Recently, the videotaped beating of Fenger High School honor student Derrion Albert has propelled the Chicago Public High School into the national spotlight.
Today, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan returned to his old stomping grounds to meet with Fenger staff and students in an attempt to fight youth violence.
Fenger High School draws students from an area of the far south side of Chicago that encompasses the turf of three separate gangs.
During the 2006-o7 school year and in the fall of the 2007-08 school year, I spent a ton of time at Fenger. The first year was spent documenting the school and its myriad of problems. Unfortunately, due to the reporter taking a buy out, the story and the photos were never published. Because of that, I returned to Fenger later in 2007 to document the boys’ varsity basketball team.
My experience at Fenger was overwhelmingly positive. The majority of the kids at the school are good kids who are caught in the crossfire. The staff, which endures a turnover of about 50% each year, seems to be hard working and committed. The principal, Dr. William Johnson, is fabulous.
However, the problems are numerous and go much deeper than things that the school can fix.
I am rooting for Fenger and hopefully, the harsh light that is shining on them now will lead to positive change.
©2009 Chicago Tribune/ Scott Strazzante