Below are the remarks given by Alderman Dowell before the Board of Education meeting in December 2017 where she spoke in favor of the creation of a classical school in Bronzeville and the phasing in of a high school at the National Teachers Academy (NTA) that would serve the South Loop, North Bronzeville, and Chinatown Communities. The remarks reference the educational attainment and growth at NTA and your can view this information for yourself here.
President Clark, esteemed members of the Chicago Board of Education, thank you for giving me the time to speak about some of the wonderful things happening to benefit students in my ward. Before I begin my prepared remarks, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for recognizing today the Phillips High School football team for their great achievements on the football field and in the classroom. I also thank you for recognizing the Whitney Young Girls Tennis Team. I’m proud to also acknowledge Madison and McKenzie Beckham, who reside in the 3rd Ward. I’ve watched the twins grow up into young women who love the game of tennis.
As the Alderman of the 3rd Ward, which includes the communities of Bronzeville, Fuller Park, the South Loop and Washington Park, the needs of my students are as diverse as the ward itself. Working with my community and with CPS, the Board is now considering two very important improvements to the education infrastructure of my ward.
One item under consideration is the proposal to create a new classical school at the old Hartigan building located at Root and State Streets.
For years, the Bronzeville community and the Bronzeville Community Action Council have advocated for additional high-quality educational options for our children and families. A classical school in the Bronzeville area would allow high-achieving black and brown students the opportunity to attend a great accelerated school right in their neighborhood.
Without the Bronzeville Classical School, many of these high-achievers would either have to travel to a classical school far outside of their neighborhood, or, because of the lack of classical school seats, be denied admission to this important school option.
I can think of no better community to locate the next classical school than Bronzeville. Its rich history and tradition of raising African-American leaders is well documented. The Bronzeville Classical School will add to this tradition by cultivating the next generation of change-makers.
I ask you to join me and my community in support of this proposal.
Additionally, the Board of Education is considering changes to the education landscape in the South Loop. This would include the creation of a new elementary school – which is already under construction – and the establishment of a new neighborhood high school for an area that has not had a true local high school for generations.
This two-part proposal, which CPS has named the “Near South Educational Plan,” is the only viable option that offers the necessary increase in elementary school seats to deal with overcrowding in the South Loop as well as delivers a badly-needed neighborhood high school for the area.
Students should not have to have class in the hallways. Science labs and art rooms should not be used as regular classrooms. This is what is happening at one of the city’s premier elementary schools, South Loop Elementary. And then when these children graduate, they are scattered across the city because for some reason the South Loop is one of the very few neighborhoods that doesn’t have its own high school.
To meet these very important needs, the National Teachers Academy building has been proposed to become the site of the neighborhood high school. As you know, this has become increasingly contentious for the families at NTA.
In response to their concerns, the proposal has been modified significantly to allow current NTA students to stay and graduate from NTA – even if they don’t live in boundary – and go on and attend the new high school with their classmates. A transition team has been put in place made up of parents and community members from NTA and South Loop Elementary to hash out the important issues regarding merging these two schools. These are just a few of the many changes made to the proposal in response to community concerns.
But the bottom line is, for residents who live in the South Loop, regardless of which school your child currently attends, you will be able to send your student to a high-performing elementary school and have the ability to send them to high school in their neighborhood where there was not one before. This is a vast improvement.
And it also rights a wrong from previous administrations that separated the South Loop community at 18th street, forcing the majority black, low-income students who live in the South Loop into NTA while separating out the majority white and high-earning students for South Loop Elementary. This was very wrong. Data from the two schools clearly shows that black students, regardless of income, perform better at South Loop Elementary, with black students enrolled in the neighborhood program at NTA actually performing below the district average although there has been modest growth in reading and math. Because the Regional Gifted Center has boosted their overall test scores, this has given the school a false sense of achievement which again serves to deprive black students of the education they deserve. All of our students must be prepared for top high schools and have a guaranteed high quality option.
Now, with this proposal, there will be one school for the entire neighborhood, not separated by racial boundaries that will provide the highest quality elementary school education for ALL of our students, regardless of race, socio-economic level or other demographic characteristics.
I would like to thank everyone from my community who has worked so hard and contributed to these amazing educational accomplishments. I would also like to personally thank Dr. Janice Jackson and her amazing team for her vision and leadership on these issues. I also thank Chip Johnson for his steady and honest engagement with community members. Finally, I appreciate the Board taking the time to consider these two proposals that will have long-lasting, positive effects on generations of current and future 3rd Ward students and families.