Parents testify at April 2015 CPS BOE meeting

7 parents testified this month about the need for CPS to invest in district run schools. CPS just recieved proposals to open another 9 charters with 32 campuses. Jennie Biggs of RYH shared our infographic showing there are over 12k empty seats in existing charter schools. Given the budget crisis and enrollment decline at our district, we find it financially irresponsible to keep opening more schools.

Some parent testimonies:

Belding, LSC rep Lynn Ankney

I appreciate the opportunity to speak about my passion for my neighborhood school and how I believe CPS has an opportunity to strengthen our city through stronger support of district run schools. I’d be remiss in my testimony if I didn’t acknowledge my unyielding support and love for my neighborhood school is in spite of the ongoing challenges we parents face against a district that is fraught with controversy and has a seeming propensity towards privatizing our public schools. My name is Lynn Ankney and I live in Old Irving Park. My son and daughter attend our neighborhood school, Belding. I’ve served on the Belding LSC since 2007 and co-founded Friends of Belding. In short, I not only drink the Belding Kool-Aid, I help make it. At the risk of sounding immodest, you want more parents like me across CPS. Why? Because I’m never moving and am committed to making our neighborhood school, Belding, the best it can be. I had a vested interest before my kids attended and I’ll want to see it thrive long after my kids have graduated. All residents have “skin in the game” either directly or indirectly when it comes to their neighborhood CPS. And that’s my point: There is an inextricable link between our neighborhood schools and the communities they serve. Show me a thriving neighborhood school and I’ll point to an influx or families, rising home values and real estate listings touting the local CPS. Unfortunately, the reverse is true. We all know schools are a MAJOR reason families with children approaching school age flee Chicago and head for the suburbs. Give parents a reason to stay in the city. There are many other “Beldings” across Chicago and there can be many more if CPS would wise up and realize our world class city’s strength is through the patchwork of diverse, vibrant neighborhoods and no neighborhood will prosper without a solid school at the heart of that community. So here’s my pitch to our Mayor and you: neighborhood schools matter! Invest in neighborhood schools and you’re going a long way to strengthening the communities in which they reside, attracting and most importantly RETAINING the local families who have the motivation and power to make their neighborhood school excel and become the anchor of their community.

Laurie Viets, Beard school

Hello.  My Name is Laurie Viets and I am theproud parent of three children who attend Beard Elementary School.   Beard School is a specialty Chicago Public School –districtfunded-that services students with special needs from Pre-K to 3rd grade.  My 3.5 year oldgirl/boy twins, River and Raven, are part of pre-k in the Ready to Learnprogram with Raven receiving special services through an IEP for DevelopmentalDelay.  My oldest child, Canyon, isAutistic and was blessed with the opportunity to attend Beard for two years ofpre k and is now in kindergarten. As I was staring at my computer screen trying to decide how tomake everyone understand how truly life changing this public school is to myfamily and so many others- my Facebook feed was blowing up with more and morestories of corruption and scandal and conflict of interest…it was overwhelmingand it kind of made me just want to give up and go to bed. Then I thought, NO. We need these positive stories more than ever.  We need people to know that despite all the negative, soulsucking garbage that is coming out of Chicago and all the political trash talkagainst Chicago’s public schools and it’s teachers, that there are incredible publicschools in CPS.  In the case of Beard we are blessed with amazing, brilliant, kind,creative, wonderful teachers and staff who have made it their life’s work toeducate, inspire and protect children with special needs.  Each and every child in theirclassrooms has unique challenges to learning and these men and women work tofind the right technique to reach them. They go above and beyond everyday. I am so thankful for them and what they do for my kids.  To see my Autistic son learning to readand write and do math is life changing. To see him play 5 oranges in the school play of “The Very HungryCaterpillar” made me cry.    I love our school. I am so grateful for the funding that makessuch a magical place possible.  Iam terrified that when the budgets come out in June that we will be decimated.  We can’t let that happen. 2 minutes is not enough time for you to know Beard.  So please accept an invitation frommyself and my children to come and visit. You will be inspired.  Andyou could probably use a little of that right now.

Erin Rensink, Darwin school

Hello my name is Erin Rensink.  I have been a parent at Darwin Elementary School in Logan Square for the past three years.  We chose Darwin because we believe in its mission, we wanted to stay in our neighborhood and most of all I believe in public education.  Darwin has come a long way in the short three years we have been parents there.  It’s been quite the ride.  Despite CPS putting it on a closing list and cutting 750,000 of funding three years ago when my son was in his first year of pre-school it is thriving.  I am here to ask for equitable funding and equitable support of our public schools.  

Let me tell you about a few of the great things that are happening just four blocks from my home at Darwin.  We now have a game changing leadership program as well as Concert Band, Rock Band, Ukelele Choir, Concert Ukelele Choir and Junior Ukelele Choir, Guitar, Concert Choir and Piano Lab. Our school now has an after school program facilitated by Columbia College that focuses on art, science, English and math. Kindergarten through 6th grade started flamenco class after school just yesterday.  Our teachers and administrators have been working hard to find the funding for these programs through grants and partnerships.  We have no support from CPS to make these great programs in our school happen and that is a shame.  Darwin in working hard to make this a school for all neighborhood children.  I can only imagine what an amazing place our school would be with sufficient funding.  

I have nothing but the utmost gratitude and love for the hardworking teachers and administrators that make our school the inspiring place that it is. We love our neighborhood school.  We need a strong PUBLIC school system.  Every child and parent in Chicago should have that choice.  I would love for CPS to be able to share more of the successes in our public schools.  Thank you.

Kerry Murphy, Dever school

Good morning. I am an elected LSC parent rep at Dever elementary.   As you are aware, I’ve been here before to discuss overcrowding at Dever, but today I am here to discuss the wonderful things happening at the school despite serious overcrowding and other top-down mandates that the school has no control over.

Dever is a school where my kids are valued and their relationships with teachers are strong. The dedicated lunchroom staff serves hot lunches and cold breakfasts to the students every day, even though our lunchroom is understaffed.   The school stays relatively clean, thanks to the school staff and parent volunteers who step up to clean in the absence of enough custodians.   We find creative ways to keep up with the unfunded mandates handed down by the Board of Ed.  The wonderful administration and staff have worked to obtain the Creative Schools Certification, even though they wheel the music and art classes around on carts. A dance instructor now leads class in the multipurpose room to fulfill the unfunded PE requirement, at the same time and in the same room as our kids are eating their lunch.  The school has recess to fulfill the unfunded recess mandate in a non-fenced in concrete area.  Thankfully, as of yet no child has been hit by a car. We now have 3 kindergarten classrooms of 30 kids each, with no classroom assistants to fulfill the unfunded full day kindergarten program.  Dever lost the funding for all after school programs this year, so we dipped into our school budget to offer at least some after school programs for our students.

As you can see, the decisions made by our administration and staff are in the best interests of the children and Dever should be held up as an example of the kind of school model that should be replicated in other neighborhood schools. It’s time for the mayor to hit the reset button and approve policies that lift our district schools up, not bring us down. Stop destabilizing neighborhood schools by shifting dollars over to privately run charter and contract schools. We have done our part at the school level, now do yours.