CPS parents take concerns to mayor's doorstep

February 20, 2012 4:40:15 PM PST
A group of parents marched past the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday night, protesting Chicago Public Schools' plans to turn around or close 16 underperforming schools.

About 200 protesters marched from Lakeview High School where several groups held a rally before walking about a half dozen blocks over to Emanuel's home. They held a candlelight silent vigil just feet from the mayor's front door.

Activists say the turnaround plan destabilizes schools and communities while displacing good teachers who just lack resources.

Wendell Smith Elementary School is on the list, once again leaving some parents shut out.

"This is outcry to have everybody all over the world pay attention," said Sharisa Lee Vaval, parent. "It's not just happening here, it's happening everywhere."

"We have been pushed to the last step," said Darcell Ezell, Wendell Smith school aide.

District officials say Smith is not meeting educational standards and has been chronically underperforming for years.

In a statement CPS spokesperson Becky Carroll writes, "with almost one out of two students not graduating high school, and only 7.9 percent of our 11th graders testing college ready, we can no longer accept schools that fail."

Officials also created the new Office of Community and Family Engagement last July. The purpose of the little-known office is to focus on solely on parents and school communities.

Still, the turnaround program angers those at Smith who blame a lack of funding for the problems at the South Side grade school.

"I ended up with 57 kindergarten children that I couldn't share with anybody because I was the only one left," said Sandra Triche, Smith kindergarten teacher.

"I don't see CPS making that available to schools like Wendell Smith, and many of the others that they decided to, in my humble opinion, sabotage," said Dr. Carmen Palmer, Educational Village Keepers.

Not everyone is against the plan. Some say maybe it should get a chance.

"I don't know exactly what the answer is going to be. What I do know is what's working right now is not actually working," said Rev. David Pope, Brotherly Love Baptist Church.

Smith isn't the only school in an uproar.

About 100 people aided by Occupy Chicago staged a sit-in at Brian Piccolo specialty school over the weekend after it too was slated for a proposed teacher and staff shakeup.

While many of the concerned at Wendell Smith hope to save their school, Jerry Ward vows to keep fighting for his voice and his children.

"Our school, our students and our children are our future," said Ward.

The Board of Education will finalize the fate of the 16 Chicago Public Schools that are on the closure or turnaround list on Wednesday.