CPS CEO Brizard: 20 schools targeted for reform

November 30, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The moves are part of a larger plan from the Chicago Board of Education to offer families with higher-quality school options.

Crane High School has been located on the Near West Side since 1903. Its prominent alumni include several NBA players as well as Bears owner George Halas. But recently the school has struggled with violence and for the past 14 years crane has been on academic probation. Now, the high school is on a proposed list to be phased out, meaning it will no longer take new students and will eventually close.

"For every school we are taking action it's all about underperformance," said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard Wednesday.

Brizard is taking action on a total of 20 underperforming schools -- 10 turnarounds, five phase-outs and two to be closed next year.

As they picked up their kids on Wednesday, Price Elementary parents were given a letter notifying them that their South Side school will be closed next year.

"Why can't they put the funds into this school to keep our school open for our kids," said Shannyce Israel.

"Our kids need help here. Closing the school down will hurt not help it," said parent Kimberly Wells.

"We live in this community. I have to take my kids all the way out of the community. I don't think it's right. I don't think it is fair," said Marie Hudson.

CPS says students will be transferred to better performing schools. Price students will be bused to a new school four miles away, while Guggenhiem students will be going to a school within walking distance.

"In those two cases, we were able to offer a much better option nearby," said Brizard.

The Chicago Teachers Union is strongly against any of the CPS proposed school actions. In a statement, CTU president Karen Lewis says, "school closings, consolidations turnarounds and other similar experiments do not work and do little to improve student achievement." The CTU says all of these tactics have been tried before and graduation rates are still low.

"Not everyone will agree what we have to do, but let's agree - on what - let's agree that a lot of schools are failing," said Brizard.

While Brizard admits these type of school reforms have occurred in the past, he says they often helped selective enrollment schools not neighborhood schools. He says his focus will be improving the neighborhood school. Brizard says the list of closures and phase-outs could be much longer. But, unlike in years past, CPS will only take action if students can be transferred to a better performing school.

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