The One Where Mr. Houseful Discusses School Co-Location

Mrs. Houseful’s note: Once again, Mr. Houseful joins us with his views on what has become a very personal issue for us. While the cellist isn’t in a school that is being threatened with closure (and with 53 schools on THAT list, it’s a travesty in itself) he is in one that has been cited for being in an underutilized building. Now with wanting to squeeze 30+ children into classrooms, we’re threatened by another aspect of CPS. Forced overcrowding at the hand of the CEO of the Chicago Public School System and our Mayor. 

Chicago Public Schools

It is impossible for me to understand why certain decisions are made, or why many bad decisions are defended and justified.  I understand that in many ways I am a simple, honest man, and with that comes some measure of naiveté   However, there are some cases or instances where I refuse to believe that I am extra dense.  I KNOW I can’t be this ridiculously stupid. I’ll be the first to tell you that I didn’t read the entire list of proposed school closures.  I didn’t even need to listen to the jeers or press conference statements.  I didn’t go on the blogosphere and read my fellow surprised parents, community leaders, passionate passerby’s, and CPS bashers rip to shreds the proposal.  I didn’t do that.  I stopped when I saw that my son’s school was on the list.  I stopped when a school that is worthy of the praise of CPS, and, transversely, for which CPS should be praised appeared.  Astonished is putting it mildly.

I’m going to be perfectly honest.  I can’t, nay, won’t complain about those school’s closing due to academic deficiencies, high rate of violence, high drop – out rates, sorely low attendance, etc.  I wouldn’t be able to fault you a ton for legitimately looking at schools that meet these criteria and deciding that closure is the best remedy.  I also can’t fault you for looking at the schools that meet the criteria and understanding that it, in fact, isn’t cheaper to keep her.  There is a point where these schools can become bad investments, and it would take more money infusion, but return, what by many standards would be, a less than desirable result.  I get it.  I understand it.  Here’s where I do start to complain.  I start to complain when you’ve finally found a model that works; where you finally figured out an academic system and method of delivery that has produced the results you’ve longed for years; where you’ve taken a location that was ill performing, closed it down, revitalized it, re-branded it, and reopened it.  I complain even further when this school that you’ve taken the time to turn around actually Turns Around.  I really complain when you take this school and put it on a pedestal nationally; showcasing it as a shining example that a little bit of elbow grease and good ‘ole fashioned ingenuity can make a difference in public education.  I get absolutely LIVID when I see this “example” thrown by the wayside and disbanded for no apparent reason.

Now I know that my son’s school is not on the “Closure” list.  I believe that the plan for them is called “Co-location”.  I think they chose the term “Co-location” simply because it sounds nothing like “Closing”.  It sounds better.  The way the Co-location is set up, they will be moved and placed on a floor of another academically similar institution (a school a few miles away.)  They will split the administrative offices, share library, gymnasium, cafeteria, computer lab, entrances, bathrooms, athletic equipment, custodial staff, cafeteria staff, etc.  The welcoming school from what I hear is a fine school.  They too are running the same academic system and delivery as the cellists’.  If you’re still scratching your head as to the problem, I’ll break it down with this scenario.  CPS’s proposal is to move an entire student population from their facility and place them on “1”, single floor of a facility that is built for 1 occupant.  Now keep in mind, both schools use the same teaching model and are both governed by the same administrative and academic program.  Both schools use the same types of materials, equipment, have the same school year.  So I’m a parent new to the neighborhood.  I go to the welcoming school to register my children.  I walk into the building and, to my surprise, there are two separate options; my son’s current school and the welcoming school.  I ask questions to make an informed decision.  I find out in all of my asking, that essentially they are the same school.  There isn’t really a difference.  I also find out that my son’s school has no identity at this location.  They have no footprint.  They’ve never been in this neighborhood.  I find out that they only have 1 floor, and that CPS made the decision to close their facility (after all… that’s how they ended up here at the welcoming school).  After the Q and A session.  I’ve made my choice.  Why would I pick the school that was moved into this building?  I’m wondering as I fill out the paperwork, why the school is even open.  Why would CPS put two of the same thing in the same building and then separate them?  I’m also wondering why CPS would allow this other school to occupy the current schools’ space.  The welcoming school was doing fine without these extra headaches, and now they have less access to their gym, cafe, library, etc.  Again… given this scenario, why would I choose the new school?  You’re providing me 1 option with 2 separate names.

Co-location for me is tantamount to Closing.  It’s just more inhumane.  They’ll let this school die slowly.  CPS will let this once bright light fizzle out slowly.  The school that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel all chose as the future of CPS.  The school that they used as the backdrop to Arne Duncan’s nomination.  The school that was an endorsement of his capability in the field of education.  A school that they were proud to put in front of the media; of whose students they were happy to take pictures with; of whose student’s they praised.  This school has done a tremendous work since its reopening in 2003.  My son was in the 1st preschool class since the reopening.  He was one of the children in the 2008 photos.  He will be an 8th grader next school year.  He represents the tremendous work that our current school has put forth.  His graduation will signal the first generation of our current school’s success stories from start to finish.  Here we are discussing this school’s possible closing, and ignoring the fruits of your labor.  You have a jewel in our school and our building, and to even consider moving it from its location and giving up on the model and location that has brought nothing but praise, great test scores, fantastic national averages, and (if you allow it to continue to work) a 1st generation AUSL class from start to finish.  These children deserve for CPS to not give up on them.  These teachers, administrators, parents, and volunteers deserve to have their work speak for itself.  if they continue to produce at a high level, then how can you justify killing it?  Our children have worked too hard.  My son has worked too hard.  My wife has worked too hard.  Frankly, CPS has worked too hard to build this program into the juggernaut it has become academically only to diminish it to 1 floor, limited amenities, and eventually a slow and painful death.  My son deserves better than that.  I’m sure when you consider this school individually and not as a number on a spreadsheet, you’ll realize this as well.


  1. Heather H. says:

    I wish more parents would be livid when things like this happen. We need parents to become engaged and involved. That wouldn’t stop schools closing but it could help close the achievement gap.

  2. Janeane Davis says:

    I live in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa. We are not experiencing school closures and co-locations, but the Philadelphia schools are. I understand your frustration and hope things get better. As a nation, we must learn to prioritize education with our time, energy and dollars.

    • Natasha Nicholes says:

      Janeane, it’s such a sad state of affairs. I wish that we didn’t have to fight for great atmosphere’s for education, or against stuffing a bunch of kids into a room to test them, but alas, we do. I hate it.

  3. arelis cintron says:

    Well said Mr. Houseful. My children are not even born yet and I struggle with where I will send them to school. I live in Bridgeport CT and I grew up in Public Schools up until I went to college. There are programs that work that create results and yet these always seem to be the ones that close. If we applied these programs to all the schools and not just a small program within a school, and every child did better does that not bring in more funding? Perhaps I’m speaking on matters I know nothing about but we have to stop thinking small picture and think on a larger scale if we’re to give our children a fighting chance! However I do think that the answer lies in how ALL parents react and not just some. If we all joined forces to be heard perhaps that will start the change we need to see in our public schools!

    • Mr. Nicholes says:

      I think you’re absolutely right. Our son’s school has been the model/flagship for this new and improved model. This makes it even more puzzling. You know it works. You’ve adopted the model for these other schools. So why break it? Thanks for replying.

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