Ames parents, community continue struggle against military academy with ballot referendum and ongoing organizing even as Barbara Byrd Bennett puts conversion of Ames on December 18 Board of Education agenda

Parents, teachers, students and residents of the area surrounding Ames school on Chicago's Northwest Side continued their fight to stop the Chicago Board of Education from converting the schools into a "Marine Military Academy" despite learning that CPS "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett has placed the items necessary to end Ames in its present form on the agenda for the Chicago Board of Education meeting to be held on December 18, 2013.

Organizers supporting Ames school posed for a photograph before bringing their petitions for an advisory referendum on the Ames issue to the Board of Elections. LSNA photo.Because of the fact that the closing of Ames as a neighborhood public school and converting it into a selective enrollment military school will disrupt the education of hundreds of families in the surrounding community, the conversion of Ames requires two "Board Reports" (the form in which an item comes on the public agenda of a Board meeting. The Board Reports (in summary) which were published according to the provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act on December 16, 2013 are as follows:

13-1218-EX3: Change Ames Middle School into Marine Leadership Academy at Ames and expand the grade structure to 7-12. Total projected enrollment at full capacity = 1,050 students. Remove attendance boundary, making the school citywide; current Ames students are invited to attend but future students must apply. Cost of conversion will be addressed during the development of the FY 2015 budget.

13-1218-EX4: Adjust attendance boundary and grade structure at Kelvyn Park HS (expand to 7 & 8), adjust attendance boundary so students from Barry, Falconer, Nixon and McAuliffe attend Kelvyn Park for middle school, and add grades 7 & 8 for McAuliffe. Some of the students from Barry and Falconer will attend McAuliffe.

Despite the fact that as many have charged the conversion of Ames was a Chicago-style "done deal," leaders of the protests against the conversion continued their fight during the week the Board is scheduled to vote.

According to a press release issued by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association:

"Logan Square leaders file referendum petition on future of Ames

"On December 16, Logan Square Neighborhood Association leader and attorney Joel Monarch filed a petition with the Board of Elections to include a ballot referendum on the future of Ames.

"Braving the biting cold December weather, Ames parents and Logan Square leaders went door-to-door and collected 413 signatures from registered voters near Ames. The petition is planned to put the referendum on the ballot in 8 precincts near Ames Middle School during the March 18, 2014, General Primary Election. The 8 precincts span 3 wards: 1st (Moreno), 26th (Maldonado), and 35th (Colon). All 8 precincts are part of current Ames Middle School attendance boundaries.

"The referendum asks, "Should Ames Middle School (1920 N. Hamlin Avenue) be maintained as a neighborhood school, rather than being converted into a military high school?"

The petition and other materials were also shown in a photo of Joel Monarch and LSNA leaders with the petition, 115 pages in total, on the way downtown to the Board of Elections.

Chicago Public Schools officials held two public meetings during the first week of December 2013 to announce its proposals for the future of Ames' feeder schools. Board of Ed staff faced overwhelming opposition to their plans, as reported earlier in Substance.

Opponents of the move point out that the closing of Ames will result in "collateral damage" to five other schools in the community:

McAuliffe. Board of Ed Proposal: Overcrowd, increase class size, and restrict PreK at McAuliffe Elementary by adding 7th and 8th graders. (Currently all rooms at McAuliffe are in use. Adding 7th and 8th graders would increase class size from an average of 24 students/class to 29 students/class and restrict PreK enrollment.)

Nixon, Barry, and Falconer. Board of Ed Proposal: Send 7th and 8th graders from Nixon, Barry, and Falconer to Kelvyn Park High School.

In an earlier referendum on the question conducted during and after Report Card Pickup at Ames, 97% of Parents and 94% of Students Vote to Keep Ames as a Neighborhood School, not Military School

"In November, Ames Middle School LSC members held a vote among parents and students on the future of Ames," Ames supporters reported. "Alderman Roberto Maldonado and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan in October to convert Ames into a 7th-12th grade Marine Academy-affiliated school. The aldermans plan got a powerful shellacking at the ballot box. The 808 voters sent a clear message converting Ames into a selective enrollment military school goes AGAINST the will of the community.

The organizers reported: Votes of parents and other adults from Ames and the two main feeder elementary schools, McAuliffe and Nixon, during Report Card Pick-Up on November 12:

For Community School 309 (96.5%)

For Military School 11 (3.5%)

Votes of Ames students:

For Community School-459 (96%)

For Military School-29 (6%)

In addition, 2,481 parents from across all schools in the 26th Ward and Logan Square signed a petition to keep Ames as a neighborhood school open to all students, not convert Ames into a military school. These numbers blow away the 300-person survey that Alderman Maldonado purports to have. Ames parents presented the ballots and the petitions to the Chicago Board of Education at the November 20th meeting.

Alderman Maldonado has refused to answer questions from a Substance reporter on the issues.


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