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Ogden Principal Tells Parents Jenner Merger 'Should Not Proceed' Next Year

By David Matthews | November 5, 2015 12:57pm
 Ogden Principal Michael Beyer, left, and Jenner Principal Robert E. Croston Jr. at right.
Ogden Principal Michael Beyer, left, and Jenner Principal Robert E. Croston Jr. at right.
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DNAinfo/David Matthews; DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

DOWNTOWN — Saying there's "considerably more work to do" before a Dec. 1 deadline, Ogden International School Principal Michael Beyer told parents they've likely run out of time to pursue a merger with Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts next school year. 

Beyer, who introduced the proposed merger this fall as a preferred solution to Ogden's overcrowded elementary school, told parents in an e-mail Thursday morning that the merger is "still very much a possibility" later. 

"With only three weeks before legally mandated school transition plans would be due, I believe we have not fully prepared for a transition of this magnitude and should not proceed for the next school year," Beyer said in the e-mail. "The Jenner Ogden consolidation is still very much a possibility for the 2017-2018 school year, but we need to do considerably more work before we are ready to make it a reality, if we decide to do so."

The announcement arrives a few days after the Ogden Local School Council demonstrated a lackluster show of support for the merger with Jenner, a school woefully under capacity at 1119 N. Cleveland Ave. With six members of the 13-person LSC abstaining, the group narrowly voted Monday to vaguely ask Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool to start "a community-driven process to explore" the merger without a deadline, as opposed to submitting a formal proposal to the Board of Education.

CPS would have had to approve and announce plans for a merger by Dec. 1 for it to take effect next school year. 

That vote came a little more than a month after the LSC unanimously showed support for the idea, but parents who felt the proposal was being rushed — or who flat-out opposed a merger — came out Monday to share their skepticism with Ogden officials.

Jenner, which sits near the site of the demolished Cabrini-Green public housing towers, is a mostly black school with nearly 98 percent of its students coming from low-income households. That contrasts with Ogden, whose Gold Coast elementary school is one of the most affluent neighborhood schools in the city's school district. 

However, many parents and principals of both schools tried to deter the skepticism, pointing to research illustrating the educational and social benefits of integrating students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. 

"There's more to a school than a score card," Robert E. Croston, Jenner's principal, previously told DNAinfo. "There's too much division in our city. There are too many boundaries. We need to work together to break those down. As educators, we should be the ones leading the charge. We're the ones saying, 'Let's try this.'"

But now it appears parents at Ogden and Jenner schools won't be able to see that theory in practice until at least 2017. 

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