Five years ago, the School Board announced it would close Lindblom Technical High School, once the pride of the whole South Side, because of dwindling enrollment. However, the school’s alums rallied, and the board backed off. But the school, which had seen its West Englewood neighborhood deteriorate in recent decades, continued to decline.
“This school is not what it used to be,” says Dawn Jasper, a community representative on Lindblom’s defunct local school council, which was suspended last spring amid allegations of election fraud.
Jasper, an alumna who used to teach at Lindblom, recalls the board turning down Lindblom’s bid for an International Baccalaureate program and ignoring its request for a campus park. “The board has not supported [Lindblom] in years,” she says. “And now that the school is a college prep, what does that mean? Unfortunately, a magnet designation does not make a school high caliber.”
Lindblom was the board’s second choice for the Region 5 college prep magnet. Initially, it wanted to put the program in Hancock School in the Scottsdale neighborhood on the Southwest Side. But neighborhood residents objected.
The board chose Lindblom even as it questioned the leadership of then-Principal Cheryl Rutherford. Rutherford was reassigned to the central office in the fall of 1999, and Jo Anne Roberts, who had been assigned to the newly created post of associate principal, took her place. Early this summer, Roberts was tapped to head up the CPS Office of Intervention, and the board named Loleta McDowell, an assistant to Chief Education Officer Cozette Buckney, interim principal.
McDowell has not returned numerous telephone calls from Catalyst, and she declined, through a secretary, a request for an interview.
One teacher, who asked not to be identified, says unstable leadership is only one of many start-up problems Lindblom is facing. “We’re wrestling with curriculum, recruiting students and… publicity—all while we are teaching.”
Another teacher agrees that the constant uncertainty at Lindblom has taken its toll. “We’ve had to reapply for our jobs for three years. We don’t know what’s going on.”
Lindblom has received new language, science and math teachers from CPS’ Global Educators Outreach program. Teachers from Yugoslavia, China and Nigeria have “impressive backgrounds,” says a Lindblom staffer. But their presence is creating tension among tenured faculty, who believe the faculty is overstaffed and the board is training their replacements, says the staffer.
Vallas concedes the conversion at Lindblom has been troubled. “Lindblom has been the toughest nut to crack out of the six. We did not stop enrolling kids because the school is just too large to that do. It’s been a slower transition.”
Despite its slow start, he adds, the school’s test scores show it is performing like a college prep.