Dumas is a preK-8th grade school in Woodlawn. It was renamed Dumas Technical Academy in the 2008-2009 school year and made into a math and science magnet cluster, as part of a $11.7 million U.S. Department of Education grant program. Shortly after that, in 2009, nearby Wadsworth lost its 6-8th grades with the promise that the Board would not close the school. Now, just a few years later, technically, Wadsworth is not closing, but it will be relocating to the now-closing Dumas Tech Academy. A University of Chicago charter high school that has shared space with Wadsworth will no doubt take over the rest of Wadsworth’s building. Apparently, that won’t count as converting vacant school buildings into charters! In total, 11 schools in the Burnham Park network of CPS including Dumas are slated for closure.
The two schools are less than one mile apart and, in fact, since Wadsworth is a pre K-5 many of their students go to Dumas for middle school. Though the Board claims they always send schools to better achieving schools, the stats for both schools are relatively similar. Both are level 3 schools but have made good progress in reading and math. Dumas’ 5 essential rating is that it is partially organized for improvement, while Wadsworth’s is rated as not yet organized for improvement at this time.
As part of the federal grant five years ago to create a technology academy in a high poverty school, Dumas Tech Academy was outfitted with air conditioning and computers (although the school says the software is now dated). In addition, a first floor room was set aside as a parent room. There were computers installed so parents could build resumes or for other uses. A parent coordinator arranges workshops and meetings with community groups and works to bring in varied resources for students and parents. Her goal is to make parents a real part of the school community and give them an active voice. One community group, Project SYNCERE (Supporting Youth’s Needs with Core Engineering Research Experiments), teaches robotics to the middle school students. In fact, Project SYNCERE got its start at Dumas and is now working in a number of other schools. (Watch a video of a robot built at Dumas in a Project SYNCERE class here.) Last year the parents at Dumas sponsored a very successful book fair. Twenty-four of Dumas’ 29 rooms are occupied with general and special education classes. With the addition of Wadsworth, there will be about 55 special education students in the Dumas building instead of about 30. (Special education class sizes have much smaller limits than general education classes.)
Middle school ISAT meet-exceed scores at Dumas have increased to 70% and math to 54%. And, over the last decade, their overall ISAT scores increased 30 percentage points from 26% to 56%, 10 of those since the conversion to a technical magnet cluster school. As a result of developing active community partnerships and new student interventions, suspensions are down 43%. The RIAH International Foundation worked with Dumas to create a mentoring program that supportskids with social and emotional needs. It also created an alternative to out of school suspensions and developed Peace Circles.
As a condition of the school closing all employees at Dumas (teachers, clerical, support, cleaning etc.) must reapply for their jobs. Parents and staff are worried about the disruption this closing will cause:
“You don’t have to move [the kids] to have a traumatic experience,” —Felicia Sudds, parent of three Dumas students
“To get rid of every teacher from Dumas? They’re not even doing 50-50. How dare you CPS. This will affect our kids’ learning. They will shut down.” —Yolanda Harris, parent of four Dumas students
“I just want to cry. I’ve been here four years. I love every one of these kids as if they’re my own,” —Stacie Beach, counselor/case manager at Dumas
“We’re already going through stuff. Come down here and live like us. Come down here and see our kids go to school every day. To think and wonder are our kids going to make it off the bus to make it home — and safely.” —Alfonso Cozart, parent of three students at Dumas.
One parent of a special education child was particularly concerned because special education children take longer to warm up. She feared that such a disruption would cause her child to close up and lose all the gains he has made.
Post author: Paula Baron