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Kenwood Academic Center Cuts Director as Program Doubles its Space

By Sam Cholke | August 25, 2015 8:46am
 Kenwood Academy Principal Gregory Jones said budget cuts forced the school to lay off the director of the academic center.
Kenwood Academy Principal Gregory Jones said budget cuts forced the school to lay off the director of the academic center.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — Kenwood Academy has lost the director of its academic center to budget cuts as the program gets ready for a major expansion.

Kenwood Principal Gregory Jones on Saturday sent a letter to parents informing them that Jennifer Hey-Lewis had been laid off shortly after she led an orientation with parents and students on the program’s expansion into the former Canter Middle School building.

“The position was impacted by districtwide budget cuts,” Jones says in the letter. “In her tenure, Ms. Hey-Lewis was instrumental in program improvements and a contributing member to the Hyde Park community. The school is sad to see her go.”

Jones has called a special meeting of the local school council for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the school, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., to explain the decision to parents that are already objecting to Hey-Lewis’ departure.

“What she brought to the table cannot be overstated,” said Shannon Bennett, whose 14-year-old daughter just finished the academic center program that allows seventh- and eighth-grade students to take high school-level classes.

Bennett has started a Facebook page calling for Hey-Lewis, who was also a pre-algebra teacher, to be re-instated. As of 5 p.m. Monday, the page had drawn support from 250 parents and community members in a few days.

Jones declined to answer questions about Hey-Lewis’ departure and referred questions to Chicago Public Schools spokesman.

Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for CPS, said the district was bringin Kenwood's budget back in line with the other academic centers and Hey-Lewis' was a side effect of that.

"This year, during the school's budget review period, it was determined that a district-funded counselor would better meet the needs of the academic center than a director," McCaffrey said. "In addition to better meeting Kenwood's needs, this transition will more closely align Kenwood to the staffing structure at other academic centers."

Hey-Lewis was rushing to complete with Jones the expansion of the program for 265 students and the retrofitting of the former Canter Middle School, which was closed by CPS in 2014.

Parents said she had just led an orientation on how the move into Canter, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave., would happen when school resumes on Sept. 8.

It’s unclear what budget cuts prompted the loss of Hey-Lewis.

Members of the local school council said it was not discussed in July when Jones outlined the budget for the coming year.

On Aug. 10, CPS announced $200 million in additional cuts that resulted in an additional 479 teachers and 866 non-teacher staff being laid off.

Principals at city’s six other academic centers said they faced cuts but were able to avoid losing their academic center coordinators.

“Our academic center director is one of my assistant principals,” said Whitney Young High School Principal Joyce Kenner. “Principals have autonomy over their budget so they can decide who stays and who goes.”

Academic center coordinators or directors are typically filled by a staff member who is also a teacher at the school.

Contributing: Stephanie Lulay

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