Parents urge CPS to OK new Chatham site for Concept school

SHARE Parents urge CPS to OK new Chatham site for Concept school

South Side parents gathered Tuesday to urge Chicago Public Schools officials to allow Concept Schools to open its planned Chatham charter school in a new facility.

Chantay Moore plans to send her 5-year-old to kindergarten at the school, Horizon Science Academy-Clay Evans. She burst into tears while addressing the hearing officer charged with hosting the meeting to discuss the charter school operator’s proposed new location at 9130 S. Vincennes.

“We do not have any other options in our neighborhood,” she said. Her daughter, Aniya, told the hearing officer, “I will be happy.”

But not one community member — in the crowd of about 40 mostly clad in baby blue I (heart) MY Concept T-shirts — mentioned the federal investigation into the charter school operator. They also did not mention the connection between the school’s proposed location on Vincennes and the president of the Chicago Board of Education, which was previously reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

But labor officials — Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union and Brian Harris, the president of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff — urged officials to prevent Concept from moving forward with this school. 

Related: Nearly $1 million from charters went to firms named in FBI probe Board of Ed’s David Vitale’s bank would benefit from charter deal Beleaguered Concept Charter finds new school site in Chatham Search warrants reveal details of FBI raid of Concept Schools

“This is an organization that is under investigation by the FBI currently,” Harris said. “This organization is the embodiment of the worst practices of the charter school movement. You have the corruption, you have the criminality, you have the union busting and you have the undemocratic imposition of the school on the community.”

Salim Ucan, the vice president of Concept, told the hearing officer that the South Side school’s original location wasn’t an option for this school year because construction on the property wouldn’t be finished by the first day of school. The school won initial approval from the CPS board in January, but now needs approval to change facility, he said.

Concept didn’t want to “take the easy way out” and is now renovating the Vincennes location, Ucan said.

The building in which Concept seeks to open its Chatham school next month once housed a Christian school.

But as the Sun-Times previously reported, David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, runs a bank that stands to benefit from this plan.

Vitale is chairman of Urban Partnership Bank, which has filed suit to foreclose on the Vincennes building. The owners of the building owe Vitale’s bank $2 million, court records show.

Concept’s Des Plaines headquarters was raided by the FBI in June. Concept says it will pay $210,000 to rent the property on a one-year lease.

CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey has said Vitale was not involved in the selection of the property and will recuse himself from voting on the project next week.

A court-appointed receiver would be responsible for collecting rent for the property. Any deal would have to be approved by a Cook County judge, but no court date has been set, according to Cook County court records.

Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick and Dan Mihalopoulos

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