Five years ago, Little Village was confident of getting a new school because the Board of Education had bought the land and earmarked $30 million for construction. However, political leaders in neighboring Pilsen felt their community deserved a new school, too, and objected to the distant site. Meanwhile, the money got swept away in the rush to build two college prep high schools on the North Side.
CDC involvement in schools is a trend that began roughly a decade ago and is likely to continue to grow, according to Andrew Mooney, senior program director for LISC in Chicago. “It is part of a CDC’s interest to ensure that community schools are doing well,” says Mooney, who cites a couple of Chicago examples, including involvement of the North River Commission in Northside College Prep.
Older and closer to the Loop, Pilsen is better known to outsiders. Young artists and non-Hispanic whites have been moving to the neighborhood for well over 20 years. The highly regarded Mexican Fine Arts Museum, built in 1987, and an annual Art Walk festival of galleries and showrooms draw people from throughout the city.
In years past, students used to run the halls in groups, attacking each other, according to a 31-year veteran at the school. Fire alarms were pulled nearly every day. On Nov. 6, 1991, 13 students and a teacher were injured, and more than 40 students were arrested in what the Chicago Tribune described as a “daylong series of gang-related skirmishes.”
The proposal for the grant to divide several high schools into “small schools” had moved along slowly, having a difficult time gaining support from both the mayor’s office and from CPS, then led by Paul Vallas, says Ferrero, Gates’ Midwest program manager and director of evaluation and policy research for the foundation’s education division.
Lately Duncan has moved to tighten his administrative structure, particularly on the non-education side. With the departure of several top administrators associated with Vallas, he has hired a new phalanx of educators, businessmen and lawyers to do his bidding. Newly piped aboard are David Vitale, and Jill Wine-Banks.
More than 200 schools applied, and 133 were chosen. They range from Nash in Austin, where only 20 percent of students score at or above national norms in math, to Keller Magnet in Mount Greenwood, with 96 percent at or above math norms. One better scoring school, Trumbull Elementary in Edgewater, is looking to boost stagnant math scores.
David Vitale, now 56, spent the bulk of his career at the First National Bank of Chicago, which merged with NBD Corp. and then with Bank One Corp. He began working for the bank in 1968, straight out of Harvard, and was picked as bank treasurer at age 26. For a decade he directed the bank’s capital markets.
The Early Hiring program was launched last year to allow schools to make job offers earlier than usual, and to gain equal footing with competitive suburban districts, which often snap up the best candidates before a school term ends. In the past, CPS has not been able to extend offers to teachers until late in the summer because of difficulties with projecting the number of vacancies.
Simply put, Duncan has made it clear that he can maneuver smartly in the cast of thousands that is Chicago school reform. But maneuvering is not the same as getting things done, and Duncan’s starting lineup was weak on the administrative and political expertise necessary to take action, follow through and see that others do so as well.
in recent years factors such as increased public scrutiny, cries for improved student performance and political pressure have made it all the more arduous. The average urban schools chief now stays on the job an average of three years, according to the Council of the Great City Schools, and a handful of systems, such as Chicago, San Diego, Cleveland and New York.
Last year The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education rated the U. of C. dead last among 26 elite universities in terms of attracting, enrolling and graduating African-American students, as well as hiring black professors. The publication lauded the university for “good progress” in increasing its percentage of black faculty, but said, “…in every other category of our survey, the university is among the worst performers.”
Increased awareness here and elsewhere is giving rise to a host of teacher induction programs that aim to keep more teachers in classrooms by providing additional support and training. The most effective induction programs extend support throughout a teacher’s career and improve overall school climate, according to Recruiting New Teachers, a nonprofit consulting firm based near Boston.
Far too often, parents never dig beyond the most basic statistics. They never learn that many diverse public schools have challenging curricula, high-achieving graduates and low rates of violence. The parents never investigate research that clearly shows the benefit of being educated in a diverse environment. They buy into misperceptions spread by people with no direct knowledge of what actually goes on inside the school walls.
Negotiations between the Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union began May 6. Representatives from both sides are meeting twice a week and expect to finalize a new contract for the district’s 35,000 teachers and paraprofessionals before school opens this fall. The current 4-year contract expires on June 30.