Urban Prep Update and Request to Act
View as Webpage April 18, 2023
Greetings!

Please see the following full update on Urban Prep, provided by Dennis Lacewell, Chief Academic Officer.

COAL strongly recommends the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approve charters for Urban Prep Bronzeville and Englewood Campuses, and we ask our readership to participate in the Wednesday, April 19th ISBE Board Meeting, should their schedules permit.

If you have not already done so, please sign the petition to keep Urban Prep open.

Respectfully,

COAL Board of Directors
_____________________________________________
"The time to work seriously and collectively, to improve the state of our Community, is upon us..."
Let Us be intentional in all aspects of the Work that must be done.
Good Evening Urban Prep Stakeholders,
 
I am writing to give you an update on Urban Prep’s appeals to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and to ask for your continued help in the fight to keep open the nation's only public charter high school for Black boys that is operated and managed by a Black organization. 
 
As you know, Urban Prep opened its first school in 2006 as the first charter public high school for boys in the country. Urban Prep remains the only public boys-school in Illinois and the only charter school network founded and operated by Black men. In addition to consistently achieving 100% college acceptance for our graduates (14 consecutive years), Urban Prep has also been incredibly successful in outperforming local and national metrics related to college enrollment, persistence, and completion for Black males. In fact, Urban Prep earned a “Commendable” rating from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). No Charter school in Chicago received a higher rating. Even the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) leadership admits that there is no other school or program like Urban Prep within CPS to help Black boys and young men as well as Urban Prep. One CPS executive even stated that Urban Prep should not close. 
 
This begs the question, why would the Chicago Board of Education vote to close Urban Prep given its unimpeachable outcomes for its students and unique educational program? This is a “power grab” pure and simple that CPS is justifying based on malicious lies, unfounded allegations, and a blatant disregard for facts.

The district accepted the outlandish claim of sexual misconduct from a 29-year old alumnus against Urban Prep’s founder that allegedly occurred thirteen years ago. To date, there have been FOUR investigations into this matter (including two from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services—the state agency responsible for these types of investigations) and only CPS’s own flawed and biased internal investigation indicated there was wrongdoing. In other words, three independent investigative teams found that the allegations of sexual misconduct were unsubstantiated. In fact, the most recent independent investigation (completed this month) found that conclusions drawn in the CPS report were factually wrong and contrary to evidence. Additionally, the person who made the allegations has not only refused to provide a sworn/signed statement asserting the allegations, but he has also stopped cooperating with CPS and indicated that he fabricated the allegations. 

Another stunning disregard for facts is CPS’ claim that Urban Prep has poor operational and financial practices. Since its founding, Urban Prep has had clean audits and, for the past three years, had budget surpluses and cash reserves greater than required. In fact, since 2021, Urban Prep has met or exceeded standards on CPS’s own financial scoring system. How can CPS, in one breath, say that Urban Prep is serving its students better than any other school, and in another, say that its operations are inadequate? The only way any school achieves what Urban Prep has achieved is because of their operations, not despite them. 

While we were originally perplexed as to why CPS would take such action against a network of schools that has been successfully educating Black boys, it has recently become crystal clear: they want to take over Urban Prep. CPS has so woefully underserved Black boys, that they now want to attempt to correct their past lack of concern by appropriating a model that we have spent close to twenty years evolving. They have tried to simultaneously smear Urban Prep’s name while simultaneously attempting to co-opt its structure and program. During Spring Break, while we were away from the building, they were busy inspecting the buildings with scores of people to plan upgrades and improvements that we have been asking for for years. It is disgraceful that CPS would be so blatant and obvious in their disregard for Urban Prep students, teachers, staff, families, and members of the communities our schools are located.

We will not take this lying down and we will continue to fight for our students, our families, our teachers & staff and members of the communities our schools are located. To be victorious, in keeping our legacy & schools alive, we need the support of all members of the Urban Prep community. Here are some ways you can help before the meeting this Wednesday:
1) Communicate directly with the state Superintendent of Education and SBE Board members about your support of Urban Prep. Many of these individuals are new and do not know about the seventeen-year history of Urban Prep’s impact on Illinois. It would be valuable for them to hear from you; 
Board Members:
Julianna Stratton, Illinois Deputy Governor: LtGovStratton@illinois.gov
Anne Caprara, Chief of Staff: anne.caprara@illinois.gov
Dr. Tony Sanders, State Superintendent: statesup@isbe.net
Dr. Steven Isoye, Chair, Illinois State Board of Education
Dr. Donna S. Leak, Vice Chair, Illinois State Board of Education: dleak@d168.org
Kristen Parr, Board Services, Illinois State Board of Education: kparr@isbe.net
Dr. Anna Grassellino, Member, Illinois State Board of Education
Dr. James Anderson, Member, Illinois State Board of Education
Dr. Christine Benson, Secretary, Illinois State Board of Education
Dr. Patricia Nugent, Member, Illinois State Board of Education

To email the Illinois State Board of Education Chair and other members of the Board, please visit http://isbe.net/pages/illinois-state-board-of-education-calendar.aspx
 
2) If you have not already done so, sign the petition to keep Urban Prep open (visit: https://we-b.lv/SaveUPpetition); and

3) Join the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, Chicago Faith-Based Leaders, Chicago Teachers Union, and thousands of others in spreading the word about keeping Urban Prep open (visit: https://we-b.lv/SaveUP).

4) SignUP to speak virtually during Wednesday’s ISBE Board meeting to voice your support to keep Urban Prep open.
To register to speak virtually via phone, please visit https://www.isbe.net/Pages/Illinois-State-Board-of-Education-Calendar.aspx
The ISBE Board Meeting will take place on Wednesday, from 10am to 3pm

Public Participation A. Individuals who wish to sign up for public participation may complete 1) an online form that will be available from 8:30 a.m. until the start of the meeting (10am) on April 19th, or 2) sign in on a public participation sign-in sheet that will be available at 100 N First Street, Springfield, IL from 8:30 a.m. until the start of the meeting. Participants will be able to review the guidelines and indicate if they wish to speak in person or via phone. Phone participants may dial 571-317-3112; access code is 919-127-637.
Even before this weekend's unfortunate events in downtown Chicago and at the Oakwood Beach on the Southside of Chicago, it was obviously clear that our city, state, and country should be expanding opportunities available to Black boys and young men, not limiting them by closing schools, like Urban Prep, that have specifically served Black boys well. We should all demand that the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois invest in Urban Prep as we have provided a nurturing environment, as well as verifiable evidence of positive student outcomes for Black boys in the city of Chicago for over 17 years. To not invest and #SaveUP, is to intentionally fail the most underserved population of students in our city and state, Black boys.

We thank our families for remaining committed to Urban Prep (as we have seen an in-year retention rate of over 94% for the network since the beginning of the school year). Please continue to stand and fight for us as we work to #SaveUP!
As always, we’re incredibly grateful for your continued support. We ask that you commit to at least one of the actionable items and share this with your personal networks. We promise to you that we will do everything we can to fight to ensure that Black families in our community will continue to have the right to choose an educational option that is best to meet the needs of their Black sons, nephews, and grandsons. With your support, we have every confidence that we will be successful in our efforts to do so.

WE BELIEVE!
Dennis Lacewell, Chief Academic Officer
Urban Prep Academies, 420 N. Wabash Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60611
P: 312-276-0259 ext. 1105, F: 312 -755–1050
Contact: Clarence Wood, Chairman 312.404.8269 - Craig K. Wimberly, President 773.350.9315
Email: publicpolicy@coalchicago.com
COAL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in Illinois, USA.
Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by U.S. law.