At a Walter Q. Gresham Elementary Local School Council (LSC) meeting Tuesday evening, community members, parents and others pledged to keep the fight alive to save the Chicago public school from having its entire staff fired and replaced.
“We own this school. This is our school,” Gresham parent Pastor Clarence George told Chicago Public Schools (CPS) representatives who attended the meeting. “And regardless of whatever comes out of it, we are going to be like a thorn in your side. We are not going to go away. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to fight until you all give us our school back.”
The Chicago Board of Education voted last month to turnaround Gresham, located on the South Side's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, and two other academically struggling schools. The schools will be handed over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). All staff members at the three schools are slated to be fired, and AUSL will hire on new principals, faculty and staff. Read all about the three turnarounds here.
Community members, parents and others have fiercely opposed the school turnarounds since they were proposed in late March. Last Friday, Gresham's current, long-time Principal Diedrus Brown and parents staged a sit-in at the school in protest of the pending turnaround. The group ended its sit-in later that afternoon once they were granted a meeting with CPS leaders to discuss their concerns. The locks were replaced at Gresham on Saturday following the sit-in, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Despite being invited to Tuesday's LSC meeting, several officials including CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, provided letters stating they were unable to make the gathering. Other school district representatives, however, did attend the meeting.
Byrd-Bennett said plans would be made for a meeting at a later time. Additionally, the CPS CEO issued this statement:
CPS is committed to continue working with and listening to the Gresham community to provide high-quality education options that will prepare our children for success in the classroom and in life. Board President David Vitale and other board members listened to their concerns prior to last month’s board vote, and I have reached out to Gresham parents to set up a private meeting. We do not take a decision to bring systemic change to a school lightly, but will not waiver when it is in the best interest of our children and are 100% committed to a smooth transition for our students.