Alternative H.S. Opposition Rooted in 'Baseless Rumors, Fears:' Synagogue

By Benjamin Woodard on June 10, 2014 4:55am 

 Congregation KINS of West Rogers Park
Congregation KINS of West Rogers Park
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Congregation KINS

WEST ROGERS PARK — An alternative high school that's "committed to being a good neighbor" must look elsewhere yet again after residents opposed plans to open the school at a prominent synagogue.

Ombudsman Chicago had planned to hold a community meeting Monday night with Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), but it was canceled Sunday evening.

"The reaction has been overwhelmingly opposed to bringing Ombudsman to the 50th Ward," Silverstein said in an email to residents Sunday.

Ben Woodard discusses the neighborhood's issues with a potential alternative high school for youths struggling to graduate:

The synagogue where the school would have opened, Orthodox Congregation KINS, 2800 W. North Shore Ave., decided to end negotiations with Ombudsman.

"While we continue to believe that Ombudsmen offers an important service, and despite a very significant loss of rental income that would have supported many of our communal events, KINS values the solidarity of our community more than anything else," KINS president Lev Katz said in an email to followers.

Katz said much of the "backlash" was "centered on baseless rumors and fears which threatened to divide our community."

Ombudsman's failed bid to open in West Rogers Park was not the first time its plans had been rebuffed.

Earlier this year news surfaced that the alternative high school was planning to renovate a Howard Street building in the 49th Ward to open a new school.

But early opposition led school leaders to abandon the plan.

Last year, the Chicago Board of Education voted to allow Ombudsman to open additional campuses to serve as many as 1,200 students — tuition free — as part of a CPS effort to target struggling students and dropouts.

Sue Fila, regional vice president of operations for Ombudsman Educational Services, which operates two other alternative high schools that work with Chicago Public Schools students, said "it didn’t feel like we were going to be welcomed" in Rogers Park.

"Ombudsman is committed to being a good neighbor," she said Monday in an email, "and we’re disappointed that we won’t be able to help students in the 50th Ward."

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