Charter School Pulls Out of Lincoln Square Location

A representative from Concept Schools, who was looking to build a charter school on Balmoral Avenue, told Patch the company will be looking elsewhere for expansion.

A charter school company has pulled out of a possible Lincoln Square location after residents protested the school at a neighborhood meeting.

A Concept Schools representative said community resistance and poor timing led officials to withdraw their request for the charter school’s location. The charter school management company applied for a zoning change at 2050 W. Balmoral Ave. with Ward 40 Ald. Patrick O’Connor earlier in March.

Residents and members of the Chicago Teachers Union objected the proposal at a Bowmanville Community Organization meeting March 21. A 70-person crowd convened outside of the North Community Bank on Western Avenue, and BCO representatives had to limit the number of residents inside the bank due to fire code restrictions.

The meeting was the same night CPS announced nearby Trumbull Elementary School was on a list of 54 schools to close in the fall of 2013, when the proposed charter school would open. 

“It was probably the worst timing for us to be there that night,” Concept Schools Vice President Salim Ucan told Patch. “We kind of expected that. Alderman O’Connor had given us a head’s up on what the issues might be, so we knew going in that we may face some challenges."

Ucan said he understood the community’s perspective on the new charter school because of its close proximity to Trumbull.

“It doesn’t make sense to shut down the facility and have an empty building and build another facility two blocks from it,” he said. 

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Still, he wishes the Balmoral location had come to fruition. Concept Schools is looking to open two new schools by the fall of 2013. The company’s first Chicago school—Chicago Math and Science Academy—is located in Rogers Park. The second is now in the rezoning process and set for McKinley Park.

Ucan said with more time, he believed residents would have supported the school.

“If we were planning on opening this school in 2014, we would have overcome that challenge because we would have reached out to the community, organized tours to (Chicago Math and Science Academy) and bring our parents and students from here… to inform people what a great asset it would be,” he said.

With the Lincoln Square location falling through, Ucan said the company is looking at two other possible locations. He declined to disclose where until a final proposal is solidified.

Both locations are in the city and one doesn’t require a zoning change, which from a timing perspective, is ideal for a fall 2013 opening.

“The communities that we have found, they don’t deal with school closing issues, or even if they do, they’re not as close as the Balmoral location,” he said.

If finalized, the school would be the first in the city unapproved by Chicago Public Schools.

Before 2011, the school district was the only authorizing body that could approve or deny charter schools. If CPS denied a request, no appeal process existed.

That year, the Illinois state legislature created an independent state charter school commission to hear appeals. The governor appointed the nine-member committee, who overturned CPS’s denial of the charter school.

The school will essentially act as its own district, Ucan said, and receive per-student funding from the state.

In the future, he said the company is looking to build more schools in the city, and possibly return to the Lincoln Square community. 

Read more: 

