Bowen students demand change

October 13, 2001


Dozens of Bowen High students and their parents Friday demanded Chicago
public school officials step in and restore order at the troubled Southeast
Side school.

"You're harming 900 students who will go to college not knowing anything,''
said Rosio Nazimek, a 1992 Bowen graduate.

"Have some respect for them,'' Nazimek shouted during a raucous school
protest Friday.

Bowen was one of five Chicago public high schools that received the most
severe sanctions imposed on failing schools last year. Sanctions included
removal of school administrators and an overhaul of the curriculum.

As a result, the school lost 32 veteran teachers, who opted to retire. Its
academy structure was dismantled, and a number of courses were dropped,
including a popular wood shop class. Students said the quality of education
has further deteriorated, with some basic needs unmet.

Problems with scheduling are regularly ignored, students said.

Among the most serious is that principal Fausto Lopez has been unresponsive
to requests for course changes required for seniors to graduate, said
student leader Martha Lemos, a senior.

And special education and bilingual students are enrolled in courses they
are not prepared for, Lemos said Friday at a local school council meeting
attended by about 100 students and parents.

"Many of the students in special ed and bilingual ed aren't having their
needs met,'' Lemos said. "For example, those in bilingual ed are in regular
classes, and their teachers only speak English,'' she said.

Lemos organized students after a fight to get her own schedule changed. She
requested a transfer from a Spanish class that she had taken as a junior to
a music elective she needs to graduate. Lemos eventually was moved after
spending five weeks in the wrong class. "I was misplaced, but it only got
resolved because my mother came to talk to the principal,'' Lemos said.

According to Lopez and Chief High School Development Officer Wilfredo Ortiz,
the problems at Bowen stem from changes in staff and programs that occurred
when the school was sanctioned.

Bilingual students for the first time this year were allowed to take regular
courses, a move mandated by the state for those showing enough progress,
Lopez said. In addition, students enrolled for at least three years in a
bilingual program are required to join the "general population,'' Lopez
said. Only 38 of the school's 1,000 students are eligible for bilingual
education courses, Lopez said.

Bowen, at 2710 E. 89th., is 60 percent black and 40 percent Hispanic.

Parents questioned whether Lopez, a former elementary school principal, is
the right person for the job. After intervention was imposed, Bowen saw its
reading scores drop by 3 percentage points, to 10.5 percent. Math scores
went up by just one-tenth of a point to 21.6.

Lopez said the school was in flux when he arrived in September 2000 as an

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