Parents from across Chicago challenge CPS attacks on democracy, parents... longer school day thrust, attacks on LSCs

Seven parents and community activists — representing thousands of other parents across Chicago and decades of experience in local school council and other public education work — gathered in the lobby of Chicago Public Schools headquarters on Monday, March 26, 2012, to question the official version of Chicago's "Longer School Day" calendar and call for more promotion of the local school councils by Chicago Public Schools.

Representing Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts & Dual Language at a news conference held by Local School Council members, Jose Hernandez urges parents to stay involved despite city and CPS actions that diminish community control. Other speakers standing behind him are (left to right) Carmen Palmer, Wendell Smith Elementary; Nellie M. Cotton, Grimes/Fleming Schools; Steven Guy, Fuller Elementary; Dwayne Truss, Ella Flagg Young Elementary; Sharisa Lee Vaval, Wendell Smith; and Wanda Hopkins, Jackson Elementary Language Academy. Photo provided by Publicity Works.According to the press release from Publicity Works, which helped organize the press conference:


“We are not lazy, ignorant or helpless,” declared Nellie Cotton, shortly after a news conference held, last week, in the lobby of Chicago Public Schools Headquarters as officials looked on. She joined diverse Local School Council members and candidates who see lackluster City support of the upcoming April 19 LSC elections as part of a strategy to sabotage community control over neighborhood schools.

Cotton, an opponent of the longer school day, has two children enrolled in Grimes/ Fleming Elementary near Midway Airport. “We’re over 80 percent Hispanic, with a high poverty rate. But we have a 96 percent attendance record and ISAT scores that exceed standards. We have graduates who’ve gone on to college. What we need is more money for special programs. Unfortunately, we are experiencing what happens when you’re not at the table – you end up on the menu!”

Echoing Cotton, Carmen Palmer contends the portrayal of CPS’ overwhelmingly low-income, minority population has given license to an elitist “we know what’s best for you” approach that puts budgetary, staffing and programmatic power into the hands of politically connected outsiders. “We have home-grown expertise,” notes Palmer, a retired teacher with a Ph.D. in education and personal experience building high performance public schools in the very environments where CPS initiatives have failed.

Agreed Jose Hernandez, representing Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts & Dual Language, “It is a fact the majority of schools with a good LSC have good test scores. We used to be able to count on CPS to partner with outside organizations to recruit for LSCs, but now there is a disconnect.”

In a statement expressing her concerns, Becky Malone of 19th Ward Parents reminded, “LSCs across the city have voted against a longer school day, but their capacity is limited if they do not have numbers. This is why it is so critical that as communities we keep our voices strong and continue to fight for our children through every means we have available to us.”

Wanda Hopkins held up sheets of new rules she had just received in her capacity as a long-time LSC member at Jackson Elementary Language Academy. “The restrictions CPS keeps putting on our schools are unwarranted. They are trying to discourage us. Why would people come to meetings and be a part of a board that has no power? I say to CPS and Mayor Emanuel, “Stop doing what you are doing!’”

Like Hopkins, Steven Guy talked about CPS-initiated legislation, re-staffing and charter-school promotion that undermine its mission to ensure a solid education equally accessible to all children. Guy considers such actions a violation of civil rights, which he expressed in a complaint letter to the Federal government following dismissal of an injunction several LSCs recently filed to stop school closings.

Dwayne Truss, from Ella Flagg Young Elementary on the West Side, and Smith Elementary’s Sharisa Lee Vaval focused their remarks on the comprehensive support required to maintain democratically run schools — whether legislators who accept CPS changes without sufficient input from constituents, or clergy who accept city money and invite CPS officials to present provably false claims to congregations.

“We need the pastors and all community members to unify with us for the sake of our children,” stated Vaval. “If the community refuses to stand for something, then we will surely fall for anything.”


March 27, 2012 at 10:49 AM

By: Maureen Cullnan


If possible, it would be good to know a bit more about the new CPS rules that Wanda Hopkins held in her hands. So far, it sounds as though CPS continues to project the illusion of inclusion to parents. -- Not a great way to keep middle class parents from leaving the city, who the Mayor has recently asked to reconsider.

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