March 2013


Dear Mr. Vitale, Mr. Ruiz, Mr. Azcoitia, Mr. Bienen, Ms. Hines, Ms. Pritzker, Ms. Zopp:

It is decision time in Chicago.  You have been presented with a plan by the Mayor and his hired CEO.  You are his appointed Board of Education members with the power to decide.  I use the term plan loosely because by definition it is,  “a detailed formulation of a program of action, a method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective.”  This school closing action is definitely not a plan, up until the day of the announcement even people in the CPS central office were unaware of many parts of it.  Imagine how poorly it will be executed when it continues to be drawn up minute by minute with little thought and consideration of the outcomes and consequences.  Even if the community opinion and parent voices are ignored, I hope the research is considered by the board. I hope you have taken the time to read the articles and research discussing the cost, dangers of school closings, as well as information about the schools closed and the impact on welcoming schools.

The Board members actually have an opportunity to lead a change in school reform with your vote.  By looking at the research and saying NO to school closings you can shift the conversation, lead real reform in urban schools.   You have a chance to determine what a community school can look like in every neighborhood.  You have a chance to do just as our school motto says: educate, inspire, transform.

So here is your chance.   Here is your moment to do something for Chicago.  Make a choice as a Chicagoan, a community member and a leader in education. You are at a crossroad: will you  be a part of the destruction of Chicago and its communities or will you be  a beacon in the storm of education reform?  Your name is attached, your legacy will be remember, your choice will have an impact for generations. Will your name be written with those who create positive change and bright futures for our children, or will your name be written on the death certificate of neighbor schools and the communities they serve?

Dare to give our neighborhood schools and the children that attend them an education the mayor gives his own children.  Show our children what it means to think critically, take all the information from the research detailing the damage of school closing on communities, children and finances and make a decision to keep schools open.  Show our children what courage looks like,  stand up to the man who appointed you and say you think what’s best for our children is to have a quality neighborhood school in every neighborhood.  Show our children that you think of them first when you are making decisions.  Take the money that is set for security and busing and use it to give children the resources they need, show them you believe they deserve all of that in the school they are in, not just if they are willing to face danger and distance to get it.

Let your choice and legacy be the model that other urban districts follow, let this world class city lead by offering a world class education to all of our students in their neighborhood.

Sincerely,

A Chicagoan

We have resilient students and teachers which I have seen first hand how they will adjust to any condition faced.  Whether it is class size, budget, buildings, principals, testing, or another factor people in our schools do their very best.  They do this out of the desire to get an education and to give the highest quality education.  They will do what they must, but they should not have to overcome as much as they do.  I know that no matter what our future holds, teachers, staff and communities will come together to do their best at giving our kids the best education they can.

Our mayor says he wants to reduce violence and give our students opportunities for success, but those must not include getting an education in their neighborhood. Our efforts should be to build quality schools in EVERY neighborhood.   We have students who attend our schools despite major adversity now, to add stress by closing schools is not going to help us prepare our students for the future, in fact stress is a huge obstacle to learning, why aren’t we working to remove road blocks for our kids? Imagine the stress of having to get to school, outside of your neighborhood and have that route feel unsafe.  The message it sends to me is that our kids education is not a priority for our city.  It says we don’t believe you deserve the best, even though every person working with our young people believes they do deserve just that.

We heard the commision recommend not closing high schools because of gangs and violence issues, yet our K-8 students will be left to face it.  How many more kids’ lives must be sacrificed?  Should the gangs be held accountable for violence? Of course. But should our schools be the ones putting our students in unsafe spaces? No.  The amount of money the city will have to spend on bussing (if they do at all) and security will be more than they save in utilization.  The loss of community centers in schools and safe zones in neighborhoods is beyond measure.  It is definitely beyond the math or seats, classrooms and number of students in a building. Why can’t we utilize the space in schools to offer after-school community programs, lease out the space to park districts, heath and fitness programs, nonprofits that want to come in and help in our communities?  Why can’t the mayor “sell” that? Chicago Public Schools is advertising on public transit a way for people to vote for community programs, can’t we do both: keep schools open and use the space in schools for community programs?

The recommendations for schools should come from a commission of community members, parents, teachers and city workers who live in and work in our communities. I imagine a parent, police office, religious and community leader would bring better insight to the decision. The solution to keeping schools open and utilized can be solved with the members of each community invested in the schools themselves.  How invested can a CEO be by living here for less than 6 months?  How much does the mayor care when he has only been back for a few years and will likely be gone in a few more and doesn’t send his kids to our schools?  Yet our children, families and teachers remain here to learn and work in our community schools.

I hope CTU has a plan to stand for children and keeping schools open as they did for a fair contract.  The message sent when thousands of people stand together in our downtown displaying the need for something better for our kids and schools was powerful. The mayor says he wants our students to dream of a possibility of what our downtown has to offer them in their own futures.  I hope our young people, teachers, families and concern community members listen to the mayor and take our children downtown very soon to send a message about their education and their future.