October 29, 2013

Ms. Barbara Byrd Bennett CEO Chicago Public Schools 125 South Clark Street Chicago, IL 60605 Dear Ms. Byrd-Bennett: Thank you for sharing communication regarding the restructuring of the networks, which has already taken effect. We have read your letter and would like to share feedback with you and other interested persons. We really like the idea of creating networks that address education from pre-k-12. For too long there has been a huge disconnect between early childhood education, elementary education and high school education. Many of the issues that are uncovered in elementary and high school have their foundation in a child's formative years. We think approaching education from pre-k12 could help to better align curriculum as a child matriculates from pre-school through high school graduation. It would be helpful to share the new organization structure and staff names so that we have a better sense for how this "looks" on paper, and thus, get a better understanding for how this will "work" from an operational standpoint. We are deeply concerned that this new structure could potentially cause more division within a system that is already dangerously polarized. Maybe "polarized" is not a good choice of words, as it seems to connote choosing between 2 extremes. We have many divisions in our system. This restructuring will allow many silos within single communities and result in less transparency to CPS stakeholders. Even worse, communities like North Lawndale don't have a traditional neighborhood high school. This new restructuring--with AUSL, charters and alternative schools that ostensibly serve the same communities, but report to different network chiefs-- could undermine the alignment that your pre-k-12 structure seeks to achieve. You also compound the potential for traditional neighborhood schools to continue to be under-resourced

while other schools continue to get more resources at their expense. And who at the CAC level would know, since the AUSL schools, charters and alternative schools are all part of different networks? North Lawndale is in an especially precarious position, because this new structure has separated our neighborhood high schools from the elementary schools. Collins High School is an AUSL school, and will only be reaching out to other AUSL elementary schools. For all intents and purposes, AUSL will be operating as an island unto itself in and around Douglas Park (with the exception of Herzl). North Lawndale College Prep and other charters will be isolated into their own network, creating alignment among charter elementary schools and North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School. Guess what? There is no traditional high school in North Lawndale with which the remaining traditional elementary schools may be aligned. What is the plan to prepare children from traditional elementary schools in North Lawndale for high school? With what high school does CPS propose to align them? It's bad enough that CPS closed 50 schools and developed a master facilities plan that does not adequately align capital resources with a strategic education plan that lifts ALL boats. Now, we have to live with a structure that compounds segregation in a hopelessly segregated system. (This time, its along sponsorship of school type). How does this improve education for all? A school system is only as strong as its weakest link. This structure weakens the majority of its members, and cannot be sustained. In closing, we thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to providing additional feedback in the future. Sincerely,

Valerie F. Leonard
Valerie F. Leonard Co-Founder, Lawndale Alliance

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