West Side residents and alumni of Westinghouse High School, who adamantly support the proposed plan to re-open the school with dual education programs, may see those plans altered.
On July 21, Chicago Public School representatives met community members at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., to discuss possibly changing the new school into a magnet high school.
This contradicts the original CPS plan the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance had approved, requiring the school to have a selective enrollment component-a college prep type program such as Whitney Young High School-and an education-to-career program. Each program was designed to have its own enrollment policies and procedures.
The new plan now calls for all students applying to Westinghouse to be enrolled via a blind lottery, according to what residents say they’re now being told.
“I don’t agree at all with the blind lottery concept,” said alliance member Dwayne Truss. “It seems flagrantly unfair. Something seems odd about the timing of this announcement, coming mere months before the [Board of Education] must approve it.”
Nevertheless, Jim Dispensa, director of school demographics for CPS, says the plan to “dramatically change the original Westinghouse proposal” is not completely accurate. “There was a proposal on the table to consider making Westinghouse into a magnet school, however, as far as I know, the board is considering only the original proposal as it is,” Dispensa said. “Enrollment of students would be based on the respective policies of each program.”
Whether that would include some kind of blind lottery, Dispensa would not divulge. The original plan was a compromise of sorts, with one part of the campus housing a college-prep program. Alliance and community members, however, wanted to ensure that most of the students on the education-to-carrier side came from the surrounding Austin and East and West Garfield Park communities.
Janice Jackson, principal of the new Westinghouse School, which is set to open fall of 2009, says she hopes the board approves the plan as it currently stands.
“Right now, I’m focusing on enrollment and recruitment and my goal is to fill up all of the 1,200 available seats,” said Jackson. “[But] if the interest is as strong as expected then a lottery would probably be an option.”
Jackson is no stranger to administering a school that has closed and later re-opened. She previously served as principal of Al Raby School, housed in the Lucy Flower High School campus, overseeing its transition which began in 2004. Lucy Flower School High School was closed shortly before.
The Chicago Board of Education is expected to approve the Westinghouse plan by this November.