An open letter to Austin community leaders:
I have written several columns in an attempt to call attention to the fact that there is no high school within the Austin community required by the Board of Education to enroll high school students who live in the Austin community. Many high school students are required to travel long distances outside the Austin community to attend high school.
I have pointed out that what has happened to Austin High School follows a pattern established at several other schools in the black community: The schools are closed, privatized and then turned over white folk. The cover for this is that the schools are “underperforming.” That description could be applied to almost all of the schools in the Chicago Public School system. I recently reviewed the 2006 results of the PSAE exam-65 of the high schools scored below 30 percent. Black people who have borne the brunt of this attack upon public education.
The first step in the scientific method of solving a problem (which I learned in elementary school) is to diagnose and identify the problem. I defy anyone to explain what Arne Duncan and company have outlined as the problem at Austin High School. I am not referring to the symptoms, or manifestations of the problems such as truancy or security. I am talking about the bottom line problem.
Without benefit of this diagnosis, a cure was proscribed, to wit: Close the school, send our children hither and yon. Turn this school, which has been a community high school since 1889, over to white folk from outside the community.
The schools that have been placed in Austin High School-Entrepreneurship and Polytechnic-are programs that could exist within a comprehensive high school. It would seem that they would be ideal for vocational high schools.
A great deal of discussion has been generated about the high school situation in Austin. Various organizations and individuals have met with Chicago Public School personnel to discuss the issue. It is very important that some level of consensus is reached as to what the community wants as a solution. If not, the Board of Education will play one off against the other and continue to do that which is of benefit to those from outside our community.
In the spirit of transparency, I am suggesting that community leaders issue a statement on their position in this matter. I invite anyone to e-mail me (email@example.com), call me, or write me at this paper with your position. In the meantime I will be contacting community leaders, elected and otherwise, offering them an opportunity to speak to this problem.
When I was growing up in a Mississippi church, the doors of the church were open for people to join by baptism or “letter of Christian Experience.” I do not consider myself a community leader, so I will comment on the basis of my
“Educational Experience.” I believe that Austin, being the largest community in Chicago, should have a large, comprehensive high school.
While we are waiting for a new facility to be constructed, I believe the current 1889 Austin High School facility should be returned to the community as a comprehensive high school. The small schools that are now there could be continued, not as separate schools, but programs among many others in the schools. This is my position. Let everyone hear yours. I hope to hear from you, and you will hear from me over the next few weeks.
Grady C. Jordan was a Chicago Public Schools district superintendent from 1985-95.