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Parents, staff urge CPS to avoid ‘turnaround’ at Dvorak Tech Academy

Michael Davist7 second grader Dvorak Math Science Technology Academy (left) Donnell Allen protest recently proposed turnaround plans for school Wednesday

Michael Daviston, 7, a second grader at Dvorak Math Science Technology Academy (left) and Donnell Allen protest the recently proposed turnaround plans for the school Wednesday, April 2, 2014, outside the school before a press conference by community groups which was followed by a community meeting in the school. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

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Updated: May 5, 2014 8:24AM

Dozens of parents, teachers, community members and students gathered Wednesday night to urge Chicago Public Schools to forgo firing all teachers and staff at Dvorak Technology Academy in North Lawndale.

During a two-hour meeting attended by about 150 people, members of the Dvorak community pleaded for more resources — the same ones that would be given to the company that would manage the school.

“I say to you, don’t turn us around,” said parent and local school council member Lisa Russell. “Just give us the resources because that’s all we’re missing.”

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has recommended Dvorak and two other low-performing elementary schools undergo the so-called “turnaround” process. Staff at the schools would be fired and replaced. The schools would be managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which already runs 29 CPS schools and teacher training academies.

The recommendations come on the heels of massive school closures and some, like the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Pauline Lipman, likened turnarounds to outright closings. Others wondered if the turnaround was about a “land grab” in an area that could be gentrified. One teacher noted: “You can see downtown from Dvorak.”

Meetings were also held Wednesday to discuss turnaround plans at the two other schools: McNair Elementary School in Austin and Gresham Elementary School in Auburn-Gresham.

Pamela Creed, principal of Fuller School of Excellence, was at the Dvorak meeting to represent the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

She told the crowd that AUSL schools have “outpaced” traditional CPS schools when it comes to some testing and AUSL schools also celebrate student achievement and offers many resources for kids and their families.

“We offer extensive during-school and after-school opportunities for our babies,” she said. At her school they have cooking, martial arts, science club and many other opportunities, she said.

In a statement, CPS spokesman Joel Hood said CPS and AUSL officials will “listen” to community feedback but stood by Byrd-Bennett’s recommendations.

“For more than a decade, AUSL has improved schools from the ground up, showing increased attendance rate and academic growth, giving students a chance to receive the rich academic experience and engaging school environments they deserve,” Hood said.

“The District undertook an exhaustive review process to determine which schools would most benefit from AUSL’s proven approach to improving schools, which provides students with a rigorous academic experience and a positive school learning environment for them to reach their fullest potential.”

CPS said all three schools that could be overhauled are on probation and are level three schools, the lowest rating level for schools in the district.

The Chicago Board of Education will vote on the turnaround recommendations later this month.


Twitter: @schlikerman

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