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Noble Charter Schools Nix Rogers Park Expansion After Public Backlash

By Linze Rice | June 8, 2015 4:20pm
 Earlier, Ald. Joe Moore said Noble Charter Network was eyeing St. Jerome Catholic Church, at 1709 W. Lunt Ave., as a potential location for a school expansion. On Monday, it was confirmed Noble withdrew their proposal to enter into Rogers Park.
Earlier, Ald. Joe Moore said Noble Charter Network was eyeing St. Jerome Catholic Church, at 1709 W. Lunt Ave., as a potential location for a school expansion. On Monday, it was confirmed Noble withdrew their proposal to enter into Rogers Park.
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ROGERS PARK — After a contentious battle between opposing sides for an expansion of Noble Charter Network schools into Rogers Park, officials from State Rep. Kelly Cassidy's office confirmed Monday the network had withdrawn their proposal.

On Sunday, local group "Say No to Noble in Rogers Park" posted on social media that more than 500 community members and all six Local School Councils in Rogers Park had signed a petition in opposition of the charter school. 

"We did it," the group wrote on an event page where Cassidy, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th), State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Carlos Patino — the principal at New Field Elementary — and others were scheduled to speak out Monday against Noble at Loyola Park Field House. "Whether you had a child in a local school or not you were willing to stand up and say that opening a new high school in Rogers Park wasn’t a good idea."

Matthew McCabe, director of governmental affairs for Noble, said his team met with Cassidy last week and had a "great meeting," where both parties agreed the North Side neighborhood was not the right fit for the school, which would have opened in fall of 2016.

McCabe said that when charters initially make a proposal, they often name every neighborhood in the city before narrowing down their choices based on certain criteria.

Earlier, Ald. Joe Moore said the charter school might have been interested in opening a location at St. Jerome Catholic Church, 1709 W. Lunt Ave., formerly home to the another neighborhood charter school, Chicago Math and Science Academy, before it moved to Clark Street. No negotiations were in the works at the time, he said. 

McCabe said his team ultimately determined St. Jerome's did not "meet thresholds" Noble needed to open and decided to withdraw their proposal.

Last week at an LSC meeting at Gale Elementary in Rogers Park, members signed a formal letter "adamantly opposing" the opening of any additional schools in the neighborhood, saying Gale had over $1 million in funding cuts in recent years — a harsh reality exacerbated by the presence of charter schools UNO Rogers Park and Chicago Math and Science Academy. 

In the letter, they accused UNO of being a school that "actively recruits neighborhood students to leave their public school."

When students enroll in charter schools rather than public schools, those who remain within CPS suffer because of the per-pupil funding structure, they said.

The reduced funding has caused Gale to cut after-school programs, all librarians, technology teachers and slim down its educational offerings, the group wrote, warning Sullivan High School will succumb to the "same fate" if more charters crowd the neighborhood. 

There are currently three high schools in Rogers Park, with Sullivan being the CPS option.

"Sullivan High School has been recently recognized for significant and measurable improvements in academics and schools culture," the letter said. "The placement of any additional high school in Rogers Park will drain valuable resources from our neighborhood public school...leading to budget cuts and a reversal of progress made, severely damaging the educational opportunities of its students."

In October, the Chicago Board of Education will vote on which of the other proposed Noble schools it will add to its existing network of 16 locations in the city, including other Far North neighborhoods. 

In April, Moore said "Noble listed just about every North Side community as a possible location for a charter on their response to" this year's request for proposals from Chicago Public Schools.

In May, principals from Lake View, Amundsen, Senn, Sullivan and Mather high schools, located from Lakeview to West Ridge, convened to wholly oppose any new charter schools opening on the North Side after word cropped up their territories could see more competition. 

"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 at the time.

Lofton said called the move for more charters "not remotely" needed, asserting local neighborhood schools were excelling. 

What's more, she said, schools like Senn are facing "tight budgetary times," and the addition of a charter school into the neighborhood would threaten to detract both students and funding at a critical time.

Say No To Noble will still hold its town hall meeting Monday night at the Loyola Park Field House at 5:30 p.m., 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave. 

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