Whittier parents expect to get school library

October 27, 2010 (CHICAGO)

School officials had originally said the 100-year old field house building was not safe and needed to be demolished. But parents fought hard to keep the building from meeting a wrecking ball.

About a dozen parents were still camped out as they have been many days at the field house in Whittier Elementary, which they call 'La Casita.' They have been using the field house as a bargaining chip in their demands with Chicago Public Schools. They say they will not be satisfied until all of their demands are met in writing.

After 43 days, Whittier parents won't let the CPS say the situation has been resolved -- not yet.

"So what time can we have the agreement in writing and signed by the board and can we please have it today, because I think we deserve it and we're not moving until we get an answer," said Araceli Gonzalez-Mancilla, parent.

CPS CEO Ron Huberman says the parents and the board agree the field house will be renovated, rather than be demolished, and a library will be built for Whittier Elementary. The parents want it as a stand-alone facility, but not in the school, which they say is too crowded even after multi-million renovations over the summer that included space for computer and science labs and kitchen facilities.

"What I have laid out today is the outline of a strategy going forward and the details are going to be followed up," Huberman said Wednesday.

"Whittier parents pretty much stood down against this powerful board of education to fund a library and librarian for their children. And this story is actually one of courage and perseverance and dignity," said Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union.

"Start to fight. There is money. Get a library. We need to have in the schools what the kids need to succeed in this world," said Gonzalez-Mancilla.

CPS dismisses parents' concerns that if Huberman leaves his job, as has been rumored might happen under a new mayor, then their 'La Casita' will again be in peril.

"We want a full top of the line library for our kids. They can put expansions for kids to get everything they need but not for us, why? Because we're Latinos," said Evelin Santos, parent.

"We have to also consider the budgetary constraints that we are under. We have to consider fairness and equality to other schools who may not have the same kinds of resources, that deserve the same kinds of resources," responded Monique Bond, Chicago Public Schools.

Huberman and the parents agreed Wednesday at the CPS board meeting that they will meet again at the school at 9:30 Friday morning to continue to discuss what has to happen to get an agreement firmly into place.

The parents will have to form a non-profit organization and incorporate an organization so that the CPS board of directors can work with them as an entity. According to one parent, the letter does not provide details or promises about the location of the library. That is expected to be another point of discussion at Friday's meetings.

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