WEST CHATHAM — After announcing earlier this year it would eliminate the electricity career and technical education program at Simeon Career Academy High School Chicago, Chicago Public Schools has decided to reinstate the trade program this fall.
The Simeon instructor for the electricity program, Latisa Kindred, will also be reinstated after being laid off.
CPS officials told DNAinfo Chicago on Wednesday the three-year program will return despite the low enrollment it cited as the reason it was discontinued.
The program is being brought back largely because of a partnership CPS formed with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 134, which said it would provide employment to every graduate of the program.
"We guarantee every student who graduates will be placed in a job," said Terry Allen, business manager for the IBEW. "Every program graduate will be placed in our paid, trainee program [for up to three months] and from there we will fast track them to our apprenticeship program, which provides full benefits including a pension plan."
Allen said trainees will earn $12.50 per hour and those in the apprentice program would earn around $43 per hour.
"The program at Simeon is a great way for us to get more minorities in the apprenticeship program," added Allen. "It is a blessing in the sky."
Through the partnership, CPS officials said it expects at least 28 students from each grade level, from sophomores to seniors, to enroll per year.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), whose ward includes the school, said the program never should have been cut.
"Every CPS graduate will not end up going to college, so this program is needed," Brookins said. "I don't care how low the enrollment gets, it should remain a part of CPS' vocational education."
CPS officials agreed that not all graduates will attend college, which is why vocational education is so important.
“CPS continues to enhance our CTE programs every year to provide students an opportunity to attain nationally recognized certifications and technical skills that will meet the demands of a 21st century economy upon graduation," said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of CPS.
But the announcement is a far cry from what CPS said in a July letter to parents, when Simeon Principal Sheldon House explained why the program had been cut.
"The optimal enrollment for CTE [Career and Technical Education] programs is approximately 85 students per program. Only 57 students were enrolled in Electricity, and of the 57, only 5 percent earned qualifying certifications this past school year," House wrote.
Supporters of the program started a petition on Moveon.org to bring back the program.
The school's automotive program, which also was discontinued due to low enrollment, will not be reinstated.
"Automotive technology had 54 students, with less than 5 percent earning qualifying certifications," House said in a letter to parents. "These programs were not attracting new students, and even after providing extensive informational sessions to provide students the value of the programs, interest did not increase."
There is a tentative 6 p.m. Local School Council meeting on Wednesday at Simeon, 8147 S. Vincennes Ave., where more details will be discussed.
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