Local school report

Three neighborhood schools in Beverly/Morgan Park were among the 22 “reinvestment schools” chosen for inclusion in a new program launched by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) last month.

Barnard Elementary School, 10354 S. Charles St.; Esmond Elementary School, 1865 W. Montvale Ave., and Morgan Park High School, 1744 W. Pryor Ave., will receive support from the newly created Office of Strategic School Support Services (OS4) for an early-intervention program for high-need schools, according to a news release issued by the CPS on July 24.

The program, part of a five-year action plan proposed by CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, will provide administrators and teachers with professional-development assistance tailored to the specific needs of each school, according to the release. It will also provide Local School Council (LSC) members and parents with professional learning opportunities to “enhance their knowledge and skills in best practices to increase student achievement.”

According to the release, CPS officials selected high-need schools for the program that are “ready and able to commit to a whole school transformation process starting in the 2013-14 school year.”

Officials with CPS solicited input and recommendations from network chiefs and reviewed the performance of each school before making their selections.

“It is an important opportunity to partner with schools that both need support and are ready and able to do the intensive work needed to put themselves on a path toward success,” Byrd-Bennett said in the release.

OS4 will partner with these schools for up to three years, according to the release, and its support and services are designed to build the capacity of each school to sustain improvements beyond the program. In addition, each reinvestment school will be responsible for meeting or exceeding annual school-specific benchmarks established by the CPS.

While details of the OS4 program, including its timeline and the amount of funding per school, were not outlined in the release, Barnard Principal Patrick MacMahon said he is optimistic about its potential benefits to the school community. MacMahon and two members of the Barnard LSC met with Byrd-Bennett and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis for a 90-minute informational session on July 31, he said, that included a survey of the school’s needs.

“They were pretty open to listening to us,” he said, “and seemed receptive to the items we mentioned, one of which was teacher restoration.”

The program appears to be focused on neighborhood schools, MacMahon said, that are currently at Level 2 (good standing) or Level 3 (low academic standing) and that “could be successful with the right resources.”

Barnard and MPHS are both at Level 3, and Esmond is at Level 2, according to CPS performance ratings. Level 1 schools are considered to be in “excellent academic standing.”

The 19th Ward is the only ward in Chicago to have three schools chosen for the OS4 program, according to 19th Ward Aldermanic Chief of Staff Marty Joyce, and MPHS is the only high school to be selected.

Neither MPHS Principal Dr. Carolyn Epps nor Esmond Principal Dr. Angela Tucker could be reached for comment before press time.