CPS goes ahead with school overhauls

Students, parents protest plan
February 27, 2008 3:54:45 PM PST
Chicago Public Schools officials voted to move forward with a plan that closes, consolidates and turnaround several schools. The overhaul targets more than a dozen schools considered to have low enrollment or be under-performing. CPS officials said the plan will improve the city's public education system, but many parents and students disagree.

More than 100 students at Orr High School walked out of school and into Chicago Public Schools headquarters to protest proposed changes at their school.

"This turnaround plan for our school will only cause more chaos," said Brittany Cannon, Orr H.S. student. "This turnaround plan for our school will only cause more chaos. The students are getting very disgruntled."

"We have already been through one process and don't need to go through another. Students are discouraged about what's happening," said Kristy Ford, Orr H.S. student.

A few years ago Orr High School was part of a plan to overhaul Chicago Public Schools. At that time the school was broken up into three small schools. This new plan would unite the school as one and make it a 'turnaround' school, which means the students stay but all the staff would leave. The plan will involve 18 schools.

"We held our recommendations out to be scrutinized by many people. And what we got in return was a much stronger plan," said Arnie Duncan, Chicago Schools C.E.O.

Orr and Harper high schools would be part of the "turnaround" schools. Four elementary schools that feed into those high schools-- Fulton, Copernicus, Morton Career Academy and Howe -- would also be turnarounds.

Eight schools with low enrollment would be affected. Four would close. Two others would relocate with staff. The final two would consolidate keeping staff, but losing the principal.

Sherman Elmeentary is considered a successful 'turnaround' school. The PTA's president says new teachers made a powerful improvement.

"I've seen a change in my eldest child who is now on the honor roll because of when you stepped in," said Ricky Fields, Sherman Elementary School Parent

CPS administrators and board members heard more than two hours of public comment at Wednesday's board meeting on the new plan. Most of the comment was from angry parents and community leaders opposed to the changes.

" They already have the whole world against them as it is. You want to change the whole school around," said Duane Kidd, Englewood Resident.

The plan requires more than 2,000 students to move to other schools. The turnaround affects 800 jobs, including 500 teachers, who can apply for new positions.

The Chicago Teachers Union said the plan violates their collective bargaining agreement. They have filed a grievance.