January 28, 2013
Today Chicago Public Schools (CPS) begins the second phase of engagement with school communities around the District’s efforts to address its utilization crisis. Two meetings are being held in every school Network and school communities are strongly encouraged to attend both meetings, as they are closely connected.
“It is crucial that our school communities are active participants in this process and that they receive the respect they deserve by being involved on the front end of this process,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “I urge all members of our school communities to attend both meetings in their area so that their input and feedback can inform my team as we continue this important work.”
The first series of community meetings, which begins this week, will include a presentation on data and metrics on all schools at the Network level to gather feedback from school communities that will help CPS lead a more school-specific discussion at the second series of community meetings, which begins February 13. Independent facilitators will be on hand to ensure that school communities are engaged in the discussion and have opportunities to provide their feedback.
Earlier this month, CEO Byrd-Bennett announced that high-performing Level 1 schools and high schools are no longer being considered as part of this process and therefore will not be part of the discussion at these community meetings. She removed these schools from consideration in order to provide school communities with as many high-performing school options as possible and to address safety and concerns associated with including high schools in this process.
Community meetings being held this week are:
- Monday, 1/28: Ravenswood-Ridge Network at Truman College, 7-9 p.m.
- Tuesday, 1/29: Midway Network at Daley College, 7-9 p.m.
- Tuesday, 1/29: O’Hare Network at Wright College, 7-9 p.m.
- Wednesday, 1/30: Lake Calumet Network at Olive Harvey College, 7-9 p.m.
- Thursday, 1/31: Austin-North Lawndale Network at Friendship MB Church, 7-9 p.m.
- Saturday, 2/2: Englewood-Gresham Network at Kennedy King College, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
The second series of meetings, beginning February 13, are a follow-up conversation to the first series of meetings, and will include discussions about specific schools that are still being considered as part of this process.
CEO Byrd-Bennett formed the independent Commission on School Utilization to gather data about the District’s utilization challenges and to engage school communities around how to best address them. After hearing from hundreds of parents and school community members at 10 public meetings, the Commission issued a series of recommendations to remove schools from consideration as part of this process, including taking high schools and high-performing Level 1 schools off the table. CEO Byrd-Bennett embraced both of these recommendations and she and her team are in the process of further defining and applying the Commission’s other recommendations, which will remove more schools from consideration as part of this process.
After further defining and applying the Commission’s recommendations, CPS will provide a list of schools that are still being considered as part of this process for the second series of community meetings. This will allow communities to provide input and feedback on schools that remain on the table in their neighborhoods. While this list will not represent the final set of recommended schools that will go before the Board, it will give communities the opportunity to give CPS crucial feedback on individual schools to better inform CEO Byrd-Bennett before she makes her final recommendations to the Board in March.
CPS is holding meetings related to school utilization as the District is facing a very real and daunting utilization crisis, due in large part to a significant population drop in Chicago over the last decade. Today, CPS serves 403,000 students, but has space for 511,000. Nearly 140 schools are more than half-empty and about 50 percent of all schools are underutilized. In the face of a $1 billion deficit next fiscal year, this utilization crisis is stretching the District’s limited resources much too thin. By addressing this crisis, CPS will be able to better redirect resources and invest in programs and supports that provide all children with a more well-rounded, high-quality education, such as new technology, playgrounds, libraries, AC, more nurses and counselors and art and music programs.
School communities are being notified of the community meetings via a variety of communication methods, including robo-calls, letters mailed home, by email, via cps.edu, on social media and at individual schools. A complete list of upcoming community meetings can be found at www.cps.edu/qualityschools.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.