A comprehensive school is a secondary school that does not select students on the basis’ of academic attainment or aptitude. Since a comprehensive school teaches a comprehensive range of subjects across the academic and vocational spectrum, it is commonly understood that the school will need to be of a large size and to take children from a wide ability range.
-From Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia
Austin High School was one of the first high schools built in Chicago and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1989. The traditional attendance area for Austin embraces six square miles.
For reasons that remain somewhat murky to me, the Chicago Public Schools central office decided to close Austin High School and turn the facility over to operators from outside the Austin community. What we have now, or will have in the near future, are several pseudo-high schools. The parents and students of this old and proud community deserve better and are beginning to demand it. I am very proud to be associated with and will chronicle the efforts of regular Austin community people who are struggling to redirect a huge and powerful bureaucracy that does not appear to be acting in the best interest of the Austin parents and students.
Many Austin residents believe as I do that 118 years after building the original high school in the community, it is time for a new facility. Some people, including state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th) have suggested specific sites for the new high school.
A comprehensive high school program offers the core academic areas required for graduation and additional course work in the areas of technology, business, finance, art, music, drama, vocational training and various and sundry other elective areas which meet the broad range of interest that lead to post-secondary education, training and employment.
A comprehensive high school with a critical mass of students will have the capacity to meet the needs of a wide range of student interests and abilities. These include a full range of interscholastic and intramural athletic programs. Well-managed athletic programs develop character, sportsmanship, understanding of teamwork, unity, selflessness, etc.
While academics are the most important component within the mission of a high school, there are many other dimensions to be considered. The whole acculturation process is very important to prepare young people for life’s journey. It is very important that our youth develop self-discipline, self-direction, choices and consequences. It is questionable whether a small school with limited programmatic flexibility can provide the opportunities and choices needed.
A viable high school can serve as an anchor and fulcrum for the community in a special symbiotic relationship. The current Austin High School was built in the 19th century. We are now in the 21st century. The people of Austin deserve a new, state-of-the-art high school.
You can have one if you are willing to fight for it. Last week, I met a couple of people who had read my previous articles on this subject and were asking what they could do. You can begin to talk it up among people you know-block club, church, poker game, wherever people gather, put in a plug. Call the Board of Education. Once you get started, you will be surprised at how resourceful and skillful you will become.
I have lived on the West Side of Chicago for almost 50 years, and I have observed that our elected officials are almost always AWOL when the community is struggling for justice with the powers that be. One of the important things every one can do is to call your elected officials out. Remind them that your high school has been closed and given to outside operators. Many of your children have to travel long distances outside the community to go to high school. Ask them what they are doing about this problem. Contact your congressman, state senator, state representative, county commissioner, and alderman. If there is a dogcatcher in your area, contact him.
Our children need us. Let us not fail them.