A Place to Learn

A community struggles for equity when plans to convert a successful black elementary school into a high school favoring wealthier residents divides the neighborhood.

Nestled between busy highways and elevated trains, the National Teachers Academy Elementary School (NTA) resides in Chicago’s fastest-growing, rapidly-gentrifying “South Loop” neighborhood. NTA’s student population of primarily working class, African-American children are thriving. The school received Chicago’s top-ranking for educational achievement.     But in the Fall of 2017, the city announced a plan to transform NTA into a high school. Despite its successes, residents new to the area lobbied to transition NTA into a high school with support from Chicago’s school board and a powerful group of politicians, including the mayor.     The city claims the transition will further integrate the community, but parents, students, and staff at NTA feel the move is racist and discriminatory. They believe getting rid of NTA as an elementary school panders to a community with more political power, accelerating not only the whitening of schools in the neighborhood, but of the city as well. Under attack and ignored, parents, students and educators plan a grassroots campaign to save their community. Their fight will take them from city streets to a historic courtroom battle, where the future of a school and the makeup of a great American city lies in the balance.

Status

Production

About the Filmmakers

Director

Kevin Shaw
Kevin Shaw

As a director, producer and cinematographer, Kevin Shaw has created award-winning content for national television networks. Shaw was a segment director and cinematographer on America to Me, a Participant Media/Kartemquin Films landmark mini-series examining race and education from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Steve James. America to Me debuted to high acclaim at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and premiered on Starz in August 2018, where it was lauded as the No. 1 television mini-series of the year by The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times.    Shaw’s debut documentary, The Street Stops Here, aired nationally on PBS and ESPN in 2010 to rave reviews. The following year, Shaw’s Big Ten Network short documentary on a quadriplegic trying to regain the ability to walk won the Edward R. Murrow Award for Sports Reporting Excellence. His cinematography talents were recognized in 2015 with a National Sports Emmy for ESPN’s FIFA World Cup Show Opens and Teases. Later that year, Shaw produced a documentary about the relationship between megastar Shaquille O’Neal and his collegiate coach, Dale Brown. Shaq and Dale premiered on ESPN. Shaw is a graduate of Kartemquin Films Diverse Voices in Documentary program (DVID) and is a 2019 Firelight Media Documentary Film Fellow.