Chicago-style reform sells

Mayor Richard M. Daley (left) with the chairman of the Chicago Public Education Fund, Timothy R. Schwertfeger.

Since CEO Arne Duncan took the helm, private and government grants have skyrocketed from $2 million to $29 million. Funders say that steady leadership and a focus on crafting long-term improvements is what’s paying off for the district.

‘A place you can call your own’

Corporate-school partnerships are being driven to the forefront of donor cultivation strategy at the Renaissance Schools Fund, which aims to raise $50 million for startup grants. Two years into the initiative, Renaissance Schools Fund has passed the halfway mark. It is making headway by focusing most of its resources on matchmaking new school operators directly with donors, and taking a backseat once those relationships are made.

New Pilsen charter sparks protest

A recent School Board decision to green light a new charter school operated by United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) has inflamed existing tensions in the Pilsen community. Activists say more pressing needs are preschool and alternative high school.

Woodlawn: Student leaders step up at Hyde Park

An unnamed student group is the latest sign of efforts to turn around troubled Hyde Park High, where parents, teachers and even students say problems with discipline have been aggravated by the arrival of displaced students. Since 2004, Hyde Park has taken in hundreds of students who would have attended Calumet or Englewood high schools.

Woodlawn: Charter provides new school option

At the Bessie Coleman Library in Woodlawn one Saturday morning in February, more than 50 parents and children showed up to hear about the University of Chicago’s new charter school and pick up applications. The school, which has not yet been named, will serve 160 students in grades 6 through 12 in its first year, and will be housed in Wadsworth Elementary. Woodlawn students now have only one neighborhood high school option, Hyde Park.

Woodlawn: Activists make housing-schools connection

In 1994, residents of Woodlawn Avenue between 61st and 62nd streets came together to develop an affordable housing cooperative in the area. But it wasn’t long before they made the connection between housing and schools. This fall, the Woodlawn Community School, one of the system’s first small schools, will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Despite recent ups and downs in reading scores, the school has become one of the two strongest-performing schools in the neighborhood.

Woodlawn: A battle, a truce and new alliances

Back in the 1960s, the University of Chicago was Public Enemy No. 1 in Woodlawn, the feisty neighborhood just south of campus. These days, relations between the university and the community have thawed, although some residents are still deeply suspicious of the school. Meanwhile, university students and tenants have come together to fight displacement of lower-income residents.

Comings and Goings

RENAISSANCE WATCH Mayor Richard M. Daley’s signature effort to transform failing neighborhood schools advances with a second round of 13 new schools approved for opening later this year. Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter, approved last year, will also open this fall. Three additional schools were approved to start in 2007.