CPS board votes to overhaul 8 schools

February 24, 2010 4:36:29 PM PST
The Chicago school board approved the closing, consolidating or turnaround of eight public schools Wednesday.

It was not a popular move. Many parents and teachers wanted their schools left alone.

Chicago Public Schools can close or turnaround a school for low enrollment, low performance or underutilization.

The school board's decision to turn around five schools was the most controversial. Under the turnaround model, the staff is replaced. It's a move that does not sit well with the teachers union.

The protests went from the schools to the school board. Despite the loud objections from primarily the Chicago Teachers Union, the Chicago school board approved the plan to close, consolidate, turnaround or phase out 8 schools.

"All of us are disappointed by the decision of the board," said Martha Idewu, teacher.

Idewu is a teacher at Phillips high School. Phillips joins Marshall High School, Curtis, Bradwell and Deneen Elemetary Schools on the turnaround hit list. Turnaround means the students stay but the entire staff is replaced.

"These kids at my school need stability. Sometimes I'm the only adult they can depend upon," said Donald Baumgartner, teacher.

But Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman says what the kids need is a good education, something he believes they have not been getting at the five schools that will be turned around.

"We believe that these schools are performing so poorly that we simply do not have an option; that the status quo in the schools is unacceptable because the students in those schools are not learning," said Huberman.

The Chicago Teachers Union disagrees. For years the union has called for a moratorium on turnaround schools.

"The turnaround model, instead of creating a culture of calm which you advocate, it's a culture of chaos," said Marilyn Stewart, Chicago Teachers Union president.

Huberman and the school board argue there is no time to wait. Some teachers question the success of turnaround schools.

"The only thing we are not able to give back to these students is time. And if they lose yet another year, two years before we get them performing to the degree that we need to, it is fundamentally unfair to those students," said Huberman.

"Do they do any better? The whole purpose of this was to turn it around to make it better. Is it indeed becoming belter or just different?" asked Lois Ashford, teacher.

Prescott Elementary School in Lincoln Park was on the original closing list was Prescott. It was slated for closure because of under enrollment. Huberman changed his mind Tuesday after the Prescott community put together a plan to boost enrollment. Huberman says in the future he plans to have school hearings prior to the list coming out, so parents have some warning if their school is slated for closure or turnaround. He also wanted to point out that only five parents showed up during the public comment portion of the vote.