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BOARDWATCH: Million dollar home owners of Lincoln school demand preferences, while middle class of Canty community continues after fifteen years to suffer massive overcrowding... Facilities incompetence at CPS continues to return after quickie planning exposes Rahm's regime ... again

Imagine a public school which has been appealing politely for relief from major overcrowding for 15 years. This is a Chicago elementary school where there is no library left, where children have to eat their lunches on their laps. It's a school where teachers have no place to work together to prepare their lessons and do the collaborative planning and work that the city talks about. Art and music are "on carts."

During his recitation of the challenges facing Canty Elementary School in Chicago at the October 23, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Scott Babich, above left, reminded the Board that the Canty community had begun discussing the overcrowding problems at their school in October 1998 -- 15 years earlier, and the Board of Education has continued to ignore their problems. Since Canty began outlining its problems to the Board, Chicago's schools has gone through six "Chief Executive Officers" -- Paul Vallas (departed in 2001), Arne Duncan (2001 - 2008), Ron Huberman (2008 - 2010), Terry Mazany (2011), Jean Claude Brizard (2011 - 2012), and Barbara Byrd Bennett (since October 2012). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. In 2013, while the city's mayor prattles hither and yon across the USA about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, this school has no room for the so called "STEM" technology that Chicago's mayor claims every child should have access to.

The playground equipment is old and dangerous, and the methods used for preparing students' food might fail any close examination despite the heroic work by the school's staff to provide for the children. While some schools in more affluent city communities are establishing not-for-profit foundations to provide extras for the children, austerity is the norm for most of Chicago. In this school's community the local alderman organized a collection to get toilet paper after the Board of Education again cut the budget for the city's real public schools.

Welcome to Chicago in 2013. The school is Canty Elementary School, and it is the third school year of Rahm Emanuel's reign as chief of Chicago's schools. Chicago's mayor was not at the school board meeting when the latest description of the problems of Canty were brought to the attention of the city's school board. But it is Rahm's reality. Sitting before the people presenting the problems were six of the seven members of the school board Rahm appointed. The "Chief executive officer" (CEO) was also appointed by Emanuel, the second since he was inaugurated as mayor in May 2011. And the administrators who were staring at the speaker, most of whom would be challenged to find their way from where they were sitting to the school being described, were among those Rahm had been importing from out of town since he took over the nation's third largest school system upon his inauguration as mayor.

Given the well known racist history of Chicago throughout most of the 20th Century, many observers would have been surprised to discover that a lot has changed, although the underlying problems remain. For decades, a reasonable assumption would have been that that a school facing such enormous challenges is located somewhere in the middle of Chicago's vast and impoverished Black Ghetto -- or maybe in the barrios.

But, no. It's 2013, and much has changed in Chicago while the overall neglect of the city's real public schools remains the main item on the agenda for those who rule Chicago. The school is a regular public school located on the city's far Northwest Side, and area traditionally called the "Bungalow Belt" and supposedly the heart, soul, and backbone of the city's "middle class."

On October 23, 2013, parents from Canty Elementary School returned to the Chicago Board of Education to briefly outline the problems facing the children at their school.

It was the 15th anniversary of the first time they tried to petition their government for a redress of grievances, one of the basic rights of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. For years, parents have been speaking before their Board of Education about the harsh and often unconscionable conditions under which their children are required to learn in their community's public schools. A difference about this story is that Chicago's Silent Majority has begun talking very forcefully noting that the same conditions facing the "inner city" are facing virtually all Chicago families that try to utilize the city's public schools. For years, decades perhaps, the main criticisms of the city's public schools have come from the segregated ghettos of the city, where conditions have often been the worst. Now they are are more often being heard as well even from those corners of the city usually too focused on other things.

THE STATEMENT OF CANTY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BY SCOTT BABICH TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION ON OCTOBER 23, 2013:

Canty Elementary, located at 3740 N. Panama in Chicago, is 150% overcrowded.

Our classrooms have 27- 35 kids in each with 3 classrooms per grade (4 in Kindergarten).

We are a Fine and Performing Arts Magnet Cluster School, but Music and Drama are taught out of a mobile cart due to the lack of space. Their is no classroom for the teachers and their equipment.

?We have 811 students in a school that was built for appximately 500 students.

Students are working in the hallways, on the hallway floors in order to get individual support. Our teachers do not have place to collaborate. Storage space and administration offices have been converted into classrooms to accommodate the students. Students are confined to their assigned seats within their classrooms.??

Canty School does not have a lunchroom or kitchen. The 1st floor hallway serves as a makeshift kitchen. Picnic coolers serve as mini refrigerators lining school hallways at breakfast and lunch time. Our kids are forced to sit in small auditorium chairs and eat their lunches on small lap tables. This year, we have become so overcrowded that children sit in folding chairs in the back of the auditorium aisles with their lunches on their laps.

It's a fire hazard and dangerous environment for our kids.??

Recess for the students is spent sitting in the auditorium quietly during inclement weather due to the lack of anywhere else for them to go. On days when the weather is good, children go outside and are left with Playground equipment thats old, out-dated and dangerous. Accidents happen daily due to the quality of this equipment. ??

