Large rally against closings, turnarounds at Pleasant Gift MB church on February 16, 2012

About 150 people attended a City-Wide Rally Against School Closings at Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church at 45th and Greenwood in Chicago on Thursday, February 16, 2012.

Reverend Krista Alston, parent leader from KOKO opened the meeting with greetings and prayer.

Reverend Jitu Brown, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOKO) began the rally by stating “Tonight is a rally for community control of our schools”. He stated that Local School Councils have filed a lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools to immediately stop CPS actions. This law suit states CPS has violated the Illinois School Code by not working with LSC’s to get schools off probation. It also accuse CPS of violating the Illinois Civil Rights Act because COS actions will eliminate LSCs primarily in African American and Latino Communities.

Attorney Sean Morales-Doyle gave an update on the lawsuit. He stated the lawsuit filed last week is titled Brown vs. Board of Education. He said that closings, phase outs and turnarounds are examples of the board exercising their power but not following the law which requires working with LSCs and schools to bring up schools. CPS is required to tell the LSC there are identified deficiencies, ways to fix them and provide money to do so. 253 schools are on probation and 17 are selected for close out and turnaround despite no clear system wide criteria for choosing schools.

The Chicago Education Facilities Task Forces says CPS did not come up with criteria. They stated CPS was supposed to consult with the community. The Illinois School Code says LSC should govern and didn’t provide the amount of time required by law to change guidelines. 21 days are required for community input followed by 21 more days to get back to the input.

There are twice as many black folks in these schools as in the community and it his having a discriminatory affect. A motion, for prompt injunction was filed to ask the board to stop now before irreparable harm is done to these communities. CPS is about to give millions of dollars to these schools after they turn them over to AUSL. The CPS Board of Education will vote on these schools ate the Board Hearing on Wednesday, February 22.

A Board Vote on the 22nd does not end the communities fight. They can vote as long as they are not allowed to implement actions. Community leaders, parents and teachers want hearings to stop CPS from implementing actions.

Alderman Latosha Thomas, 17th Ward, Chair of the Education Committee on the City Council stated “Education is the most important issues we have. It’s not over on the 22nd; it’s not over in September.” She said she’s been reading the Chicago Teach Union’s plan “some I agree with, it’s a plan we can work with.”

Jitu Brown, KOKO stated since 1998, there have been over 20 school actions. Some young people have gone to 3-4 schools. Schools and communities have been destabilized due to CPS actions. “You should not have to defend your school from your own school district.” He also stated “This is a civil rights issue”. “We demand CPS even the playing field”.

Osha’ Dancy and Aquila Griffin from Dyett High School Osha said Dyett didn’t get any money while King did. Aquila, who is in the first graduating class, said they had no AP classes and the library had only 27 books. In 2006 Englewood students were sent to Hyde Park and Tilden, resulting in an increase in violence at Dyett. Dyett has a Restorative Justice Program and received $4,000,000 from ESPA for an athletic facility. CPS has not talked to them. Osha’ ended with “What COS is doing is racist, unconstitutional and should be stopped now”. Aquila, a sophomore at Dyett said they had no art teacher for four months, very few electives, limited sports, funding and no support. She said they are proud of the teachers and staff. “The teachers aren’t bad, the system is bad. Control your own destiny or someone else will” were Aquila’s closing remarks.

Rosalind Brewer, a 19 year veteran teacher from Marquette School, located in a high crime area only has a part time social worker and part time nurse. “They’ve been using the same books for 19 years. Morale is low but the union has been right there with us. The students feel the pressure.”

Dr. Carmen Palmer stated Wendell Smith Elementary School is located in her neighborhood. “We are not paying taxes form them to do whatever they want with our money. The parents are being pushed out of schools and then discredited. In my 30 years (of teaching) I have not seen parents who do not care about students.” “Those who are without hope need us to come to support them. They have been under extreme changing administration since 2002 and the LSC was reconstituted in 2005-2006. With a new principal, and the same students and teachers the students were in the 60% by 2008.” Dyett lost reading coaches, math coaches, certified teachers and were dealing with split classes. Despite these challenges Dyett has sustained. Her closing remarks were “CPS has failed our children!”

A new group titled Parents for Teachers has quickly organized and there is a call in to CPS CEO Jean Claude Blizzard on Tuesday, February 22. They are asking for people to call him and ask him to immediately withdraw school actions and work to improve schools. (773) 553-1500.

Mary Ritter, CTU Organizer has been working with Crane High School. “We need to turnaround CPS. The Board of Ed should be elected by the people.” “Crane has an auto shop without automobiles!” The Crane Coalition developed a plan they presented to the Board of Ed.

Senator Annazzette Collins was in attendance but had to leave due to a prior commitment and Alderman Bob Fioretti, Alderman Walter Burnett, Representative Derrick Smith and Congressman Danny Davis have been supporting the school closing fight.

Kimberly Walls is a 6th – 8th grade science teacher at Guggenheim School. She said CPS sent well over 85 transfers out and said schools will be closed in February. They give Miss Vicky Stokes, the former principal another job. Miss Walls stated that “She didn’t do her job at Morton”. She also said that “CPS plans to tear down the strong people in schools”. CPS was not letter parents into her school because she was giving parents information. There are no 3 Chicago Police Department people helping parents out. “I just want to teach.” She talked about helping parents voice their opinions “Tell parents what to say, they can email. Sometimes parents do need that extra push”. “CPS tries to scare you with that rating system. The Legislature needs to know what’s going on. Rham and Brizzard came last May. We knew they were trying to figure out how to close us down”. She also said the AUSL are union teachers but they don’t see what’s really going on. “Principals do take retaliation”. She said.

Another teacher, who asked not to be identified by name or school due to fear of retaliation talked about how teacher / student relations affect academic success as does student interaction with peers. All of which affects students ability to achieve. Parents are saying I took my child from one school then to another, then another, my child is emotionally traumatized, “Do I need to find a doctor for them? The pressure that is coming down on principals is coming down on the teachers. Teachers who have been excellent for years are now being rated as bad teachers. “We love our children like their parents love them. We act as surrogate parents.”

Wendy Canton is from Raise Your Hand a Citywide Coalition of Parents to work on strong parent voice. Raise Your Hand is fighting for improved equitability in schools, art, music, PE and social resources. “We need to be a united front. We have about 5000 members. CPS has a way of shutting out all parents they don’t want to hear from.

Reverend Brown described their visit to City Hall. “The first day they threatened us with arrest. The second day they took chairs from the elderly. On the third day they did the same thing and we were surrounded by police.”

Reverend Winthrop Bond, an elementary school teacher said “It’s total sabotage. Today I received a very bad rating but my children continue to perform”. She stated she is not allowed to test her own children.

Reverend Brown provided an overview of a plan for the schools from the Bronzeville Global Achievers Village. This overview emphasizes 3 basic points: A strong focus on school culture, curriculum and staffing, Wrap-around support for all students and Real Collaboration with the community. The Bronzeville Global Achievers Village is a network of schools in the Bronzeville community that work together to ensure access to a world-class education for every student.


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