CPS would serve itself well to slow down

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan has a background as a college and former pro basketball player. Lately, Duncan seems to be applying that history to operating the school district. Duncan is fast breaking changes in the district.

The best thing for him to do at this point is slow the game down and deal effectively with the multitude of complex issues he’s attempting to handle at once. It’s no secret the district has a host of problems, some more transparent than others. Most aren’t aware that the district has been unable to complete needed repairs to its buildings.

It would take $5 BILLION to make all those repairs at once. More obvious is the abysmal graduation rate for CPS students – with fewer than 50 percent of the freshmen eventually walking across the stage to accept their diplomas. Population shifts and academic disinterest means many of the district’s schools are operating far under capacity and nowhere near an occupancy rate that justifies keeping them open.

With the exception of the deferred maintenance, Duncan is attempting to deal with all of these problems, as well as keeping freshmen in school, simultaneously. None of the issues are new.

Parents, students and school advocates have been clamoring for fixes for years. During those same years, there has been some action, but not the definitive kind that results in permanent improvements. Duncan going after all of these changes, like chasing an opponent who just stole the ball and is headed down court, at this pace, simply doesn’t make sense.

Chicagoans would be far better served being given a timetable for dealing with these problems on a more measured basis. One benefit of the timetable would be that residents, including students, would feel they have a say. Now, some feel they are getting short shrift.

Residents in the Orr High School area organized this week to protest that school becoming home to three schools and the site where prospective teachers get their training. It makes no difference whether the parents and students there have it exactly correct. The perception they’re pushing is CPS has “given up” on them.

Duncan should stop for a minute and try to understand how that feelsûan entire system giving up on you. How painful that must feel, and how does one motivate those kids after that? Everyone associated with CPS deserves much better than the fast break offense Duncan is pushing.

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  

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