Community activists continued Monday to put pressure on the Noble Network of Charter Schools to withdraw a proposal to open a charter high school on the Southwest Side.
On Saturday, the Southwest Side Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) — one of several volunteer groups CPS created to evaluate proposals for new schools, decided, by a vote of 3 to 2, to oppose the proposal, according to one member of the council. On Monday, a couple dozen activists — organized by the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council — trooped to the downtown offices of a Noble board member with the intention of speaking at a monthly meeting that was scheduled to take place there.
Unbeknownst to them, Noble officials rescheduled the meeting two weeks ago because the date fell on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. (The new meeting information wasn’t posted online.)
“Basically I voted against because I thought there was a lack of community support for the proposal, and I don’t think Noble engaged enough with the community,” said Elena Rios, a NAC member who lives in Little Village and trains local school councils.
Rios complained that Noble officials declined to participate in a community forum that wasn’t an official part of the charter authorization process.
Noble spokesman Matt McCabe declined to comment on the NAC vote, explaining that CPS has not notified the charter network of any decisions. CPS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday to confirm the vote outcome.
Noble’s proposal is by far the most controversial of the remaining seven proposals to open new charter schools in CPS next year. Concerned that the proposed Noble school would siphon students from neighborhood high schools, principals, community activists and parents have banded together to protest
Meanwhile, officials from the charter network say there are hundreds of families in Southwest Side who already send their children to Noble campuses that are a long distance away. According to the network’s proposal documents, there are currently 271 students from the Brighton Park area who attend Noble campuses.
McCabe noted that on Monday, parents of Noble students delivered more than 1,100 letters of support for the proposed campus to the offices of the neighborhood’s alderman, Edward Burke.
Members of the Southwest Side NAC also voted against a separate proposal from a group that seeks to open a charter high school called STARS Project Engineering Academy, Rios says. That vote was unanimous, she says.
Rios says the NAC initially had about 20 members, but many stopped showing up for the weekly meetings, which on average lasted more than an hour.
There are currently seven active proposals from groups interested in opening traditional charter schools in the city, down from 14 when the process got underway earlier this year.
In addition, CPS is considering 17 proposals for new alternative schools managed by charter and contract operators. Originally there were 22 of these proposals.
CPS will hold a public hearing about all of the proposals for new schools on Sept. 30 and the Board of Education is expected to vote on new school authorizations at its October meeting.