CHICAGO — For over a decade, Chicago mayors made it a point to attend college signing and graduation ceremonies for students of Urban Prep Academies.
The charter school network boasts that 100% of its graduating seniors have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities for the past 14 years. It’s what made the school founder’s departure last year so surprising.
“I birthed Urban Prep,” Tim King tells WGN Investigates. “Urban Prep is in my heart. Urban Prep is in my blood. Urban Prep is in my soul. I will never ever abandon it.”
King is breaking his silence because he said he fears for the future of the schools he founded in 2002.
“What’s concerning is less about my leaving Urban Prep but why [Chicago Public Schools] continue their assault on Urban Prep?” he said.
King’s leadership unraveled last year when he said he reported to the district social media comments made by a former student that claimed King made sexual advances toward him years earlier.
The CPS inspector general found several years of cash transfers to the student after he graduated that topped $50,000 plus gifts of clothes and trips.
“The investigation established that the administrator’s grooming behavior with the student was for the purpose of sexual abuse,” the inspector general determined. The report says the former student – who was in his mid-20s when the allegations came to light – declined to pursue criminal charges.
King has filed suit seeking to have the IG’s report retracted, claiming it’s riddled with factual errors and innuendo.
“There’s no evidence that happened,” King told WGN Investigates. “There have been three subsequent investigations – two by DCFS – that said it did not occur. Regardless, I was not going to put myself and my reputation ahead of Urban Prep or its success.”
He resigned, assuming the matter would be further investigated and resolved and he’d return to the helm of Urban Prep and its three campuses in Englewood, Bronzeville, and the Near West Side. They are the only all-boys public schools in Illinois.
Instead, CPS attempted to take over Urban Prep. Parents, students, and staff protested. Earlier this summer, a circuit court judge blocked the move, saying a CPS takeover of the charter schools would violate a moratorium on school closings.
The reprieve may only be temporary, as CPS is appealing. A CPS spokesperson said the takeover is necessary because the district believes Urban Prep Academies’ board is neither student-centered nor fiscally responsible. The CPS inspector general is still reviewing the schools’ finances.
King said he finds the school district’s fixation on taking control of Urban Prep sinister but offered no possible motive.
“I would not accuse CPS of being disinterested in educating young Black males, but facts are facts,” King said. “You’ve got a school that’s doing well with this population… and then you have an assault on those Black men running the schools.
“There’s something else going on here that has nothing to do with me and these false allegations against me and really has everything to do with a desire to harm Urban Prep and its students.”
Urban Prep’s current leadership did not respond to a request for comment.