How CPS and City of Chicago schools planning screwed everyone from Carpenter to Ogden... Ogden Elementary School once has a nice playground

As parents begin assembling for a unique Chicago event — a planned protest by Gold Coast families against Chicago Public Schools on April 20, 2012 — the latest controversies over the facilities planning surrounding public education in Chicago come briefly into focus — again.

Before Chicago did the expensive and massive reconstruction of Ogden Elementary School (the old building is in the background on the left above), Ogden, located at State and Walton in the heart of Chicago's Gold Coast, had a playground large enough for a baseball backstop and small ball field, on which children from the school could play during the school day (and year) and children from the community could use at all other times. Substance photo taken in 2006 by George N. Schmidt. This time, the focus will be on the "new" Ogden Elementary School building, located in the center of Chicago's Gold Coast at the corner of State and Walton streets, and the fact, reported in a front page story in the Chicago Tribune on April 20, 2012, that the new $51 million school doesn't have a playground large enough for all the kids to have recess. And the fact that the upper grade kids are being forced to take recess in a smidgen of green space created on the roof of the building, an area the kids have dubbed "the cage."

Ogden once had a playground large enough to hold a small ball field with a backstop and a great deal of playground equipment for children of all ages to play on. The playground area, on the east side of the school building bordering State St., was called Warren Swanson playground and had served generations of public school children, as well as residents who used it as a commons area after school and on weekends.

But the global planning, secret in its overall strategy, that was executed primarily under the administrations of former Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan nixed all that, spending more than $100 million (total) on relocating Ogden, displacing most of the people from Carpenter Elementary School (west of Ogden), ignoring three CPS buildings that could have been used (including two that were vacant) and then leaving the children of Ogden, once their "new" elementary school was opened, with a screwed up playing space that even the "one percent" (most of Ogden's families) found intolerable and worthy of public protest.

Above, the wrought iron fencing that surrounded the "Warren L. Swanson playground on the east side of Ogden Elementary School (above in a 2009 photograph) was destroyed during the construction of the "new" school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.It's noteworthy to put the entire Ogden mess into the proper historical context, that Arne Duncan's globalization as applied locally involved the destruction of the housing that had once been Cabrini-Green and the slow changing of the area's public schools. One was given away to the Catholic school system. Another recently was rented to a clout heavy charter school (which always claims it's being discriminated against in CPS funding) at a lease cost of $1 per year. All the while, while two CPS owned buildings sit within two miles of Ogden, unused for more than a decade.

This is the status quo that Rahm Emanuel and the mercenary clones of the Broad Foundation should be talking about when they rant and rave about upsetting a "status quo" that supposedly is failing the children.

It's a story of how those who run Chicago's public schools created a "status quo" that wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on politically determined school facilities actions. The multi-million dollar stories about the changes in CPS facilities from the Gold Coast's Ogden Elementary School west as far as Carpenter Elementary School (which has become the equally ridiculous "Ogden International High School" in a building that was never meant to be a high school), sweeps then northeast to the vacant Mulligan Elementary School building (at 1855 N. Sheffield) and back south towards Ogden to the equally vacant Near North Career Magnet High School building at 1450 N. Larrabee.

A tour should be arranged to show how skewed the facilities priorities of the Chicago Board of Education have been since mayoral control began under the Amendatory Act of 1995. The tour could begin on the roof of Ogden, where the "cage" now play a greenspace role in the new status quo. That tour would then walk less than a half mile north and west, to include Byrd Elementary School (at 363 W. Hill St.), but the tour guide would have to note that Byrd is no longer the property of CPS, because it was given away to the Archdiocese of Chicago three years ago. Continuing north and west, the tour would pass the vacant Near North High School building, and then move a bit north of North Ave. to the equally vacant Mulligan Elementary School building (at 1855 N. Sheffield). A sweep to the west would bring the tour to the Carpenter Elementary School building, which thanks to the planning of Arne Duncan on his way to becoming U.S. Secretary of Education, is now "Ogden International High School" in a building that was never intended to be a high school and which can't be converted into one without many more millions of dollars spent.

Or the tour could just sweep south from Ogden down State St. to 606 S. State St. and do a walkabout around the "Jones College Prep High School," which since 1998 has sucked more than a quarter billion dollars from CPS facilities budgets because then Mayor Richard M. Daley wanted a "college prep" selective enrollment high school for his new neighborhood, the area now called "Museum Campus."

At least the Chicago Tribune is doing part of the job by covering the Ogden recess issue and the Bughouse Square protest on April 20, 2012. But so far the escalating scandals in Chicago's facilities programs has been ignored by Chicago's corporate media since Daley destroyed Jones Commercial High School in the late 1990s (when Paul G. Vallas was CEO of CPS) and continued the politically connected work of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars under Arne Duncan (2001 - 2008), Ron Huberman (2009 - 2010), Terry Mazany (2011 - 2011) and now the oleagenous Jean-Claude Brizard (2011 - 2012). 


April 22, 2012 at 9:24 AM

By: John Kugler

Kleptocracy - Word for the Day

When you are running a kleptocracy then there would never be a need for a playground in a 51 million dollar grammar school architectural design. The project was not about what was best for the kids. It would be interesting to trace back the project approval, real estate fees, design process and construction contractors to see who made the cream from this one.

Kleptocracy is a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population, often without pretense of honest service. This type of government corruption is often achieved by the embezzlement of state funds.

The effects of a kleptocratic regime or government on a nation are typically adverse in regards to the faring of the state's economy, political affairs and civil rights. Kleptocracy in government often vitiates prospects of foreign investment and drastically weakens the domestic market and cross-border trade. As the kleptocracy normally embezzles money from its citizens by misusing funds derived from tax payments, or money laundering schemes, a kleptocratically structured political system tends to degrade nearly everyone's quality of life.

In addition, the money that kleptocrats steal is often taken from funds that were earmarked for public amenities, such as the building of hospitals, schools, roads, parks and the like - which has further adverse effects on the quality of life of the citizens living under a kleptocracy. The quasi-oligarchy that results from a kleptocratic elite also subverts democracy (or any other political format the state is ostensibly under).

April 23, 2012 at 10:28 AM

By: Theresa D. Daniels

Kleptocracy and the Chicago Schools

This article by George Schmidt is such an important one, since now in Chicago the schools seem to be a direct conduit to riches for those in power.

Education "reforms" have nothing to do with creating better education for the children and everything to do with making money for the powerful and the clouted and their friends.

I love John Kugler's addenda. Yes, we live in a kleptocracy. It's clear now in Chicago.

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