Jesse Owens Community Academy, located in Chicago’s West Pullman neighborhood, is on closing list, yet the building will remain open under the administration of Gompers Elementary, which is a half block away.
“Gompers will operate in two buildings, located at 12302 S. State St. and 12450 S. State St., for the 2013-2014 school year. Gompers will serve students in all grades from Pre K-8.” — CPS transitional document
In a petition to the Chicago Board of Education, retired Owens principal Samuel C. Jordon states:
“We want to remain open as a separate and autonomous academic institution. Jesse Owens Community Academy provides a safe, nurturing and developmentally appropriate setting for Pre-Kindergarten through Third Grade students it services. It has been proposed to maintain the Jesse Owens’ building as part of Gompers School during the 2013-2014 school year. This proposal is inconsistent with the financial savings proposed. Additionally, Jesse Owens Community Academy is only three (3) students away from the 70% threshold proposed by the Board of Education.”
Owens’ parents agree with Jordan, questioning CPS proposal at an April 8th community hearing meeting:
“Leaving both buildings open won’t save money, since the $8 million in renovations needed to the Owens building will still have to happen, and both Owens and Gompers not only have CPS’ lowest rating but also are on academic probation. How can one principal manage both buildings, half a block away? She can’t be in two places at once.” — Michelle Stagger, CPS parent
Receiving school, Gompers Elementary, has been on probation for seven of the last ten years, while Owens has been on probation twice in the last ten years. However, academic comparisons between the two schools are complicated by the fact that Owens serves preK-3rd, and Gompers 4th-8th grades. Only the third graders take the same set of exams as students at Gompers—the scores of which are used to assign a performance rating to each school.
Although CPS claims that students at closing schools need to be moved in order to provide them with sufficient resources, Owens has many of the things CPS says closing schools are lacking:
“Jesse Owens has our own assets! We already have a library! We already have air conditioning! We already have 2 Pre-K programs! We have a science, technology and math lab! We have a full day science teacher! We have after school programs that include homework help, visual arts, yoga, cheerleading, and basketball to supplement what can’t be implemented during the regular school day.
Finally, Owens has been revitalized with new leadership this school year. Our principal has Doctorate in Curriculum instruction and Masters in Early Childhood Education with 29 years of expertise. Our Assistant Principal has 8 years of experience teaching 3rd graders, 2 years as an Adjunct Professor for Dominican University teaching new teachers math methods and provides Professional Development focusing on Mathematics across the city. Out Lead Literacy Teacher is now the REACH Evaluation Coach for the city.” —Brandee Stanton, Owens’ school nurse
In addition, Jesse Owens’ family members have voiced their disappointment over the decision to close the school:
“The kids were taught who he was and what his life was about, his achievements and they were encouraged to know that in spite of adversity you can achieve,” —Marlene Rankin, Owens’ daughter
“If the school is gone then what do you do? What kind of lessons will they learn and where will they learn the lessons after the school is gone?” —Beverly Prather, Owens’ daughter
Other community members’ voices echo the sentiment to keep the school open:
“This school should not be closed! Jesse Owens is truly a community school that has a wonderful fine arts program – so important today in this age of youth violence! —Stefanie Piatkiewicz
“Jesse Owens Academy is an ideal setting for nurturing primary students. We would do our students a disservice by moving them.” — Kassandra Scott