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Schools Focus of South Shore Plan

The past year saw charges that CPS was imposing school closings with little community input and little regard for the most vulnerable students.

South Shore is perhaps furthest along among of several communities that are launching grassroots strategic planning processes to ensure they have a say in improving troubled schools.

Last year the Coalition for Improved Education in South Shore started a series of task force and town hall meetings on schools, modeled on a previous effort which resulted in restructuring South Shore High School into small schools.

This time the focus includes the nine elementary schools which feed the high school. With eight of the nine on academic probation, South Shore topped the list of communities lacking high-performing schools in an Illinois Facilities Funds study last year.

Many of the best students go out of the neighborhood to school, said Marie Cobb of CIESS. Among those who stay, student mobility rates in the nine elementary schools are high, and schools are overcrowded.

South Shore’s schools also have the highest rates of homeless students and foster children, according to CIESS.

The neighborhood also has significant resources, including many professionals and retired teachers among its residents. South Shore is going through “yet another transition” with myriad dynamics — continuing condo conversions as well as an influx of CHA relocatees — said Henry English of the Black United Fund, who is working with CIESS on the strategic plan.

Scores of residents are now participating in task forces on the high school and elementary schools, at-risk students, overcrowding, safety, and options for community-based education, and a “town meeting” on schools is planned for October 15.

CIESS has sought university partnerships in the process, and now it is seeking to bring in CPS itself, “with the community and the Board [of Education] operating in equal partnership,” said English. “It takes the Board and the community working together to have successful outcomes,” he said, adding that “every community has particular needs” and “cookie cutter schools” aren’t the answer.

The planning process emphasizes the need for communities themselves to take responsibility for the education of their children, English said.

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Category: CPS, schools, South Shore


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