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Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

Before a room filled with foreign, national and local media, former CEO, now Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke passionately about youth violence as a product of hopeless teenagers, saying this is not the time to blame anyone and that money is not the problem.

Duncan announced a $500,000 emergency federal grant for Roseland’s Fenger High, and sought to shoot down the notion that his policies as CEO had anything to do with the increased tension around the Far South Side school.

 

Before a room filled with foreign, national and local media, former CEO, now Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke passionately about youth violence as a product of hopeless teenagers, saying this is not the time to blame anyone and that money is not the problem.

Duncan announced a $500,000 emergency federal grant for Roseland’s Fenger High, and sought to shoot down the notion that his policies as CEO had anything to do with the increased tension around the Far South Side school.

The principal of Fenger and the feeder elementary schools can decide how to use the money. Fenger Principal Elizabeth Dozier didn’t return calls.

Duncan bristled when I asked him whether the district’s turnaround strategy had anything to do with increasing violence at Fenger, calling the notion “absolutely ridiculous.” He then countered a suggestion from community activists that transforming Carver High School into a selective military academy, then sending some neighborhood students to Fenger, may have contributed to tensions that led to Derrion Albert’s murder. (Duncan said that since the change at Carver, only 18 more students from Altgeld Gardens—the area around Carver—now attend Fenger.)

Carver became a military academy in 2000, but only in the past few years has it gained a better reputation under the leadership of John Thomas, who this summer was named a chief area officer.

Last year, while still at the helm of CPS, Duncan announced that he was turning Fenger around; all its teachers and staff would have to reapply for their jobs. From what I understand, most were not rehired.

Principal William Johnson, who had been assistant principal at Carver before coming to Fenger in 2004, was initially supposed to remain at the helm. But he eventually left also. The district’s turnaround chief, Donald Fraynd, says Johnson “decided to transition” to another CPS job. Dozier, who had been a co-principal at Harper High in Englewood, became principal.

At a Tuesday evening press conference outside City Hall, activist Victory Grandberry says he feels the removal of tenured teachers has made the situation more volatile.

“I’m sick and tired of the politics they’re playing with our schools,” he said. “How do they expect the kids to be safe when they’re taking the support mechanism away?”

Admittedly, it’s too simplistic to blame school changes alone for a young person picking up a 2-by-4 and bashing a boy over the head with it.

But it should not be news to Duncan that big changes in schools can lead to increased tension and fights. In 2006, Catalyst wrote about an increase in violence at high schools, in the wake of closings that displaced students and sent them to school with kids from different neighborhoods.  Last year, Catalyst again wrote about increased security concerns in the wake of more closings.

Also, activists who work with students at Orr High School, which became a turnaround two years ago, have sounded similar alarms.

At a policy luncheon last year (co-sponsored by Catalyst) students from Orr noted that some good things had been brought about by the turnaround, including more extracurricular activities, smaller classes and good teachers that cared about students.

Yet all the new faces in the halls lead to a lack of trust between students, their peers and their teachers. Rivalries among students remained a big issue.

Ana Mercado, a youth organizer for the advocacy group Blocks Together, says that Orr students were originally hopeful that the turnaround process would improve their school. But some of that optimism has been dimmed.

“Students did complain about tensions flaring up with new teachers who were not from the neighborhood, some of that hope started to wear down,” she says.

There also was continued violence during the first year, she says. In response, the Orr administration created a room where students were supposed to go to hash things out, but only this year has the room become a full-fledged “peace room,” Mercado noted.

Fraynd declined to be interviewed without the permission of spokeswoman Monique Bond, who didn’t return calls or e-mails.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder repeatedly said that what Fenger students wanted was mentors—people who can show them values and be role models.

New CEO Ron Huberman stood in the background during the press conference, occasionally checking his cell phone. If more mentors are the answer, might Huberman’s $30 million plan to provide mentors, jobs and other support to the most at-risk students do the trick?

Intern Margaret Rhodes contributed to this report.

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10 comments

chitown teacher wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

Thank you Sarah for asking that tough question on turnaround as a cause of increased student violence at the press conference.
Now, let me get this straight. AUSL, the Fenger turnarounders, fire all the teachers and then students voice need for mentors. Weren't their past teachers their mentors? I bet so, but perhaps students don't see the new, young, bright-eyed and mostly inexperienced AUSL teachers as mentors?
And let me get this straight. Money isn't the solution, but then Duncan gives AUSL who already had $2.5m for turnaround "start up costs" this year another $.5m? For what, a job well done?
THIS is the education model Duncan wants to export to the nation?

