Lakeview Rally, then march to Rahm's home, highlight protests against 2012 Hit List

On Monday, February 20, 2012, hundreds of students, parents, teachers, community members and activists gathered at Lakeview High School to protest Chicago Public Schools proposed school closings and turnarounds. As candles were passed to the participants, parents, community leaders and teachers spoke to the crowd.

Jeff Blackwell, Xian Barrett, and Sarah Chambers carry the CORE banner in front of Rahm Emanuel's home at 4228 N. Hermitage on February 20, 2012. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Cathy Whitfield a parent of three Piccolo students said “The new principal is trying to make a change. That’s good. They haven’t given her a chance. She’s a good principal though”. I asked her first grade daughter how she felt about her school. She said “They trying to learn”. When asked how she’d feel if all the adults in the building were gone next year she said “sad”. I asked who she’d miss most she said “My teacher. I would be sad because if your teacher not here that means that they aren’t there.” Her mother said the younger students really don’t understand what “turnaround” means and no one has talked to the children.

Elisa Nigaglioni, the Piccolo parent who occupied Piccolo School despite being denied her diabetic medication told me “This morning I was real sick and my blood pressure was high. I was shaking and my sugar was high. I feel dizzy but I keep going and I can’t stop”. She also wants the public to know that “Blocks Together is the one that’s helping us. They are a non- profit organizations. They need contributions”. She went on to say one of the Blocks Together occupiers, Carolina Gaete, went to the hospital Saturday morning. She was vomiting, so cold and sick. She is now out of the hospital and doing better.

Paula Cortez, a Piccolo fourth grade student, said “It’s not right for the kids. It’s not fair. The kids don’t like it. Don’t change it. There will be new teachers. I won’t feel safe. I think student learning will get worse.” She also stated the school has no music or computers. When questioned about the food she said “The food is okay but most don’t eat it because I’ve seen on the journals “I don’t like the schools food” and I hear my friends say this food is disgusting.

Lisa Russell, a Crane high school parent said “Crane is very dear to me because I have a whole lot of history there, my grandfather, my great grandfather and also one of my uncles who played the Crane principal in the 60s he saved his life behind him doing the Martin Luther King bus. My son has the men at Crane come out to the bust stop come out walks them onto the bus to make sure that they get back and forth to school. Some times when he get on the bus he says he don’t want to go to practice those guys know he needs this football team, they pull him off the bus because they know that we team together.” These are my twin boys here. I hope that they can go to Crane but if they phase out Crane, they’re just in 2nd grade. I need that in my life. They say single parents can’t make it. I know that we can make it so why can’t our neighborhood schools be the best schools?” I have traveled with my older kids. I have been there done that. I have a daughter that’s 23 graduated from Walter Peyton, my other son that traveled to Beasly. I am an older parent to these twins. I can’t do all that traveling now. I live next door to a school. I should be able to walk out my door and take them to their school. I don’t have the funds to take the 2 -3 buses to get to where they want to send my sons once the phase out Crane. Please don’t close our neighborhoods schools. Save our neighborhood schools. The doctors and the lawyers can come from the neighborhoods schools. I am a product of the neighborhood schools. I went to Corkery neighborhood school. My mom was an educator in a neighborhood school. Neighborhood schools can work and I know that for a fact. As soon as they close the schools they want to give them resources. Leave them open and bring the resources in now.” She then led a chant, “What do we want? Resources! When do we want them? Now!”

Casals parent, “We don’t have money for books, we don’t have money for resources and programs. We don’t have money to give you computers but we e $2,000,000.00 to put in a private company to turn around these schools and throw away our teachers and our principals. Where’s the consistency at? Give us our resources now!” “AUSL does not have a bilingual program. They are trying to turnover Casals School which is 98% Hispanic. That is a big mistake. Where is the bilingual program? What are you going to do for our bilingual children in our community? We say no to turnaround to AUSL and to Piccolo that has 28% Hispanics in their school. We say no to your turnaround.” Jitu Brown, “Only 18% of the schools that have replaced closed schools are high performing and of that 18%, 50% are selective enrollment schools. In other words CPS is getting out of the neighborhood school business and it’s a new form of segregation. The schools that they close, yes the banks are profiting yes it’s a corporate agenda but on the basic level the black and brown children are being excluded and blocked from having a quality future . It’s no different from people blocking children from walking into schools in Alabama in the 1960s. People trying to say this isn’t racism. This happening to our kids and we want to make sure that we say black and brown children deserve the same schools like they have in the Disney school. They deserve it. Those babies in the Disney School deserve it, we ain’t hating on them, but our babies deserve it too!”

