On March 24, at the Chicago Board of Education meeting downtown, the Chicago Public Schools held a hearing on the proposed establishment of the new Austin High School Campus attendance area, which will be voted on by the board at its April 26, meeting.

If approved, the Austin Campus will become the home school for 662 potential freshmen students residing within the following proposed attendance area: beginning at North Avenue, south on Austin Boulevard to Roosevelt Road, and Roosevelt Road east to Laramie Avenue, Laramie Avenue north to Chicago Avenue, Chicago Avenue west to Central Avenue, Central Avenue north to North Avenue, and North Avenue west to Austin Boulevard. The move would be effective in September 2006. Austin eighth graders outside the proposed attendance area will be sent to the Orr Campus, Marshall and Manley high schools. Students will no longer be sent to Clemente and Wells. Collins High School will not accept any freshman’s students effective September ’06.

The net effect of this proposal will be to recreate the environment that led to the previous poor performance of Austin High School. Students who are not accepted into other schools would have the proposed schools at the Austin Campus as the schools of last resort. This would again lead to the cultural density of both low achievement and expectation.

The purpose of CPS’s Renaissance 2010 is to transform low-achieving schools into innovative schools of choice, offering programs attractive to both prospective students and parents. The Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy is the first of three separate schools to be housed at the Austin Campus. The task of American Quality Schools, the operator of the business academy, is to recruit up to 200 freshmen students. The business academy’s fiscal budget is based on the number of students enrolled in the school. If the ABEA recruits only 100 students, then its budget will be based on that number. It is possible that the 662 students will be subjected to a lottery. Those students residing within the proposed attendance area will have the choice of bumping any student recruited by ABEA outside of the proposed attendance area. The potential negative effects will be those students who are not “buying” into the philosophy of the new school obtaining seats from students who are “buying” it.

It was the vote of the Austin Transitional Advisory Committee (TAC) on March 25, to oppose the proposed attendance area.

I ask that individuals or community groups contact CPS CEO Arne Duncan, and Michael Scott, president of the Board of Education to voice your opinion and concerns. I am opposed to the attendance area plan. Let the new schools sink or swim on their own.

Dwayne Truss
Austin TAC Member