Victor Herbert Elementary School is located on the near West Side. It serves a population that is 87% low income, 26% special ed, 2% ESL, and 92% African American. It is a Track E school serving children from Pre-K to 8th grade. Herbert offers full or half day preschool and full day kindergarten.
Herbert partners with The Near West Side Community Development Coorporation, Communities in Schools, The Chicago Bulls , Reading in Motion, Comer Parent Network for Youth Guidance, Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, RUSH Hospital, and the James R. Jordan Foundation to bring quality educational enrichment to its students that its population would not otherwise be able to afford.
Sports programs include softball, basketball, archery, flag football, cheerleading and volleyball. Herbert also provides special education services and tutoring, along with arts programming, Girl Scouts, poetry slam, and SAME (Science and Math Excellence). Herbert won a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to help build an understanding of Illinois’ heritage for their students. Teachers from Herbert won a grant and scholarship from BP. The community at Herbert organized a day for students to volunteer at CCIL’s Community Food Pantry.
I have a granddaughter that was at Victor Herbert, and without Victor Herbert and her being special needs, she didn’t know how to talk, she didn’t know how to do anything, and by the grace of God and Victor Herbert, she is now going to graduate this year from special needs at Whitney Young High School, okay? —Brenda Carter, Herbert grandparent
Herbert’s standardized test scores are not as high as Dett’s, its receiving school, but they are just as clearly moving in an upward direction, and it is rated as “partially organized for improvement” by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. In addition, according to Principal Denise Gillespie, Herbert’s drop to a Level 3 from a Level 1 rating was based on a test designed as a diagnostic tool, not intended for use as a high-stakes assessment.
Herbert is part of the Fulton Network where nearly 25% of schools are slated to close. The surrounding neighborhood has been in flux during the last decade when public housing high rises were removed and their residents were for the most part displaced.
“Even when Horner, Abbott, Addams, and Rockwell Gardens came down, the schools remained as a stable home serving children within these communities and mothers and fathers that continued to select these schools and their work to improve these schools. Whenever the problem arises, these schools have served the children from low-income households. They provide learning, nutrition, recreation and social services. They are true neighborhood schools. And from the crowd here tonight, you can see that the people of this community truly value our schools.” —2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti
Although Herbert is officially closing, the students and staff at Dett will be relocating to Herbert. Herbert has already been a receiving school twice since 2004 to nearby CPS students. Community members feel like this is part of the reason their school struggles. At hearings after the closing announcements, Herbert parents testified about their concerns. (WBEZ has made recordings of the closing hearings that took place on April 9th and April 12th available. Herbert testimony begins around minute 20 on both nights.)
Parents expressed concerns about Dett. Some students had transferred out of Dett to go to what they considered a better school at Herbert. Community members express over and over their concerns of mixing two different gangs and the fact that Dett will become overcrowded. Parents described the environment at Herbert as loving, one parent even describing the feeling she gets when she walks into Herbert as “a big hug.”
“I have attended Herbert since I was four years old. Every year I have great teachers who challenge me to be the best student I can be. I have a brother in kindergarten; and if Herbert closes, he will not get to be in the wonderful classrooms that I have been in. I love doing math at Herbert. My teacher showed us about so many different types of triangles and angles. We did slopes in math and science. We always have to extended response, so we can extend our reading and math to show others what we were thinking when we solved the problem. I can divide, multiply and do fractions. We write every day. My teacher told me […],”If you write, you will become an even better reader because reading and writing are connected.” If my school closes, how will I get a better education? Herbert School is like a big happy family to me.” —Michael Armstrong, 9 year old Herbert student