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All four area aldermen oppose any school closings... Massive turnout opposes 2013 Hit List at 'Garfield Humboldt Park' hearing February 13

Over 1,000 people turned out for the Garfield Humboldt Park school closing community meeting at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church on the night of February 13, 2013. Busloads of parents, students, teachers and administrators came from around the neighborhoods to voice their opinions to Chicago Public Schools regarding school closings. Philip Hampton, who is the "Chief Officer for Family and Community Engagement (FACE)" for CPS, opened the meeting to explain why people were there and to inform everyone that the information presented would be provided to the CPS leadership. He cited fiscal challenges and school "underutilization" as the reasons for school closings. He also stated that CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennet set up the community meetings to discuss issues and hear parent concerns. A report, with comments and concerns will be compiled and presented to Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Hampton also stated that they were having difficulty with the translation equipment but a translator was provided. He also said the first hour would be devoted to speakers and the second hour would be spent in "break out" sessions. Reporters were told they could film the speakers, but not the break out sessions because they wanted the parents to be able to "speak freely." Participants were provided with a CPS "fact sheet" and a list of schools in the Garfield-Humboldt Park Network. There were not enough handouts for everyone present.

Two representatives were allowed to speak for each school. Speakers included parents, teachers, principals, LSC members, aldermen and students. Alderman Michael Chandler was the first speaker. He talked about the need for more resources including computer and science labs.

“We want none of our schools closed," Chandler said. "We demand none of our schools close!” Other Aldermen speaking included Alderman Robert Fioretti and Aldermen Jason Ervin. A total of five Aldermen were present, all of whom spoke strongly against closing any schools.

Speakers talked about community, family and adult education in their schools. One speaker asked, “How can a school with 80 percent utilization be underutilized? We need space for a clinic, parent programs, mental health issues and counselors. We aren’t here for political gain, but for the well being of our children.”

Many speakers voiced their concerns for the children’s safety, as many of them would have to cross various gang territories to get to school. A representative from Erickson stated “270 students were taken from us by charter schools”. Another issue brought up to ensure all schools are high performing was to lower class size.

At one point in the meeting CPS officials tried to send all the Spanish-speaking participants downstairs so they would have a Spanish speaker to work with them. This was greeted with loud boos from the audience and one bilingual participant spoke up and said they refused to be segregated because of their language. All Spanish speakers had brought a translator with them.

As the room became packed one CPS representative told another to have them lock the doors because more people were trying to get in to speak.

Student speakers included a four year old who talked about everything she was learning at her school. A third grader from Sumner gave a presentation about why his school should not be closed. Many signs were in evidence to represent the various schools. Hefferan School, who is not on the potential closing list, spoke about not closing any schools while a representative from Melody invited students, parents and teachers from any closed schools to come to Melody for their education. She was loudly booed.

The meeting lasted a little over two hours. Every school present got to speak. However due to lack of time any other speakers did not have an opportunity to talk. At the end of the meeting a book made by the Sumner Preschool Students regarding their school was presented to Ms Washington, Garfield Humboldt-Park "Chief of Schools". She said she’d make sure it was delivered. Upon exiting the meeting, the police said there were no problems despite the crowd of people who were not allowed in the meeting.

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