Parents Challenge School’s ‘Transformation’

CHICAGO (CN) – Families whose children attend an “underperforming” suburban high school say they were unfairly left out of plans to turn it into a freshman-only campus with a grant from the State Board of Education. The parents say students of Thornridge High School in Dalton will be forced into one of two other schools in the district that also are pegged for improvement, raising concerns about “the continuation of athletic, music and art programs,” among other issues.




     Thornton Township High School District 205 represents “46,000 households, with approximately 30,000 high school and elementary school students attending forty-five schools,” and runs Thornridge, Thornton and Thornwood High Schools, all of which have been called “underperforming,” according to the complaint in Cook County Court. “All three schools have been in Title I Federal School Improvement Status for three years.”
     The parents say that on Sept. 23 they were informed that District 205 received a “School Improvement Grant (SIG)” from the Illinois State Board of Education.
     They were told that the grant will be “used to create a freshman-only campus at Thornridge High School, thereby ‘closing’ grades ten through twelve, while ‘transforming’ Thornton and Thornwood high schools into Upper-House Academies for the 2011/2012 school year,” and placing the schools into “restructuring status.”
     School officials intend to close Thornridge over the next school year to implement the changes, without any consideration to the families, they say.
     “At no time did District 205 provide parents, children or community with notice of the SIG grant application or the proposed fundamental changes in the structure of the high school system,” which violates federal mandates, the families say.
     They say the issuance of the grant was “capricious” in that its specifications require that the district “detail how the community was given notice” about the grant application.
     They add that the changes are “likely to create significant safety concerns for students, teachers and staff, significant concerns about travel time and expense, concerns about scholarships, academic rankings and achievement, and significant concerns about the continuation of athletic, music and art programs.”
     Since District 205 is “deactivating” Thornridge, students will be forced to transfer to one of the other two high schools that are being restructured – both of which are “academically poor” – which would be against the Illinois School Code, according to the complaint.
     “Such action may be taken only with the approval of the voters in the district and the approval, by proper resolution, of the school board of the receiving district,” the families say.
     Thornridge received press attention this year when a 15-year-old student was shot in a restaurant parking lot minutes after classes were dismissed.
     The families want injunctions to prohibit the Illinois State Board of Education, State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch, District 205 and its Superintendent Dr. J. Kamala Buckner from implementing their plan to close Thornridge and transform the high schools.
     Their lead counsel is Deidre Baumann with Baumann & Shuldiner.

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