January 31, 2009. Las Casas principal, teachers, and parents challenge mendacious CPS

Las Casas Occupational High School (above) leases its space from the St. Mary Magalene Roman Catholic Church at 84th and Saginaw in Chicago's South Chicago community. The Board of Education claims it cannot afford the $250,000 per year it is currently spending on the lease, but virtually everyone from the school -- parents, students, teachers, and the principal -- challenged the Board proposal that the students be placed in private placements where they could still receive the services they are entitled to because of their disabilities. Las Casas Occupational High School Principal Akatarina Panagakis (above, speaking during the January 31, 2009 hearings on the proposed closing of Las Casas at Ninos Heroes Elementary School in Chicago. Panagakis refuted every claim that had been made by CPS officials supporting the closing of the school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.There were only a handful of people present -- and no other media but Substance -- for one of the most dramatic moments so far in the hearings over the 2009 Chicago Board of Education "hit list" for school closings, phase outs, turnarounds, and consolidations. It was the morning of January 31, 2009, and a top staff member of the Chicago Public Schools had just entered into the record the outrageous claim that Chicago is spending $84,000 per year to educate each of the 74 (CPS number) or 78 (Las Casas number) students attending Las Casas Occupational High School this school year.

The site of the event was Ninos Heroes Elementary School (8344 S. Commercial), a few blocks from Las Casas (8401 S. Saginaw). Both schools are located in the bleak but spirited South Chicago community. It was a cold Saturday morning, within walking distance of the southern tip of Lake Michigan. The second of two hearings on the proposal to close Las Casas was called to order at 10:00 a.m. by hearing officer Frederick Bates. The Board had held one hearing already, on January 26, 2009, at CPS headquarters downtown at 125 S. Clark St. A few people noticed the stark contrast between the corporate marble lobby of the headquarters of the nation's third largest school system in Chicago's downtown financial district and the public school a few blocks from the site of what had once been one of the largest steel mills in the USA (the U.S. Steel South Works), but what was today a vast expanse of snow-covered vacant land marking one of many results of the "Global Economy" that had left the people of South Chicago behind long before "No Child Left Behind" was coined as a marketing phrase for the privatization of public education. 


December 31, 2009 at 3:56 PM

By: Anthony T Monroe Jr

Former Student of (now) Principal Panagakis

Principal Panagakis has always stood for empowering and uplifting urban youth to strive to reach high levels of education and success. Outside teaching the cirriculum(@ Thurgood Marshall Middle School,'97 - '99) she taught us things that we can apply in our lives as we mature into adulthood. One of the things that stood out most to me was her passion for teaching her students how to think when most of the school programs teach kids what to think.

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