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Chicago Board of Education Votes to Close Three Charter Schools

As they waved signs displaying witty slogans, passionately chanted  phrases, and gave emotional testimony, students, teachers, and parents protested at the Chicago Board of Education meeting Wednesday demanded the board vote against closing four South Side charter schools.

In the end the board voted to close two charter schools, the Amandla Charter School and the Barbara A. Sizemore elementary school campus of the Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools network.

The board also voted not to renew the charter of a third charter, the Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School at 8 W. Root St.

The vote on the closing of Chicago International Charter School, Larry Hawkins Campus, 801 E. 133rd Pl., will take place at the December 2015 board meeting. 

Students like Myracole Phillis, a 6th grader at Amandla, whose favorite class is social studies, rallied in the rain outside CPS headquarters before the board meeting to show support for their school.

“I hope our doors stay open,” Phillis said. “Because I’m trying to graduate.”

Amandla, Shabazz-Sizemore, and Larry Hawkins were notified last December that their schools were failing to make “reasonable progress toward student achievement,” based on their rating of a level three scale where level one denotes top performance, Jackson said. Each school was required to submit a remediation plan by January 2015 and was required to demonstrate improvement.

Jackson’s said Amandla, located at 6800 S. Stewart Ave., failed to meet 10 of its 15 goals identified in their redemption plan, and Shabazz-Sizemore, at 6936 Hermitage Ave., failed to meet five of its 10 goals.

“We didn’t exceed all 10 of them,” said David Ireland, CEO of Betty Shabazz. “But we got to level two and that to me is reasonable progress.”

Teachers from Shabazz-Sizemore said they were misled by CPS; they said they believed their only goal with the remediation plan was to make “reasonable progress” and by reaching level two they had achieved that progress.

“The goal was not to be level three,” said Mikita Kheperu,  a representative from Betty Shabazz.

“We’ve reached that goal. Not only do we have that in writing that was the goal, but we also have that communicated in an email when our remediation plan was met. We have children that worked hard for that goal.”

Kheperu said her students worked so hard to meet the goals given to them that they could recite what their pre-test scores were and what their post-test scores needed to be, as well as what skills they needed to learn to achieve those goals.

“Just because they are children does not mean that you need to dishonor a written agreement that you had with them in a performance contract,” Kheperu said.

Students like Kapria Priest from Amandla weighed in on the emotional issue. Priest said the most meaningful thing Amandla has taught her was perseverance.

“Even if you vote to send me to the worst school for my senior year, because of Amandla I will go to college, and because of Amandla I will be successful, and because of Amandla I will persevere.” she said.

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