Urban Prep could lose the charter contract for the third campus in Chicago – Chalkbeat Chicago | Team Cansler

A third Urban Prep campus faces an uncertain future amid allegations of financial mismanagement and sexual misconduct at the charter school.

The Illinois Board of Education is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether or not to revoke Urban Prep’s west campus charter. If approved, Urban Prep will no longer be able to operate as a public charter school beginning at the end of the 2022-23 school year.

The move comes after the Chicago Board of Education voted in October to end its charter deal with Urban Prep to operate two more campuses in Bronzeville and Englewood after the district board of trustees upheld allegations of misconduct against the charter network’s founder would have.

The state has had oversight of Urban Prep’s west campus since 2019 after the Chicago Board of Education voted to revoke the organization’s charter for the west campus, citing concerns about financial mismanagement and dwindling enrollment.

The school board allowed two other urban prep schools in Bronzeville and Englewood to continue operating under their supervision until last month. At this point, the Board of Directors rescinded Urban Prep’s charter and initiated a plan to take over the schools.

Once regarded as a darling of the charter school movement for its success in graduating black boys, Urban Prep’s stunning downfall comes after an investigation conducted by the district board of supervisors this summer backed claims that Urban’s founder Prep, Tim King, had an inappropriate relationship with a student during his time at the school and in subsequent years that the student was employed by the charter network. King resigned in June but strongly denies the allegations.

The current Urban Prep leadership sent a letter to Gov. JB Pritzker on Nov. 4, urging him to step in and stop the Chicago School Board’s actions.

Dennis Lacewell, chief academic officer, and Troy Boyd, Jr., chief operating officer, wrote that the Chicago Public Schools’ actions are “an attempt to replace our success with operating the district’s only charter schools, those run by black men.” be founded, directed and focused on educational outcomes by black men with a quasi-district school program that does not serve our community.”

“If justice is a priority in Chicago and Illinois, where we want positive outcomes for our young, intelligent, black and beautiful men, then the future existence and independence of Urban Prep Academies must be preserved,” they wrote.

Both Lacewell and Boyd were questioned during the watchdog investigation. The report states that Boyd confirmed he traveled to Las Vegas with King and the student after the student graduated. Lacewell is mentioned as the director of one of Urban Prep’s campuses during some of the alleged interactions. The report said Lacewell said it was “not uncommon for King to provide financial assistance to alumni, even if they weren’t employed by Urban Prep.”

How a successful charter school stumbled

Urban Prep opened its first campus in 2006 before expanding to two more campuses. The Charter School received national recognition for ensuring that each of its graduates was admitted to college.

Urban Prep founder King was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 2009, named Chicago Magazine’s 2010 Chicagoan of the Year, and spoke about the shift in narrative about black boys at SXSW in 2016.

Former mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the schools’ success during his tenure as mayor between 2011 and 2019, and local media frequently reported on the day Urban Prep’s college signed.

But in 2018, the network’s west campus was placed on an “academic watch list” and subsequently recommended for closure. The school board revoked the charter for Urban Prep’s west campus, also citing concerns about financial mismanagement and low enrollment.

Urban Prep appealed to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which overturned the Chicago Public Schools’ decision to close the west campus in March 2019.

Commissioner Bill Farmer said at the time that the school was “not designed for success.

“We may just be delaying a school closure because they won’t be able to turn the tide that is needed,” Farmer said.

The Illinois State Charter School Commission was dissolved by the state legislature in August 2019 and responsibility for hearing charter school appeals returned to the Illinois State Board of Education.

With two campuses under the supervision of the Chicago School Board and one state-authorized campus, Urban Prep continued the education of nearly 400 Chicago teenagers, most of them black boys. In 2021, teachers at the two CPS-authorized campuses went on strike for two days in early June as the school year drew to a close.

Then, this summer, WBEZ announced King’s resignation after an investigation by the Chicago Public Schools Inspector General substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct and problems with financial mismanagement.

The report alleged that King groomed and sexually touched an underage student while he was enrolled. The report says the relationship continued after the student graduated, with the two taking trips to Vegas, Ibiza, London and Los Angeles, and King paying the student’s rent and co-signing leases on several apartments in Chicago. The student also continued to work at Urban Prep and continued to receive paychecks and benefits even after he left working there in 2018, the report said.

At the Chicago School Board meeting in October, Urban Prep principals, students and staff lobbied for the board not to revoke the license, but members remained unperturbed.

“It’s an outrageous report and it should upset everyone,” board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland said in October, referring to the findings of the King investigation. “It is embarrassing to me that the Urban Prep Board had this information and didn’t act quickly.”

During the meeting, district leaders recognized Urban Prep’s strong academic performance for black boys. However, they also found that the schools were not providing federally mandated services for students with disabilities and documents indicated that there were not enough licensed educators at the school.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said the district believes in keeping the two campuses open. Urban Prep Bronzeville enrolled 222 students this fall and the Englewood location enrolled 161 students. Martinez said the district also expects to retain current school staff.

“We want to make sure quality programs continue for children in Bronzeville and Englewood — that’s imperative,” Martinez said. But he added: “We cannot compromise. We need ethical behavior and we need to make sure we protect our children.”

According to state data, 91 students were enrolled on the west campus this fall. How to proceed there is to be decided by the state board on Thursday.

Becky Vevea is Chalkbeat Chicago Office Manager. Contact Becky at bvevea@chalkbeat.org.

Mauricio Peña is a reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago covering K-12 schools. Contact Mauricio at mpena@chalkbeat.org.

Leave a Comment