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'Marine Military Academy' takes over another school building... Community bids farewell to Ames Middle School

Following the Logan Square Neighborhood Associations (LSNA) annual convention, held at Funston Elementary School (Central Park and Armitage on Chicagos Northwest Side) on May 20, 2014, about 300 people marched down Armitage Avenue to Ames Middle School (3800 W. Armitage) to pay their final respects to Ames.

After a battle lasting several months, the Chicago Board of Education is completing the conversion of Ames Middle School into the "Marine Math and Science Academy," a military school where students will wear Marine uniforms and receive military training as part of their curriculum. The conversion is being done over the protests of the majority of members of the local community, despite various reasons being offered by school board members and CPS officials.

LSNA has long played an important role at Ames, providing parent mentors and multiple programsincluding a health care clinic inside the schoolto enhance the CPS program at Ames. Ames is located in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, and LSNA, the community and the students have built a strong program for the students.

CPS officials barred the media from Funston Elementary School on the night of the meeting. Parents and supporters of the Ames Middle School reported that they had played a recording of Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale telling the community, at a Board of Education meeting a few months before the change, that CPS had no intention of making Ames a military school. Readers who want to hear Vitale's statement can find the recording at: http://mail.aol.com/38563-111/aol-6/en-us/Suite.aspx

At that time, Vitale repeated, thrice, that Ames would not be turned into a military school and that people should stop listening to "rumors." Less than a year later, the conversion became, as they say so often in CPS, a "done deal."

The Ames community took on Alderman Roberto Maldonado, who had decided on his ownwith the help of manufactured robo callsthat Ames had a "gang problem", and that the solution was to turn Ames into a city-wide, selective enrollment, "Marine Military Academy." Maldonado had pushed transforming an improving neighborhood school with strong community support into one of Mayor Rahm Emanuels pet projects, a military academy. The move of the Marine Military Academy from the old Grant Elementary School building (at Adams and Rockwell) allows the Board of Education to expand the Army ("Phoenix Military Academy") into the entire Grant building. The two had been sharing space inside the Grant building for four years.

The Ames community fought the reactionary alderman with everything they could. They surveyed people, organized programs at the school, won the support of the Local School Council, got stories published by progressive journalists and videographers, and ultimately got a non-binding resolution on the primary ballot last March 17 (2014), where community support for keeping Ames a neighborhood registered about 67 percent among those voting in the surrounding eight precincts. Maldonado was also isolated from his fellow aldermen, when two voiced their support for keeping Ames as a middle school and noted that Maldonado's claim to represent the Ames "community" was not completely true as Ames drew students from several political areas (including two wards and other representative district).

The work the community did in support of Ames Middle School did was all the more impressive since much of it was done during the incredibly cold winter of 2014. But people believed in their efforts such that they refused to be intimidated by the cold. This reporter covered a well-attended community meeting on a night where the temperature was 6 degrees below zero. (The meeting was well-attended until people realized it was a CPS sham, that the decision to transform Ames ha already been made by CPS, prior to the meeting that had been called to begin the discussion about Ames.).

Ultimately, the Chicago Board of Educationwhose concept of democracy is to do whatever "Mayor 1%" demandsvoted to transform Ames into a military academy.

Students who refuse to accept the military-focused program have the option of transferring for their 7th and/or 8th grades years to nearby McAuliffe Elementary, or they can attend 7th and 8th grades at Kelvyn Park High School. As this reporter was told tonight, the waiting list at McAuliffe is already very overcrowded, and nothing has been done at Kelvyn Park to prepare to bring middle school students into a neighborhood high school.

As this reporter arrived at the rally at Ames, a speaker whos name I did not get, had begun. She said the people present were there to mourn the loss of Ames. The crowd represented the local community: mostly Latino, but with a significant number of whites joining them. The speaker reminded them that LSNA was standing strong, and the community they had built was more than just a building.

Recently elected State Representative Will Guzzardi said a few words. Speaking in both English and Spanish, he urged community members to not give up. He said, We need to change the system if this community is to go forward, and crowd broke out into a warm and enthusiastic cheer.

He then asked the crowd, Was Ames gang-infested, and the crowd responded with a determined No! Guzzardi then called for an elected school board, and the crowd responded enthusiastically. From out of the crowd rose the chant, Si se puede! (Yes, we can!)

This reporter then got a few minutes to talk with Emma Segura, a former LSC (Local School Council) member. She said, CPS doesnt care about kids. She spoke disdainfully about how the Board of Education had ignored the community, the neighborhood and mostly the kids in making its decision. There was no consideration for what the kids want.

