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Letter to the Editor-School Closings 4-24-13

Letter to the Editor-School Closings 4-24-13

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Published by valeriefleonard
Letter to the Editor of Catalyst Chicago regarding the impact of school closures in North Lawndale.
Letter to the Editor of Catalyst Chicago regarding the impact of school closures in North Lawndale.

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Published by: valeriefleonard on Jun 05, 2013
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Closing Schools in North Lawndale isNot Providing Better Alternatives
 As we enter the final stretch of the race to close down a record number of schools in the nation, we are extremelyconcerned about the patterns that are emerging in North Lawndale. We find that capital costs used to justify closingNorth Lawndale schools have been inflated up to 3 times. Moreover, there are no capital projects in progress at theschools slated to be closed, and they are in excellent condition. We have also found, consistently, that CPS hasmisrepresented the amenities of the closing schools. In most instances, the closing schools have greater amenitiesthan the receiving schools. For example, CPS has said that Pope and Henson don't have computer labs. Hensonhas two technology labs, a library and a computer in every classroom. Pope has a technology lab and a mediacenter.Community residents have questioned whether the proposed school closings are providing cover for AUSL toconsolidate their interests in North Lawndale. Bethune, an AUSL school, will close before being completely turnedaround. This will free capacity for AUSL to take over Chalmers, situated across the street from the northeast corner of Douglas Park. Pope, situated across the street from the southwest corner of Douglas Park, will close, andJohnson, which is an AUSL school, will assume its boundaries. Johnson is situated across the street from DouglasPark on 14th Street. AUSL controls Collins High School, situated inside the Park. After the dust settles, AUSL willcontrol essentially
every school in or around Douglas Park. While Henson’s receiving school is Hughes, the new
attendance boundaries are drawn such that the lion's share of Henson students will go to Herzl, another AUSLschool. CPS Board President Vitale is the former board president of AUSL. CPS Chief Administrative Officer, TimCawley, is a former managing director of AUSL. While we believe schools should be improved rather than closed, itshould be noted that AUSL schools do not necessarily present better options. AUSL school in North Lawndale havehistorically under-performed the North Lawndale Average.
School Closings will “re
segregate” the African American and Latino communities around Paderewski School, and
will not provide better opportunities for African American students. Currently, Paderewski is the only North Lawndaleschool whose attendance bo
undaries include North Lawndale and Little Village. Paderewski’s student population is
82% African American and 18% Latino. African American students generally live in Lawndale, north of Cermak Road,while the Latino students generally live in Little Village, south of Cermak Road. Even though CPS has designatedCardenas and Castellanos as receiving schools for Paderewski, the new attendance boundaries for Cardenas andCastellanos are drawn such that the northern boundary is Cermak Road. Likewise, the southern boundary for Pennand Crown is Cermak. Effectively, Latino students will be sent to Cardenas or Castellanos while African Americanstudents will go to Penn or Crown. Cardenas is Level 1 and Castellanos is Level 2. Cardenas and Castellanos arenearly filled to capacity. Paderewski, Crown and Penn are all Level 3 schools, with Paderewski being the strongestperformer of the three.
 In closing, we ask that CPS put a moratorium on school closures until they can complete their master facilitiesplanning process, mitigate any conflicts of interest and change any plans that could compound segregation.Sincerely,Valerie F. LeonardCo-Founder,Lawndale Alliance773-571-3886valeriefleonard@msn.com
Note: Collins Academyshares space with NorthLawndale CollegePreparatory CharterSchool. AUSL controlsthe capital budget forthe building.

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