By ALLISON MATYUS
On May 31, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced that the pre-k special education program at Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St., would be cut for the 2016-17 school year, due to a lack of students in the program.
“CPS actually does the placement of children in the program, so the reason why we have low numbers is because they haven’t been placing students in our program,” said Elizabeth Herring, a member of the Bret Harte Local School Council (LSC), in an earlier interview.
A petition from the Bret Harte community was created in order to save the program from being cut. About 600 people signed the petition and on June 21, CPS reversed its decision and decided to keep the program in the curriculum.
“I’m so happy for my daughter and her classmates and I’m so happy for Bret Harte,” said Bret Harte Parent Healther La Riviere. “[The program] is a great inclusive environment and is really a model of how kids with all abilities can be included in the school culture.”
This was the first year that Dyett High School for the Arts, 555 E. 51st St., has been opened since it closed back in 2014.
About $14 million worth of updates and renovations were made to the school, including a state of the art Black Box Theater, a Mac computer lab, two dance studios and new floor and bleachers in the gym.
Principal Beulah McLoyd said that the infrastructure of the school reflects the new focus of art.
“We are redefining what a neighborhood school looks like,” she said during an open house event in September.
Also included in the new school is an Innovation Hub, which is accessible to the community.
The Hub opened on Nov. 22 and will be used to foster community interaction. There are 13 classrooms dedicated solely to the community.
“We want to invite the people from the community to just hold conversations…whether that be around neighborhood safety, businesses or a number of different topics,” said Kisalan Glover, the site manager for Parent University, one of the Innovation Hub’s programs, in an earlier interview. “In order for this to really work we have to dive in and include the community in everything that we do.”
The public can come into the Innovation Hub through security at the north side entrance of the school during its open hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Students in the class of 2016 at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., received big money for scholarships: approximately $19,617,268 in total.
Notable awards included the Gates Millennium Scholarship, the Golden Apple Scholarship and the Posse Scholarship.
“I would have to say without bragging that Kenwood usually gets the most scholarships in the city,” said Assistant Principal, Thomas Frayne, in an earlier article. “It’s not uncommon for our students to do well.”
The students in Kenwood’s choir also did well, taking home multiple 1st place awards at the 2016 OrlandoFest national choir competition in April.
The choir walked away with 1st place in top scoring choir, top scoring chamber choir, top scoring advanced female choir and was named the Grand National Championship Choir.
Kozminski Community Academy, 936 E. 54th St., got an upgrade to its northern wall in June, thanks to the nonprofit organization, Green Star Movement.
The plain, brick wall was made into a colorful mosaic mural that depicts the theme of community.
Kozminski students and staff helped to set up the new mural.
The school community of Murray Language Academy, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., was shocked to find out that former Assistant Principal, Rhonda Butler, was fired by Principal Gregory Mason on May 16.
An emergency LSC meeting was held on May 25 to address the issue and try to figure out why she was fired without any notification.
“I think what gave us a pause was the lack of communication,” said former Murray LSC chairwoman, Leslie Honore-Smith, at the meeting.
Mason addressed parents’ and staffs’ concerns at the meeting saying, “Perhaps we may agree to disagree on how I handle this matter. That is my decision on how I handle this matter and how I handle all matters as it pertains to running the school.”
In the end, Butler was not fired, but did end up resigning before the start of the school year to accept a principal position at Black Magnet School in the South Chicago neighborhood.
Anne Gulley was hired as the new assistant principal on Aug. 19.
Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., held their first Walk-a-Thon on May 20 to raise money for school supplies and programs.
In total, the school raised over $25,000, which was their overall goal.
Ray was also one of 10 CPS schools to receive the 2016 Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award. The award, that began in 2013 by First Lady, Michelle Obama, recognizes schools that have met the five benchmarks in physical education: activity before and/or after school, physical activity during school, staff involvement and family and community engagement.
In a recent report conducted by Ingenuity, it was found that 60 percent of all of CPS’ schools were either strong or excelling in the arts in 2016.
Reavis Elementary School, 834 E. 50th St., was labeled as excelling in its arts programs.
To reach the level of excelling, that means a school is meeting the goals and priorities in the CPS Art Education Plan, which include staffing and instruction, partnerships, community and culture and budget and planning.
Shoesmith Elementary School, 1330 E. 50th St., had not had Safe Passage workers since the 2014-15 school year. The lack of workers was addressed during a Nov. 16 LSC meeting.
“I’m concerned because we don’t have Safe Passage to help students walk across the main streets on their way to and from school,” said Camille Hamilton-Doyle, a community representative on the LSC, at the November meeting.
A CPS representative was present at the meeting and told the LSC that they will reinstate two Safe Passage workers to the school, both of which started in December.