For years the Salazar family moved from apartment to apartment in West Town, each time paying more money and getting less for it. Finally last spring they got fed up, bought a house and moved to Cicero.
Housing is cheaper in the suburb, but Ernesto, 12, and Isabela, 9, miss their old school in West Town.
So does their mother, Lucia Salazar, who served on a local school council, organized fund-raisers through a parent club, took parenting classes and worked in classrooms as a student mentor. “Here, we don’t have any of that,” she says.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has made it clear that he sees public schools as pivotal to keeping these and other middle-class residents from fleeing the city for the suburbs. So far, though, neighborhood schools in the most rapidly gentrifying areas have failed to attract their new neighbors.
Status not a priority
Molly Fox says that keeping in step with the neighbors has never been a priority for her or Ari. “Both of us come from backgrounds where we didn’t have a lot growing up,” she says. “And we both chose paths that didn’t necessarily give us a lot [financially], but the rewards were fantastic. We don’t necessarily think of education as a status issue.”
PRINCIPAL REMOVALS The School Board has formally removed the following four from schools that have not made sufficient academic progress since being placed on probation: Patrick Kenny, Bunche; Theodis Leonard, Paderewski; Linda Sienkiewicz, Piccolo; and Margaret Tolson, Donoghue. Most will serve out the remainder of their principal contracts at central office, receiving the same salary and benefits. Leonard decided to retire. They were replaced by the following interim principals: Annie Greenlee, interim principal at Libby, Bunche; Momma Hawk, principal of Recovering the Gifted Child, Paderewski; Deborah Edwards, principal of Fulton, Piccolo; JoAnn Roberts, former chief intervention officer, Donoghue.
Between 1995 and 2000, enrollment in public elementary schools dropped 18 percent in those areas, while it rose 13 percent in the rest of the city. Some of the enrollment decline in gentrifying areas can be attributed to fewer children living there. But Weissmann’s analysis found a disproportionate drop in the number of 5- to 13-year-old children living in gentrifying areas compared to elsewhere in the city.
The board voted Jan. 23 to offer a two-year renewal to Academy of Communication and Technology (ACT) in Garfield Park to further monitor the school’s uneven performance on standardized tests. The extension requires ACT to meet certain academic goals by 2004, which if met, will allow the school to remain open.
Meanwhile, school officials are considering closing Nuestra America Charter in West Humboldt Park, says Greg Richmond, who oversees CPS charter schools. A history of low test scores and leadership squabbles has created an uncertain future for the school.
The board signed up about 3,000 additional teachers for the system’s substitute pool, allowing the central administration to fill nearly 100 percent of substitute requests, according to Chief Human Resources Officer Carlos Ponce. “When I came on the job [in 1998], we were lucky to fill 60 percent of job orders for subs,” he says. “Schools on the West Side and other areas that had problems getting substitutes are now getting them.”
While the “Building Your Future” program was only ademonstration project and has since been discontinued, it offers important lessons.
Lesson No. 1: With mentoring and support from adults, it is possible to get more kids into college, even kids in low-performing schools who never considered higher education. The guidance helps them set realistic career goals, choose an appropriate school and apply for financial aid, which is essential for most minority students.
Displacement, Mobility and Education
The Family Housing Fund, a Twin Cities-based non-profit, has posted a summary of its “Kids Mobility Project,” which University of Chicago researcher David Kerbow calls some of the best research to date on the effects of displacement on kids’ education.
The Brookings Institution and PolicyLink teamed up on a national report: “Dealing With Neighborhood Change: A Primer on Gentrification and Policy Choices.” The report examines national trends, with a special focus on Atlanta, Cleveland, Washington D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area.
In the 1980s, the Far Northwest Side school was a “receiving school,” with more than a third of its students bused in from overcrowded schools on the West Side. By the mid-1990s, gentrification in West Town and Logan Square had pushed many Latino families west into Belmont Cragin and moved immigrant ports of entry to the west as well.
Now he was the father of a 10-month-old son, and in a few years he would have to figure out where to send him to school. The magnet school system didn’t appeal to him, and he didn’t want to abandon the neighborhood in which he had invested so much for the suburbs.
His preference was to send his son to a neighborhood school, but he had visited three and hadn’t been impressed.