Carpenter Elementary to camp out in protest against school's destruction April 8 - April 10

After a lengthy discussion at a meeting attended by more than 70 people on April 1, 2009, parents and community leaders from Chicago's Carpenter Elementary School voted overwhelmingly to hold a camp out at the school from April 8 through April 10. Carpenter Elementary School, at 1250 W. Erie St. in Chicago, is supposed to be "phased out" because of supposedly "underutilization." But at hearings and Board of Education meetings, Carpenter teachers, parents, and community leaders have demonstrated that the Carpenter building is fully utilized, especially given the large special education population being served at the school. On February 25, 2009, the Chicago Board of Education voted to "phase out" Carpenter. One month later, at its March 25, 2009 meeting, the Board of Education voted to give the Carpenter building to a newly created entity called "Ogden High School," despite the fact that CPS has a vacant high school building nearer to the current Ogden Elementary School building. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.
The camp out, tentatively called "Camp Carpenter", will be held to demand that the Chicago Board of Education reverse its recent decisions to "phase out" Carpenter and allow the Carpenter building to be taken over by an entity called "Ogden High School".

April 1, 2009. Maria Hernandez (above, center, gesturing), one of the parent leaders who have been protesting the destruction of Carpenter Elementary School, explains to the April 1 meeting about the possibility of doing a camp out at Carpenter from April 8 to April 10. Carpenter, which has been one of the most successful elementary schools serving its community for more than a decade, has been targeted for closing by the Chicago Board of Education, despite its successes. On February 25, the Chicago Board of Education voted to "phase out" Carpenter. On March 25, the Chicago Board of Education voted to give the Carpenter building to a newly created entity called "Ogden High School" (created out of the Ogden Elementary School currently serving Chicago's wealthiest neighborhood, ZIP CODE 60610 -- the "Gold Coast." Carpenter's community leaders have noted that the Board of Education has a complete high school (Near North, see SubstanceNews article March 2009) nearer to Ogden. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The meeting took place in the Carpenter staff lunchroom and began after Report Card pickup ended at the school. While dozens of community children played in the nearby gymnasium, more than 70 parents and teachers -- along with teachers from other schools organized by CORE -- discussed how to continue the protest against the destruction of Carpenter and its replacement with a newly created "high school" that could be located at other Board of Education buildings.

The meeting began with Maria Hernandez, a parent who had been helping organize and lead the protests against the closing of Carpenter, presenting the issues. Others who spoke forcefully included CORE representative Lara Krejca (who is librarian at Holmes Elementary School, a school that was on the original 2009 "Hit List"), Carpenter Principal Aide Muñoz, and Carpenter Chicago Teachers Union delegate Lisa Dimberg. Dozens of parents and teachers participated in the decision before a unanimous vote agreed to do a "camp out" at Carpenter beginning Wednesday April 8 and ending at the time of the local Good Friday procession on Friday, April 10.

Ideas for what would take place during the action were creative and continued once the general plan and dates had been set. One CORE member, Jay Rehak, a teacher and Chicago Teachers Union delegate from Whitney Young High School, announced that he and his family would sponsor an "Carpenter School" art contest for children, with cash prizes. Substance donated three tickets to the April 8 Chicago White Sox game to help raise money and morale for the event.

April 1, 2009. Teacher Lara Krejca (above, black dress) explains how the teachers at Holmes Elementary School on Chicago's South Side will support any action taken to save Carpenter Elementary School, which is located on the North Side. Krejca told the group that she worked with the Holmes staff and community and with the help of Operation PUSH and others got Holmes removed from what activists call the 2009 "Hit List" of schools to be shut down, privatized, charterized, or put into what is called "turnaround." In the foreground above, the back of the hoodie worn by one of the teachers from CORE reads: "Stop Ren 2010: Put the public back in public schools." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.As of the morning of April 2, teachers from CORE were working to build support for the Carpenter action at other schools throughout Chicago, and had asked for the support of the Chicago Teachers Union and other caucuses within the union. 

Original post, April 2, 2009, 8:00 a.m. at Permission to reprint this article and graphics given provided that the user cites origin and rights as follows: "Article reprinted with permission from SubstanceNews Service,, copyright 2009, Substance, Inc., all rights reserved." If you choose to utilize this article, please contact SubstanceNews by e-mail (Csubstance or by telephone: 773-725-7502. 


April 2, 2009 at 10:23 AM

By: a parent

Carpenter camp

Good for them! Hope this move is truly an education for all.

April 3, 2009 at 11:31 AM

By: Jim Vail

teacher/ CORE member

Carpenter is a shinning light to the whole city about standing up to power. They're scared - having to constantly meet with the parents to stop them from their protests. The fear from on top is that this can infect the rest. People need to see that there is a way to stand up to the arbitrary ruthless power structure that does not care about low-income children, their parents or the teachers who help them.

April 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM

By: Jen Johnson

I'm a CORE member and I'll be there, will you?

I hope to see all sorts of Chicago teachers, parents, students at the campout! We all need to share our support for Carpenter. Come for part or all of the campout!

April 14, 2009 at 9:18 AM

By: Marricat

Retired teacher

Is there any more news as to the campout or other activities? I haven't heard anything recently about Carpenter or the other schools.

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