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Senn High Principal, Alderman Oppose New Edgewater Charter High School

By Benjamin Woodard | November 22, 2013 9:59am
 Ald. Harry Osterman and education activists met Thursday, Nov. 22, in Edgewater to discuss Passages Charter School's plan to add high school to its campus on Bryn Mawr Avenue.
Public Meeting on Passages Charter School
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EDGEWATER — Ald. Harry Osterman and Senn High School's principal oppose an Edgewater charter school's proposal to offer high school classes in the neighborhood, saying it'll harm progress made by neighborhood schools.

"We have a college-prep school that serves our diverse community in Edgewater — and that's called Senn High School," Osterman (48th) said at a public meeting Thursday about Passages Charter School's plan to add high school classes beginning next fall. "We don't need a charter school. we don't need another high school in Edgewater. We have one."

Osterman said Senn's success in recent years has led to a resurgence in support for public education in the neighborhood.

Senn Principal Susan Lofton, who has largely been credited with leading the transformation at Senn, said a new charter high school could jeopardize what's been gained so far.

"There are ways to deliver curriculum and ways to get people to produce — and the neighborhood school can do it," she said. "Senn's been in this community 100 years. And we'll be here another 100 years because we were built to last."

But Passages Principal Nicole Feinberg, who has led the pre-kindergarten through 8th-grade charter school at 1643 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. for the past five years, said she doesn't want to compete with area high schools.

"We’re not looking to be a Senn, an Amundsen or a Lake View," she said, adding that if the Board of Education does approve its application in January, it would add one grade per year. Passages is "a small community environment. We’re not looking to be a big neighborhood school."

She said no more than 240 students would be admitted into the high school grade levels. This year, the school has a total of 433 students, according to CPS data.

"Our parents are really looking forward to it," she said. "It’s a growing community."

Feinberg also said the school would replace what was lost when St. Gregory the Great, directly next door, closed last year. The Catholic high school had 92 students at the time.

But Osterman and other opponents — including ONE Northside, an activist group that organized the meeting Thursday — say any type of competition will drain money from neighborhood schools.

"I'm going to fight to make sure that that high school does not open," Osterman said. "Adding Passages [high] school is a distraction in this community, and it takes money away from Senn."

Passages is in fact located in Ald. Pat O'Connor's 40th Ward. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

James Morgan, the former chairman of now-shuttered Trumbull Elementary School, encouraged the community to support its neighborhood schools.

"Just like the community rallied around Trumbull to keep us open, we need to do that now to make sure nothing happens to Senn," he said.