By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
A group of parents and community members attended the neighborhood’s second Hyde Park Community Area Residents Empowering Schools (HPCARES) meeting to discuss ways that they could work together to advocate for their schools.
HPCARES is a member group of the social justice group Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) and is working to create education advocacy groups to help with ongoing efforts to keep neighborhood schools open.
At the HPCARES meeting, which was held last Wednesday at St. Paul and The Redeemer Church, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave., the community discussed how they could make their voices heard by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials. Parents were in attendance from Shoesmith, 1330 E. 50th St.; Canter, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave.; Kozminski, 936 E. 54th St; Reavis, 834 E. 50th St.; Murray, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave.; Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave.; Carnegie, 1414 E. 61st Pl., Kenwood, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. and Dyett 555 E. 51st St. Patricia Breckenridge, who plans to run for Chicago Teachers Union president in May, was also in attendance.
During the meeting, parents expressed their concerns and wishes for the public schools in the neighborhood.
Linda Cayolle, who has sons who attend Canter and Kenwood, said the school closings based on building utilization makes her concerned that middle schools such as Canter that only serve 7th and 8th graders will be closed.
“I had one son to attend the academic center at Kenwood and the rate of speed at which they expected him to mature was too fast,” Cayolle said. “I pulled him out of Kenwood and put him into Canter it was the right social and emotional level that he needed and that is not often addressed, especially with boys.”
Emily Fong, who is transferring her children from Lab School to public school because their scholarships have dissolved, said the school application process “shouldn’t be so hard.”
“We are moving to Valparaiso [Ind.] because of the schools here,” said Laurie Thompson, a former teacher who has taught in schools in several different states.
She said it’s not fair that her family has to move from the neighborhood they love in order to find quality schools for their children.
“There is so much politics involved and parents have no voice,” she said. “My kids go to Carnegie and even with the extended school day there’s no art, music, P.E. and the kids can’t go outside to play.”
She said it also upsets her that the kids that play with her children at the neighborhood playground do not also attend school with her children.
Gloria Robinson, whose daughter attended Dyett High School, said the loss of programs at Dyett High School, which is currently being phased out, caused her daughter leave the school.
“My daughter couldn’t take it anymore so she withdrew,” Robinson said. “Everything that could go wrong did, she even lost credits.”
After expressing their desire for well-funded, academically equal neighborhood schools that are walking distance from their homes, the group began to discuss ways that they could work together to make sure that the Chicago Board of Education and Mayor Rahm Emanuel would hear and consider their requests.