There has been much discussion of late regarding the schools that Chicago Public School will be closing. However, in September the Talent Development High School will be opening in the West Garfield Park community.

The new high school is a contract school, meaning that it will managed by non-profit organizations in accordance with a performance agreement assessed by Chicago Public Schools.

It will be modeled after the Chicago Public School’s Renaissance 2010 program. However, unlike most Renaissance 2010 schools, Talent plans to have an open partnership with unions, according to Chief Operations Officer Kirby Callam.

“The school is partnering with Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Social Organization of Schools, which will work with us to formulate the core curriculum, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union Local 73 and the Chicago Teacher’s Union,” said Callam.

“The school would always remain neutral in matters regarding the union; however, if the majority of the staff instructors wanted to unionize, they would be able to do so. We hope however, to avoid the need for such actions by giving teachers a voice in implementing the system of the school.”

Traditionally, the Chicago Teacher’s Union and the Renaissance 2010 program have had a stormy relationship.

Opponents of Renaissance 2010 schools say that they do not allow teachers to form unions, force teachers work longer hours without salary negotiations and simply serve to turn control of schools over to private companies.

Callam says that Talent Development High School will make strides towards eliminating that impression.

For example, it has one union teacher, Connee Fitch-Blanks, as one of seven members of the school’s board of directors. The school’s principal, Jacqueline Lemon, has also worked with the Chicago’s Teacher’s Union.

A representative from the Chicago Teacher’s Union was unavailable for comment of this story, as were Lemon and Fitch-Blanks.

One element the new school will share with other Renaissance 2010 schools is an absence of a local school council. Instead, according to Callam, there will be a “school advisory board” appointed by the school’s staff.

The advisory board will be made up of parents and faculty and will deal with strengthening the efficiency of the school’s curriculum, although, it will not have the power to affect the budget or force out a principal.

The school will open its doors in September 2009. It will share space with George W. Tilton Public School, 223 N Keeler Ave., for its first year before moving into a new facility in 2010.

The school will serve 150 students who will be selected though a random lottery of applications. As of Wednesday, there were 20 slots still open. At full enrollment, the school will seat 600 students.

While the students at both Talent Development and Tilton will share certain facilities throughout the campus, such as the auditorium and the gymnasium, under the guidelines of a joint agreement, the individual student bodies will be kept separate.

“We just don’t want the elementary and high school students distracting each other,” said Shawn Walker, business manager of Talent Development.

For more information regarding the Talent Development High School visit the school’s official Web site at