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Parents Protest Plans To Restructure Schools

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Parents protest the closures and “turnarounds” of several Chicago Public Schools. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 02/21/12 – 3 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel shrugged off a school-related protest outside his house Monday evening, saying on Tuesday that he will forge ahead with plans to remake failing public schools across Chicago.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the mayor said he understands the anxiety many parents feel over the proposed changes he wants to make at several public schools, a move that fueled a Monday evening demonstration outside his school.

But Emanuel, whose home was the subject of a residency fight during his run for mayor last year, said remaking failing schools is the right way to go, and he’ll live with the protests.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

“There’s nothing more important I can do, both morally and economically, than insure that our school system is giving our kids an education,” Emanuel said. “It’s not so much about showing up at my house. I think we’ve had enough about my residency, personally. And it’s not about my residency; it’s about the residents of the city of Chicago that I care about. It’s making sure that we provide our children an education so that they can succeed.”

The Chicago Board of Education is set to vote Wednesday on a plan to restructure several failing schools. As WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports, several hundred protesters gathered Monday night outside Lake View High School, 4015 N. Ashland Ave., voicing opposition to those plans.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports

Following a rally outside the school, the parents marched to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home in the Ravenswood neighborhood.

They say both the mayor and the school board are making decisions about school closings and teacher layoffs without consulting the schools or talking to parents.

CPS chief executive officer Jean-Claude Brizard announced in December that he had asked the Board of Education to close Simon Guggenheim Elementary School, at 7141 S. Morgan St. in the Englewood neighborhood, and Florence B. Price Elementary School, at 4351 S. Drexel Blvd. in the North Kenwood neighborhood.

Targeted for phase-outs are Dyett High School, at 555 E. 51st St. in the Washington Park neighborhood, and Richard T. Crane Technical Preparatory High School, at 2245 W. Jackson Blvd., on the Near West Side. Phase-outs mean the schools would not admit any new freshmen and the school would shut down once the last class of existing students graduates.

Ten more underperforming schools are scheduled to undergo a “turnaround,” in which their principals and entire staff would be replaced. Those schools are:

• Amos Alonzo Stagg Elementary, 7424 S. Morgan St.;
• Wendell Smith Elementary School, 744 E. 103rd St.;
• Pablo Casals Elementary School, 3501 W. Potomac Ave.;
• Brian Piccolo Elementary Specialty School, 1040 N. Keeler Ave.;
• Theodore Herzl Elementary School, 3711 W. Douglas Blvd.;
• Carter G. Woodson South Elementary School, 4444 S. Evans Ave.;
• Melville W. Fuller Elementary School, 4214 S. St. Lawrence Ave.;
• Marquette Elementary School, 6550 S. Richmond St.;
• Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School, 4747 S. Union Ave.;
• Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School, 2100 E. 87th St.

In an interview on the CBS 2 Morning News in December, Brizard said some schools were beyond the point of being rehabilitated.

“At the vast majority of schools, we are doing that. But there are some schools that are so far gone that you cannot save them,” Brizard said in December. “There’s got to be some hope left in the building for you to be able to turn a school around.”

Chicago Public Schools officials have said they are moving away from a status quo that has failed Chicago students in recent years.

This past weekend, parents at Piccolo held a 22-hour sit-in, in which they argued that test scores had improved, and 84 percent of parents came on report card pickup day, under a new principal. The sit-in ended when CPS leaders promised a meeting with the parents.

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