50 Year Old Hales Franciscan High School in Jeopardy of Closing
by E. Thomasine Edwards
Over 50 years of educating, Hales Franciscan High School has been providing a quality Catholic college preparatory education and a safe learning environment to predominately African American young men (and more recently young women) on the south side of Chicago. The school is responsible for graduating contributing adults who have gone on to make tremendous changes in the world. Some of the more notable alumni include JaVale McGee, NBA center for the Denver Nuggets, Dr. Richard Gardner, Physician, Dr. Marcus Ahmed, Ph. D. English Chair, Governors State University,Rich Gardner, former NFL player, James Capers, Jr., NBA referee and Julius Carry III, Actor (now deceased) as well as other notable associated with the school such as Tim King former principal who went on o establish Urban Prep.
“In recent years, the school has seen a dramatic drop in enrollment due to population decline in Chicago, a slow recovery from the economic recession and increased competition from selective enrollment and charter schools,” says Principal Nichole M. Jackson.
Joseph P. Moffa, Chair of the Hales Franciscan Board of Trustees says that “As a result, the number of students taking the entrance exam and subsequently applying for admission to Hales Franciscan High School has dramatically declined.”
Since its inception, the school’s operating costs were generously covered by the Franciscans of the Sacred Heart Province and the Archdiocese of Chicago in earlier years and, more recently, by the Big Shoulders Fund and generous benefactors such as Michael Jordan and John Canning.
“The Board of Trustees,” according to an unidentified board member, “has made a valiant effort to identify and sustain the funding necessary to operate the school. A number of elements, including a downturn in the market, have not allowed the Board to be as successful as it would liked to have been in this regard.”
As a consequence the impact has been unsettling and The Board of Trustees of Hales Franciscan High School has informed the Hales’ administration, parents, students, faculty/staff and alumni that the school needs to raise $300,000 immediately if the school is to re-open for the 2015-2016 school year.
To the task on hand Principal Jackson says, “It is important that the school survives because it serves an underserved population delivering the quality education that will help them to level the playing field when they compete for college scholarships and acceptance.”
This school that has sat on the south side of Chicago on the outskirts of Hyde Park and the University Of Chicago, close to the DuSable Museum and close enough to nearby Washington Parkway Homes and Wentworth Gardens, and projects has stood amidst the challenges that faced it and has weathered the storm. The students are proof that the school meets its mission is serving the underserved and in preparing them to hold their own amongst the best. Their academic prowess is matched with the excellence of the athletic department from which high-level athletes have and continue to emerge.
Jackson says that many of the alumni are disappointed in the school’s transition from all boys to coed expressing that it has strayed away from its original mission, but she differs in opinion stating that, “True our boys remain at risk, we all know this but as an educator I see how all our children are a risk. Hales Franciscan’s move from a an all boys school to coed is necessary and viable in creating the balance of preparing our girls and boys for college. In what the school’s mission is we have not veered away from but rather expanded upon it to include girls.”
The Board of Trustees of Hales Franciscan High School has informed the Hales’ administration, parents, students, faculty/staff and alumni that the school needs to raise $300,000 immediately if the school is to re-open for the 2015-2016 school year.
Jackson says, “The Short term fix is $300,000 that will cover operational expenses from June through December. Michael Jordan Foundation committed 5 million dollars over a 5 year period and one of the payments will be received December 2015.”
The Hales Franciscan Board of Trustees, according to Chairman Moffa “will continue to pursue alternative formats and funding sources to assist Hales Franciscan High School in fulfilling its educational mission.” As a result of the precarious situation in which the school finds itself, the Board of Trustees has enacted a resolution now in effecti that if it cannot raise the $300,000, Hales Franciscan High School is in jeopardy of ceasing operations as of the end of the current academic year. “Although we regret that this decision became necessary, we are sharing this information with everyone to provide students/parents and Hales’ employees with ample opportunity to seek an alternative school or employment options should that be necessary.”
Anyone who would like to make a donation to help the school raise the $300,000 is asked to go to www.GoFundMe.com/sc8gej4 or send your donation directly to the school at Hales Franciscan Donation Fund, 4930 South Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago, IL 60615-2608.