Forte’s case is typical, says Douglas Principal Beverly Blackwood, who has seen the school’s enrollment decline from more than 2,000 some 30 years ago to 700 today. Only 163 come from the school’s attendance area. “Within the Gap community itself, there are not that many students,” Blackwood says, and many of them “attend magnet schools and private schools.”
With the Chicago Housing Authority tearing down buildings, many of Drake’s students have been forced to leave the school’s attendance area. This fall, the few remaining families in the Prairie Courts development, which borders Drake on two sides, moved out. Amid the turmoil, Drake’s rising test scores took a dip.
Although Dearborn Park, a middle-income development, is not in the Academy’s attendance area, Gloria Williams, head of the tenant advisory council in the Harold Ickes Homes, casts a wary eye at parents there. “Those Dearborn Park folks, we know that they’d want their kids to come, with all that the school has to offer,” says Williams.
Still undecided is who will get to attend the new school. At press time, the only sure bet was former Willliams students. Discussions were still under way about new neighborhood students—e.g. kindergartners and families moving into Dearborn Homes—and students outside the neighborhood.
The third home for Williams refugees is the new, $47 million National Teachers Academy, at 1800 south. It is surrounded by the CHA’s Harold Ickes Homes, which also are receiving residents from CHA demolition targets.
The policy of reserving magnet school slots for neighborhood children favors families in the wealthier sections of the city, which have the highest concentrations of magnet schools: the Loop, the Near West Side and the north lakefront from the Gold Coast to Lake View. After this and other special attendance considerations, only one magnet school slot in five remains open.
Ohio may have to suspend a controversial mandate that requires 4th-graders to pass a state reading test before advancing to 5th grade, after a May 11 state Supreme Court ruling. The court’s decision praised Ohio’s attempt to set higher academic standards, but called the “4th Grade Guarantee” an unfunded mandate that “must be addressed and immediately funded,” according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
On March 13, less than two hours before a midnight deadline, an arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association sent out, by e-mail, a decision on Elizabeth Elizondo’s appeal of the decision by the Finkl Local School Council not to renew her contract as principal.
A series of temporary restraining orders kept the schools open until Nov. 10, when an appeals panel overturned them. Legislators then used a four-day grace period provided by the panel to do what they had long resisted, hammer out a $378 million borrowing package.
Grant’s conduct had raised conflict-of-interest questions before: In 1993, she had come under fire for negotiating a no-bid insurance contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, even though Grant was part-owner and CEO of a health-care company with business ties to Blue Cross/Blue Shield.