Gentrification "is a pretty horse that people get on to justify poor-performing schools"

The Trib's newest education reporter, David Mendell, has what may be the best line coming from Michael Scott on the school closings issue. 

Education officials to reopen high school Tribune
"Community activists fighting the impending closure of
Collins High School on the West Side won a small victory Wednesday when
the Chicago Board of Education agreed to reopen the school under new
management in fall 2007, a year after it was to stop accepting freshmen."

He's also a former political reporter who's quickly
figuring out what's what down at 125 S. Clark Street.  Now if we could
only get him to stop looking so clean cut and making the rest of us
look like schlubs...

Education officials to reopen high school

By David Mendell

Tribune staff reporter

Published February 22, 2006, 10:15 PM CST

Community activists fighting the impending closure of
Collins High School on the West Side won a small victory Wednesday when
the Chicago Board of Education agreed to reopen the school under new
management in fall 2007, a year after it was to stop accepting freshmen.

Board President Michael Scott and Chicago Public Schools chief Arne
Duncan met with advocates of the high school earlier this week to craft
an agreement that would quickly reopen the high school under new
academic and administrative leadership. It's not known if Collins will
become a charter school or a district-run school.

The victory is minor because the district had been planning to open a
new high school in the Lawndale area anyway. But that building likely
won't be ready for the 2007-2008 school year, officials said. Thus,
Collins will reopen in fall 2007.

Collins was among a handful of school closures announced by schools
officials last month as part of the district's massive reform effort
dubbed Renaissance 2010. The board approved the closures Wednesday.

The school will stop accepting freshmen this fall, but begin taking
freshmen again in fall 2007. The current student population will stay
at Collins, with this fall's freshmen class given the opportunity to
select from other area high schools.

"We are going to work individually to find the best place for each
child," said Hosanna Mahaley Johnson, chief of staff to Duncan.

Lawndale community activists, educators at Collins, parents and others
have fiercely protested the phasing out of Collins. Taking up their
cause was state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), who was instrumental in
hammering out the agreement over the weekend, school officials said.

Still, activists protested emotionally at Wednesday's board meeting.
Some accused school officials of closing Collins to cater to
development interests in the neighborhood, which is slowly gentrifying.

"A lot of my constituents feel this is just a real estate transaction,
that the school is just an attractive site to developers," said Ald.
Michael Chandler (24th), speaking on behalf of the activists.

But Scott denied that accusation. He said Collins' test scores have
been woeful long enough and that it will take drastic action to reverse
that trend. Fewer than 10 percent of Collins' students meet state
academic standards.

Gentrification "is a pretty horse that people get on to justify
poor-performing schoolsand I just don't buy it," Scott said. "You can
say it is the board's fault, you can say it is the school's fault and
you can say it is the broader community's fault. But the fact of the
matter is, we have all failed to do a better job at Collins. ... We
have an obligation to put a great school in that community."

The board also voted to close Frazier Elementary, a North Lawndale
school; Farren Elementary, where enrollment at the South Side school
has dropped to 150 pupils in Grades K-8; and Morse, where half of the
students come and go in a given school year.

dmendell@tribune.com

Filed under: Media Watch

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