DePaul to help Gordon Tech become ‘top-tier’ school

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, November 4, 2012

DePaul to help Gordon Tech become ‘top-tier’ school

When DePaul University and Gordon Tech High School announced a partnership aimed at bringing Gordon into the top tier of Chicago- area Catholic schools, one thing became clear: It’s not your father’s Gordon Tech.
Korina Brinkley, a student at Gordon Tech, 3633 N. California Ave., guides prospective students and families during a tour of the school at an open house on Oct. 25. DePaul University is partnering with Gordon Tech to provide a strong school of choice for Chicago's North Side. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Veronica Zilmer shows Jennifer Gijadu some things they are learning in the computer lab as students from Gordon Tech guided prospective new students and families on a tour of the school during an open house on Oct.25. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Korina Brinkley, a student at Gordon Tech, visits with Debbie, Missy and Petra Kowalski. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

When DePaul University and Gordon Tech High School announced a partnership aimed at bringing Gordon into the top tier of Chicago- area Catholic schools, one thing became clear: It’s not your father’s Gordon Tech.

When the Resurrectionists founded the school 60 years ago, it was a technical high school for boys, who could study trades like auto repair and carpentry, or prepare for college.

For the last 10 years, it has offered a college preparatory education to boys and girls. While it has at times struggled with low enrollment and other challenges, it has grown stronger over the last five years, with improved high-level academic offerings and growing enrollment. This year’s freshman class was 66 percent larger than last year, according to Kelly Jones, Gordon Tech’s president.

Now, she said, it is poised to take the next step in a quest to become a choice Catholic high school, and the partnership with DePaul will help.

A study done by the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools showed that there was “a need on the North Side of Chicago for a four-year college-prep high school, a school for the serious student,” Jones said. “Parents were saying, ‘We need a top-tier school in the neighborhood.’”

After spending five years improving the school’s academic offerings, the school is ready to take the next step, she said.

DePaul, the largest Catholic university in the United States, stands ready to help, said Robert Karpinski, DePaul’s director of Catholic School Initiatives.

“Having the largest Catholic university as a partner allows Gordon Tech to build on their recent success in ways they could not have been able to do on their own,” he said.

The effort is one of many De- Paul has made to strengthen Catholic education in the archdiocese, said Vincentian Father Dennis Holtschneider, DePaul’s president.

“If we can assist Catholic schools to become stronger, the church of the future is made stronger and our youth are given a better and fuller life,” Holtschneider said in an emailed response to questions.

The university’s College of Education faculty already mentors first- and second-year Catholic grade school principals to provide professional development, and DePaul faculty work in Catholic grade schools such as St. Benedict, St. Clement, St. Josaphat and St. Alphonsus, conducting workshops for teachers and parents and assisting with curriculum development, strategic planning and retention initiatives, he said.

The Catholic School Council, which the college crystalized several years ago, brings structure to the collaborative efforts between DePaul and Catholic schools. This effort also provides opportunities for DePaul students to do field work in neighborhood Catholic schools.

DePaul’s director of Catholic school relations helps the university share its expertise with high school principals and presidents, especially in the area of enrollment management, and DePaul has provided a series of market and mission symposiums for the 40 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese, Holtschneider said.

Gordon Tech’s Jones said she sees all kinds of possibilities for collaboration between her school and DePaul, in areas from curriculum and instruction to public relations and marketing.

“The sky’s the limit,” she said.

To start, Karpinski and DePaul board member Mary Dempsey, who is perhaps best-known to Chicagoans as the city’s longtime library commissioner, have joined Gordon Tech’s board and will help it assume a more complete role in the school’s governance.

At the same time, DePaul will help in Gordon Tech’s search for a new principal — the school is now operating with an assistant principal — in hopes that a new academic leader will be in place by the end of the school year, and gather feedback from prospective students and their parents after fall open houses. DePaul representatives also plan to talk to area pastors and Catholic school principals about what they would like to see at Gordon Tech.”

“This year, we are helping them look at themselves and think strategically,” he said. “Many schools don’t have the luxury of stepping back and saying, ‘What do we do well? Where can we improve?’ The goal is to make Gordon Tech even stronger than it is now. We would love to see the school serving 1,000 students in the future.”

To do that, Karpinski said, the school has to bolster its curriculum even further, perhaps adding another academic program such as the International Baccalaureate or increasing its Advanced Placement offerings. He also expects to see a more focused college counseling program, and some upgrades to the school’s facilities. DePaul’s digital media program will likely be able to offer advice to Gordon Tech on improving its technology, Karpinski said.

“This is a university-wide initiative,” he said, adding that one of his jobs is making sure the university finds ways to develop and maintain its connection to Gordon Tech over time.