Englewood Steps into Action for Quality Schools

Concerned by recent Chicago Public School proposals to turnaround Amos Alonzo Stagg Elementary and close Simon Guggenheim Elementary School, Englewood parents, community leaders and residents are gathering to implement an action plan geared to increase the educational achievement of students attending area schools.

The plan, led by Englewood Community Action Council (CAC), will include an educational vision for a cradle-to-college or career pipeline.

According to CAC co-chair Asiaha Butler, the plan will be carried out despite the proposed actions outlined by the district.

“Englewood is a poverty-stricken community with the worst educational option,” said Butler. “Proposed school action will always hit our area because of a number of things, including a lack of structural leadership, the politics of the city, resident involvement and the collaboration of resources.”

Stagg Elementary School, which has been on probation for five consecutive years, is one out of the 10 schools slated for turnaround by Chicago Public Schools, while Simon Guggenheim Elementary School is proposed to close.

Guggenheim has been on probation for five consecutive years and has been listed as the lowest performing school in the state, according to CPS data. Furthermore, data shows Guggenheim students performed 22 percentage points lower on the ISAT than the average composite of all other elementary schools in its area.

“We’re not surprised that they would propose a closing for [Guggenheim],” said Butler. “There has been some problems with turnaround in terms of the teachers, as well as structural issues with the building.”

Although Butler and other community residents were not surprised with the closing of Guggenheim, they were taken aback by the turnaround proposal for Stagg.

“We were pretty shocked just because we’ve been hearing some great progress within the school,” explained Butler.

The school’s progress has been minimal. Despite a 5.1 percent increase in the amount of students meeting or exceeding state standards, Stagg remains a Level 3, low-performing school, earning a 28.6 percent of the available points on the Performance Policy in the 2010-2011 school year.

The decision to close and turnaround these schools in Englewood have served as an incentive for residents and parents to work toward improving the quality of education their students are receiving.

CAC has decided to implement an action plan, organizing workshops to empower parents, students and teachers. Plans are also in the works for a town hall meeting where parents of the Englewood community can discuss how these planned actions will affect them.

“We know that in the future this will happen again,” said Butler regarding school turnarounds and closings in Englewood. “We’re moving some things along and bringing as many people to the table to help educate, engage and of course, empower these families who are affected in Englewood.”

Regardless of whether Stagg becomes a turnaround school or Guggenheim closes, Butler hopes the action plan will help the community become more focused around the schools in the area, not only improving the education of the students but the neighborhood as well.