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First day at brand new 'turnaround school'

September 8, 2009 3:03:57 PM PDT
It's the first day of school for Chicago Public Schools students-- it's quite a change for students at one school on the West Side. Their school is a so-called "turnaround school." The school got an overhaul during the summer, and so did the teaching staff: Only one teacher remains from last year. It's all in the effort to improve student performance.

It's not just a new school year, it's a whole new school culture at what's now called The Bethune School of Excellence, 3030 W. Arthington.

The students arriving to Bethune are finding a new attitude, along with newly painted and rearranged classrooms, a new teaching staff and a new principal.

"We have an invigorated, vibrant, ready-to-go staff that is eager to make sure children are learning," said Zipporah Hightower, principal.

For 7th grader Marvin Robertson putting all the school supplies into his bookbag at home, eagerness may be more of a growing process.

"Kinda happy, kinda mad that summer's over. It was a short summer," said Marvin.

Marvin's mother is ready for this day and more than ready for Marvin's school to make a turnaround.

"Stricter rules, and hopefully they'll stick with the uniform policy. He doesn't like it, but it's easier for me," said Kenya Thomas, Marvin's mother.

So, with one more quick inventory of the bookbag -- and a spray of cologne -- Marvin's out the door and on his way. He has already joined the football team. Athletics are a big part of Bethune's new school culture.

"I try to teach them discipline, even before they get into the classroom," said Cory Lee, football coach and teacher assistant.

"Excellence is our standard. I'm expecting excellence," said Principal Hightower.

And Marvin Robertson has expectations, too. On this first day of school, he says his goal is to get to graduation.

Marvin has other expectations, too. His passion is journalism, and he says when he grows up, he wants to own a television station.


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