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Lincoln Elementary School hypocrisy challenged by Dyett hunger strikes, until Rahm and Forrest retreat in the face of another public protest...

Confrontations over Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to ignore the demands of the majority of people in the Bronzeville community and establish an "arts and technology" high school at Dyett High School resulted in an additional confrontation on September 10, 2015, when the mayor and schools CEO Forrest Claypool showed up at the new Lincoln Elementary School annex for the dedication of the expensive -- and unnecessary -- new building.

Despite claims by Claypool that the expensive Lincoln Annex was being dedicated to "expand excellence," those who know the history of both struggles noted that the real deal was the a faction of wealthy residents of the Lincoln Park community had gotten the Board of Education to ignore the fact that it is supposedly broke to build the annex, even though nearby elementary schools have space that could have taken the supposed overflow of kids. "Broke on Purpose," the slogan of the Chicago Teachers Union, was blatantly on display on September 10 when the confrontations took place.

Despite the fact that the $14 million dollars that the annex supposedly cost (I'm betting the actual cost is more than $20 million, based on comparable land aquisition and construction projects) came from CPS capital budget money, Alderman Michelle Smith and some of those associated with the Lincoln Scam, as it's been known for more than a year (see Reader article below), continued making outrageous claims during the September 10 confrontation. "The project was paid for through state funds raised from online gambling on horse races, according to Lincoln parents who were briefed on the project," one news report stated, without citing a credible source.

The Chicago Tribune ignored the story in its print edition of September 11, 2015. The main coverage came from DNA Info. The "Mayor's Press Office" did not provide Substance with information about the activities at Lincoln until after they were over.

AS REPORTED BY DNA INFO CHICAGO....

Tears, Shouting Erupt as Dyett Supporters Crash Lincoln Annex Opening, By Mina Bloom | September 10, 2015 7:51pm, Updated on September 10, 2015 9:01pm

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of Lincoln Elementary School's new multi-million-dollar annex — a controversial solution to its overcrowding problem — erupted in chaos when Dyett hunger strikers and supporters, who crashed the event, started shouting at public officials, resulting in several more shouting matches and tears.

At the hastily called ceremony Thursday afternoon, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) — surrounded by a large crowd of kids and parents — said the three-story, 19-classroom annex at the school at 615 W. Kemper Pl. will help families now and in the future "to stand firm in their neighborhood."

Smith thanked the school's Local School Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for their "tireless" efforts in making the $19-million annex a reality, which has been years in the making. The addition will increase the school's capacity by 420 students.

The project was paid for through state funds raised from online gambling on horse races, according to Lincoln parents who were briefed on the project.

Mina Bloom describes how the protesters interrupted the ceremony:

Behind Smith was Emanuel, Lincoln Elementary principal Mark Armendariz and Forrest Claypool, chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools.

"I can see from this room that people are invested," Claypool told the crowd, adding that the annex will "allow its academic gains to continue."

It wasn't until Emanuel came up to the front and began to speak that someone from the very back of the crowd shouted, "Don't black students on the South Side [need support?]"

That was met with objection from parents, who shouted remarks in response, and then began chanting "Go Lincoln!" as a group.

[RELATED: A Dyett High School Saga Explainer: Closures, Protests and a Hunger Strike. Go to DNA info].

Unable to get the attention of the rowdy crowd, Emanuel decided not to give his remarks, saying, "Let's just cut the ribbon now." A mayoral spokeswoman stated before the event that Emanuel would not be taking questions at the event. [A subsequent press release is reprinted at the very bottom of this report].

Immediately after the ribbon was cut, Asif Wilson, one of the three latest members to join the Dyett hunger strikers, engaged in a heated argument with Claypool, in which the two exchanged strong words back and forth.

"Two years ago, parents told CPS: Don't build this annex. What about all of the black students? People are still striking. [Mayor] Rahm [Emanuel] and [Forrest] Claypool can show up to this event but they can't show up for the strikers," Wilson told DNAinfo Chicago in the midst of the chaotic scene.

