Hawkins charter school overcomes challenges of first year

June 8, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Hawkins, part of a group of charter schools in the city, gets some funding from outside Chicago Public Schools. The school has more flexibility with staffing and offers open enrollment.

This was the first year for Hawkins which is located in the isolated public housing development Altgeld Gardens.

The school's staff began the year with high expectations. ABC7 wanted to see how the staff and students are finishing the year.

With temperatures in 90s outside and in the 80s inside, student and teachers are ready for summer break, especially after this year.

ABC7 visited Hawkins just before school opened in the fall as students and teachers embarked on the project. Now, some students are leaving for break on a good note.

C.I.C.S. Larry Hawkins student Myshawn Rollins talked to ABC7 at the start of the year.

"It's a new experience for people in the Gardens," Rollins said last fall.

On Wednesday, Myshawn looked back on his experience.

"It's great. We do different activities. We got gym but then also we got our class schedule, reading class, we just finished the Outsiders book. In science, we're doing chemistry," he said Wednesday.

Kyandria Jones was hesitant going into a school with older kids. "It's gonna be different. Real different," she said last fall.

And now?

"I get to learn a lot. I didn't really learn social studies last year, so I really get to learn most of that," Kyandria told ABC7's Leah Hope.

Nine months later, the school, which has over 400 7th through 12th graders, is boasting of growth overall.

"Our math and science scores, they did a great job and are a little bit higher than CPS average," said Thomas Anderson, C.I.C.S. Larry Hawkins' executive director.

That growth didn't come without a lot of work.

The teachers ABC7 spoke with are tired but ready to return for another year with even more conviction.

"I feel very much inspired and confident that big, big gains are possible because we've seen them at this school," said Allison Fifolt, C.I.C.S. Larry Hawkins teacher.

"I feel that every child should have a college prep education, to have a rigorous curriculum no matter where they live," said Sherene Awong, C.I.C.S. Larry Hawkins teacher.

All but three of the school's teachers are returning next year.

Even though the school is in a public housing complex, students come from other neighborhoods to avoid other public schools.

Hawkins is known to be struck. The school had to recommend four students for expulsion. Students told ABC7 that they feel safer in the environment than other schools

On Monday, 23 or 24 of Hawkins seniors graduated.

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