  • Charter School Company Applies for Lincoln Square Location
Tim Furman April 12, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Great, a privately run school district with no democratic oversight whatsoever. Run by someone who's keeping his next attempt at a location a secret. Maybe if he times it right, he'll miss the news cycle entirely, and then he can have his taxpayer funded private unsupervised school district inserted just exactly where people haven't had time to weigh in on the issue. Public schooling needs to be transparent. Plans need to be public and available for comment. People applying for charters need to be honest about their intentions and their affiliations. We seriously need to get rid of this state charter authority. Elected by nobody, they have complete autocratic authority to establish privately run, publicly funded rogue enterprises that eat away at public school districts. When you combine that with 10% of the faculty coming in on work visas, God only knows what is really happening. Certainly ISBE doesn't know.
Katie Osgood April 13, 2013 at 01:49 PM
I promise you, we will show up again the next time they try to open a school, and the next, and the next. Chicago does not want ANY new charters, especially questionable charters that run chaotic schools and have controversial ties to a Turkish cult (see Gulen charter schools: http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/p/gulen-school-characteristics.html ) This was not about closing Trumbull, although we will protest that move as well. Just like Tim said, taxpayers are waking up to the reality of unaccountable, profiteering that the charter school movement represents. Let's focus on giving EVERY child a fully-funded neighborhood school complete with music, arts, and world language.
Jan April 13, 2013 at 02:37 PM
There are other taxpayers in Lincoln Square that could benefit from a good Charter school as a viable alternative to a low performing high school and having to pay for private education. If this school offers that and the market says it can then why are we allowing a few very vocal group shut it down It would be interesting to see how many of the attendees actually were members of the community and how many just want to keep the status quo.
Katie Osgood April 13, 2013 at 02:51 PM
I work with students from charter schools through my job as a teacher on an inpatient child/adolescent unit at a psychiatric hospital in the city. I want to be very clear about this: Charter schools are not a viable alternative. Almost all charters cut costs by hiring teachers with less experience/no certification, practice harsh discipline which serves only to push out the neediest students, and use a prescriptive test-prep curriculum instead of relevant, well-rounded curriculum. Many charters use taxpayers funds to pay their CEOs and other top administrators handsomely (many Chicago charters pay their top officials MORE than the Mayor to run a handful of schools) while students still sit in large classes with poorly-prepared novice teachers. Also, as with the case of UNO, we are seeing more and more scandals break out where charters are paying friends and relatives no-bid contracts.
Katie Osgood April 13, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Also, I have actually been to this particular charter chain, Concept schools. I once applied for a special education job at their CMSA campus, and was appalled by what I saw--no case managers to manage special ed caseloads, chaotic environments, frazzled teachers. Then I learned that Gulen schools often use charter law to hire Turkish teachers and thereby assuring them visas. It was literally a scam to get friends/relatives into the country. The status quo of privatization and profiteering is what we must fight! And demand quality, accountable, democratic, &equitable schools for all children.
Gulen Charters Schools April 13, 2013 at 07:25 PM
You read my mind Jan. Yes, you are not the only taxpayers. Look at the success stories publish in their official web blog. http://www.conceptschools.info/the-success/ The Concept Schools offers employment opportunities for the thousands of local teachers. Isn't that enough?
Cindy Henkin April 13, 2013 at 07:40 PM
The attendees at the meeting were members of the community -- there were more people who wanted to attend than space allowed and community members were given priority entrance. I know because I'm a community member and I was there. A Concept Charter school would not be a viable alternative. The Chicago school Concept currently runs, CMSA, isn't so great: According to Illinois Interactive Report Card 2012, CMSA is on Academic Watch Status, having failed to have made AYP for the last two years. According to charterscale.com, CMSA for 2011--2012 had average ACT score of 18.2; a score of 21.3 is considered the minimum to be college-ready. I don't want my tax dollars used to fund a school that isn't accountable. Like many charter schools, Concept schools send 10-12% of their income to their umbrella company. That money could be used at any of their schools, public or private, worldwide -- or not for school at all. Concept got fined more than $10,000 a by the state of Ohio for using their publicly funded tax "education" money for buying visas for Turkish immigrants to come teach at their schools. And that's just what we know about. There is no love for the status quo, but Concept Schools are a big step down, not up. http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/exclusive-5-on-your-side-investigation-uncovers-federal-probe-into-ohio-charter-schools http://gulencharterschools.weebly.com/concept-schools-now-a-multinational-school-management-corporation.html
