Andersen Update: Make Way For Yuppies?

Updates keep pouring in from parents and insiders. This one from a parent at Andersen describes a recent meeting about the future of the school -- its current students and the building on Division Street. It's about a private meeting at City Hall, not one of those public meetings. Alderman Flores and Rep Soto were there, along with three CPS officials (Pickens, Alverez, and someone else).

Details are below, but the highlights include CPS's insistence on using LaSalle as a main part of the new program at Andersen, the possibility of leaving the state blended PK and SPED programs at the school, resistance by CPS to allowing all Andersen kids guaranteed access into the new LaSalle (vs the usual neighborhood and sibling lotteries) -- including the number of PK classes, and some ways to give older Andersen kids some access to "LaSalle" programs.

It sounds like the Andersen parents have organized and pushed pretty hard and successfully so far, but ... it remains to be seen whether CPS focuses mostly on Andersen or mostly on the new LaSalle. What do you think? Do they stand a chance? Anyone else having any better luck? From the parent:

The following is written as one parent’s summary and account of a

meeting with three CPS officials at City Hall about the closing of Andersen Community Academy.

This is one person’s account and by no means is this a complete or all

encompassing report.

Four Andersen parents met with three CPS officials at City Hall. Alderman

Flores, his staffer Jeanine, and Representative Soto were also in

attendance. We met for almost three hours. The meeting was

constructive. It was an open dialog. The CPS reps included Mr.

Pickens and Mr. Alvarez who are top advisers to Mr. Duncan.

Alderman Flores and Representative Soto stand 100% with Andersen. Their

attendance at the meeting and their ability to get CPS's attention for the

parents is clearly invaluable.

Unfortunately CPS did not commit to anything--other than its willingness to

hear us out, answer questions, and reconsider facets of the proposal. CPS

committed to another meeting in two weeks with the same group. At that

meeting CPS hopefully will provide feedback.

The attendees tried very hard to cover all the issues and questions that have

been brought up in the last few weeks. Following are the highlights and

topics covered (not in any particular order).

The name “Andersen": The

name will in some will be incorporated or retained when the new LaSalle program

is phased in. CPS emphasized that the name "LaSalle" brings

with it huge marketing and intangible benefits. Thus CPS is adamant that

the name 'LaSalle" will and must be utilized.

Pre-K: CPS seems receptive to maintaining the state pre-k

blended program as it currently exists--however, no commitment yet.

Special Ed Children: CPS again

seems receptive but noncommittal to maintaining the special ed programs.

However, those special ed programs would NOT flow into the new LaSalle

program. Again, CPS made no definitive commitment to keep special ed, but

there appeared to be a willingness to work to keeping it.

Admission to LaSalle Kindergarten: CPS

understands that we [parents/reps] want a 100% admissions policy for the

incoming kindergarteners of the families of current Andersen students into

the new LaSalle program. CPS is offering to set aside 50% of the spots

for neighborhood children (in a "neighborhood lottery") and provide a

"sibling lotttery" to allow the younger siblings in Andersen Families

to attend LaSalle. None of the parent/reps were impressed by this.

Our position is and continues to be 100% admissions for the younger children of

Andersen Families. This topic was discussed in great detail.

CPS only proposed one new kindergarten class (26 kids). However CPS seems

confident that can be increased to two classes (current Andersen levels).

One parent/rep asked for at least four kindergarten classes.

CPS said it does not know how many children a LaSalle kindergarten program at

Andersen will attract. The author of this summary (a parent) predicts

(and you heard it here first!) that if CPS announces it is taking applications

for a "LaSalle at Andersen", you will see 400 - 600 applications from

all over the City. CPS tells us that it can not predict how many

applications will come in, especially from the neighborhood--so it will not

guarantee admissions to anyone. The reps/parents concluded that the

lottery system is flawed because it means there are winners and there will be

losers. They do not want to tolerate losers. The parents/reps found

CPS's present solution unacceptable. This is a huge sticking point--perhaps

the biggest issue from the author’s view.

Remaining Andersen Students: There

was a discussion about ways in which the remaining children in the upper grades

at Andersen will benefit from the new LaSalle programming. Several

suggestions were made including offering foreign language or math / English

enrichment classes to the upper grades; partnering with Noble Street to provide enrichment

programs; etc. Flores and Soto demanded information as to the costs of

upgrading the programming for the remaining Andersen students. If they

know the cost, they will help to find the money.

CPS was also asked to figure a way to keep the most qualified, best performing

teachers at Andersen, despite the phase out. No one wants the least

desirable teachers to remain at Andersen while the better qualified jump ship

to take positions at thriving (as opposed to phasing out) schools. The

parent/reps asked CPS to give incentives to teachers to stay at Andersen as the

phase out occurs. The author’s position is that the parents can do just

so much for out teachers. The teachers and their union have to step up

and push on this particular issue.

Perception: Because Andersen is

predominantly made up of Hispanic and low income families, some parents/reps perception

is that CPS does not want to offer better programming and educational

opportunities to the current Andersen Families and would rather offer that

programming to the upscale, gentrifying folks moving into West Town. This

is a huge problem and CPS understands this too.

The parents/reps suggested to CPS some sort of parent education program is

needed where CPS reps come to Andersen and provide information on why this is

happening, how to navigate the public school system, and how to get their

graduating 8th graders into the best high schools possible. Parent/repos

also asked that CPS address their fears that this is not about race, income, or

national origin--and that no children will be displaced. CPS seemed

receptive to this.

Conclusion: CPS committed to

another meeting in two weeks to discuss these issues again and present the

parents/reps with some response to our needs.

The author of the summary left the meeting with a very good feeling that we had

been heard, that CPS wants the blessing of the community, and that they are

prepared to work with us. And then the author thought about how the

parents/community have gotten to where they are at present and stated:

“If it had not been for the efforts of our concerned parents, teachers, and

staff, we would not have filled the gym two weeks ago and in the blizzard last

week. If it had not been for all the people who showed up at those meetings, we

would not have impressed our elected officials, Manny Flores and Cynthia Soto. If

it had not been for Flores and Soto, who bring so much credibility to our

concerns, political muscle, and access to decisions makers at CPS, we would not

be able to work behind the scenes like we have been. I feel very good that we

will be able to work out a compromise with CPS--something that keeps families

together, keeps the quality programming we have, and improves the educational opportunities

for all Andersen students.”

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