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How A Cabrini-Green School Went From 'Out Of Control' To Feeling Like Home

DNAinfo   By Mina Bloom | May 23, 2016 5:55am 

Principal Robert Croston talking to a student at Jenner Elementary.

DNA/Mina Bloom

NEAR NORTH SIDE — When 13-year-old Ashanti Haywood reflects on her early years at Jenner Elementary, one memory sticks out.

She distinctly remembers an after-school program that turned ugly when a couple of gang members busted into the school and hit one of the school's longtime teachers.

As Ashanti describes it, "Everyone was fighting in the street. The gang members were [running] around upstairs. Nobody knew where the principal was at."

"It was shocking that they would even come to our school to do that," said Ashanti, who described the school as "out of control."

Now an eighth-grader, Ashanti said there's no way any of that would happen today. 


By Mina Bloom | May 6, 2016 6:15am 

NEAR NORTH SIDE — The schools on the Near North Side are so different from block to block that students at one school sometimes feel like students at a neighboring school are "living in another country," according to Michele Dreczynski, youth and family committee chairwoman for the Near North Unity Program.

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'Coffee with the Commander'

Commander Devereux 18th District, answering community member questions on Monday, 3/16 at Eva's Cafe on Sedgwick St.

Continued Trends In Near North Schools

In our final article from our four part series about continued trends in Near North Schools we report on the area’s Neighborhood High School options. The Near North has two Charter High Schools, two Private High Schools, two traditional CPS Neighborhood High Schools and one CPS Selective Enrollment High School. In this article we will look at some trends and statistics from our local CPS Neighborhood High Schools.  These High Schools are Lincoln Park High School at 2001 N. Orchard and Wells High School at 936 N. Ashland. Like the CPS elementary schools in the area, local CPS High Schools also have a legacy that is tied to the former Cabrini Green housing projects.  Historically, students living in the attendance boundary from Manierre would attend Lincoln Park High School and many students from Jenner would be in the attendance area for Wells High School.

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Near North Data Journalism Survey Results


 The main challenges to Near North public schools continue to be based on race and lack of access to quality schools in the area. That’s one of the main findings from a CoNNect survey as part of our series of articles about CPS elementary schools in the Near North community.

In the first two articles we reported about disparities in school choice in our community. Readers learned about the differing student makeup and performance of nearby CPS neighborhood schools. The number of students is down sharply at Near North's two public elementary schools, and more than half of the children in the neighborhood choose another CPS school—far below the citywide average. There has been an extreme racial and performance divide between schools based on whether or not the a school had been associated with the former Cabrini Green.

A survey at the end of the second article found that readers were largely unaware of at least some of these circumstances—91% of those who responded said they learned something new in the articles.

 However, the news about a proposed merger between local Jenner Elementary and nearby Ogden elementary was well-known. Of those who responded to the survey, 89% said they had heard of the community-led proposed merger.

 Finally, readers responded to a question about the main challenges facing the Near North Public Schools.

Main Challenges Facing Near North Public Schools

(Top three responses – equal mention)

  1. Racial Segregation that leads to differing levels of schools in the local area
  2. Lack of available K-8 seats in high performing elementary CPS schools in the area
  3. Too many resources shifted to Selective Enrollment Schools in the area

 The Near North Unity Program’s Youth and Family Committee will continue to follow the education story about our local CPS schools. Look on the portal for updates to the proposed Ogden-Jenner merger and upcoming articles on education.

Chicago's Most Famous Mural Painted Over, Community Devastated

Mina Bloom for DNAinfo, Dec 17, 2015

Read more about the community's long battle to keep historic William Walker mural in the Near North.

Jenner Principal Among This Year's Near North Community Award Recipients

By Mina Bloom | | December 15, 2015

Jenner Principal Robert E. Croston at the awards ceremony.

Courtesy/Gordon Walek

NEAR NORTH SIDE - The principal at Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts was one of four community leaders to win this year's advocacy awards from the Near North Unity Program (NNUP) .  Principal Robert E. Croston was awarded for his leadership at Jenner, 1119 N. Cleveland Ave., and under-enrolled school that draws students mostly from the Cabrini-Green housing projects.

Croston, who made headlines this fall for being one of the driving forces behind a plan to merge with Ogden International School's overcrowded elementary school, 24 W. Walton St., said he was "very overwhelmed: when he wond the award which he considers a "mandate."

Click HERE to Read More of the article from DNAinfo

Continued Trends and Near North Schools

Eric Young Smith

Part Two in Our Neighborhood Schools Series: Changing demographics and a growing demand for good CPS schools in Near North are out of sync with current attendence at the community's elementary schools for residents of all races. Read More

Near North Has Changed: Local CPS Schools Have Not

The number of students is down sharply at Near North's two public elementary schools, and more than half of the children in the neighborhood choose another CPS school--far below the citywide average. Read Our Analysis

Principal Robert E. Croston addressing residents at the Near North Unity Program meeting Tuesday evening. Mina Bloom/DNAinfo

Mina Bloom/DNAinfo

 NEAR NORTH SIDE - Jenner Elemenatry Principa Robert E. Croston made an impassioned plea tosave his school at a community meeting this week to discuss the potential merger with overcrowded Ogden International School.

Croston choked up while talking about what will happen to his underenrolled school if it doesn't merge with Ogden.

Despite the fact that Chicago Public Schools is operating under a five year-moratorium on school closures that took effect after the 50 school closures in 2013, Croston seemed worried about Jenner's uncertain future.

"I'm speaking from my heart.  I can't do anything else...We have 240 students right now. [Our] school last year was projected to have 207 students," he said, beginning to cry.  "That's how we lost our $310,000.  So if we don't increase enrollment, how can we convince the board to keep the school open?"


The Merger of a Gold Coast School and a Cabrini-Green School Could be Good for Both

The evidence suggests that desegregation results in substantial, tangible benefits for black students-and intangible ones for white students.


The Ogden International school in Chicago's Gold Coast

PHOTO: Heather Charles/Chicago Tribune

Click HERE to read the article

No Monthly Meeting in May

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