Lorraine Forte wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

We received the following here at Catalyst:

To the Editors of Catalyst-Chicago:

On Tuesday, October 6th, and again the following day, Mayor Daley and Education Secretary Arne Duncan refused to accept any responsibility for a spike in violence in and near neighborhood schools like Fenger High where 16-year-old Derrion Albert recently lost his life.

Responding to Sarah Karp’s question on the role of turnarounds in rising student violence, Mr. Duncan called the assertion “ridiculous.†Mayor Daley contends that "we cannot allow gang territory to disrupt our city life. If you allow that, then you're basically waving the white flag to everybody in this city and that would be unacceptable." As true as the mayor’s statement may appear on the surface, it represents a blatant oversimplification of an issue that is connected to bad choices made by City Hall. It is unfortunate that Mayor Daley is not more reflective about the chaos and disruption that Renaissance 2010 school reforms have left in their wake throughout the district.

During the final years of Englewood High School, media reports documented dramatic increases in violence at receiver schools of Englewood’s former students, like Robeson and Hyde Park high schools. When West Side Austin High School was closed, students were forced to attend Clemente High, miles outside their community and, as a result, violence spiked. Also on the west side, Marshall High is currently spending anti-poverty funds on security staff and cameras since Orr and Collins high schools were “turned aroundâ€. In the south, when Carver became a selective enrollment military high school and students from Altgeld Gardens were forced to take up to three buses to attend Fenger, and all the experienced staff was fired last year to implement a turnaround, tragedy struck.

What do all of these examples have in common?

They were school transformation decisions made and implemented by Mayor Daley and then Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan.

For years, community, parent, student and teacher organizations have been clamoring for a moratorium on school closings, phase-outs, turnarounds and consolidations. We need to put a stop to policies that have the potential of exacerbating violence in our schools and neighborhoods until there is an independent review of how these decisions impact our students’ lives.

Karen Lewis and Jackson Potter, CPS Teachers

Co-chairs, CORE, the Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators

Re: Chi-Town Teacher wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

AUSL does not and never have run Fenger. Know your facts before sprewing venom all over the internet.

Lorraine Forte wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

RE: AUSL turnaround

Fenger is one of the district-run turnarounds.

Retired Principal wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

Arne Duncan, you lie! Governor Quinn overstepped his authority when he changed HB363. Cynthia Soto's bill will come up in the veto session and Governor Quinn's veto of the bill will be overridden. Stay tuned.

Vinicius wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

Don't believe the hype! There is a way to judge how CPS supports building leadership capacity. Visit

http://www.srnleads.org/resources/publications/nsdc.html

Duncan was a Failure and his Neo Con ways must stop wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

Arne Duncan leaves a sad legacy and continues his anti-public school antics on a national level. Duncan has no shame in bribing school districts to take money if only they follow his neo-con pro charter crap.

Retired Principal wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

I wondered who was asking those intelligent questions at the press conference and now I see it was Sarah Karp. Sarah, thanks for "hitting the nail on the head"! When CPS closed Calumet High School, it increase the violence at my high school (one of the accepting high schools for Calumet students). Daley, Duncan and Huberman, the blood is on your hands!

the wood wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago
Becky wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Duncan says turnarounds not to blame for school violence

Arne Duncan, as we all know should have never become the US Secretary of Education. He did not accomplish his assignment for Chicago as the Great White Hope of CPS. Money is not the answer to our problem in these area. You are bring in AUSL, and it overseer, FRAynd, to further break down our community. In the turnaround process you make it a point not to rehire tenured ,veteran and African American with excellent credentials. This action contributes to the hostile environment, when the students know the adults are leaving the community to go to their peaceful dwellings or they are only working here "for a minute". This practice cause a weak foundation to further crumble. For many years, many have gotten rich on the backs of our youth, this is another way to continue what has been done.. Now, we have another outside entity with the hook up!! The miseducation of blacks has moved forward, not because teachers and parents are not doing their jobs but this is a mega business.... that has been set up to fail my people in my neighborhood. True, we are allowed to have successful black schools in the system because of administrators with a backbone. They value our heritage, history and good teachers not cheaper, down-sized, mid-career, empty nester, desperate job seekers, loan forgiving, out-ot towners that are pouring into our system and schools in our city. Now, our students, lack stability in the learning environment.
educators in CPS have all been a part of the many programs, academic, social and athletic that have worked by only lasted for a couple of years even though data predicted gains. Only in our school, have our students been a "pilot " for any get rich quick university, publishing company, good ole boy or girl, fly by night, kick back, get in - get out, money scheme..... who is going to watch the extra funds that will flow into Fenger.... Huberman? Marilyn ? I think not.

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