The Chicago Public Schools proposal to shut down or turnaround 18 public, neighborhood schools has provoked intense anger at CPS officials from affected teachers, parents, and even elected officials.
The latest example came Friday evening at a
Malcolm X community college lecture hall on the near West Side.
officials held the first of two community meetings to explain the phase
out of Crane Technical Prep High School, a neighborhood public school
two blocks away from the United Center, and subsequent “co-location” of
Crane with Talent Development Charter School. Pending Chicago Board of
Education approval in February, three years from now there will be no
Crane and Talent charter will occupy the entire building.
CPS also billed the meeting as a chance to get community input, even though Chief Education Officer Jean-Claude Brizard already made clear he won’t reconsider Crane’s phase out.
In any case, the staff at Crane – who will all be fired thanks to the phase out – resented the community meeting’s format Friday where CPS gave a power point presentation and then allowed audience members who signed up to speak for two minutes.
Following up the CPS power point, one Crane faculty member after another started their two minutes by saying, “I cannot speak because in all fairness the Crane’s coalition presentation was not allowed to be presented.” They then stood silent for two minutes, amid lively cheers and catcalls by the few dozen audience members – and many chants to, “Show the presentation!”
Evidently Crane faculty – lead by dean of students Aston Coleman – had suggested to CPS that they give their own power point presentation arguing for Crane’s survival. CPS refused, but the faculty’s show of solidarity proved effective as CPS officials relented after 45 minutes of the meeting and let Coleman give the power point presentation.
The presentation itself pointed out that Crane’s graduation rate of 48 percent was no worse than other West Side schools, like Marshall and Farragut, also made up of low-income students. Also, unlike charter or selective enrollment schools, Crane takes all students in their neighborhood boundary and provides educational and emotional support for some of the city’s most under-privileged teenagers.
The CPS presentation, meanwhile, pointed out that Crane has been on academic probation for ten years, and is in the third percentile among CPS schools for the trend of its students’ scores on the Illinois Student Achievement Test.
So the community meeting was an abrupt mixture of important but inconclusive statistics from both sides and an impassioned plea for community pride by Crane supporters.
Parent Lisa Russell pointed out that, “the people that make choices for our neighborhood and our community don’t live in our community.”
West Side alderman Walter Burnett (27th) said that he wanted, “the Board of Education to reconsider and give the community the opportunity to show what we can do.” Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd), state lawmakers, and even U.S. Congressman Danny Davis also spoke in support of Crane’s survival.
The Board of Education will vote whether to phase out Crane at its February 22 meeting. In the meantime, expect more community resistance to CPS plans – at these community meetings on individual school closings (more meetings are scheduled for Jan. 20) as well as direct actions like the sit-in outside Rahm Emanuel’s office Wednesday, staged by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.