Save Collins High School

Monday, January 30, 2006

True Lies

So if test scores and academic achievement are not the real reasons for the proposed closing of George W. Collins High School then what is? Better get the Real Estate section from your Chicago Tribune, because the answer lies in property values, and in the ever-menacing, ever-growing "G" word: gentrification.
Any fool with two eyes can look across the street from Collins High School and see the initial work being done on gut re-hab condominiums lining the west side of Douglas Park. Condominiums which well sell for over $300,000, a price tag way beyond the means of the families that have lived, worked, and died in this community, called North Lawndale, for the past 30 years. A community that is impoverished, crime-ridden, beat down in the media, and almost entirely African-American. It is in fact interesting to note that the four schools chosen for closing have an average student body population of 99% African-American. The other 1% are certain to be Hispanic. Furthermore the average percentage of students at those schools receiving free and reduced lunch (the state's measure for how impoverished the student body is) is 96%. George W. Collins High School, for that matter, has 99% of its students on free and reduced lunch, the highest number in the entire state of Illinois. To be harsh, these numbers further reveal that not a single majority, middle class, tax-paying, voting, white family will be effected by these closures. This is not playing the race card, this is simply reporting the facts. To go a step further it is very easy to look east and to see the type of family that is coming, and it is not the former, rather, but the latter.
Brinks Armored Security opened a massive warehouse for its trucks last year 3 blocks away from Collins High School. I saw no signs informing the community that job applications would be accepted there despite the large workforce needed to run such an expansive warehouse. Who are the workers then coming into this community? 1 block from Collins (hardly, it's across the park - 200 yards), Roosevelt University is building a large, 3-story extension. It is a beautiful building, and no doubt will not only house students from communities outside of Lawndale, but faculty, staff, and other such workers as well. Think they'll invite the community to come in, have a look around, use the facilities, and apply for jobs therein, think again. 4 blocks away on Western Avenue there are sprawling new condominium developments. And 2 blocks further east of that begins the massive Hospital Row, featuring no less than 4 of Chicago's biggest facilities. No doubt the scores of hospital staff who commute daily would love to live a scant 5-minute bus ride from their employer. The city planners are not stupid, they know which direction the wind is blowing, and what underachieving inner-city high school stands smack dab in the middle of their expansion. Deny the school freshmen now, completely remove the student body by 2009 and in 2010 city leaders will be able to present a brand new charter school (sponsored by the big business of the moment) with, no doubt, updated facilities, to entice more "desirable" families to move back to the west side. If you are not yet convinced, and consider me run amok with conspiracy theory, then take a minute to examine for yourself who owns several buildings within walking distance of Collins High School. You will find that the answer is none other than Chicago Public Schools President Michael Scott. How convenient that he gets to "close a failing school" and pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars off a subsequent increase in the property values of each of those buildings that he owns. Education warrior? Education crook.


  • At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm with you on the likely reasons for targeting Collins. But I have a question for you. Why should your school stay open? I send my kids to school here in the city, and from what I'm reading in other places, it seems like I should be glad they aren't going there. I see your point about the neighborhood suffering from neglect and now from gentrification. However, I would be interested in hearing a positive argument about what makes Collins worth saving. Is there any school in this city that you think should be closed?

  • At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why can't the money used to push these folks out of their area schools and into equally crummy schools farther away be used to better the schools that already exist? The answer: Gentrification. The painful truth is that these folks are not wanted in areas that are gentrifying, and so the schools are used as an excuse to push them out. In my opinion, if it is merely a matter of Daley and Duncan, being "concerned" about the children of this city, then work on (and I don't mean close them)the schools in the ROSELAND area. The schools in this area were horrible when I was in school more than 30 years ago. Why start in gentrifying areas, I wonder?--Talk about things that make you go, hmmmmm! The schools being closed and manipulated are those in areas that are gentrifying: South Loop, Kenwood/Oakland/Bronzeville, Near West Side, Near South. As these people are "relocated" from their homes to make way for what Daley seems to deem "more worthy individuals," they have endured 2 or more school closings/changes( as well as several moves), as they are pushed to the outskirts of the city...

    If everything is indeed on the "up and up," why have all these various companies, entities, etc, opened up schools "willy-nilly?"--(at one point, even the Chicago Bulls organization was entertaining the idea of opening a school)--Why not utilize that same energy (and funding that is now received from private corporations) with CTU, etc, in order to work together to bring that same "creativity," "innovation," and vitality that they claim you get in these charter schools (many of which, by they way, are not doing as well as existing public schools; and a few have closed as fast as they opened) to existing schools and classrooms.

    I support you all 100%.

  • At 10:14 AM, Blogger J. Dudley said…

    Many thanks to the anonymous supporters. To address the first responder, no we don't think there are any schools that should be closed where the student attendance is above 40% capacity. Obviously if you have a situation where a school has very low attendance then fiscally it makes sense to close the school and move the kids into nearby schools where there is room. But Collins HS services 900 students from North Lawndale. There is no fiscal reason to close the school. The Board has stated that this move is being done in response to our low test scores. But the students are being relocated into other schools with the same, if not lower, test scores. So what does that solve? What needs to be recognized by the Board is that this is a systemic problem rooted in how we teach the urban poor. If these so-called
    "great minds" really wanted to improve education in the inner city they would take a sampling of teachers from each of these schools, bring us downtown, and work with US to formulate the correct strategy for fixing these schools. I gaurantee you that our experiences would guide us to the right answers, and we would not be swayed by the property values, so astutely raised by the second poster, that are motivating the current education administration.

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  • At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree 100% with the comments posted on this website. However, is Collins worth saving? This is a question that deserves attention. What good is it to have schools in the neighborhood when students are failing horribly? On the other hand, why can't money be spent trying to rebuild the schools? The real answer is get the poor blacks out FAST.

  • At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Collins will re open the following year. Whats all the fuss about. Seems like alot complaining about nothing. Find a better cause.

  • At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The last poster is missing the point, this is education, there is no better cause. We need to stand up with these teachers when they stand up. What are you thinking? It is the future of this country, and more to the point, of this city. It is not that Collins is going to "open back up in a year" it's how it is going to open up, who it is going to serve, and what is going to happen to the current Collins High School students. Despite Board promises these students will be neglected and ignored while their school is rebuilt and new students are brought in. The services available to them will decline each year as teachers are "bumped" out of their positions, taking the after school programs they run with them. Less money, less books, less service, that's the Board of Ed's solution to improving test scores? They're the problem. Arne's the problem. 125 S. Clark is the problem. Easy answers, no backbone. That last poster is clueless. Fight on Collins!

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