Cindy Henkin April 13, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Nope, Gulen Schools, not enough. There's that pesky issue of transparency. For example, in Concept's meeting with the community, Salim Ucan, VP of Concept Schools, stated CMSA had a student waitlist of a thousand kids even though CMSA's website posts a waitlist (following April 2012's lottery) of forty-five students. I wonder if Concept similarly overestimates the employment opportunties it offers local teachers. And it's great to see Gulen Charters Schools align themselves with Concept Schools. Does Salim Ucan know of your support? At our meeting Mr. Ucan flatly denied that Concept Schools had any connection to the Gulen movement, a Turkish political movement that many of us find very disturbing. A simple Google search will lead anyone interested to find out more about them. Seeing Gulen Charter School's support here from out of the blue is not a coincidence. I'll print and save this conversation for the next time Mr. Ucan says he has nothing to do with Gulen.
MarkMunoz April 13, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Enjoy the usual fodder - Spring break CMSA / Concept Schools takes 42 students and parents to enjoy Turkey. The usual sites are visited: Gulen's Zaman, Capadocia, St. Hagia Sofia (church converted to a mosque) and many other Ottoman relics the movement is proud of. Soon they will have all their janissaries train and turkified for the neo Ottoman Empire that Gulen dreams about. http://www.cmsaonline.net/?p=5660
MarkMunoz April 13, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Kudos to you Katie, look to the citizens of Loudoun County, Virginia and Lancaster, PA, they too fought off this controversial group. They are finding that Americans cannot be lied to and all those free trips to Turkey, honors and awards bestowed on local politicians, academia and media are not working with THE PEOPLE. Salim et al had to pay back over $13,000 to the state of Ohio for using taxpayers money to pay for h1-b visas of unqualified and uncredentialed employees as he stated in an interview "We tried to find qualified math and science teachers in America and couldn't find them" read here under "See Salim Squirm" and enjoy the news interview video http://www.charterschoolwatchdog.com
MarkMunoz April 13, 2013 at 10:03 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks2_qlNZMN0 Jan, it's so nice to play devil's advocate, but in the scheme of things, it is long proven that when a charter school opens in a local community operated by known members of the Gulen Movement, they general hire only people and businesses from their cult. Janitorial, catering, tutors, contractors, etc., all are members of the Gulen Movement and they and ONLY they get the contracts. They then must Tuzuk part of their salary back to the movement. Usually to the multitude of non-profit insitutes or foundations layered around each school, in Illinois they have the Niagara Foundation, Gulen Institute, Turkish Cultural Center just to name a few. Not only that. MAny of the teachers on salary at their charter school also teach at the private Turkish school so many speculate that American tax dollars are used to support their private schools.
MarkMunoz April 13, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Katie; As a whole the Gulen Movement would rathr cream out the Special Needs students, they are a problem for them. The Gulencis want their schools to appear as award winning, 100% college acceptance, etc., the Speical Needs students have long been discriminated against at their charter schools. At the Minnesota School of Science, in September 2012, they informed 42 parents of special needs students to not bother returning. At their Harmony Science Academy in Texas, they mismanaged $118,000 intended for special needs students. Instead it ended up in the regular payroll system. That would be a good question to ask Salim et al, is for a SPECIFIC course of action for Special Needs Students and demand a % of the student body to have special needs. Sooner or later Concept Schools will have to respect and honor special needs students.
MarkMunoz April 13, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Here is Salim from Concept Schools in a Channel 10 News Report out of Ohio regarding the federal investigation and hiring practices of foreign workers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ATNlSGXr5s
MarkMunoz April 13, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Watch Salim at 2:22 talking about why he cannot find qualified Americans, This news cast also addresses the fraud of American Stimulus Money by Concept Schools to the tune of over $27 million. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y3ibHUoTsQ If Chicago or Illinois continues to allow this fraud in their schools, they have their own stupidity to blame. THey have been warned many times about the Concept Schools, Salim Ucan et al.
Melanie Bienemann April 18, 2013 at 11:22 AM
Yes, I believe charter schools have not proven better. If you compare them with CPS lottery schools there is no difference. They simply skim the best students off the top. And refuse to take children with IEPs and special education children. How can they take tax payer dollars and discriminate? Unfair. And their teachers are not certified, they don't even require them to have a teaching degree. Melanie Bienemann Chicago


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