She also noted that CPS hadnt sent any professional counselors/therapists out to the school to help the current students deal with the loss of their school and the strongly supportive community that surrounds it.

Ms. Segura was having a hard time holding back the tears. She said, I think about all the hard work, in the cold and the rain, and now the community we built in the school is gone.

While there is no way that the outcome at Ames can be labeled a victory, this reporter doesnt think the story is over yet. LSNA has promised to register another 2,000 voters for next years mayoral and aldermanic election. And the relationships built around Ames arent going away.

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Comments:

May 21, 2014 at 12:55 PM

By: Rod Estvan

CPS Marine JROTC not real

Currently the United States Marine Corps does not have a separate Reserve Officer Training Corps or Marine ROTC program of its own at the college level. Students interested in attending college on a Marine ROTC Scholarship have to choose the Marine option from the Naval ROTC program. Since 2012, this option has been available at more than 150 colleges and universities in the United States.

The Marine program still requires cadets to complete and pass at the conclusion of their junior year in college a six-week Marine Officer Candidates School at Quantico. Upon graduation with a BA degree and completion of the ROTC program, cadets are commissioned as Marine Corps Second Lieutenants. The program at Quantico is very difficult. In order for any CPS high school graduate to be eligible for a Marine ROTC Scholarship they also must have at least an ACT score of 22. The Army College ROTC program requires only a five week Leader Development and Assessment Course held at Fort Knox, Kentucky and it is not as brutal as the Quantico program with a somewhat lower wash out rate.

But it is really far more difficult academically in Illinois to enroll in a Marine option ROTC program than the 22 ACT score would lead one to believe, because there are only three colleges that have the Marine ROTC option at this time. These three colleges are Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University Main Campus, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. All of these three colleges have much higher admissions standards than a composite ACT score of 22. Annapolis, the United States Naval Academy which also has a Marine option, but it is one of the most selective colleges in the country. The lowest scoring student admitted last year had an ACT score of 25 in English and 26 in math.

In 2013, the CPS Marine Military High School graduates on average had an ACT score of only 17.9 far below what is required for the Marine ROTC Scholarship.

An example of how Chicagos program is really not a real ROTC program can be seen by Marine Corps JROTC program at Parkview High School in Lilburn Georgia which has existed for the past ten years. The school has about 205 cadets, yet only 6 graduates of this program have made the cut to enroll in a US Service Academy over ten years. It is unlikely that any CPS Marine ROTC high school graduate has made the cut to enroll in a service academy. It is also unknown if any CPS Marine ROTC high school graduate has ever been commissioned.

U.S. News and World Report honored Parkview High as being among the nations top high schools and one of the Top 10 Best High Schools in Georgia. Parkview is an excellent middle class high school (poverty rate only 39%) with an average ACT composite score for graduating seniors this year of 23. Parkviews Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps was recognized as a Naval Honors Program for sixth straight years, a designation awarded to programs ranking in the top 20% nationally. Even this school in Georgia which is close to being equal to a CPS selective high school can only get a very few of its cadets into a service academy.

I find it very disturbing that the Marine program in CPS is labeled as a JROTC program, it seems to me it is really a leadership and discipline program for future enlisted Marines, not officers. If CPS was serious about creating a real Marine JROTC programs they really only would be located in selective high schools, because academically these schools contain students with strong enough academic backgrounds to eventually become commissioned officers in the US Marine Corp.

Rod Estvan

May 21, 2014 at 8:24 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Slandering the high schools... Marine 'discipline' and slanders against high schools

Thanks to Rod for clarifying this additional example of the hypocrisy of the CPS military program(s) (not just Marines). One of the most despicable examples of the demand for so-called "discipline" came from the Walter Coleman (now Rev. Walter Coleman) faction that spoke, on behalf of Alderman Roberto Maldonado, in support of the Marines' takeover of Ames. Both Coleman and his associate Emma Lozano repeatedly slandered virtually every high school on the North Side, following the lead of Maldonado's "gang bangers" slanders. The lurid version of reality basically claimed that the military academies were the ONLY places available for the poor kids they "knew"because the other high schools are "out of control" -- basically the same slander Maldonado was spewing. Anyone from Wells, Clemente, Kelvyn Park, North Grand, Steinmetz, or Prosser who listens to those voices on the Board meeting tapes should perhaps show up for "services" at their church or for one of the alderman's many meetings and demand to know where they learned -- and from whom -- that the city's North Side high schools are out of control and overrun by gangsters.

Slanders. Who is going to hold these people accountable?

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