Turn-around school welcomes students

CHICAGO This is the first year that high schools have been included in the turn-around concept. The idea is to start from scratch. The building and some of the students are the same but not much else.

The West Side high school is not only new to the freshman class but to everyone. Orr High School is a Chicago public turn-around school.

"When students come back to school, they find their teachers are gone and there's a totally new staff, a totally new way of doing things, a totally new initiative. That's why they call it turn-around," Jammie Poole Jr., Orr High principal.

The idea did not come without controversy.

Last winter, several students and parents protested the turn-around but the nonprofit organization that is in charge is confident that those against the concept will turn around.

"Work with us and we'll make it happen. We're excited that some of our most outspoken opponents six months ago have said to us, we'll come with you to the next community," said Brian Simms, Academy for Urban School Leadership.

Tarzell Tingle, an Orr student, and his father both believe starting from scratch is a good idea, especially with the attendance policy.

"It gives me a wake-up call, I've taken it all for granted and I have to be more serious, come to school on time every day," said Tingle.

"I think change is very good," said Mr. Tingle.

A more stringent attendance policy, school uniforms, and higher expectations are part of the turn-around concept. The same principles apply to Miles Davis Magnet Academy. Mayor Daley and CPS chief Arne Duncan opened the school and they reminded parents of the importance of first day attendance.

"If you don't send your child to school the first day, don't be blaming the aldermen, don't be blaming the principal or the teacher when your child falls further and further behind," said Mayor Daley.

In terms of attendance, for the past 16 years, attendance has gone up on the first day by 17 percent which translates to 68,000 students.

Over 800 students showed up Tuesday for the first at Orr High School.

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