A Dyett supporter and Lincoln Park parent traded barbs at the Thursday ceremony. [DNAinfo photo by Mina Bloom]

At the same time, parents who came for the ribbon-cutting ceremony traded barbs with Dyett strikers and supporters. Some needed to be physically restrained by other people at the event before they came to blows. One of the parents, who declined to be named, burst into tears.

Solving the overcrowding problem at Lincoln has been controversial, with some questioning whether it was getting more attention than other schools with worse problems because it was in affluent Lincoln Park. According to CPS enrollment statistics, there were 61 schools systemwide that were more overcrowded than Lincoln as of November of 2013.

Chicago Public Schools could not provide this year's statistics Thursday evening.

Principal Armendariz declined to comment on the scene, referring all questions to Chicago Public Schools. He would not allow DNAinfo Chicago to take pictures of the classrooms on the second floor, even as parents and children toured the facility.

Similar to the event in November of 2013 held to announce the building of the annex, which was criticized at the time for being secretive so as to hide the project's detractors, Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony was not widely publicized. A DNAinfo Chicago reporter initially learned of the event from a parent, and the alderman's office did not send out an official invitation until Thursday morning.

Over the last few years, there have been countless public meetings on how to solve the overcrowding problem. Some parents wanted to see the school's boundaries changed, and others feared Smith was going to compromise with developer Daniel McCaffery, chairman and CEO of McCaffery Interests, to allow for higher density on the former Children's Memorial Hospital site in exchange for allowing a school to be built there.

Smith and parents in the area have argued the move to alleviate overcrowding at what some call the "crown jewel of CPS" was needed to stop families from moving out of the area.

SCANDAL WAS REPORTED TWO YEARS AGO IN THE CHICAGO READER...

Rahm says the schools are out of money—but not for Lincoln Park After closings and cuts around the city, the mayor finds $18 million for an affluent neighborhood school. By Ben Joravsky @joravben

Last I looked, Chicago's public schools were so broke that Mayor Emanuel had to close 50 of them, fire hundreds of teachers, and slash budgets so deeply that in some cases funding disappeared for librarians, chess teams, and even toilet paper.

Schools in most civilized and developed societies take these things for granted. Especially the toilet paper.

And yet from out of nowhere, Mayor Emanuel recently came up with $18 million to build an addition at Lincoln Elementary, which, as the name suggests, services Lincoln Park, one of the richest neighborhoods in Chicago.

So on top of everything else, Chicago Public Schools now has to deal with the growing perception that only rich people matter in Mayor Emanuel's city.

Well, when you put it that way . . .

OK, before I get to the heart of the matter, allow me to say this about Lincoln Elementary: I have nothing—absolutely nothing—against this fine school that I affectionately call lil' Lincoln.

As opposed to big Lincoln, which is the high school the mayor recently manhandled by firing a bunch of perfectly good teachers.

Alas, we do not live in a perfect world. We live in Chicago, where we often squander our school money.

I love lil' Lincoln! It's a great, high-scoring school filled with wonderful children and caring parents. And I know it's overcrowded. At the moment, there are more than 800 students attending a school whose ideal enrollment is 630.

According to 43rd Ward alderman Michele Smith—perhaps the biggest booster for the annex—lil' Lincoln currently ranks 15th on CPS's list of overcrowded schools.

So in a perfect world I would wholeheartedly endorse allocating the money Lincoln needs so that it doesn't have to convert its art room, band room, auditorium, and gym into classrooms—as even more overcrowded schools on the southwest and northwest sides have had to do.

Alas, we do not live in a perfect world. We live in Chicago—a corrupt and often stupidly run city where we frequently squander our school money on frivolous stuff.

But I will not be writing about the $92 million—and counting—in property tax dollars that the mayor is determined to waste building a basketball arena for DePaul University and a hotel for Marriott in the South Loop. That money comes from the city's tax increment financing program, over half of which is diverted from the public schools.

Sorry, I wasn't going to talk about that.

In any event, there are ways to rectify the overcrowding at Lincoln without spending $18 million.

For starters, Lincoln has a gifted program and a special French program that together add more than 100 kids to the enrollment. So room could be freed up at Lincoln by moving these programs to an underutilized north-side school—and there are plenty of good ones right in the area.

