School's Plan To Merge With Chicago District Is 'a Done Deal'

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The Corporate/Community School of America, founded in 1988 to apply private-sector business practices to the education of urban children, will join the Chicago public school system this fall.

The merger of the school into Chicago's District 4 represents the first time that a private school has joined Chicago's public system, according to General Superintendent Argie K. Johnson.

Joseph Kellman, an auto-glass magnate who founded the school, has been an outspoken critic of the public system. But he now says that school officials' attitudes toward innovation have changed.

"We're ready and they're ready,'' he said. "It's a done deal.''

The school's primary motivation for joining the public system is financial. The corporate sponsors who have donated $12 million to operate the tuition-free school over the past six years cannot continue to sustain the program.

By joining the public system, Mr. Kellman said, the bulk of the school's expenses will be paid. Corporate donors will continue to contribute $750,000 a year to pay for the early-childhood, technology, and family-outreach programs that are a hallmark of the school. (See Education Week, Dec. 5, 1990.)

The school's directors also are eager to share what they have learned with other Chicago schools and believe that joining the public system is the best way to do that.

"The public schools have had a change of heart,'' Mr. Kellman said. "That's what leads me to believe this merger will maybe make a difference in education in this whole country.''

The school has had some notable successes, including a 96 percent attendance rate, a stable student population, strong parental involvement, and better standardized-test scores than other schools in its neighborhood.

Like all Chicago schools, the Corporate/Community School of America will be governed by a local school council. In other respects, however, it will be far different from most public schools.

The school will continue to operate from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. 11 months a year, for example, and its 300 pre-K-8 students will continue to be chosen by lottery.

Its teachers, who have been held to strict accountability standards, will become employees of the public system. Some will have to obtain state teaching licenses, but the board of education has pledged to assist with the process.

Vol. 13, Issue 40

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