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Five Area Principals Join Local Aldermen To Oppose Possible New Charter Schools

Senn High School. Credit: Jeremy Bressman

Senn High School. Credit: Jeremy Bressman

Principals of five Chicago public high schools in Edgewater, Rogers Park, Lake View, Lincoln Square and West Ridge neighborhoods have joined together to oppose proposals to bring three charter schools to the north side. The proposals will be heard at a public hearing on Thursday.

“Basically, we learned that Noble Street Charter School has a proposal in for the former St. Jerome’s, which would impact Sullivan and Senn high schools,” Nicholas Senn High School Principal Susan Lofton wrote in an email to the EdgeVille Buzz. She has been working with principals from Lake View, Amundsen, Mather and Sullivan high schools.

“Noble is attempting to relocate an existing campus to the former Lycee Francais building at Lake Shore Drive and Irving Park, which would impact Lakeview, Senn, and Amundsen high schools. And now we have learned that Intrinsic is trying to open by Rosehill Cemetery, which again would impact us all, if these communities were in support of the charter concept.”

In a joint statement representing Sullivan High School Principal Chad Adams, Lake View High School Principal Scott Grens and Amundsen High School Principal Anna Pavechivich, Lofton said the Noble and Intrinsic charter proposals for Rogers Park and Lincoln Square and relocation of a Noble Charter to Lake View are counterproductive to the communities of Sullivan, Senn, Amundsen, Mather and Lake View high schools.

“Allowing charters will result in instability and a divergence of tax dollars for neighborhood schools, which would undermine community and family efforts,” Lofton said. Schools receive funding based on student enrollment.

According to Noble Street Charter School’s website, the charter school was founded in 1999 by two Chicago Public School teachers in cooperation with the Northwestern University Settlement Association.

It aims to prepare “low-income students with the scholarship, discipline and honor necessary to succeed in college and lead exemplary lives, and serves as a catalyst for education reform in Chicago.”

The school offers longer class periods, a longer school day and a longer school year than the traditional Chicago public high school, its website says. Its curriculum is modeled after one used by Phillip Exeter Academy, an elite boarding school in New Hampshire.

“We believe the Exeter collaboration, coupled with Noble’s record of success and nearby public transportation, will attract students from the North Side but possibly from other parts of the city, which will not impact enrollment at any one particular high school significantly,” Constance J. Brewer, Noble’s new Chief External Affairs Officer, said in a statement reported by Catalyst-Chicago.org.

Meanwhile, Intrinsic Schools is a 7th-12th grade public charter school with open enrollment. It blends technology with teaching to provide every student a path to college and career, its website said. Intrinsic Schools opened its Belmont Campus in August 2014.

Lofton said Senn High School had a large drop in enrollment between 2003 and 2012, but as a result of a plan that focused in large part on reconnecting with the Edgewater and Andersonville community and overall attendance area, enrollment has increased.

“We went from having roughly 35 percent of students coming from the community in 2010 to 65 percent of freshman students coming from the community in 2015,” she said. In the last few years, enrollment increased by more than 200 students.

Additionally, principals are working on ways to invite their communities into their schools to see what is really going on.

“But it is a slow process,” Lofton added. “There is still a lot of misperception and inaccurate information floating around. We are a very college-oriented school now, with a wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate program, including the selective enrollment program and a magnet fine arts program.”

Her most recent data point from April indicated that 98 percent of seniors had been accepted to college. Senn High School’s ACT growth from Grade 9 to Grade 11 is close to a fully selective school’s gain.

“It is important to the community that it has a high performing school with guaranteed seats and services for all students,” she said. “A charter simply doesn’t serve that mission.”

Noble’s strict discipline code forbids tardiness, requires uniforms and imposes fines for misbehavior, Catalyst-Chicago.org said. While some say these rules are a benefit to high schools, they do tend to push some students out, the website added.

Speaking for 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman, Director of Education and Youth Programs Karen Dreyfuss voiced her opposition to the Noble Street plans.

“We continue to support neighborhood public high schools, and specifically in our community that would be Senn High School,” she said. “We continue to work proactively with Chicago public schools to ensure their success. We oppose the Noble Street proposals as they would detract resources from our local neighborhood high school.”

Meanwhile, the public hearings will take place at the Chicago Board of Education Chambers, 42 W. Madison St., Garden Level, at 3 and 4 p.m. on Thursday. Intrinsic Charter Schools 2’s proposal will be heard starting at 3 p.m. The proposal for Noble Street Noble Academy Campus will be heard starting at 4 p.m.

Written comments may be submitted to the Office of Innovation and Incubation, 42 W. Madison St., 3rd Floor, via fax to 773-553-1559, or via email to onscompliance@cps.edu.

The record will remain open for these comments until noon on Friday, May 22, 2015. For additional information, contact the Office of Innovation and Incubation at 773-553-1530.

 


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