UPTOWN — Starting the 2013-2014 school year off on "the right foot" was the theme of a news conference Wednesday at Joseph Brennemann Elementary School in Uptown, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett kicked off a back-to-school campaign.
Speaking at the school slated to receive students from Graeme Stewart Elementary School after district officials voted to close it in May, Byrd-Bennett said Chicago needs principals, teachers, parents and local school councils to work together to make this year "a banner year" for CPS.
The district plans to post signs in communities, make robo-calls, public service announcements and hold additional kick-off events in the next four weeks leading to the new school year to promote first-day attendance.
Most CPS schools begin Aug. 26. Each charter school has its own start date.
“Studies have long proven that attendance on the first day of school is essential to the academic success of students throughout the school year,” Byrd-Bennett said. “In collaboration with our school community and corporate partners, we will be engaging all CPS parents and guardians as part of a rigorous back-to-school campaign to ensure their children are at school on the first day, and every day, of the new school year ready to learn and succeed.”
Twenty-seven students who will enter fifth grade at Brennemann, 4251 N. Clarendon Ave., stood along the wall behind the podium during the event, all receiving handshakes from the mayor when he entered the room.
Brennemann Principal Sarah Abedelal touted Brennemann's district-leading gains in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state test standards (73.3 percent in 2013, up from 45.5 percent in 2012) and praised Byrd-Bennett's leadership.
Abedelal called her boss a mentor and "a very special person to me" who is "a fixture" at Brennemann and "knows our students."
The CEO threw some praise back Abedelal's way calling, Brennemann "a place I just absolutely come to visit when I need a source of inspiration. You've got great kids, great parents, a great community."
Byrd-Bennett added that she wished she could put Abedelal in a Xerox machine and reproduce her "across the city of Chicago."
During the contentious school-closing process, Abedelal said that her school, where "most teachers hold master's degrees," was more than ready to welcome students from Stewart.
Byrd-Bennett was followed on the podium by the mayor, whom she introduced and called "my partner in this work" — someone she shares so much chemistry with that the two finish each other's sentences.
The mayor touted gains throughout the school system, including improved graduation rates and college attendance rates, and said "No adult gets a pass when it comes to making sure our children get a great education."
"And when we have great leaders like Barbara and Sarah, everything is possible for these children," Emanuel said.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th) also attended the news conference.