Duncan announces CPS closings

January 16, 2009 2:59:05 PM PST
Sixteen public schools in Chicago will be closed, consolidated or relocated under a new proposal.Falling enrollments and crumbling buildings are to blame for the closings, according to the proposed plan.

The plan could be approved by the Chicago School board at its meeting in late February.

In addition, six other schools would be designated as turn-arounds meaning all education personnel would have to re-apply for their jobs.

Outgoing Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan acknowledged that change is hard and making the decisions on the affected schools came after what he called rigorous review and reflection. He said among the schools to be closed academic performance just wasn't there and among the schools to be consolidated enrollments were not large enough to create a critical mass for learning.

"This is a tough process. This is radical change," said Duncan.

Surrounded by Chicago Public School staff, parents and students at John Harvard Academy, a turnaround school on the South Side, the CPS chief said more change has to come because Chicago students deserve better.

"All I really think about is doing better for these kids. I'm not satisfied. We're not done yet," said Duncan.

The education authority proposes to close five elementary schools.

Elementary schools to be closed are Nia, Foundations, Peabody, Princeton and South Chicago.

South Chicago is typical of schools to be closed. Enrollment there is less than 40 percent of what it should be for a school of this size.

The one high school to be closed is Las Casas, whose students will be moved to nearby facilities.

Elementary schools to be phased out due to poor academic achievement are Carpenter Elementary, Hamilton Elementary, Lathrop Elementary and Reed Elementary.

One high school to be phased out is Best Practice.

Schools designated to be turn-arounds are schools where students stay but entirely new faculty and administration are brought in.

"He made this decision, I was like oh, but they came in and it was better for my children. Because of course they have only one chance for an education and I had to think about that after the fact," said Catonya Withers, A parent of four who opposed the plan when it was instituted at Harvard Academy.

The Chicago Teachers Union has long-standing opposition to school closings and this round is no different. They say it disrupts student-teacher relationships, and even though teachers are allowed to re-apply for their old jobs, rarely does a school closing or turn-around result in a teacher carrying on a positive career track.

"Teachers are frustrated there are tired of accused of something, and then you say they are good enough to work at another school then why arent they good enough to work here," said Marilyn Stewart , president, Chicago Teachers Union.

Arne Duncan is President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for US education secretary. But Duncan was unwilling to say if he would bring his approach to school consolidations and closings to the national level. But he did not deny this was his last news conference as CEO of CPS and he said he was planning to be in Washington Tuesday for the inauguration of his friend and future boss.