This is such an obvious solution that even one of Mayor Emanuel's top school officials figured it out. Tim Cawley, the mayor's number two man at CPS, made a similar suggestion at a meeting in November 2011.

After pointing out that overcrowding at schools in Lincoln Park pales in comparison with those on the northwest side, Cawley proposed to ease it by "demagnetizing" LaSalle elementary.

That is, he proposed to switch the boundaries so that children who currently go to Lincoln would instead go to LaSalle, which is located a mile or so to the south.

But Cawley's idea was attacked by parents from both Lincoln and LaSalle, who are about as politically well connected as any in this town. Some Lincoln parents worried that their homes would drop in value if they were moved outside the school's boundaries.

The LaSalle solution was dead within days.

So in effect, educational policies are influenced by people looking to get the best deal possible should they decide to leave town. And you wonder why this system is so messed up.

The powers that be turned to option two: directly linking Lincoln's future to the development of the Children's Memorial Hospital site.

That's the now-vacant property at the corner of Lincoln and Fullerton that developer Dan McCaffery has optioned to buy and convert into hundreds of residential units.

From the outset, area residents have been opposed to this development because of obvious concerns about density, height, and increased traffic.

Alderman Smith proposed that an addition to Lincoln be built on the hospital site, thus giving wary residents a reason to support McCaffery's deal, or at least not strenuously oppose it.

But opponents correctly reasoned that putting a school on the site would only force McCaffery to build higher.

The mayor and Alderman Smith then decided to build an expansion on Lincoln's playground. Essentially, that means the school can accommodate the families who will presumably move into the new high-rise once it gets built.

I ran this assessment past Alderman Smith. She disagreed with it—which wasn't the first time I haven't seen eye to eye with an alderman. "I think the Lincoln annex expands opportunity for Chicago not only in my ward, but the whole city," she told me.

The mayor and Smith announced the expansion at a Veterans Day press conference to which they invited only supporters of the plan.

They were mistaken if they thought opponents wouldn't respond. Within a few days, the plan was attacked by parents who don't want to give up the playground and by nearby residents who don't want more cars flooding the neighborhood to shuttle kids to school.

When Smith held a meeting to discuss the plan on November 20, folks were so riled up that two geezers exchanged punches. This prompted DNAinfo to compose one of my favorite headlines of the year: "CPS school annex meeting ends in fist fight."

At least folks are passionate about something other than Derrick Rose's knee.

Speaking of which—nooooo!!!!

With Lincoln, it's pretty obvious that Mayor Emanuel finds himself in a classic spot where he can't avoid pissing everyone off, though the number of people who want the addition will be more than outnumbered by the number of people who oppose it.

My suggestion, Mr. Mayor, is that you let it die. Blame the whole thing on some unnamed flunkies at the central office, like you've done with every other fiasco and crisis you've helped instigate. Then take that $18 million and spend it where it's truly needed.



Comments:

September 11, 2015 at 7:48 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Lincoln Elementary is a brand for high property values

As an alumni of Lincoln Elementary School it is depressing for me to read this story. When I attended Lincoln in the late 1950s into the 1960s the socioeconomic status of the school and community was radically different than it is today. None the less the school provided me with a rigorous educational foundation. It was a school with working class kids inclusive of numerous Puerto Ricans, and poor whites from places like Kentucky and Tennessee going to school together. We even had many Japanese Americans whose families had fled internment on the west coast during WWII. There were also some kids from higher income families mixed into the pot.

The school was so good that it began to attract more and more higher income families into the intake area and the values of property increased dramatically, so by the early 1970s there were homes in the $150,000 range which was unheard of at the time. None of the families I grew up with still live in the intake area, the money to be made was simply to much not to sell if they owned and rents too high if they did not own.

The new addition built is all about the Lincoln School brand and the increased property values associated with it. If the boundaries were altered some could lose potential property values. Really it was amazing that there were some progressive parents with children at Lincoln who thought the building of the addition was wrong given the overall needs in CPS.

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