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Belmont Cragin community voices opposition to proposed Noble St. charter high school at town hall meeting

Spurred on by the Thursday, October 17, 2013 Chicago Plan Commission Meeting at City Hall in which the commissioners* will vote on a proposal by Noble St. Charter Network to build a new high school across from Prosser High School community members voiced their opposition to area aldermen and a county commissioner at a town hall meeting at Riis Park on October 9.

A teacher from Belmont Cragin elementary raises her fist in opposition to new charters at the Oct. 9 town hall meeting.Students, parents, and teachers testified to the strengths and needs of their real public schools. They explained how the expansion of charter schools will further deplete resources. They asked for (and received) assurances of support from the elected officials who attended the meeting.

More than 150 people attended the meeting, representing several area schools, including Prosser, Steinmetz, and Schurz high schools, Belmont Cragin, Hanson, Prieto, Mary Lyons, and Burbank elementary schools. Organizers Juan Cruz and Maria Degillo from the Albany Park Neighborhood Council helped parents and students plan the meeting.

Prieto Local School Council President Yeni Pinedo (in yellow) and Prieto teacher Andrea Calhoun speak in opposition to charter expansion.Prieto Local School Council President Yeni Pinedo said that although her school is overcrowded, CPS won't increase funding. She questioned why CPS would invest in privately run charter schools instead of helping existing schools.

One of my daughters in eighth grade takes classes at the schools hallway because they dont have enough classrooms. This is affecting her education. She has to carry her book bag everywhere since she does not have a place to secure it, and she cannot concentrate because of the noise in the hallway. The lack of classrooms at our school started last year when the number of students increased. "Our school asked for help from CPS by requesting mobile classrooms but CPS denied that help.Parents are now concerned because CPS wants to give millions to charter schools, and we wonder why does COS deny helping public schools that are in need but is willing to give millions to charter schools to build new schools. Why are our children being denied resources that are crucial to their education?

I would like to know why CPS makes decisions to open a school without coming to area schools and see what their needs are.

Our school has done a good job to improve academically in recent years. A better solution to the problem with our schools is for CPS to invest in us, to give our schools more resources to have more classrooms and teachers so that my daughter and many more students have enough classrooms and have a better learning experience.

Steinmetz student Leyla Bazan speaks about her year at a Aspira charter schoolSteinmetz junior Leyla Bazan said she spent an oppressive year at an Aspira charter and was glad to return to Steinmetz. I left Aspira and went back to Steinmetz because Aspira would oppress me and try to turn me into a zombie, she said. They wouldnt allow me to express myself.

We need to keep neighborhood schools like Steinmetz because charter schools do not serve all students and their different needs. And if they open up charter schools around the neighborhood, schools like Steinmetz could potentially close, because parents think that charter schools are better, when they are not. CPS took more than $1 million from Steinmetz and we lost 12 good teachers. Its not right. We need to support neighborhood schools that serve all students.

Alderman Nic Sposato (36), Cook County Commissioner Edwin Reyes, and Alderman Deborah Graham (29) pledged their support of Belmont Cragin neighborhood schools, promising to work with their colleagues to fight charters.Steinmetz students Edmund Dones and Quijna Walton asked Aldermen Deborah Graham (39) and Nicolas Spasoto (36), and county commissioner Edwin Reyes, if they would commit to fighting charter expansion. All assured the students that they would fight on behalf of the community.

Sposato read from a September 19 letter he had written to Martin Cabrera, chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission:

I am writing to voice my opposition to the application for an amendment to the planned development and industrial corridor map for 5337-5357 W. Grand Avenue, Noble Charter schools propose to construct a school and an athletic field at this address. I believe that the construction of this school will have a negative impact on Prosser Career Academy which is located at 2148 North Long in the same neighborhood.

Prosser teachers Kassandra Tsitsopoulos (at microphone) and Cristen Chapman described the Prosser community outcry at the Noble St. Charter Network proposal to build a new high school across the street from Prosser. More than 150 people attended the Prosser LSC meeting earlier in the week. Alderman Emma Mitts (37), had been on the LSC, but resigned before the meeting. She is supporting charter expansion instead of funding existing schools.Prosser teachers Kassandra Tsitsopoulos and Cristen Chapman described the opposite reaction by Alderman Emma Mitts (37) to the Noble St. proposal. They said Alderman Emma Mitts had been a member of the Prosser LSC, but resigned on Monday, just prior to the October LSC meeting where more than 150 people came to protest the Noble St. proposal to build a high school across the street from Prosser. Mitts refuses to support the existing school community.

Tsitsopoulos and Chapman passed out a flyer that states that community members think opening a charter high school across from Prosser High School is a bad idea because of safety placing two high schools this close together is asking for trouble, and that Prosser has suffered from budget cuts and has been denied additions, the public money for the charter school should be coming to Prosser!

The Prosser flyer urges people to take steps to stop the Noble Charter High School.

1. Contact Alderman Mitts, 773-745-2894; emits@cityofchicago.org, 5344 W. North Av. (open ward night is every Monday, 4:30-7 p.m.)

2. Sign the petition "Say no to charter high school on Long and Grand Ave. in Chicago" http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/say-no-to-charter-high.fb40?source=s.fb&r_by=9163698

3. Contact the Plan Commissioners who will vote on the issue, Loreeta.Walsh@cityofchicago.org, call 312-744-4181 to pass on information to the commissioners

4. Attend the Zoning meeting, Thursday, Oct. 17, 1 p.m., 2nd floor, City Hall

Alderman Nic Sposato is cheered by Steinmetz College Prep High School students for his support of neighborhood schools.*Members of the Plan Commission:

Martin Cabrera, Jr., Chair

Smita Shah, Vice-Chair

Doris B. Holleb

Linda Searl

Daniel Sih

Bishop John R. Bryant

Olga Camargo

Leslie F. Bond, Jr.

Euclid Walker

Alderman Deborah Graham talks with Steinmetz student Quijna Walton, whose family is active in the 29th Ward. Ex-Officio (honorary members who vote)

Alderman Edward Burke (14)

Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. (27)

Michael P. Kelly, Park District Superintendent

Gabe Klein, CDOT Commissioner

George W. Migala, Board of Underground

Andrew J. Mooney, HED Commissioner

Terry Peterson, CTA Board Chairman

Patricia Scudiero, Zoning Administrator

Alderman Daniel Solis (25)

Alderman Ray Suarez (31)

Alderman Thomas Tunney (44)

Alderman Joe Moore (49)



Comments:

October 19, 2013 at 12:43 PM

By: Sharon Schmidt

Plan commission members who voted against Noble

The Plan Commission voted to approve the unnecessary charter at the Oct. 17. A source reports that these two members of the Plan Commission voted against Noble St.'s proposal:

Frederick Euclid Walker, Commission Member (Midwest Region Head, Brightwood Capital Advisory, LLC)

Smita Shah, Vice-Chair of Plan Commission, President, Spaan Technology Inc

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