Ryan Jackson, a Tilden High School parent stated “This is about money, but what it is the Board; they don’t care about the kids. Emmanuel and Brizzard are doing their job. They don’t care about the kids. They don’t care if our kids go to jail because they not educated. Where’s Rham’s kids at? In a private school. They think they are too good for us. Tilden should not be closed because they took the programs out of our school” Rico Gutsen, Teachers of Social Justice, made this speech “This education plan engineered by the mayor and his cohorts the commercial club of Chicago and carried out by his appointed hatchet people the Board of Education and CEO Brizzard. “It’s no education plan, it’s a business plan. And what are its goals? To turn Chicago into a upscale global city to scrub clean it’s working class history, to push low income black and brown people out of the city and to increase corporate, financial and real estate profits for the 1%. It’s a 1% plan not ours. It’s not about education. How could it be about education if the Board and CPS ignores educators and what about children’s first teachers? When was the last time you saw CPS whose thinking about closing a school and they sat down in a circle with teachers and parents and students, provided child care and food to have a real open conversation to learn from them. They don’t do it because it’s not an education plan, it’s a business plan.” Rico, referring the sit-in at the mayor’s office January 4-5, 2012, stated “When they mayor takes away chairs from our elders for sitting in at his office to talk to them and for 3 days makes the KOKO elders sit on the cold, hard floor because they might use the chairs as a weapon that’s disrespect. When Piccolo parents have to occupy their school just to talk to the mayor and CPS and the police try to starve them out disrespect. When Whittier parents have to occupy their field house for 43 days just to have a library for their children and the mayor and CPS won’t meet with them and lie to them disrespect. Or when we have to sleep outside on the sidewalk in the rain in December just to get in line for 2 minutes to please and yell at brick walls, disrespect.” Rico was referring the CPS December Board meeting where the board members got up and walked out on the people waiting to speak. These people are public servants paid for with our tax dollars. They need to be responsible and accountable to us the 99%. They love to talk about performance, numbers and accountability. Where is the accountability for 15 years of failed mayoral control of Chicago Public Schools? The black white gap has increased, the number of schools on probations has tripled, destabilization and disinvestment run rampant in our communities, the LACs are underfunded and under attack. Children have been treated like cattle all around the city and we have a mockery of democracy and a colonial education system that adds up to business land for the wealthy not education for the people. His comment “We need an elected and representative school board” brought loud cheers of approval from the crowd. He went on to say “Our grassroots community driven of school improvements, decent working conditions for teachers, decent learning conditions for students, the equitable resources, support and funding for all schools to bring them up to the level of Northside College Prep cause they know how to create that. We need an immediate moratorium on all proposed school actions until the time that those real conversations happen and we can begin to transform our schools, our community and our city and begin to overturn this Colonial business model.”

At this point the protesters began their silent march towards Mayor Emmanuel’s house. Most wore tape saying “silenced”.

Edward Wood stated “I’ve witnessed the failures of AUSL first hand. The reason we are here is because we want the mayor to stop handing our school over to these private organizations, at this point we want them to stop. We want to have a say in what goes on in the educational system because we are the people, we are the community, our children attend these schools. So we want these schools to stop being placed into private hands. Education is not a form of politics but education is a right. And to deny us that right goes against the United States so called principals.”

Jitu Brown “We come in peace. We know Chicago Public Schools is sending out people right now to talk to the press. But we are the light so we have sent clarity to the press so we have sent parents to bring clarity to the cloudiness that is Chicago Public Schools.” “They can do all the sound byes they want. The cats out of the bag, the gig is up, the game is over and we are the clarity that education needs in Chicago.” So we want to have a young person come up so when they say how much they have invested in Dyett, Rishard Stallings lied about how many millions dollars were placed into Dyett. And when this sister stood up at the hearing and told them we don’t have an art teacher and they took one of our counselors so now we only have one counselor for 360 students and what CPS did they tried to put a spin on that.”

Diamond McCullough, with the Community Oakland Organization and a sophomore of Dyett high school spoke “I am here today because I disagree with the actions of CPS. They are trying to call us a failing school when Dyett has one of the highest counts of attendance rates for neighborhood schools. You call Dyett a failing school yet ESPN chose us out of all the schools in the United States of America cause they saw education and hard work happening at Dyett. Dyett helped lead the National Coalition with the Life Campaign where we brought 2000 people to Washington D.C. for a better education and for youth employment. We believe that his is a civil rights issue that they are segregating our schools for their own personal use. There are 253 schools on probation. Why have they chose these 17 schools? We want a real investment in our neighborhood schools. We want the Bronzeville Global Achievers Plan. We were told we live in a democracy where we have equal rights and living conditions. But that’s not true. We have been silenced, excluded and pushed around. All we are asking for is a genuine partnership.”

Bob Schuber, a Marquette teacher said “I’m getting tired of watching good teachers leaving schools because of all the fear they’re putting in and all the pressure they are putting on our teachers not letting them teach like they know how to do. We have very good teachers at our school. It’s a high poverty school and the scores are not very high but we’ve raised them consistently. What do we teach to the test scores or to the children? We teach them about life, teaching them about the future, teaching them how to go for it, teaching them from the heart. We’re educated let us educate. The administrators are not educators anymore so let the teachers do it! I thought it was Chicago Public Schools are we going to turn it to Chicago Private Schools? It’s the Chicago Public Schools, not the Chicago Private Schools”. If the mayor was home, he did not acknowledge the presence of the people, just like he ignored their school proposals, comments and pleas to save their schools.


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