Residents petition against charter at Walter Reed elementary school... 20th Ward alderman questions CPS proposal

[Editor's Note: The following note was e-mailed to Substance following the hearing at the Chicago Board of Education on November 9, 2009. It specifically addresses the proposed charter school to be placed at Walter Reed Elementary School, 6350 S. Stewart Ave. Substance custom is to ask people who testify at Board of Education meetings or hearings to provide us with their prepared remarks so that we can publish them in a timely manner for all of our readers and for those who are unable to attend such meetings and hearings. The residents of the Walter Reed have also circulated a petition (noted below) which is receiving widespread support against the Board of Education's plans. George N. Schmidt, editor, Substance].

November 9, 2009

Dear Mr. Schmidt:

Rev. John Ellis (above) speaks against the CPS plan to house a charter high school inside the Walter Reed elementary school building at the November 9, 2009 hearing on Chicago's proposed charter schools expansion. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.I regret to say that I had no prepared remarks. I turned in a copy of the September edition of the Bernard Place Bee Line for the Board's perusal. It had a front page story dealing with the crime situation affecting Bernard Place, a sixty-five new home development within a block of Walter Reed Elementary. With the newsletter, I passed along copies of the petitions I had available. I read from the address by the petitioners to Mr. Huberman.

I appeared at the hearing at the request of Alderman Willie B. Cochran's (20th) constituents, particularly in the 44th Precinct which surrounds Walter Reed. A number of them, having learned today that there would be a hearing, called me and urged me to attend the hearing. The majority of the residents of the area are elderly and/or low income. Even on the occasion where one of them might have a car, it is difficult for them to drive, particularly in the evening. Those with children simply cannot break away on short notice, as they must have someone to watch their children. As I am the precinct worker, they called on me to carry their message to CPS.

A bit of history. Until a month or so ago I was actually on the TAC at Walter Reed. I had to resign as a myriad of other duties prevented me from giving the task the attention it deserved. I had come to no conclusions and so for me the matter rested.

Since February 2009, the teachers and staff at Walter Reed Elementary School have objected to the proposal to place a "high school" inside the Walter Reed building. [See the earlier Substance article by Kristine Mayle reporting on the hearing regarding the proposed "phase out" of Reed at http://www.substance articles.php? page=621 §ion=Article]. Community residents are also in opposition to the plan, as noted in the petition (above) which has been signed by hundreds of people from the community. Substance graphic provided by Rev. John Ellis.Recently, several petitions were brought to me as I am a notary. It was then that I discovered the extent and depth of opposition to placing a high school in the Walter Reed facility: residents view it as a lighting rod for crime and disorder.

I checked with the Alderman's office and learned that he, too, was opposed to plans for a high school at the Reed site. More recently, I learned that Pastor (aka Congressman) Bobby Rush disliked the CPS proposal. This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to sit in with Commander Calloway (7th District) at a follow-up meeting to the one described in the Bee Line. He was very glum about the prospect of another high school in the vicinity of 63rd and Stewart. He did not say so, but it is my impression that, if asked, he would say no to the idea of a high school at Reed. Renee Scrutchings, the president of Bernard Place Neighbors and a recently retired educator pooh-poohed the idea as well. Everywhere I turned, the plan for a high school at Reed had gotten a thumb's down.

I have no "brief" against Noble Street Charter School, nor have I heard anyone else make a case against it. As I told Ms Fitzpatrick [the hearing officer], residents here think CPS is about to place a new high school and its students in harm's way. The close proximity of another high school will hardly benefit Urban Prep and Team [Englewood]. In effect, CPS and the Board have been warned of the consequences. At the first injury to a student or one of the adjacent residents (a senior, for instance, at Tolton Manor across the street from the school), there will be a feeding frenzy by personal injury lawyers.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me.

Rev. John Ellis

PS: If your computer has a sound card, click on the Audio links beneath the headline captions. When "Allow" comes up, click on it and wait till the video/signature tune begins. You can then minimize the screen and return to the newsletter. 


November 10, 2009 at 1:05 PM

By: Danielle from CORE

I take offense....

I am extremely offended by the implication of this petition. I appreciate support in keeping Walter Reed as is, but I could not hide my indignation when Rev. Ellis, who did raise the concern of being near a senior's home at the TAC meeting attended by me and several Robeson students, read a petition that called Englewood high school students "marauding youth." This is a sign of huge disconnect in the community and a blanket insult to all the students of Paul Robeson High School.

Paul Robeson High School students are first and foremost youth, kids, students, who have often been forced to grow up too face by situations beyond their control. These students have stories and personalities and dreams and ambitions. To blanketly assume that all youth who attend high school in Englewood assault and rob seniors is disrespectful and harmful to our students. They are called monsters by the media daily, why is the community that should be helping them turning against them as well?

I beg the reverend to take back his support of this petition and instead talk to his neighbors and constituents about the positive programs they could offer Englewood students to strengthen the bond between the youth and the seniors instead of cleaving them further apart.

November 10, 2009 at 2:23 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher

I agree with Danielle. If we tell young people that they are bad, they are likely to fulfill our belief. If we show them that we support them and believe that they are basically good, then the majority will act this way. To have a reverend support a petition like this is giving young people the wrong message. Young and old need to find a way to unite especially with the shape that society is in right now. I pray he will reconsider his position.

November 10, 2009 at 2:33 PM

By: Zeta

I agree with Danielle

There is something wrong in a community when members of that community are seen a a "problem". Our young people should have a place in our communities. Older adults need to come out of their shells and communicate with our young people.

I hope that Rev. Ellis will go back and talk to the elders of the community. He needs to let them know that they can play a positive role in the lives of these young people.

November 10, 2009 at 4:28 PM

By: Danielle from CORE


Rereading the reverend's comments, it's not true that he hadn't heard a case against Noble Street because he was at the hearing where my students and I spoke against it at the church across the street from Reed.

November 11, 2009 at 6:19 PM

By: xian from CORE

Respect the youth

The irony is that many of the same youth who find themselves disrespected in this fashion spent their after school time volunteering at elderly centers and communities to build intergenerational bridges.

I don't think the problem is one generation or another. The problem is a lack of intergenerational empathy especially toward youth who need support so very much.

I commend the Reverend for speaking against the charter school plan, but simply combating ill-fated charter proposals is not enough. We must give our students the support to really improve their schools and communities.

November 11, 2009 at 6:20 PM

By: Jim Vail

RIght on Danielle!

Danielle is Right On! She is doing amazing work with her students involving them in the political process so they can grow up to be great citizens. Her work is so important to empower these wonderful, caring youth being labeled by racist views on account of a racist society that the government and corporate media perpetrate. We need more Danielles!

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