Does Chicago need another private high school?

I have worked in the public school system in Chicago for twenty years. My life has been steeped in the educational needs of the adolescent for so long that I find myself bemused when my friends who aren't teachers talk about the boring meetings at their jobs where adults talk about adult things in adult ways. I realize that I have adapted to a work life that has very few adult interactions; instead I am surrounded by the boundless extremes of the teenager whose intensity at one moment can shift to sullenness with the slightest provocation. I am constantly amazed by their abilities to be so earnest and so guarded all at once. Extremes. Polarities. That is my work world. 

It's a world I am fully invested in and hold dear. I wear my red union shirt on Fridays and am proud of the strength in that organization. I am a vocal defender of public schooling and will gladly debate both its shortcomings and its successes. I strive to bring my best to my classes given the astounding inequity in facilities and resources in Chicagos public schools. 

It's not surprising then that I find my efforts in building a private high school to be in opposition to my feelings about the public school system I work in. Don't we have enough good public high schools to choose from in Chicago? Isn't the private school system just another way of undermining public schools and exacerbating the inequity in schooling? And what about my own children? Will I send them to a private school on my public school salary? Am I sending the message that public high schools are not good enough for my children but will do just fine for others? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. They sow seeds of doubt into what I have chosen to do. 

So what now? I breathe. slowly and deeply for a good while. Then I revisit the questions. I hold them up to the light together, let them bump up against each other, and decide to live with that tension between the two efforts.

Liz Winfield