Senn 5-year plan in spotlight

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • March 10, 2008 @ 2:30 PM

A community forum will be held at Senn High School tonight to unveil a five-year plan for the school developed by the Senn Strategic Planning Committee over the last 15 months.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the school,  5900 N. Glenwood.

The planning committee includes teachers, students, parents and Edgewater community members. Senn's future has created a controversy on the city's North Side for some time. There was a proposal in 2005 to close it. The Rickover Naval Academy now occupies a portion of Senn. Opponents of a plan that would break Senn into four smaller schools blame Alderman Mary Ann Smith.

A website, www.savesenn.org, has been created. A candlelight rally was held on Senn's front lawn in December.

The Senn Local School Council was involved in creating the strategic plan, as were people involved in savesenn.org.

"The Senn community has begun an important planning process which will help the school become one of the finest high schools in Chicago, and the school of choice for area students," says State Rep. Harry Osterman, who serves on the committee.

Senn is known for its international presence; Senn supporters say the school has students from 60 countries speaking 45 languages.

But Senn's students have fared poorly on standardized tests.

In 2007, 13. Percent of Senn students met or exceeded state standards, down from 25.5 percent in 2005. The Chicago Public Schools average is 30 percent. More than 1,400 students attend Senn, with 93 percent of them classified as low income.

The plan to be revealed tonight is expected to address academic achievement issues and also keep it as one general-education school. It has received the preliminary backing of the Senn local school council and members of savesenn.org, said group member Brian Roa.

Smith's plan, presented to the Board of Education in December, is much different. That plan would retain the Naval Academy, and add a selective-enrollment program, a vocational school and a college-prep language arts academy.

Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.

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