Hope Learning Academy Chicago closes after CTU organizes teachers

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However, this triumph would be short-lived as in March the school announced that it would be closing its doors this summer. Hope staff was given news of the closure a few weeks after they informed management of their intention to unionize with CTU — the reason, staff say, is why the school decided to close.

Instead of negotiating pay and benefits increases, the new union said it will now work on a severance package that it hopes will keep employees through the summer.

“I’ve given this company 11 years, and the minute you ask for a say, a voice, and a seat at the table, they say, ‘Forget it, shut it up,'” said Amy Coleman, an educator at Hope. This vote was our last position.”

In an email obtained by Crain’s and sent to Hope’s mentors on February 10, CEO Clint Paul congratulated the employees for their work in helping secure a renewable contract with CPS.

“I want to commend you all for your hard work and congratulate you on a job well done,” the email read. “Now that we are over that hurdle, we will once again focus our efforts on expanding into middle school.”

On March 6, the school’s staff announced their intention to form a union with the CTU.

Soon after, on March 27, Coleman said staff were notified that the school would be closing. Clearly, Coleman said, they were punishing employees for unionizing. A CPS spokesperson confirmed the closure, saying it had received notification in the “last week of March” of Hope’s “intent to close at the end of the 2022-23 school year.”

“We fully admit that this is very bad timing on our part,” said Judy Ogilvie, the school’s Head of Communications and Development. However, the closure decision was not affected at all by the formation of trade unions.

Ogilvy said that despite applying for and winning a contract renewal with CPS, the school failed to turn a profit and saw enrollment decline. She said plans to close the school had been in the works for some time.

Since its peak enrollment of 410 children in 2012, the school has experienced a downward trend. In 2020, the school enrolled only 278 students, and in 2022, which is the most recent data available, it has dropped to 220 students. During those 10 years, the school said it lost about $2.5 million in revenue.

She has unionized employees at three other programs, all in Springfield, Ogilvy added, “We have always respected our employees’ right to organize.”

“Our positive relationship with our unions is something we are very proud of,” Ogilvy said. “We have always respected our employees’ right to organize.”

The nonprofit organization that controls the school, also called Hope, began as a boarding school for children with multiple disabilities in Springfield in 1957 and now operates in six states. The school said its Chicago location is the only program where it offers general education services — kindergarten through fifth grade — in addition to special education services. Hope Chicago is its only location in Chicago.

Hope’s Chicago Academy is under contract with CPS and is subject to its rules and regulations. While both contract and charter schools are operated by third parties, often non-profit organizations, charter schools are Cincinnati Public Schools.

“Hope Chicago had dedicated teachers who knew they were paid 20% less than their peers who would drive through 60 to 70 schools just to get to work because we were so dedicated and passionate about the students,” Coleman said.