.- Chicago Public Schools officials have invited the De La Salle Christian Brothers to open a new public middle school in the city, the Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday. It would be the first public school in Chicago, which is founded and run by a religious order but funded with tax dollars.
The Christian Brothers currently operate two campuses of San Miguel School – a Catholic middle school – in the city. The third school, however, would be within the public school system. It would be part of the city’s plan to create 100 new schools in the next six years.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan invited the Christian Brothers to open the new public school during a recent visit to San Miguel, Br. Edward Siderewicz, San Miguel’s president, told the Sun-Times.
The new public school would not be Catholic in nature. There would be no classroom crucifixes, no prayers and no mass, said Br. Siderewicz. It would simply adopt the same educational model as San Miguel – which is quite unique.
The model includes year-round classes, longer school days, mandatory after-school activities and 9-to-1 student-teacher ratios.
Students must read a book of their choice for 80 minutes each day, and former students receive after-school tutoring while in high school.
The model also requires a lot of parental involvement. Parents must attend parent-teacher conferences every three weeks. They are also asked to return to San Miguel for monthly meetings when their child moves on to high school.
In addition, many teachers live in community, with free room and board, and receive a monthly stipend.
The model seems effective and successful. Of those who attend the middle school, 87 percent complete high school, despite coming from neighborhoods with high dropout rates, Br. Siderewicz said.
The proposal is awaiting the approval of the Christian Brothers’ provincial leaders and Francis Cardinal George.