Coming this summer Gordon Tech High School, 3633 N. California Ave., will change its name to DePaul College Prep, Father Gordon Campus. The new name is part of a larger effort to rebrand the high school and to reflect the many changes resulting from the school’s partnership with DePaul University.
The Congregation of the Resurrection founded the school in 1952 and will continue to serve as the school’s sponsors.
Around the time that the school began a partnership with DePaul University in 2012, it conducted market research in the neighborhood to find out what would draw families to Gordon Tech.
“They said something that reflects the DePaul academic partners would be terrific,” said Mary Dempsey, a member of the school’s lay board of directors and chair of the rebranding task force.
There are 18 Catholic grammar schools near to Gordon Tech, many with increasing enrollments and five of them are Blue Ribbon Schools.
“And yet we said, ‘Why aren’t they looking at Gordon?’” Dempsey said.
From December through February the board sought feedback on the rebranding from parents, teachers, area pastors and principals and sent letters to 11,000 alumni. They tried to be as transparent as possible, she said.
Not everything will change at the school, however. The school will keep its mascot the rams and orange in its school colors. They also established a heritage committee to make sure the history of Gordon Tech is appropriately maintained.
“It’s a series of compromises,” Dempsey said. “I think what’s really clear is we listened and heard what people said.”
The rebranding is all about the future of Catholic education on the city’s north side, Dempsey said, and highlighting the new energy at the school around the partnership with DePaul.
Among other things, DePaul has helped the school enhance it’s curriculum; provided professional development for teachers and staff; reviewed the school’s campus and recommended areas of the physical plant they should improve; helped with computing and digital media efforts; helped to implement STEM education; and advised on best practices in enrollment and marketing efforts. The university also grants Gordon Tech teachers access to its library.
“It’s just a marvelous partnership and it evolves every day and gets richer and richer,” Dempsey said.
The stable leadership at the school in recent years has also been a big boost, she said.
“I’m a great supporter of Catholic education. I believe this is really another option that families in Chicago have,” Dempsey said.
Amy Straley agrees. Her son and daughter attend Gordon Tech.
Her son chose to attend Gordon on his own, a decision that Straley says she and her husband were unsure of at first because they live in the neighborhood and heard whisperings that Gordon Tech might close and that the leadership was unstable.
“There’s going to be so many families who thought that way and seeing the name will help them be more comfortable with their choice,” said Straley, whose family are parishioners at nearby St. Benedict Parish, 2215 W, Irving Park Road.
What does she think of the rebranding?
“I love it. I think it’s great,” she told the Catholic New World. “I love that they pulled in the DePaul name. I agree that it was time to make that change.”
Straley believes the name change will help people truly understand the scope of the school’s new direction.
“This is going to be a very strong choice of Catholic schools for kids in the city,” she said.
The DePaul partnership is a “real big sense of pride” for her children, Staley said.
They picked up their Bibles for school during a Mass at DePaul and their first day of school this year was at DePaul.
It’s more than just the improved curriculum, she said.
“They are also bringing them in and helping them understand, ‘This is what college is.’”
She said both of her children — her daughter is a freshman and her son is a sophomore — have felt a sense of family and community at the school.
Straley has a toddler at home who may be a future DePaul College Prep student.
“I’m excited to see frankly what happens for my two-year-old in 11 years,” she said.