HIT LIST 2013: Three aldermen unanimous in defense of the schools in their communities... Garfield Humboldt Park and two other 'networks' get hearing before the same bureaucrats, without Byrd Bennett or any member of the Board of Education
Chants of “Save our schools!” and “Whose schools? Our Schools?” rang though the auditorium in a crowd of almost 1,000 parents, students, teachers and community members. The panel was introduced and included Network Chiefs from variety of Networks including "Garfield Humboldt Park", "Fulton", and "Pilsen / Little Village". CPS representative Adam Anderson went over the handout provided to participants to explain how these schools came to be targeted for closing. He also said Ms. Barbara Byrd-Bennett has given them a list of specific questions she wanted answers to. We never saw the list nor were the questions ever asked. The court recorder stayed for the entire meeting — as opposed to the previous meeting, when she went to the overflow area for the second half of the meeting thus leaving no one to record the speakers.
Alderman Michael Chandler (24th Ward) spoke first with “Save our Schools” and “Whose schools? Our Schools” chants.”
"We do not want Chicago Pubic Schools to balance the budget on the backs of these children!” he told the panel. He went on to state the necessity of students having all the resources they need to succeed.
Alderman Jason Ervin said “This process pits schools, communities and people against one another.” He went on to say the west side schools deserve the same resources as Lincoln Park and the northwest sides. “It’s not a problem we created so it should not be solved by us or blamed on us. Respect us! What are we doing putting kids as pawns of the school system? Three percent of black boys graduate from this system and get college degrees. They want a start in a neighborhood they know!”
After the aldermen, the schools began their presentations.
Webster School spoke first. A Webster Alumni spoke about the violence and drugs in the neighborhood. She has a college degree and works for safe schools in the community. She works for CPS.
Alex King, a 7th grade student, says he is on the executive board of his school. He stated his class achieved 100 percent "meets and exceeds" on the ISAT. He said he feels safe at his school and doesn’t want to be bullied. He talked about their 95 percent attendance rate and stated many students take 2 - 3 busses to get there. Two more students wanted to speak, but they were not allowed. However, at the end of the speakers, Alderman Ervin brought them up and asked that they be allowed to speak. The first talked about above average growth on the MAPS test and the second, an 8th grade student talked about his future as a Lane Tech High School attendee.
Ald Walter Burnett then spoke — representing Beidler, Calhoun, Ryerson, and Ward. “It is dangerous to consolidate school for both the kids and the people who live in the areas," Burnett, once a strong ally of the Board, told the panel. "These areas have the highest crime rates and homicides in the city. The parents know their kids are safe in schools.”
Burnett talked about Ryerson’s new principal and the good things that are happening at the school. He spoke about Beidler, which had millions of dollars spent on it and a new playground. He noted that Beidler did a press conference with Mayor Emanuel, who said how great Beidler was. Next, he talked about Calhoun. “The grades are up; they’re above state average. Calhoun is doing better than the charter school down the street. This is not right! We didn’t want charter schools to open at the sake of other schools closing. That’s just not right!”
“Lower Ward was at Level 1. You all raised the bar knocking them to Level 2. It’s terrible how you raised the bar three times. You change scores, make them jump through hoops, and still they get better. Give these schools a chance. Do not put them out for low population because you allowed other schools to open.”
Lower Ward – 8th grade student, “The teachers care and push us to our best. I travel from the south side just to go to school.” He has three younger siblings and wants them to stay and watch them develop their reading math and people schools.
A retired Chicago Police Department and Lower Ward Security guard talked about the strong, safe environment. “We are on the rise doing great things”. He talked about the special programs they have including a Jr. Police Program, Police Explorers, Junior Achievement and mentoring students both socially and emotionally at school and on the beat. Parent volunteers, mentor and tutor students. Another 8th grade students read a letter he wrote to Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Rahm Emmanuel. He talked about a trip to DC last year and stated 81% of the students are at grade level or above.
Aaron Bennett, a Lower Ward Graduate now attends Lane College Prep. He talked about right and wrong and said they can’t waste time making decisions that don’t work “Lower Ward needs to stay open for great minds”.
Ald., 32nd Ward said, “I don’t want to beg.” He said this type of assembly should be happening every couple of months so we can hear the great things that are happening in our schools. “Schools should be left open and given the resources so they don’t have to do this every year.” He said the Melody kids were doing a petition. He said, “One person who should be here is Rahm. Where are you?”
Tilton – First to speak was a parent volunteer and LSC member. She talked about the great progress, high attendance, high comprehensive scores and movement from Level 3 to Level 2. She also talked about a grant received from the Philharmonic Orchestra and social emotional programs. She talked about the facility stating the auditorium had been restored, the library revamped but the have no librarian. They have a beautiful art room but no art teacher. “Tilton is not just a school it’s a landmark”.
