School Leader Spotlight
Founding Principal (2013 – present)
Richard T. Crane Medical Prep High School
Core Value Focus: Leadership
What was the situation?
When preparing to open Chicago Collegiate Charter School the founding staff was aware of the fact that students would be entering their school below grade level. We weren’t expecting student performance to be as low as it was. To provide some context here, 10% of fourth graders the first year opening were NON-READERS. Students that were nine and ten years old didn’t know all the letters in the alphabet. On average, students entering fourth grade at the school were reading on a first or second grade level.
What was the situation when you became founding principal of RTC Prep?
When accepting the role of founding principal at the new RTC Medical Prep, I was tasked with reviving a school many on the city of Chicago thought was dying. The school was in desperate need of revival regarding every aspect: student population and attendance; curriculum and instruction; academic expectations and rigor; student academic performance; community outreach; school culture, mission, and vision.
What were you tasked with?
I was tasked with the resuscitation of a school the community very much wanted to survive. I can recall people picketing outside the school with signs that said “Save Crane!” I knew it would be challenging to rebuild a school from the ground up. It was a very complex process because I was founding a new school inside a building that still housed the former Crane principal, staff, and students. This building was also the location of another institution of learning known formerly known as Chicago Talent Development Charter High School. I knew that in order for this school to succeed we had to have the support of the community and surrounding organizations in order to effectively re-brand and open the re-open the school.
What were your actions?
When rebuilding RTC Medical Prep I started this work alone because I didn’t have the capacity to hire teachers, there was no other administrative member, and there was no incoming student body. I hit the ground running by cold-calling community partners such as Michael Reese Health Trust and Rush Hospital, where I met Sharon Gates who has been extremely instrumental in the success of our partnership to this day. I can recall writing and signing letters to community leaders and other people of influence. It was truly a grassroots initiative because I was charged with influencing people to believe in the vision I had for what RTC Medical Prep could be. I literally had to sell others within the district and create buy-in to what I knew was possible.
I held info sessions for parents. I remember going to elementary schools and personally talking to their eighth graders about the opening of RTC Medical Prep. It was important to find students that wanted to attend and be successful at this new school because the historical data of student enrollment at the old Crane was three percent of applications resulted in actual day one attendance. I recall greeting families in grocery stores and connecting with as many people as possible in order to invest and grow their belief in the mission and vision of this school. The vision and mission of the school was built by the entire staff that has operated within this building for almost three years now. We did research into other high school models around the country that have similar medical preparatory programs.
What were the results?
Vision: Students and graduates or RTC Medical Preparatory High School will be scholars, dedicated leaders, critical thinkers, life-long learners, and productive citizens who are well prepared for college and careers in science and medicine.
Mission: RTC Medical Preparatory High School commits to providing our diverse community of aspiring health professionals with a challenging college preparation and STEM education, to exposing our students to high quality experiences in the health professions, and to growing our community’s leadership through excellence and service.
When we opened our doors in 2013, there was a freshman class of 140 students who I know personally, families included. Of the three schools that were concurrently operating in this building three years ago, we are the only school and I am the only principal remaining at 2245 W. Jackson Blvd. Our student population has increased to approximately 500 students in grades nine through eleven and our staff has grown from ten to forty. We were a Level 1 school when we first opened our doors; we have improved and are currently a Level 1+ school in CPS. Our school strives to achieve an ACT Composite score of 22. This fall the 9th grade class PLAN Composite was 17 when compared to a national average of 18. Our current freshman class is 87% on track when compared to a district average of 64.5%.
All students that enroll in RTC Medical Prep participate in the “Honors for All” program. Every student at RTC Medical Prep is an Honors student; there are no regular students that attend this school. Our students also participate in a program called “Jobs for the Future.” There is a huge service component at RTC because the medical field is about service to others. During Year One, there were 30 student interns participating in paid internships at RUSH, Year Two there were 80 paid interns, and the goal for this upcoming summer of Year Three is 100 paid internships at RUSH for RTC Medical Prep students only. We are excited about Year Four to graduate our first class of seniors and to see what amazing outcomes they achieve.
If you'd like to learn more about Fareeda's school, Richard T. Crane Medical Prep High School, please click here.