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.
MAKING, MISSING THE CUT When staff from Providence-St.Mel won a contract to operate a school in Englewood’s Bunche Elementary, the group sparked headlines and controversy for its Catholic-school affiliation. However, another group with Catholic connections flew under the public radar, winning deals to open two schools. Catalyst Schools—a nonprofit, nonsectarian offshoot of the Christian Brothers’ highly regarded San Miguel Schools—will open a charter in Lawndale next fall, and a contract school in Austin in 2007. Unlike Providence Englewood, Catalyst Schools will not use an entrance exam and, like San Miguel Schools, will actively recruit struggling students. San Miguel Schools already runs a private school in Back of the Yards and another in Austin. (This magazine has no connection to Catalyst Schools.) … KIPP, which operates one charter school in Austin, made a pitch to win a second charter, but their bid was declined. KIPP Youth Village Academy, a contract school, will close at the end of this academic year.
BEING GREEN This year, CPS opened 22 new Renaissance schools. One of them, Tarkington, is the first green, or eco-friendly, school. Early reports about the new facility noted that it marked a districtwide switch to green construction, but school officials now say that is not the case.
TARGET: $50 MILLION In late January, the affiliate of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago charged with raising private money for Renaissance schools—recently renamed Renaissance Schools Fund—announced that donors had pledged some $30 million. So far, $6.2 million of that has been awarded to new schools. When it was created two years ago, Renaissance Schools Fund, formerly known as New Schools for Chicago, committed to raising $50 million and considered hiring a professional fundraiser. Since then, some donors solicited by Renaissance Schools Fund have chosen to partner with schools directly rather than funnel their contributions through the fund. Through direct partnerships, businesses retain more say over how funds are spent and receive publicity for their donations.
BOOT CAMP Renaissance Schools Fund recently picked up a $1 million grant from The Boeing Company to launch a mini-internship for CPS educators who want to run schools of their own. Patterned after New Leaders for New Schools, a fast-track principal training program, the effort will help teachers and assistant principals be better prepared to operate a startup. The first group of trainees is expected to be on board by spring.
AT CLARK STREET Behind the scenes, Chicago Public Schools has reorganized its Office of New School Development, renaming it the Office of New Schools. Some staff have been reassigned. Beatriz Rendon, formerly executive manager of Renaissance 2010, is now director of new schools support and responsible for overseeing school accountability, startup funding and renewals. Jose Alvarez, former deputy chief of staff to CEO Arne Duncan, is director of operations, handling facilities and financial issues. Allison Jack, previously a strategic advisor, is director of external relations, working with CPS lobbyists on legislation related to charters and on special projects for new schools. Jeanne Nowaczewski, formerly director of small schools, is now responsible for recruiting and selecting new school proposals. All four report directly to Hosanna Mahaley Johnson, Duncan’s chief of staff, who is the district’s point person for Renaissance 2010.
In a related development, the Office of Charter Schools has been eliminated. “We wanted to make sure that charter schools were more incorporated with all the schools,” says Allison Jack. “We know the way we run charters has worked really well. We wanted to make sure the contract schools and the performance schools were included.”… Genita Robinson, who previously headed the charter schools office, is now director of special projects for the CEO, reporting to David Pickens, deputy to Duncan.
Elizabeth Evans, director of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, expresses guarded optimism about the changes. “All signs are positive,” she says. “There’s been a lot of chaos the past two years, [but] growing pains” are to be expected.