells educational model would transfer comfortably to Mollison,” but they were also facing pressure by the Grand Boulevard Federation. 

In the case of Gillespie, it seems as though district officials looked at the numbers, but didn’t talk to enough to parents and staff about what was happening in the school before making the January announcement. Come to find out, the new principal had undertaken a self-styled turnaround already. 

“She got a whole new staff, got rid of the teachers that weren’t really producing,” Gillespie Local School Council member Anthony Stallworth told Catalyst Chicago several weeks ago.

Unless more changes are made, nine schools will still face some dramatic action next year. Bradwell and Deneen elementaries, and Phillips and Marshall high schools will be turned around. Prescott Elementary, Las Casas Occupational High School, McCorkle Elementary, Schneider Elementary, and Marconi Elementary – will be closed or consolidated. CPS has  pledged that students who change schools will get longer instructional days, personal learning plans, and individual staff attention.