No one is calling Alvin Boutte, Jr., the turnaround kid; however, if he continues the track record he has established over the last three years at the Bronzeville Academy Charter School, that may very well be his new moniker.
The investment banker turned charter school owner, has tripled the enrollment of a school that had been shuttered by CPS. Bronzeville Academy, once known as Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School, has an enrollment of 312 students compared to the 165 when Boutte took over in 2016. The school is housed in the former Hales Franciscan High School, 49th and Cottage Grove Avenue.
One clue to the school’s success may be Boutte’s personal philosophy on education. “I want all kids to have the quality of education I had. We take in all children. We don’t just pick the smartest ones.” Boutte also has made a commitment to hiring local teachers—not just Chicagoans but men and women who live in the same neighborhoods as the students. “That means our staff fully understands the day-to-challenges our young people face. It helps the staff be more empathetic to students’ issues than say someone from the northwest suburbs would be.”
While many schools have been forced to cut or reduce extracurricular activities, Bronzeville Academy continues to have a robust offering that includes co-ed flag football, and both girls and boys basketball teams that compete against CPS and private schools. Boutte said he is especially pleased that the school is able to continually expand its academic extracurriculars, including the most recent participation in the National Scripps Spelling Bee.
That supplements the existing offerings of the arts club, homework club, as well as male and female mentoring programs. The school’s art program is directed by a former graffiti artist who now develops comic books. She said this art form allows all students, not just those gifted in drawing, to participate.
The work also exposes the students to contemporary African culture, Jules Goolsby said.
Boutte also stressed that much of the success the first- through eighth-grade school experiences is a direct result of strong parental involvement.
“Our parents association is second to none,” he added, offering that parents are involved and present throughout the year, not just when it is time to pick up report cards.