The private entity that runs the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy two weeks ago decided not to renew its contract to oversee the 5-year-old high school.
That means, as of June, the academy will no longer be independently run and will become a part of the Chicago Public Schools system.
CPS officials and those from American Quality Schools, which oversees ABEA, as well as elementary schools in Chicago and other states, met with parents and school staff at a meeting last Wednesday. A packed audience filled the auditorium of the Austin High School campus at 231 N. Pine.
Officials insisted that ABEA would remain open but will now become a CPS school.
As for the students, officials said the current senior class will graduate this June and will not be affected by the change. Certain programs at the school will also remain unchanged. Students, they insist, will not be displaced to other schools and that new programs will be added.
ABEA will become the first Renaissance 2010 school to transition to CPS. AQS will operate the Business Academy until July 1.
Parents at last Wednesday’s meeting expressed concerns about the future of the school and its teachers.
Robert Runcie, an official with CPS, said the teachers would have to reapply to work at the school now that it’s under new leadership. Certain qualifications and certifications, he explained, are required for teachers to work under CPS.
Still, many parents felt that if their teachers were qualified to work at ABEA then they should be qualified to work with CPS and should be automatically retained.
But under the Ren 2010 system, the organizations that run those schools hire their own teachers. All of ABEA’s teachers are employed by American Quality Schools. And those instructors are not necessarily required to have specific state-mandated teacher certificates to work at a public school. That point has also been one of the concerns of opponents to the privately-run school concept.
Runcie told parents that CPS would try to hire as many of the current teachers as possible but could not guarantee how many or who they would be.
A question was asked about the school’s current principal Jasmine Mitchell, who’s been at the school for several months now. CPS officials did not say definitively if she would be retained but said she’ll continue on during the transition process. Speaking to Austin Weekly News last week, Mitchell said she’s in talks with CPS about remaining the school’s principal after the transition. She said that decision could likely come sometime this week.