A sweeping proposal to close or consolidate 11 elementary schools, fire hundreds of teachers and staff members and attempt to "turnaround" a list of struggling schools will be considered at Wednesday's board of education meeting.
The changes would affect more than 7,500 students next fall, although CPS officials say only 1,500 elementary students would actually change schools under the plan.
Wednesday's meeting is open to the public, with public comment scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.. A CPS policy limits comment to two speakers per subject, however.
If the turnaround proposals are approved, the teaching and administrative staffs at eight schools would be fired and replaced by staffs trained and hired by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). The AUSL is a nonprofit organization which last month secured a $10.3 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its turnaround school projects in Chicago.
All eight schools, designated as under-performing in city and state report cards, would reopen next fall under new names. Once approval is obtained, CPS chief Arne Duncan says the overhaul process will begin.
"We have to challenge the status quo," Duncan says.
The turnaround schools include Orr High School, of which Board President Rufus Williams is a graduate, and Harper High School, in addition to the feeder elementary schools for both high schools.
While small improvements in Illinois Standards Achievement Test scores have occurred at some of the schools, including Copernicus Elementary, all of the schools have delivered failing marks.
The schools at the Orr Campus, Mose Vines High School, EXCEL-Orr Academy and Applied Arts Science and Technology Academy (AASTA), will be recombined into Orr High School as a part of the proposal. At both Vines and AASTA, fewer than 10 percent of students meet state standards.
At Harper High, the graduation rate is 41.3 percent, 25 percent below the CPS average and less than half the state average. Only 5.1 percent of Harper's students in 2007 met or exceeded Illinois Learning Standards, up from 3.8 percent in 2006.
Wednesday's meeting follows a series of 19 public hearings
conducted around the city - but without the participation of the board of education. Duncan says he "did pop in and out of a couple of them."
The hearings were conducted by outside hearing officers, whose recommendations to the board have not been made public.The proposal has drawn some strong criticism. Parents and teachers packed an emotional hearing on the proposal to close Miles Davis Elementary School on the South Side.
Many parents do not want their children moved.
"Please let's starting thinking about stability. We can't keep uprooting kids every two or three years because a school isn't full," said Terry Hallom, parent of a child at Gladstone Elementary at 1231 S. Damen, which is scheduled to be closed.
Also controversial is a plan to move 274 elementary
students in the Edison Regional Gifted Center at 6220 N. Olcott
Ave., to the Albany Park Multicultural Academy at 4929 N. Sawyer Ave.
Of all the consolidations and closings, this is the proposal that involves the greatest distance. Most other changes within the proposal would require students to move no further than within a mile of their current school.CPS Board of Education meeting
CPS turnaround proposals
Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.