Large protests expected at December 16 Chicago Board of Education meeting

A number of large protests are expected at the December 16, 2009 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, which is scheduled to begin at the Board's headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago at 10:30 a.m.

One of the protests is being organized by GEM, the Grassroots Education Movement of Chicago. According to one participating group in GEM, Teachers for Social Justice, GEM will hold a press conference at the Board at 9:15 on December 16 and speak out at the Board meeting in support of the demands of families from Chicago's Altgeld Gardens public housing project.

In a message to Teachers for Social Justice members, Rico Gutstein, one of the organizers of the event, wrote as follows:

"The Altgeld Gardens (AG) parents and community lost their neighborhood HS school in 2006 when CPS turned Carver HS into a selective enrollment military school. The "neighborhood" school is now Fenger HS, 5 miles and 2 buses away in Roseland, where Derrion Albert lost his life this past September in an after-school fight of youth from the Fenger neighborhood and AG.

"Also, in Summer 2009, CPS "turned around" Fenger, firing all personnel including teachers with long-time relationships with students. Although there are some caring teachers at Fenger now, most all of those who really knew the students and their families are gone, creating more instability and internal displacement. These were teachers who could potentially defuse tensions. Adding to the mix is the historic friction between AG and Roseland. Though parents warned CPS about the real possibilities of violence, repeatedly, Arne Duncan carried out Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 plans and closed Carver to AG youth, turned around Fenger, and contributed to the conditions that caused Derrion's death. These are now part of the national plan for education.

"This Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the Board of Education meeting, AG parents and their supporters will call on the Board to re-open a neighborhood school in Carver Area High School where the military school now resides. That building is totally underutilized, with 520 current students and a capacity of 1966. Although CPS has used underutilization as a rationale to close neighborhood schools and bring in ones not necessarily initiated or embraced by the community, this situation is drastically different. The AG community strongly supports having a neighborhood public HS back, where all students can attend.

"Please come out to support the AG community. TSJ and the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) have been working very closely with the parents in AG who have been leading this struggle--if you were at our Curriculum Fair, you heard two of them speak. This struggle has powerful implications because the national education agenda is to privatize public space-and this is the first example we know of where a community is demanding to turn back into a public space what was made private (i.e., made selective enrollment and off limits to most community residents). And leading the struggle are public housing residents in one of the worst environmental disaster areas in the U.S. (just google Altgeld Gardens toxic donut).

"To attend the board meeting to watch, you need to be ON-LINE by probably 7:30 or even earlier at 125 S. Clark St., Board HQ (if you want to speak, you need to be there even earlier). They sign people up starting at 8, but if you are not there early, the place is packed and they move you to the 19th floor overflow room where you can watch on a TV monitor. Security is supposed to allow you to come into the 5th floor board chambers to be there with whomever you have come to hear/support when they speak--supposed to. Be there early if you can. TSJ will have people speaking. The Board meeting actually starts at 10:30, but community participation (2 minutes per person) does not really begin till about 11, till about 1PM.

"There will be a press conference in the lobby next to CPS (hall just south of CPS lobby) at 9:15 that AM, of the AG parents and GEM. Please come and support!"


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