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BOARDWATCH: 'This was a deceptive backroom deal with no transparency, no public input, and no community meetings!...' Michelle Villegas' statement to the Board of Education exposing the hypocrisy of the Lincoln Elementary School addition

[Editor's Note: The following statement was read to the five members of the Chicago Board of Education during public participation at the November 20, 2013 meeting of the Board. Board members Andrea Zopp and Mahalia Hines were absent from the meeting. The statement below was provided to us by Ms. Villegas. George N. Schmidt, Editor].

Michelle Villegas reading her statement to the Chicago Board of Education on November 20, 2013. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Imagine our shock on Veterans Day when Mayor Emanuel announced that Lincoln School would be nearly doubling its capacity while eliminating its playground. This option was considered so egregious that it was rejected outright by the previous LSC less than two years ago, and was not discussed publically by the current LSC for fear of overwhelming opposition. There are no petition signatures for putting an addition over the playground, none. In fact, less than a decade ago Lincoln parents and the community worked together for 5 years to raise over $100,000 to renovate and green the very same playground you are now about to bulldoze.

This deplorable solution was contorted to accomplish one goal and that was to ensure that addresses of an entitled few at the furthest distance from Lincoln School remain permanently in the Lincoln district. The community is now forced to lose the playground and accept a rooftop playcage inaccessible to children before and after school, on weekends and in the summer. There was no discussion with the community surrounding Lincoln, and only Alderman Smith and WALE knew what the rest of Lincoln School was sacrificing to accommodate the demands of the furthest away. This was a deceptive backroom deal with no transparency, no public input, and no community meetings. Though invited repeatedly, Smith refused to speak about plans for Lincoln at the Mid-North and Old Town Triangle Associations. Citizens have been shut out of the process. Even Lincolns LSC chair was excluded from the announcement of this victory for the children of Lincoln Park.

As a result taxpayers will spend $20M nearly doubling the population of a small school with an even smaller footprint while eliminating the playground for 1000 elementary school children for the next 100 years.

In the Chicago Tribune this morning, LSC member Jerry Quandt said opponents who are complaining about the loss of open space should consider closing off Kemper (street) during school hours to provide more play area. These are the people you have been negotiating with and bent over backward to accommodate. They now suggest children play in the street rather than explore rational options that do not meet their demands.

Here are some rational options:

Utilize the 600 available seats in schools directly adjacent to Lincoln. Overcrowding solved, efficiently utilize CPS facilities, playgrounds for all, no cost, not WALE approved.

Alderman Smith thanked the Board for destroying the playground at Lincoln Elementary School to build a new annex. Although Smith claimed that the majority of her constituents want Lincoln expanded and approved the plan, dozens of others challenged the claims by Smith and pointed to the facts that have been left out. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Move Lincolns IG program and the CMH development to Alcott or Mayer, both seeking students. Overcrowding solved, schools improved, , playgrounds for all, no cost, not WALE approved.

Add the annex LaSalle has sought since 2009 to accommodate both LaSalles magnet program and Old Town families. Every year Old Town families prefer LaSalle and are turned away. LaSalles playground is 3 times larger than Lincolns (57,000:18,000 sq ft). Magnet seats retained, overcrowding solved, ,playgrounds for all, Old Town access solved, LaSalles improvements granted, not WALE approved.

Capacity can be added within Lincolns district without losing a playground for any child. Move the annex to LaSalle. LaSalle can accommodate both the annex and a playground twice the size of Lincolns. Every child will have a top notch education and access to a playground.

Or you could double the size of one of the smallest schools in CPS, eliminate the playground, and have the children play in the street. $20M, WALE approved!

Not every child in CPS can fit into this one small school on Kemper. Nor will they want to after WALE is done with it. Say no to doubling Lincoln and eliminating the playground. The price is too high for the children of Lincoln to acquiesce to the demands of selfish adults.

In great hopes of a logical solution,

Michelle Hoppe Villegas



Comments:

April 4, 2014 at 11:27 PM

By: Neal Resnikoff

Lack of transparency by CPS

This morning on WBEZ-- a reporter asked for the content/ingredients of CPS lunches, and was told to file a FOIA, which she did. The response, she said, after delays and extensions, arrived on April 1. The ingredients of chicken nuggets? Answer: chicken nuggets. The ingredients of the chicken patty sandwich? Answer: Chicken patty and a roll. --Neal Resnikoff

October 23, 2014 at 6:17 PM

By: Maira Fernandez

Lincoln Annex

I have just become aware of more facts concerning the loss of our playground and am shocked at the behavior of those who are "pro-annex" and have other CPS schools' playgrounds to use-just steps from their doors- and have robbed other Lincoln families of the same luxury...

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