Bucktown’s Pulaski School Tries To Change

Posted on October 6th, 2009 in Wicker Park & Bucktown.

After hearing the heated discussion of the Friday meeting Sept 21st on NPR/WBEZ I tuned into the Pulaski school conversation. Pulaski school… being just blocks away from the wonderful pool at Holstein Park sits in the Northwestern pocket of Bucktown just east of Western. The el is walkable from here. There are a dozen or so single family homes in the +1 Mil range at the market at any time… and plentiful options of two flats and single families in the $400 to $800k range. So for a family who wants to stay close to the loop, and the el… and have a park nearby and the retail of Damen ave and all the Wicker Park energy nearby this is a good option. Checking out the Pulaski school could be the beginning of that commitment to a n’hood. The International Bach. program (IB) is a great curriculum that is recognized internationally. This effort to change over to IB- if it gets going-could create a new school with energy and challenge.

I pulled this from a CPS blog… to forward the conversation.

District299: The Chicago Schools Blog
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Monday, August 10, 2009
What’s Going On At Bucktown’s Pulaski Elementary?  

There’s another gentrification battle brewing, this time over Bucktown’s Pulaski Elementary.  I don’t know all the details, but it sounds like the long-discussed plans to bring in an IB program to replace the fine arts program — a change supported by the neighborhood association, the principal and the the LSC have suddenly morphed into something with a lot more sharp edges for the kids, teaachers, and administrators at the school.
Unlike many schools that falter once neighborhood demographics change and special funding is removed, Pulaski has maintained a strong enrollment (800+) and increased its academic achievement over the past few years.  But it hasn’t attracted new families, who want something with more enrichment and rigor for their kids.   Just 16 percent of Pulaski kids come from the neighborhood.
So bringing in a new program like IB makes sense, and phasing it in over time seems reasonable as well.  Rename the school too if that helps — Bucktown Academy?
What doesn’t obviously make sense is making the new program separate from the old school, with its own budget and administration — essential two schools operating in the same building at the same time.  That seems expensive and unnecessary, given that teachers and administrators can always change via hiring and LSC contract renewal.  And it seems unfortunately simililar to what CPS does to low-performing schools, which Pulaski isn’t.
So too does not allowing younger siblings to go to the same schools if they want to during the transition.  You can be sure that siblings will be strongly considered within the IB program, so why not between the new IB program and the old neighborhood program?  Seems stingy to me.
I wish that the new parents and neighborhood folks had gotten themselves represented on the LSC and done this internally, working with Principal Karl or replacing her if they thought she was resistant to change.  Maybe they tried — I don’t know.  But here as in Ravenswood that always seems to be a problem — change-minded families try to do the work from outside the school, and end up with something more conflicted and controversial than necessary.
I haven’t seen anything on paper, or talked to the folks at CPS or the Bucktown Community Organization folks who are apparently pushing this proposal along.  There was a community meeting last Tuesday, the 4th, and there’s apparently a hearing at the Board a week from Friday, the 21st.  The principal and the LSC are opposed to having two schools at Pulaski, as is (I’m told) the AIO, Jim Cosme.
Most of the time, things like this are done deals.  Pulaski has no connected parents or friends to reach out to, and its scores and enrollment may not be good enough for CPS to tell white-collar parents to suck it up and give the school a try.  But once in a while, schools wriggle free from these kinds of things, and here at least there seems like there’s the possibility of preserving the strengths of the existing school community while bringing in new offerings and young families.
What do you think?  What do you know?  Write in and let us know.