First it was at Fenger (locked up for years, as I recall). Then it was shuttered, revived and moved to Marine Math and Science. Now...it's nowhere. This is the sad saga of the CPS NASA lab. Not a big deal in and of itself, but yet another example of bureaucratic confusion, cost-cutting, and missed opportunities. Or should it just be left to die? You be the judge. Read below for one perspective, and then weigh in with yours. What went wrong? What should happen now? What are the lessons from this debacle?
I've been following your District 299 blog for several
years and while I haven't broke this story to the
news media yet I know how much you love CPS
and their handling of education for our young people.
For the last five years I have been the director of
a very unique program that is a partnership between
NASA and CPS called SEMAA (Science, Engineering,
Mathematics and Aerospace Academy). We have
been across very rocky roads since 2006 as it
appears there are no dedicated administrators that
understand the value of a NASA STEM program
that is free and serves all the students of the city.
We have been in the process of re-opening the
Chicago site since 2007 and we finally finished
upgrades in April of 2009. Then weird rumblings
in August from my principal at Marine Math &
Science Academy where the Aeronautics Education
Laboratory is hosted that downtown was going to
close the program had me totally confused.
We have spent two years and hundreds of
thousands of dollars to get the AEL back up
and in the blink of an eye without communication
to me nor NASA some unnamed person or
persons at the district are coming in three
weeks to remove all equipment and close
the lab. With the new push to improve
math and science programs across the
nation and with President Obama's new
focus on STEM education this move could
not be more untimely.
What it shows is that the district has no idea
of what it has as when I called Huberman's office
to find out the details of why the lab was closing
they had no knowledge of anything. I know
that it's not district but school that wants the
space and it is unfortunate that CPS allows
principals to make bad decisions that affect
the hundreds of thousands of children,
parents and community residents that
so badly need to improve math, science,
and technology and engineering skills.
NASA closed the SEMAA program and
washed its hands of CPS in 2006. It was only
through my persistence and dedication and a
letter of support from then CEO Duncan that
they happily agreed to allow us to move the
lab from Fenger to Marine Math & Science Academy.
Now I have egg all over my face with NASA but
the good thing is the AEL and the SEMAA program
will have no future administrative ties with the
The program will re-emerge at an institution that
has the vision and the understanding of the
importance of building STEM skills in our students.
As I was told by a person in the Office of the Board
President, the district has so many pressing problems
that a NASA program is not that high on priorities.
So true, our children need to learn how to read
first, learn math, so they can count money and dodge
bullets by counting to six.
This is the 10th anniversary of the Aeronautics Education
Laboratory and it's historical significance to African American
aviators and our ability to inspire our young people to dream
big and reach for the sky has been the foundation of our
site's vision and mission. The closing of the AEL is perfect
timing for media coverage showcasing the visionless bureaucrats at
CPS and how children don't come first.
You can learn more about NASA SEMMA here
and visit our Facebook page at
My goal is to have all my parents, corporate, university, and community partners bombard the 5th floor with
calls demanding answers to why a program of this caliber is totally disregarded by CPS.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.