Community Takes Over Chicago School Closing Hearing

Thursday, 31 January 2013 13:23 By Adeshina Emmanuel and Benjamin Woodard, DNA Info | Video
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email


Click here to support news free of corporate influence by donating to Truthout. Help us reach our fundraising goal so we can continue doing this work in 2013!

CPS School Closings Meeting Gets Heated as Protesters Shout Down Officials

Chanting "Save our schools" and "No school closings," several hundred parents, teachers and community members refused to let Chicago Public Schools officials speak during a public hearing on school closings Monday night in Uptown.

Attendees filled the bleachers and stood against the wall at Truman College for the opening meeting in the second phase of community hearings being held around the city on the district's plan to close underutilized schools.

But district officials had a tough time even making a prepared presentation as crowds shouted and chanted. As one official tried to outline the district's vision, someone shouted, "Do you believe him?" "No!" the crowd answered.

Craig Benes, who oversees schools in the North Side's Ravenswood-Ridge region, was even heckled at one point when he said he wanted "to just step away from the agenda for a moment and speak from my heart. ... I understand that teachers and parents are concerned" — but he asked for the audience's ear.

He did not get it. The crowd started chanting, "Save our schools! Save our schools!"

The meeting got so heated that the principal at Brenneman Elementary School, 4251 N. Clarendon Ave., decided to leave along with the dozens of children who had come with her.

After the first part of the meeting, Uptown activist Ryan Polker, 22, whose dad and grandparents were teachers, grabbed a microphone at the front of the gym and screamed, "The voice of teachers, students, neighborhoods, are not being heard. ... The community feedback is simple, just one sentence: zero school closings."

Some, including teachers from Stockton Elementary School, 4420 N. Beacon St., refused to attend the breakout sessions designed to gain input from the community later in the meeting. The meetings were run by independent facilitators who don't work for the district, which was criticized by some at the meeting.

Education activist Tim Furman was furious the district planned to bar members of the media from the sessions.

"Reporters ask questions to find the truth," he said.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Benjamin Woodard

Benjamin Woodard is a Reporter/Producer covering Chicago's Far North Side.

A Pacific Northwest native, he joined DNAinfo Chicago after graduating with a degree in Visual Journalism from Western Washington University in Bellingham. Ben's photographs and stories have been honored with several accolades from the Society of Professional Journalists. His investigative reporting on a university administrator's questionable travel abroad and breaking news reporting on the drowning death of a student won national recognition.

After an internship at a daily newspaper north of Seattle in summer of 2011, Ben and his wife moved to Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, where he launched, a hyperlocal news site that quickly garnered a dedicated following in one of Chicago's most diverse neighborhoods.

Ben has picked up dozens of bylines in the Seattle and Chicagoland areas as a freelance writer, including for the Sun-Times Media Group, GateHouse Media and the Cascadia Weekly.

Adeshina Emmanuel

Adeshina Emmanuel is a 23-year-old writer and reporter whose work has been published by local, national and international news outlets. You can call him Ade (like "ahday"), which is less of a mouthful, but still hard for some people to pronounce.

An African-American mother and Nigerian father raised him in Uptown, and he currently lives in Rogers Park, where he studied journalism at Loyola University Chicago.

Before joining DNAinfo Chicago, Ade was reporting on federal policy and social issues in Washington, D.C. as the New York Times' 2012 David. E. Rosenbaum Fellow.

He spent his senior year at Loyola working as a crime reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, which hired him in late 2011 at the tail end of a three-month internship there. It was the longest year on record.

Hide Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus