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Parents Come Out Strong for New Audubon High School

By Mike Fourcher | Monday, October 25, 2010

Audubon Elementary School principal John Price speaks at Friday's public hearing on a proposal for a new Audubon High School. Photo by Mike Fourcher.

About 100 parents and students came out to Audubon Elementary School, 3500 N. Hoyne Ave., Friday night for a Chicago Public School public hearing on a proposed new high school specializing in special needs student inclusion programs.

With only a few exceptions, dozens of parents and students spoke in favor of the new high school, praising Audubon’s principal, John Price, Chicago Public Schools and the Christopher L. and M. Susan Gust Foundation, which is making a sizable donation to assuage the new school’s capital costs.

One of the first commenters, Kathy Argentar, a former president of Roscoe Village Neighbors, congratulated CPS on its efforts to incorporate Audubon parent ideas from when the project was first proposed eighteen months ago. “I am so excited to learn that this design has incorporated all that feedback,” she said. “This is a wonderful development.”

A map of the proposed Audubon Entrepreneurial Academy's coverage area. The overlay includes the coverage areas of Roosevelt, Shurz and Lake View High Schools.(click to enlarge)

Despite the overwhelming parent support of the proposed new high school, a handful of commenters opposed the creation of a new high school that overlays existing neighborhood high schools and competes for limited CPS funding. Commenter Bob Miltonberger supported the proposed new Audubon Entrepreneurial Academy, but suggested CPS should instead be funding neighborhood schools “[Is it] the most efficient use of CPS operating funds?” asked Miltonberger. “[Is] this is the best use of our taxpayer dollars, rather than investing in an existing CPS asset?”

The proposed 500-student Audubon Entrepreneurial Academy, would open in 2011 and be located in unused space in the private, Catholic Gordon Tech High School, 3633 N. California Ave. Gordon Tech and the new Audubon school would share a gymnasium, a cafeteria, a library and science class spaces. The new school, which would also be led by principal John Price, would launch with just a ninth grade class and add a grade each year thereafter.

Rising Audubon Elementary School students would have priority admission to the new high school. Students in an area overlaying existing neighborhood high schools would then have priority admission. Finally, any remaining spaces would be distributed through a city-wide lottery.

Audubon Entrepreneurial Academy’s entire start-up costs would be covered by a grant from the Christopher L. and M. Susan Gust Foundation, a private family foundation that has been supporting Audubon Elementary’s autism inclusion program since 2008. The family also has a child enrolled in Audubon’s autistic inclusion program.

No documents describing the proposed new school were available at the meeting or on the CPS website when this article was published.

The Chicago Board of Education is slated to vote on Audubon Entrepreneurial Academy at its October 27, 2010 board meeting. A transcript of the hearing will be added to the Board minutes.

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  • Anonymous

    Maybe the majority favored the proposed new Audobon High School because their famalies were the only ones notified more than 24 hrs before the meeting. The prinicipal and those involved did a good job of keeping this out of public view for as long as possible. This a good idea for the parents of Audubon students and a HORRIBLE idea for the majority of residents of the North-Side. ALL FAMILIES need a High School option and not just a limited few. Get informed on this proposal and OPPOSE it as it does not meet the needs of everyone in the community. It’s still a Chicago PUBLIC funded school and not privately funded for the students of Audubon.

    • Anonymous

      Whitey4-

      How far do you live from Audubon Elementary and how were you notified?

  • Anonymous

    This sounds like it is an amazing opportunity for too few kids. Why not take the generous donation of the Gust Foundation and put the money into a CPS building that is already figured into the operating expenditures of the District? If the real intention is to make a private school in a private building than finance it completely and leave CPS out of it. Otherwise, make it inclusive to all students in the district.

  • Anonymous

    We were informed on Thursday night just before the required time the proposal needed to inform the Public. Everyone knows what the Audubon’s agenda is and how the proposal is attempting to get through the system with little community input. Hopefully the Alderman that is now involved and residents get an opportunity to fight this . I agree with tirededucator above, why should everyone’s tax dollar’s be used for a selct few.
    I live in the Village area, but that is not the issue…

  • Anonymous

    I think this is a very exciting time for our community. We are very close to getting a new and different (e.g., smaller size, inclusive model) high school option passed. This project has brought the community together to get behind this effort as well as the effort to work on Lakeview High School and make that a viable option for our children too. As we know, one size does not fit all with schools and families as it relates to size, curriculum, extracurricular programming, learning philosophy, etc. I think this has brought attention to the fact that the northside needs additional high school options for our children and good things will happen because of the energy around the new high school proposal and this issue at large.

  • Anonymous

    The Office of New Schools had responsibility for advertising and scheduling the hearing date, not Audubon. To allege that Audubon has hidden this from public view because of an “agenda” is not only incorrect, but insulting. Further, I don’t agree that the beneficiaries of the school are “a select few.” The school would serve 500 students a year. All students in the overlay area would have equal chance to attend the school. This school is a wonderful educational opportunity for many children. There is no one solution to the problem, but this a very big step in the right direction.

  • Anonymous

    I took a look at the CPS agenda. It says that CPS is entering into a lease with the option to purchase the building. I had heard that they were only renting space at Gordon. Are they renting or purchasing the building? What happens to Gordon Tech?

  • Anonymous

    As Audubon parents in favor of the proposal to expand Audubon School to the 12th grade, my husband and I are deeply concerned by the groundless assertions of some of those who have posted below in opposition. What their posts reveal is the assumption that there are some bad actors in the planning mix of Audubon high school — the administration, the foundation making a donation toward facility costs, and current parents at the school. It would seem that some of the authors of the anonymous posts below believe — either because they are predisposed to do so or have been influenced to feel that way by others — that ill intentions drove the scheduling and publicity of the Office of New Schools hearing last Friday, the determination of size of student body, and the selection of the site for the high school expansion.

    In what we can only imagine is an incredibly complex process of navigating the third largest public school system in the country; accommodating competing local political interests; navigating the passionate desire of parents to ensure they have a school option that will meet the unique needs of their particular children; and protecting an all-too-rare substantial private contribution benefitting the larger public, I think we should avoid making hasty assumptions — and worse, accusations.

    There is no silver bullet for solving the problem of high school education in Chicago — to do so clearly requires a multi-faceted approach. More importantly, it requires goodwill, considerable effort, and open and honest dialogue.

    Cy and Maria Griffith, Audubon Parents

  • Anonymous

    As Audubon parents in favor of the proposal to expand Audubon School to the 12th grade, my husband and I are deeply concerned by the groundless assertions of some of those who have posted below in opposition. What their posts reveal is the assumption that there are some bad actors in the planning mix of Audubon high school — the administration, the foundation making a donation toward facility costs, and current parents at the school. It would seem that some of the authors of the anonymous posts below believe — either because they are predisposed to do so or have been influenced to feel that way by others — that ill intentions drove the scheduling and publicity of the Office of New Schools hearing last Friday, the determination of size of student body, and the selection of the site for the high school expansion.

    In what I can only imagine is an incredibly complex process of navigating the third largest public school system in the country; accommodating competing local political interests; navigating the passionate desire of parents to ensure they have a school option that will meet the unique needs of their particular children; and protecting an all-too-rare substantial private contribution benefitting the larger public, I think we should avoid making hasty assumptions — and worse, accusations.

    There is no silver bullet for solving the problem of high school education in Chicago — to do so clearly requires a multi-faceted approach. More importantly, it requires goodwill, considerable effort, and open and honest dialogue.

    Cy and Maria Griffith, Audubon Parents

  • Anonymous

    To everyone who is rightfully concerned about the dearth of quality public high school options in Chicago, please honor those who matter the most (your school-age children) by getting factual information about this proposal. As a parent who attended the meeting on Friday, I will tell you what I learned there which refutes the assertions in some of these posts. I also encourage you to call the Office of New Schools to confirm whether or not this information I am sharing is, in fact, true.

    1. The Office of New Schools posted a public notice regarding the hearing in the Chicago Tribune on October 15. That same Office is conducting at least five similar hearings through October 28, all with similar notification periods. This is in response to the sad fact that there is undeniably a need for more and better high school options in this city, not some sort of conspiracy.
    2. All families do need better high school options. This option is NOT for Audubon families only. It will have openings for approximately 100 non-Audubon students each year. The model is nearly identical to the one proposed and executed by Alcott and Ogden schools two years ago.
    3. Answering the question “why not invest in existing CPS attendance high schools?” is fairly simple. When you choose to invest, financially or emotionally, in anything, you must first believe. People believe in the Audubon vision because they KNOW it works. Parents put a stake in the ground and stayed committed because of their faith in the school leadership and each other. This is what we did seven years ago. Can this happen at Lake View or other high schools? Yes! As soon as people on this post and others decide to make a real commitment and say they will send their children to that school because they have that much faith in it. This will come with that school’s leadership articulates their vision with passion, honestly and realism. When parents, after hearing that vision, put their own stake in the ground and tell everyone that they will be sending their kids there. The money, quite frankly and speaking from experience, while important, is secondary.

    In closing, unlike others in this post, I will gladly sign my name. We are all in this together. Why think otherwise? Just as many of our local public elementary schools have become destination schools in the last 10 years thanks to the tremendous leadership of excellent principals, teachers and parents committed to the ideal of strong public education, so too can all the public high schools in this area should we take the high road and work together.

    Kathy Argentar

  • Anonymous
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