Piccolo parents protest possible 'turnaround'

February 17, 2012 8:38:43 PM PST
Parents angry about the possibility their children's school may be closed staged a sit-in Friday.

The halls and classrooms of Brian Piccolo Elementary School on North Keeler was home to dozens of parents, students and activists armed with a message.

"We want to hear from the mayor," said Latoya Walls, Piccolo parent. "Hear us. We are taxpayers. We have a right. We have a say so. These are our kids."

"Until we hear from the mayor, we will be here," said Rosie Hudson, Piccolo parent, who said she was willing to risk arrest.

The protesters entered the school Friday afternoon with sleeping bags and food, with no apparent security to stop them. They were protesting Chicago Public Schools' "turnaround" plans for the school, which, if approved, would lead to teachers and staff being replaced.

"The teachers know us. If they come in here, they don't know our personalities. And they just don't know us," said Yshanda Hudson, Piccolo 8th grader.

When asked if he agreed with CPS, which says teachers are failing children at the school, Piccolo 7th grader Larry Davis said, "I disagree what CPS says. They're not failing us. It takes a process to fail a child."

Piccolo has been on academic probation for the last five years.

In a statement Friday, CPS said, "We need to make difficult, but necessary, decisions to boost student achievement throughout the district and put their needs before all else."

Under the turnaround plan, management of Piccolo would be turned over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership, or AUSL, a private, non-profit that already runs 12 CPS schools.

"We need our school," said Nedra Martin, Piccolo parent. "If they've got the funding, give us the money, and we'll do what we've got to do for Brian Piccolo."

Piccolo is just one of 10 underperforming CPS schools slated for turnaround. Six of those 10 would be run by AUSL.

Parents at Piccolo questioned CPS's claims that the organization improves schools more quickly and they said test scores are up under Piccolo's new principal who was hired last summer.

"She's doing a turnaround. We don't need their turnaround. She's doing the turnaround," said Walls.