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Proposed North Side Charter Schools 'Not Remotely' Needed, Principals Say

By  Benjamin Woodard and Patty Wetli | May 20, 2015 3:10pm | Updated on May 21, 2015 9:49am

 Senn High School's campus at 5900 N. Glenwood Ave.
Senn High School's campus at 5900 N. Glenwood Ave.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

CHICAGO — Principals from the North Side's biggest high schools have united to oppose any charter school from opening its doors near their schools.

The leaders of Lake View, Amundsen, Senn, Sullivan and Mather high schools, located from Lakeview to West Ridge, say the North Side doesn't need more charters because the neighborhood schools are excelling.

"We have all been working so hard with our community to bring our schools up, to serve the community, to offer the programs our families want and to really engage in this resurgence where the community has a true community school that is an asset and a partner," Senn Principal Susan Lofton said Wednesday.

Lofton and the other principals said new charter schools would detract students — and funding — from their schools.

"These are very tight budgetary times," Lofton said.

The group, which plans to hold a news conference 3:45 p.m. Thursday at the Board of Education chambers, formed after news bubbled up that three charter schools are planning to open on the North Side.

Noble charter school has proposed to move The Noble Academy, located Downtown, to the former Lycée Français de Chicago campus in Uptown, at Irving Park Road and Lake Shore Drive. A public hearing for that move, which will be heard by the Board of Education next week, is set for 3 p.m. Thursday at the board's chambers.

CPS also says Noble Academy's student body is one of the most geographically diverse in the district with only three of the 194 enrolled students living in the boundary areas of Amundsen and Lake View.

Noble also has proposed to open a charter school in either Rogers Park, Edgewater, Uptown, Lincoln Square or several other North and Northwest Side neighborhoods. There had been some preliminary interest in St. Jerome Catholic Church, at 1709 W. Lunt Ave.

Chad Adams, principal of Rogers Park's Sullivan High School, is part of the anti-charter coalition.

Noble spokeswoman Constance Brewer said in a statement that parents and students have the right to choose where to attend classes, including at charters.

"For over 10,000 students and families, that choice is the Noble Network of Charter Schools," she said.

Brewer also said Noble's plan to move their Downtown campus to Uptown would not negatively impact any one school. She said 187 students in the freshman class come from 106 different elementary schools and 45 different zip codes.

Another charter group, Intrinsic Schools, is seeking a new location for a school and has expressed interest in opening a school in Bowmanville, according to the principals. A CPS spokeswoman said the charter had yet to enter a former proposal. Intrinsic CEO Melissa Zaikos didn't respond to a request for comment.

But Amundsen High School Principal Anna Pavichevich said she would oppose any charter school proposal in the neighborhood.

"The criteria for establishing a charter school has not remotely been met," Pavichevich said. "We're not overcrowded. We're not underperforming."

CPS spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said in a written statement that the district encourages "parent choice, which is why we offer a variety of school models, including charter, selective enrollment, IB, early college STEM, as part of our overall mission to ensure that each of our students may pursue programs that will prepare them for success in college, career and in life."

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said he stands with the principals.

"Adding more seats in an area where people are rallying around their neighborhood schools flies in the face of what we're trying to do," he said. "... It's appalling, it's all tone deaf."

Lofton and Pavichevich both say their schools have been improving because they've been able to unite the communities around them.

A charter school would only be a "distraction," Pavichevich said.

"The community has been loud and clear in making neighborhood schools the school of choice," she said. "We have earned the trust of the community. Next year's freshman class is bigger than it's been in years, with double the enrollment of IB students. That demonstrates community faith."

Lofton said charter school advocates have spread false information about what the neighborhood schools offer.

"There’s a lot of choice [at neighborhood high schools]," she said. "They're saying we're overcrowded; we're not — none of us," she said.

Lofton said the group of principals united to stop the charters.

"We were like, 'What is happening? We're trying to serve our mission; we're making progress. This is going to upset everything,'" she said.

The new charter school proposals will be heard at the October Board of Education meeting.

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