Chicago will not name a high school after President Obama, as previously announced.
Two sources confirmed to The Daily News that the Chicago Board of Education has quietly decided to not go ahead with plans for the name of a new so-called selective enrollment public high school on the city’s predominantly white North Side.
The board has a policy that does not allow schools to be named after those who are still living. It will cite that stricture as reason for the about-face.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier this year said, “The president considers this a shovel-ready project,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I’m not gonna put words in his mouth,” the president’s former chief of staff said at the time. “But, he knows about it and he’s excited about it. That’s all I can say.”
That excitement might have been limited. The White House did not comment at the time on the announcement regarding Chicago’s most famous citizen, who still owns a home in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the city’s South Side.
It is believed that some African-American leaders in the city privately voiced qualms about the notion to City Hall, according to one source.
There were other questions raised about the school, having nothing to do with the name. In particular, there is the location of what will be the latest in a string of mostly very successful schools for which admissions are highly competitive.
It’s to be built in a North Side neighborhood that’s very close to another such school, named after Walter Payton, the late Chicago Bears football star, and with good access to public transportation.
Walter Payton College Prep is one of the state’s highest performing public high schools. But some parents hoped to have a new selective enrollment school placed somewhere on the predominantly African American South Side, while others argued that the $60 million slated for the new top-tier school should instead go to financially pressed schools in poor neighborhoods.
If the naming switch was a miscue, it would be a small bobble, given the enormity of education challenges Emanuel inherited with an urban school system beset by spotty performance, falling enrollment and a giant budget deficit.
His education record so far is notable. It includes lengthening one of America’s shortest school days and years; a week-long teachers strike; intrepidly closing 50 schools amid huge budget deficits; expanding several of the ten selective enrollment schools; and plans to air condition the many very old school buildings without any in coming years.
But it will not include a Barack Obama High.