Originally built as a Catholic school at the corner of Adams and Kildare, Goldblatt Elementary opened as a Chicago Public School in 1965, just after the neighborhood underwent racial transition, and the same summer that riots took place at nearby and Madison and Pulaski. That fall, Martin Luther King, Jr—in part because of those riots, as well as the more famous ones in Watts—began his Northern campaign in Chicago, the first battle of which was joining the fight against school segregation.
Now, 48 years later, Goldblatt is one of many West Garfield Park schools affected by the mass school closings this year, all but one hypersegregated, with more than a 95% African-American student body. Goldblatt is slated to be closed, and its students are to be transferred to Hefferan School. Although the two schools are relatively near each other, multiple gang boundaries criss-cross the neighborhood surrounding them, including Kostner which falls on the route between the two schools.
Goldblatt is located in Beat 1115 of the 11th District, a beat in the top ten out of 280 police beats in Chicago for the number of drug arrests for the last several years. In February of this year, while parents and community members were testifying at meetings on behalf of Goldblatt, the Chicago Reader published a detailed history of the rise and fall of a leader of the New Breeds gang, Dana Bostic. The former headquarters of his heroin ring is a handful of blocks away from Goldblatt, and many of the events detailed in the story take place in the surrounding neighborhood. The gang leader was convicted along with 24 of his co-conspirators last summer:
“Yet the problems haven’t disappeared, even in the middle of Bostic’s old neighborhood. The New Breeds’ former base of operations on West Van Buren has been razed, and the street was quiet on several afternoons recently. But just a few blocks away, at Wilcox and Springfield, men were lined up waiting to help customers. In fact, the pace of drug arrests in the police beat that includes Bostic’s old territory has gone up since his crew was taken down.”
Not surprisingly, Goldblatt parents have serious concerns about the safety of their children as a result of CPS closing Goldblatt—both at Hefferan and on the walk there, as they told reporters when CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett visited recently.
“I’ve been walking through here before, and they start shooting. From here to there, a lot can happen in a little while.”–Goldblatt parent, Tommie Wells
Yet, in the midst of this chaos on the streets, Goldblatt has, nonetheless, managed to provide its students and their families with an academic community. At recent community hearings, parents urged CPS to take into consideration that Goldblatt’s test scores have been on a steady march upward over the last decade.
“I want them to be able to prove themselves. They need to see that next year. They need to see what we’re doing now is going to help us next year; and what we’re doing next year will help us later and we keep moving on. They’re not going to be able to do that if we close our school, or any of the schools over here. It’s too dangerous. We do not need our babies walking around about to get shot because they just want to go to school.” —Karon Khaleel, Goldblatt assistant principal
In comparison with Hefferan, nominally a better performing school according to this year’s school closing performance criteria, Goldblatt had a higher value-added score in reading, only two fewer “performance points” overall (29 vs 31 out of 42), and, though its ISAT composite is lower than Hefferan, it is perfectly in line with what one would statistically predict based on its demographics. In addition, the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research rates Goldblatt as organized for improvement, primarily because of its students’ views of how ambitious instruction is at their school and their teachers’ high expectations.
“Our students will achieve and maintain high academic standards and reach their maximum potential to become positive, contributing members of society.” —Goldblatt School’s Mission
In fact, Goldblatt’s principal Yvonne Currington received recognition and performance pay from Mayor Rahm Emanuel last October—just five months before Goldblatt was recommended for closing—as one of 82 principals in CPS who are “building the foundations within their schools that drive student success, as demonstrated by exceptional growth shown by their students over the course of the last school year.” Principals were chosen for their role in “decreasing the achievement gap among students and growth in student test scores.”
“Our 2012 school progress report from CPS shows the students’ growth at Goldblatt School was far above average, compared to some of the schools across the nation. In fact, the progress report shows that our students at every grade level surpassed the national average for making expected gains on the district assessment last year. So, it shows our schools are achieving and growing.”–Talisa Walker, Goldblatt parent, LSC member, and alumna
Although CPS claims Goldblatt is underutilized, the principal pointed out at the recent hearing that “unused” rooms are actually used for small-group instruction for enrichment and intervention, indoor recess, a parent resource room, and a band room for their Merit music program. Goldblatt also has both a performing arts teacher and a visual arts teacher. The parent resource room makes it possible for the school to welcome parents needing vocational assistance:
“Goldblatt parents always get the help they need. Many of us go to the school to use the supplies, computers and printers, parent room, so we can conduct job searches.” —Talisa Walker
Goldblatt is a Communities in Schools Chicago partner. They also have a Headstart program, and they have been part of the Joffrey Ballet’s Middle School Dance Club program for the last five years. Goldblatt also participates in the Associated Colleges of Illinois’ Center for Success in High-Need Schools program. There are both afterschool and Saturday school programs for students.
“What you need to understand is in our culture, when there’s not enough, we don’t quit, and we don’t close. …When our children’s book bags are underutilized, we don’t kick them out, we fill them up. When there’s not enough potatoes, you don’t stop cooking dinner. When there is not enough gas, you don’t give away your car. Goldblatt is not an underutilized building. I’ll say it again, Goldblatt is not an underutilized building. It’s a greatly-utilized school. Don’t get schooling mixed up with the building[…]If you want to see progress, you got to keep our schools open.” —Marcus Brady, Goldblatt security officer
Post authors: Cassie Creswell and Shanti Elliot