Canty, its administration and families have been asking for an addition and school improvements since October 27, 1998. That will make it 15 years next month! ??We are a Level 1 school and Our neighborhood is designated as Tier 4.

The Chicago Board of Education meeting of October 23, 2013, was, as usual, devoted to a Power Point that was confusing and irrelevant to the realities facing the majority of children in the city's massive public school system. But since the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education (six of whom were present for their monthly meeting, as usual) have only to be accountable to Chicago's mayor, the usual cynicism prevailed.

October 23, 2013 was only one month after the Board approved a ten-year "Facilities Plan" presented by a guy with no Chicago school experience who was brought to the leadership of the nation's third largest school system because he worked for one of the nation's foremost management consulting firms and had an advanced degree from the University of Chicago.

The strange "Facilities Plan" was one that jiggered the names of Chicago communities so as to render any interpretation of the complex geopolitics of the sprawling city nearly impossible. Given that the plan was supposed to have been provided to the public on January 1, 2013, the delay should have produced a gem of a thoughtful outline of what was going to be done for the city. Instead, as more than one careful student of the plan observed, there was less to this than meets the eye. And the closer you look, the worse it looks. But then the six members of the Board of Education who voted in favor of the "plan" after some cover-your-ass questions hadn't actually read the plan, but only the fatuous Power Point they were presented.

It was one month after the Board produced a major public document affecting more than 600 public schools and the nation's third largest city without an index. And so, the lingering mess created by the Board's drive -- on orders from Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- to close the largest number of public schools in the history of the United States was exposed again at the October 23, Board meeting as an example of cynical manipulation, extraordinary incompetence among some of the highest paid public officials in Chicago, and in some cases outright fraud.

The quickie insight into the problems arising from the Emanuel administration came with the announcement by the Board that it would rename Samuel Gompers Elementary School after 1936 Olympic champion Jesse Owens. The family of Owens had protested when the Board closed Owens and sent (some of) the children from Owens to Gompers. Although the Owens family appeared and thanked the Board at the October 23 Board meeting, no one spoke on behalf of the union movement that in many ways was invented in the USA, for better and worse, by Samuel Gompers. Nor was there any mention of the fact that because the closings targeted schools mostly in the city's Black Ghetto the closed schools were often named after other famous Black Americans, from Matthew Henson to Arna Bontemps and others. But the biggest example of the problems that will continue came from two schools that are both, in some ways, overcrowded.

In the affluent Lincoln Park community (where no one from the middle class can any longer afford a home), a faction from the Lincoln Elementary School is demanding that the Board provide additional space to "relieve overcrowding." Challenged at the previous Board meeting in September over whether there was a true need for a costly addition to Lincoln or simply a redistricting of school boundaries in the area, some of the parents from Lincoln, claiming to represent a majority in the school and community, returned on October 23 to renew their claim on what are supposedly scarce facilities dollars. Once again, the Lincoln Park parents told the Board that it they didn't get their way they might leave Chicago and move to the suburbs.

Almost ten miles northwest of the lakefront community that houses Lincoln Elementary School and the million dollar homes around it, a truly overcrowded school in the so-called "Bungalow Belt" on Chicago's northwest side renewed a plea, first made 15 years ago, that the Board do something for the children of the stable middle class areas of the city where people don't threaten to take their money and flee to the suburbs. The contrast to the Lincoln Elementary claims came from Canty Elementary School, near O'Hare Airport at one of the places where the City of Chicago extends farthest geographically. The Canty parents and community leaders told the Board in October 2013 that they first made their pleas for the relief of overcrowding when the overcrowding began in the late 1990s. At that time, Paul G. Vallas was "Chief Executive Officer" of CPS. Since then, Canty has been told by the five other "CEOs" running Chicago's schools to continue to be patient. After Vallas, the CEOs were (in order) Arne Duncan, Ron Huberman, Terry Mazany, Jean-Claude Brizard, and Barbara Byrd Bennett. The last two have surrounded themselves with out-of-town executives screened by the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation and hired because they had no knowledge of Chicago. Moreover since Rahm Emanuel appointed the latest Board of Education in May 2011, members of what Barbara Byrd Bennett refers to as her "cabinet" have actively resented and purged those who remind them that they don't know much -- or in some cases anything -- about Chicago and its complex communities.

Lincoln Elementary is located at 615 W Kemper Pl Chicago, IL 60614, within walking distance of Lincoln Park, the lakefront, and Lincoln Park Zoo. This month, the average home in the 60614 ZIP Code area would cost a family more than a million dollars. For more than a decade, the people in communities such as the one served by Lincoln regularly remind public officials that they may just take their money and move to the suburbs if they don't get what they want. Canty Elementary is located at Arthur E. Canty Elementary School 3740 N. Panama Ave., Chicago, IL. 60634. This month, the average home in the area would cost a family about a quarter million dollars, according to present real estate records. The people who live in the communities near Canty do not pop up at public meetings telling Chicago if they don't get their way they will be moving to some affluent suburb.



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