A former parent, who spoke three years ago at a similar hearing, spoke next. She said, “We asked for safety support but never got it. Leave our school alone!” She also talked about people selling drugs across the street from Tilton.
Ryerson – The first speaker was a 7th grade student who has been there since preschool. She said, “The teachers care and she doesn’t want to go to 8th grade somewhere else. The teachers help to advance the students. They dropped from Level 1 to Level 2 “but who wouldn’t under these circumstances”. “To shut down Ryerson would be to shut down a great future”.
The Pastor from New Community Baptist Church spoke next. “Keep our school open. Some of my parishioners attend”. He talked about the new library, fine arts program and art teacher and how everyone is allowed in the building. All teachers assist with reading and a new clinic is opening to the community making a change.
The LSC chair spoke next. She talked about the fear of sending a child to school and learning they won’t come home. She talked about the map / signs people held illustrating how far the students would have to walk to get to and from school. “Kids are dying. Protect our children. We should not be planning funerals for our children”.
Piccolo – The first speaker was an 8th grade student. Piccolo was turned around by AUSL last year. He praised teachers and talked about school dances and behavior awards. A parent and graduate said the turn around was good. The violence stopped and they have a football and dance team. This sounded like a rerun of the speech given at the Board of Ed earlier in the day when Piccolo parents talked about AUSL as the savior of their school. A second Piccolo parent said Piccolo just underwent an action and enrollment has increased.
Melody – Becky Cussolo has been part of Melody for 15 years. She talked about rigorous professional development and training and implementing the common core standards. She said they were the first to utilize the longer school day and are a Level 2 School. A student described how little kids will have to walk further to school and cross gang members and drug dealers increasing the risk of children being shot and / or killed. A second student described the modern technology, after school and Saturday school and partnership with Pepper Construction. “It’s a family school”. “We are learning life lessons as well as academics.” A third student talked about a 2012 Academic Award from the State Board of Ed and being spotlighted in a CS video. Marconi – The LSC Chair said, “Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Rahm should be ashamed of themselves. We are taxpayers. Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Rahm should be here, not the Robots you’ve got up here. Put more money in the schools.” “Barbara Byrd-Bennett, gangbanging start in grammar school. It’s not safe to cross the streets due to gangs.” She went on to say “You rob the community to serve your political agenda. Barbara Byrd-Bennett makes $250,000.00 a year, It’s for charter schools”. She talked about the School Closers Guide. “We know she knows how to close schools just like she did in Cleveland and Detroit. Barbara Byrd-Bennett is Rahm’s hatchet man.” She went on to tell the panel “Don’t count special ed in utilization. If you save the children the school will be saved”.
Angela Bowman, parent said “You are coming we’ve been asking for transparency. Year after year you give us the same thing yet want us to show respect. But you want to close our schools in crime, drug and gang infested neighborhoods. You would not let your kids walk through these neighborhoods. We know thee neighborhoods and so do you. You are turning a blind eye. This ain’t safe passage.”
Next to speak was the LSC Community Representative and alumni. “Drugs and gang violence are ignored. Schools continue to be on the hit list. How do we attract top teachers and talent?”
Goldblatt- A parent and LSC member talked about increasing ISAT scores and the parent room. A second speaker said, “It’s supposed to be children first not budget first.” She talked about receiving an award for academic achievement, a strong art focus and 4th grade band lessons. She was concerned that the kids would lose their music lessons if the school were closed. She also mentioned a Joffery Ballet partnership where they students attend performances and perform. The student performed at the Illinois After School Conference. “The arts increase students’ confidence”.
The next to speak was a Community Pastor. He said the 500th murder in the city was a member of his church. “Goldblatt is not an underutilized building it’s a great utilized school. Don’t get schooling mixed up with the building”.
Garfield Park – Parent, Miss Thompson talked about the turnaround. Our school has improved. We have new staff. The Principal and AP have been there less than on year and scores are already up. A young child was held to the mic a she begged for her school to be saved.
Another parent talked about how corporate education impact. She said it was detrimental to the school and scores dropped. She said three year of failing kids until CPS took action. She said the changes are due to the new administration
A parent talked about underutilization and said they were adding 7th grade in 2013 and 8th in 2014. She also said schools with “recent significant school action should be left alone. It disrupts students.” She said they went from a contract charter school to CPS in 2012.
Erickson – A 7th grade student said attendance is 96%, misconducts are down and math scores and enrollment have increased. Students went on five college trips last year and they have a partnership with Malcolm X, summer school, computer labs, and RUSH Medical program. Teachers help in hands on learning regardless of grade level before and after school. The teachers are dedicated.
An 8th grade student who is VP of the student council said that 81% of the students meet or exceed math and science standards. He said students fear other schools and the students are our future. A parent volunteer talked about the music and art and said they hired two reading teachers. She led a chant with the students present. This is a chant they use at the beginning of each school day.
Another parent said, “Everything here is supposed to be about our students”. She is a graduate and has a degree in OT. Both her sons have college degrees and “my daughter is at Leif. I sent her here to get the best education possible”.
