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RUNAROND ON CLOSINGS: King elementary school closing hearing... Parents get the brush off from CPS 'officials'

As the reports from various school closing hearings come in, the strategy and tactics of CPS officials at the so-called "hearings" become clear. Without a stenographer, CPS executives sit at a table, while a timekeeper hovers near every speaker. They take notes, refuse to answer questions, and provide the public with a factsheet that every mother, teacher, parent, and child knows to be false. From across the city, the same story is hear. As the hearings continue on April 8, the anger will grow. But as the hearings in the community have now begun, a question arises. Is CPS acting legally? The Board of Education is required to hold these hearings before a hearing officer, according to certain legal guidelines long established.

As noted from every hearing we have already heard, not one member of the Chicago Board of Education has appeared at any of the hearings. The Board members as of April 7, 2013 are: Carlos Azcoitia, Henry Bienen, Mahalia Hines, Jesse Ruiz, David Vitale, and Andrea Zopp. Since the public meetings begin, not one of them has appeared at any of the dozens of meetings, hearings, and "Commission" events. Nor have they prepared to hear the words spoken by thousands of teachers, parents, students, community leaders and politicians from the hearings. No court reporter, not report put in front of the Board members.

BELOW IS THE DNAinfo news service report on the hearing on the April 6 hearing on the proposed closing of King Elementary School.

CPS School Closings: King Elementary Parents Frustrated at Lack of Response Updated April 6, 2013 3:49pm

April 6, 2013 3:49pm | By Erica Demarest, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer Commentsshareprint Chicago Newsletter

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NEAR WEST SIDE — Many concerns and questions, but no answers. That’s how it went for parents and teachers from William H. King Elementary as they gathered for a meeting with Chicago Public Schools officials Saturday.

It was one of three community meetings required for each school affected under a proposal that would shutter 54 Chicago public schools, including King, 740 S. Campbell Ave., before the Board of Education votes on whether to endorse the plan. King would merge with Jensen Elementary Scholastic Academy, 10 blocks away at 300 W. Harrison St.

About 350 people attended 10 meetings across the city Saturday morning and afternoon, CPS said in a statement. Three additional meetings were scheduled for Saturday evening.

The roughly 40 people who attended the King/Jensen meeting, held at Whitney Young Magnet High School, 211 S. Laflin St., were met by CPS representatives who acted as stenographers, jotting down concerns and questions.

Early in the meeting, a King mother inquired about bussing options for her four children.

“We’re here to receive input and take it back,” but not to answer questions, a facilitator responded. “We can take the question back and document it.”

CPS staffers were mostly silent as they collected statements from parents during the two-hour meeting.

“CPS officials did say these community meetings would be a chance for conversation,” the mother of four said. “Perhaps you should talk to them about that. This doesn’t really feel like a conversation.”

Several parents and teachers echoed the sentiment.

“Are any members of the Board of Education here today?” asked Martin Ritter, an LSC member at Young. “Is any CPS leadership here today? Is any decision maker who has any input on the actual final outcome of this decision here today?”

Carol Johnson, a community activist, asked what would happen to the King building once the school closed.

“What are you trying to do?” she asked. “Is this a land grab? Are you really, really concerned about our children’s safety, or are you trying to gentrify the neighborhood?"

An empty building could become a safety hazard, said Aiida Diaz, a Spanish teacher at King.

“When the school closes, that area is going to be abandoned really,” she said. “Right now, there are no provisions for what they are going to do with that building.”

Mostly, parents said, the merger boiled down to community.

“There is a tremendous amount of parent involvement [at King],” Johnson said. “These parents love their school… How dare you take their community away from them? It’s about the community. They’re a family there.”

Almost everyone who spoke Saturday questioned why CPS would close King. Parents waved stacks of “school report cards” from the Illinois State Board of Education, claiming the stats dispute CPS's “underutilization” arguments.

According to CPS data, King is on probation due to a low academic standing; Jensen is a top-performing school.

“First it was performance, then budget, then underutilization,” Ritter said. “Now, they’re using phrases like ‘holding our kids hostage in failing schools.’ When did the parents and teachers become terrorists? Why does CPS treat parents and teachers as if they’re some sort of evil Al-Qaeda people who hold children hostage?”

“That’s ridiculous,” he continued. “Are your PR people even listening to the crap they’re putting in the newspapers? I mean, seriously.”

According to flyers passed out by CPS staff, King is "less than half full" with steadily declining enrollment rates. Jensen will offer air conditioning, an upgraded computer lab and iPads for students in grades 3-8.

Buses will transport all current King students to Jensen until they graduate, the flyer said. Parents wondered whether pre-school aged children would also receive bussing once they enrolled in Jensen.

“Whether you promise a bus or a shuttle, that doesn’t protect kids from everything,” snapped Ritter. “So when something negative happens to these children from King, it is on CPS’s hands. It is on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s hands.”

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130406/east-garfield-park/cps-school-closings-king-elementary-parents-frustrated-at-lack-of-response#ixzz2PraV092k



Comments:

April 10, 2013 at 11:00 AM

By: Kati Gilson

School closings' impact on Sumner, receiving schools

I teach at Sumer. The students from Ericson are supposed to come to Sumner almost a mile. Melody, 5 blocks away from us is moving to Delano to turn Delano into Melody. Delano is further away than Sumner. How many parents are going to send their kids to the "specified receiving" school if there is another school closer to them. This whole thing makes no sense. How are preschool and primary children going to be able to make that long walk, not to mention the hazards of crossing gang boundaries, empty buildings, busy street and other safety issues. School closings are criminal.

April 10, 2013 at 12:57 PM

By: John Kierig

Going to schools further away.

Short answer: they're not.

This whole mess is specifically designed to get parents of closed schools to send their kids to charters.

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