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ISBE breaks hearts of 320 Bronzeville Academy students Must vacate PUSH by June 30th

The hearts of 320 Bronzeville Academy Charter School children were broken after learning that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has revoked its charter, and June 30, 2024, will be their last day at the iconic Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters, which has been used as their temporary campus.

Forced to leave their school at 4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave. due to flooding and debris that clogged the drains due to the repair of the roof, the Bronzeville Academy Charter School has been ordered by the ISBE to shut down and leave the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters for failure to meet two of its pre-conditions.

“We did have our charter pulled by the state,” Alvin Boutte, the school’s CEO, told the Chicago Crusader. “We plan on trying to appeal to the Cook County Circuit Court sometime this week.

Asked on what grounds did the ISBE cancel the charter, Boutte said, “We did not meet the conditions of the charter renewal. We did not have a recognized campus on time. Their specified time was in March. They did not take the Rainbow PUSH Coalition into consideration as a possible campus, and they went all the way back to March” as the deadline.

When reminded that the flooding of the Bronzeville Academy Charter School was on April 29th, Boutte explained that ISBE said, “that the disaster would give us some grace, except there was no grace.”

“I went down for the kids. I went down for seven years of hard work. The kids need quality public education. More private schools are coming into the area that our kids can’t afford to attend,” said Boutte.

Asked what will happen to the students, he said they will be at PUSH until June 30th. “If we don’t win on appeal, they will be scattered through the neighborhood schools. Some of them are decent schools. I hope they will take what they’ve gotten under Bronzeville. I’m hoping that will last, but in the end, I am definitely disappointed in the state.”

Asked what will happen to the 17 teachers, Boutte said they are highly qualified and will probably get job offers. When asked what he will do, Boutte said, “I will keep plugging away for the best interests of the kids one way or another. We are going to keep pressing on for quality education at PUSH.”

In an interview with the Chicago Crusader, attorney Yusef Jackson, PUSH COO and son of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., called the revocation of the school’s charter, “Disappointing. It felt as if the decision was made before we got the public comments, which were 100 percent in favor of keeping the school open. That input, he said, included comments from students, parents, teachers and the community.

Attorney Jackson said the school has met all of the pre-conditions that ISBE set for continuation of the school related to real estate. “Even if they were not going to secure Hales Franciscan High School,” which became the Bronzeville Academy Charter School, 4930 S. Cottage Grove, “or any other site,” Jackson said, “we offered a long-term (three-year) lease in the adequate facility of Rainbow PUSH.”

Saying there are few adequate places for parents and children for education, Jackson said Boutte has agreed to resign at the end of the term, “and they (ISBE) could have a management company. That was a pre-condition they set in February, and he said yes to that condition.

“What they asked the ISBE to do, they have done,” said Jackson. “We are working on helping the change of leadership with Dr. Joyce Kenner, who retired after 30 years as principal of Whitney Young High School. She is open to make sure that the academics rise to the level that’s superior.

“The alternative we have by keeping it open is far better than displacing 320 families and teachers.”

While saying the academic performance at Bronzeville must improve, Jackson said, “but it is currently on par and better than the others in the neighborhood. There is no reason to move them for academic performance.

“There is no reason to move them because they don’t have a lease and they do. There is no reason to move them. It’s an arbitrary decision, I feel, by ISBE Board members who don’t have the sensitivity to the structure and the spirit of our neighborhood,” said Jackson.

When contacted, ISBE officials confirmed that Board members voted to revoke the Bronzeville charter, effective June 30, 2024.

In a statement sent to the Chicago Crusader, ISBE said the revocation of the charter was based on the school’s “failure to meet deadlines and uncertainty around identifying a location for Bronzeville Academy Charter School for the upcoming school year, especially so close to summer, had created an emergency situation for the education of Bronzeville students. 

“ISBE has been in communication with CPS and the District is ready to provide transition support to all Bronzeville Academy Charter School students. 

“The State Board of Education hereby rescinds its February 15, 2024, conditional renewal of the charter for Bronzeville Academy Charter School, due to the school’s failure to meet the pre-term conditions by the deadlines set forth in the renewal decision,” according to the statement.

In revoking Bronzeville Academy’s charter, ISBE stated that the Board voted in February 2024 to renew its charter agreement with Bronzeville for a term of three years subject

to six stringent pre-term conditions and five contractual conditions intended to address deficiencies by the school in all three accountability domains—academic, financial, and organizational.

In response, Boutte said, “We did not close on the purchase of the St. Ambrose School. We also did have an alternative location, which we did present verbally, but ISBE did not acknowledge an approval of that location.” He said they learned that later.

ISBE said several of the pre-term conditions focused on Bronzeville’s relocation to a new site. It also revealed that the Bronzeville Academy property had been sold. The School has been sold to It Takes a Village Family of Schools (ITAV), a private school focusing on social justice, according to its website. It is scheduled to open this fall with the help of $12 million in capital from IFF and the Chicago Community Loan Fund.

The 9.1-acre campus, headed by Chicago educator Nakisha Hobbs, who is principal and co-founder of It Takes a Village, will be the home of K-8th graders for 300 students this fall. Tuition is $12,500 a year.

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