Delano – An alumni concerned business owner and life long resident spoke next. He said his 3-year-old son starts at the Child Parent Center in the fall. “Delano is a safe haven in a war zone neighborhood. The playground is the only safe place for kids after school. He said he and his employees mentor kids in his barbershop. The staff is strong and the teachers and volunteer go above and beyond.” He said Delano has 395 students enrolled. He said they were at level 3 in 2010 and are at Level 2 this year. He talked about the increase in Delano’s ISAT scores and said they are at or above the level of peer schools. He said this information came from the CPS website and the school needs better after school programs and more parent programs.
Next to speak was Delano’s LSC Chair “We are parents and taxpayers. CPS is here to serve us. CPS is picking on the poor. Instead of cutting pay of six-figure employees, they are hurting kids. It’s not our fault they mis-managed money so our kids have to suffer”. She described the gang territories. Pulaski is the dividing line of two gangs. Garfield Park is another dividing line and 290 is a third. “Don’t risk like and bodily harm of our students.” She talked about an increased crime rate, increased physical conflict and increased conflict with kids from other areas if schools are closed. “If CPS closes any schools it will lead to empty buildings. CPS is aware when a school closes a charter school opens. CPS is slowly privatizing our schools. The only thing being underutilized is the rights of parents, students and teachers”.
A Family Focus Coordinator said the kids visited two colleges to participate in STEM and ARTS. She said there are increased parent activities and they are starting a garden across the street. Another speaker talked about the new principal. “We are fighting the wrong people”. She blamed the stated for children’s education. “Let the city and state know to take care of our children”.
Calhoun – The director from Merilac House said they are across the street from the school. She talked about the safe haven between Merilac and Calhoun. “Calhoun did what they were asked to do. Teachers, staff and families are import anchors on the Westside. Mrs. West, a teacher for 30 years said they have an African Art Museum, auditorium, fully equipped gym and a library with computers. She also said all the classrooms have library, science, computer, writing centers and an aquarium or terrarium. There are 4 special Ed classrooms and Head Start has two half-day classes. There is also a parent room. Also, there are two computer labs, two science labs and laptops for all kids. They also have two rooms for wrap around services. She invi3ed student of any schools closed to join them.
Bethune- The first speaker was a middle School Math teacher since the AUSL turnaround in 2009. “We prepare kids for life after Bethune”. She talked about an increase in students meeting goals, enrollment and participation in after school programs. An 8th grade student said he feels welcome at school and is a future Jones College Prep student. Paula Seton, parent said U of C identified Bethune as a safe school and enrollment is up. She said the students feel safe and educated and despite the high mobility rate there’s been an increase in attendance. They are community partners with Children’s Home and Art, United Way and social services. She said the Network Chief that their school would see no further actions promised them, during a school visit.
A father and uncle of 9 students spoke of becoming an AUSL school in 2009. He talked about the science lab, drum, computer, academics, teacher resource rooms and two playgrounds. He said they are no empty unused rooms. “Keep your word and allowed our school to stay open”.
Beidler – “Here we are again. We are going to say facts without emotions,” said the first speaker. One teacher stated space utilization facts that dispute board reports. She said the building is 72% energy efficient and 14.4 million dollars have been invested since 1999 including a campus park. Enrollment is up 17%. She requested the CPS acknowledge the utilization crisis is non-existent.
A father of 5 talked about volunteer, mentors, coaches and a basketball team for Pre-K – 4th. He said they have 440 students and families move in and come back from charter schools. He said their attendance rate is 95%. He expressed concern for student having to walk through different gang territories and for the affect on teachers, parents and students as “We just went through this last year”.
A 7th grade student talked about the basketball team, Boys to Men, recess and classwork. He participated as a 5th grader to protest Beidler closing and is now concerned about safety getting to school. He is concerned his safety worries will affect his learning and worries about his four younger sisters. “Young people are threatened and killed all the time. Think of me and my friends when you think about closing our school”. A former administrator today said, “Education is under siege by the3 Mayor and mis-informed media. “We need to fight to save our ids, schools and the integrity of the Westside. 88% of the students in upheaval are from the west and south sides. Injustice needs to stop now. Leave our children alone. Inflated costs by CPS runs up a list of underutilized schools.” He said the mayor spent money on turnaround, AUSL charter schools and they lady Hench that follows the Hench man. “This is not right. We do not want to accommodate a few jealous bureaucrats. We say no to Rahm closing Beidler or any Westside schools. We will die for our Westside schools. We will die for our Westside students. Leave the Westside alone. They want the Westside. We aren’t going to let them take it. You have to fight for what you want. We want all Westside schools left alone”.
A Commission talked about the population growing in the juvenile center. He talked about reevaluation plans. “I urge you to give kids a chance to stay viable in their communities. At this point the meeting was adjoured.