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CPS Closings: Clara Barton Dodges Bullet

By Wendell Hutson | May 23, 2013 8:51am
 Clara Barton Elementary School will not undergo a "turnaround," as Chicago Public Schools officials previously proposed.
Clara Barton Escapes 'Turnaround'
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AUBURN GRESHAM — Clara Barton Elementary avoided a school turnaround — in which all of its staff would be replaced — because of its academic progress and the credentials of its staff, school officials said.

"I recommend that the board vote 'no' on a proposal for Clara Barton to be a turnaround school," Barbara Byrd-Bennett told the Chicago Board of Education Wednesday.

"This school has made great improvements with its ISAT [Illinois Standards Achievement Test scores], and 25 percent of its teachers are national board certified."

Barton Principal Frank Gettridge agreed.

"Our teachers are among the best in the city and we continue to improve our test scores each year," Gettridge said. "There's no reason why we need to be 'turned around.' Not when we are doing so well."

According to Barton's school report card, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state composite ISAT standards went from 54.3 percent in 2010 to 59.3 percent in 2012, a 9 percent improvement. The CPS average is 76.4 percent.

In a school turnaround, the entire staff — including the principal and security guards — is replaced, although everyone is allowed to re-apply for their jobs.

Jimmy Prude, a community organizer for the nonprofit Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp., said he was thrilled that all the lobbying his organization did on behalf of Barton, 7650 S. Wolcott Ave., paid off.

In April, the group worked with Barton's Parent Action Council to organize about 100 parents and residents to attend CPS board meeting to voice their concerns about changes to the school.

"These teachers have been here a long time and have built a relationship with our kids," said Sonya Williams, a parent who's also chairwoman of the Barton Local School Council.

Parents credit the school's success to its good teachers.

"This is a good school. I have no problem with it and my son loves his teacher," said Damia Harden, 35, whose son is in prekindergarten. "As an alumni of Barton I can attest that the teachers here are first-rate."

Larry Swift, 57, said his grandson is a second-grader at Barton and gets straight A's.

"I don't agree with the whole turnaround philosophy. Why take away teachers and staff that kids have grown to trust and love? That makes no sense to me," Swift said. "As an 'old schooler' I believe in the motto 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

Changing a school is not about adults, it's about the kids, said Jonathon Falls, 34.

"My daughters are in fourth and sixth grade and have never had any problems at this school. The teachers and staff are polite, and all the parents have a good relationship with each other," Falls said.

"We are family here at Barton and you don't break up a happy family. When you do that everyone loses."

Melanie McNeal, 37, has lived in Auburn Gresham her entire life and said Barton was part of the community.

"This school was here when I first moved to Auburn Gresham. There's history here. Everyone respects the school, even the gang bangers," McNeal sad.

Another Barton alum, Carrie Keys, 34, praised the board of education for doing what she said was "the right thing for our kids."