The King Center Charter School’s (KCCS) quest to move to former School 71 near Schiller Park is as much about neighborhood development as it is about school relocation. In this context, the decision to relocate is an act of disinvestment, which betrays the King Center dream of turning this neighborhood, Read more »
Keep the Dream Alive!!
The King Center Charter School’s (KCCS) quest to move to former School 71 near Schiller Park is as much about neighborhood development as it is about school relocation. In this context, the decision to relocate is an act of disinvestment, which betrays the King Center dream of turning this neighborhood, located to the immediate South of MLK Park, into a great place to live and raise a family.
Schools anchor neighborhoods, cultivate community identity and increase return on public investment. This was the vision of Bob Kresse and others who raised millions to save St. Mary of Sorrows from demolition in 1986. Their dream was informed by a belief that you cannot have strong schools without strong neighborhoods and you cannot have strong neighborhoods without strong schools. Therefore, school reform and neighborhood development should proceed in tandem in this community.
This axiom is true even in cities like Buffalo where students often live in one neighborhood and go to school in another. The reason is while East Side neighborhoods differ, conditions in them are similar, thereby making school-centered neighborhood revitalization critical to the community regeneration process.
The KULC dream, therefore, was to save the church and neighborhood in which it was located. KULC connected its revitalization efforts to the larger quest of regenerating of the greater MLK Park community by joining the “Better Schools, Better Neighborhoods” collaborative. The King Center is the engine driving the redevelopment of its neighborhood, which is anchored by school reform. It has transformed the block between Rich and Guilford, purchased properties, and assisted with the demolition of derelict neighborhood properties.
Yet, Dr. Keith Frome, the KCCS Director, says “the move [relocation] is a logical outgrowth of our school’s and students’ success.” The Buffalo experience rebuts this statement. Elmwood Franklin, Frome’s last school, has remained in its neighborhood and expanded in place. He serves on the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, which has repeatedly expanded on its present site. There are many examples of other Buffalo schools following suit.
The KULC understands KCCS’s desire to expand, and has repeatedly offered to finance the school’s expansion on its current site, enabling the school to focus on education rather than brick and mortar issues.
This move is a bad education decision. Schools, including Charters, should be institutional anchors engaged in the neighborhood development process. By showing the students how to use the lessons learned in the classroom to make the neighborhood in which the school is located a better place, the children are taught a powerful lesson about the role of education in contemporary society. This will bolster their self-esteem and encourage them to stay in school. On the other hand, the disinvestment strategy teaches the children to “escape” their neighborhoods rather than change them.
For all these reasons, the King Center Charter school should expand on its existing site.