Letters to the Editor

Get involved with local schools now

To the Editor:

Now is the time. Now is the time to get involved in the Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Action Council (CAC). There is so much going on that directly affects our schools. Now is the time to give what you can, however that looks — simply attending a monthly meeting, applying for membership, joining a committee, running for leadership. Investing in our neighborhood schools results in more than increased property values. Our schools are the foundation of our future and the bridge through which we tackle other social issues. The Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Action Council is young but it is strong. Now is the time to jump on board and recommit your energies for the betterment of our children and their education.

I have helped lead the CAC for the last three months. I am consistently impressed with the individuals and organizations in our neighborhood who have invested in conversations, brainstorms, planning, and research, all in the interest of our children. It has been an honor to work with Denise Hill, LaKeisha Hamilton and Jeffrey Alstadt as the interim leadership team of the CAC.

I will not continue to lead, however, because of a new job that has new demands on top of my family needs. I will continue to serve as a CAC member to work towards a vision for our neighborhood schools as an educator in the classroom. All of us have demands and commitments and I truly believe that we all do whatever we can to make things happen on many advocacy fronts. Thank you to all who have already put in any time to get the CAC up and rolling and to anyone who works to support our schools in any aspect. I am continually encouraged and energized by my experiences with the CAC and strongly urge others to step up and lead.

The CAC is holding elections at the June 25th meeting. Now is the time to put all of our rhetoric to use and our philosophies to practice. Run for office. Encourage other leaders in our community to run. Look for information on our blog or e-mail the CAC for more information at hydeparkcac.blogspot.com or hydeparkcac@gmail.com.

Due to work being done at Kenwood Academy, our next monthly meeting will have a different location. The next Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Action Council monthly meeting will be held at the Hyde Park Art Center in The Beast, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with elections for the leadership team (two co-chairs and two co-secretaries). The Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Parking is limited but consider parking at Kenwood Academy and walking east to Cornell. The Beast is an architectural installation that is described as “part carcass, part cathedral” that incorporates furniture from CPS schools. We are very fortunate to have such an appropriate and interesting space in which to meet.

Let’s continue this collaboration and community investment. The stakes are high. Our children need the CAC to continue to be successful. Now is the time.

Kristy Ulrich Papczun
Interim Co-Chair, Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Action Council

We are not impressed with Burns

To the Editor:

The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School is interested to see that Ald. Will Burns (4th) is taking a public stand on keeping Dyett open as a public, open-enrollment, neighborhood high school. In response to his June 12 e-blast “Where I stand on Dyett High School, the Facts”, we would like to clarify the following points:

Ald. Burns saying that he opposed Dyett being phased out is not the issue. The question for an elected official is not how you felt but always, “what did you do?” Did he convene a public hearing about Dyett? Did he bring Chicago Public Schools to the table with the people directly impacted? Did he secure a meeting between the mayor and the people who were fighting so hard to save the school? No to all of the above.

His claim that the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett has not engaged the entire community is absolutely false. The Coalition has met with the people directly impacted for over two years to get their input. There have been two town hall meetings this year, sponsored by the Coalition, engaging and getting feedback from nearly 420 community residents on the proposal for the Walter H. Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology Community High School. The Coalition gave a full presentation to the Bronzeville Community Action Council (CAC) on Monday, June 9. The Coalition also met with the Hyde Park-Kenwood CAC. The Coalition has knocked on doors and talked with parents at the feeder schools and has nearly 800 petition signatures and 500 postcards in support of the proposal. Our proposal to re-open Dyett for the Fall of 2015 as the Walter H. Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology Community High School, a neighborhood, open-enrollment, public high school, is a result of this process of engagement with the community.

We call on the alderman to hold a public hearing on Dyett within 30 days. We expect the alderman to work vigorously to get the current Dyett students the resources they deserve for their senior year. We look forward to working with the alderman to get the school board to do the right thing for Dyett and the Bronzeville community.

Jitu Brown
Joy Clendenning
Naomi Davis, Founder & CEO of BIG: Blacks in Green
Dr. Rico Gutstein, UIC College of Education
Harold L. Lucas, president/CEO, Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council
Dr. Pauline Lipman, UIC College of Education
Jeanette Taylor
Duane Turner
for the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School

Hyde Park adds flair to Wright tour

To the Editor: 

For the first time in its 40-year history, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust’s annual housewalk fundraiser included a privately owned Hyde Park building, the Isidore H. Heller House, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1897. The Trust would like to thank the Hyde Park community for welcoming the 1,300 All Wright Architectural Housewalk participants Sunday, May 18, as they visited Heller House, as well as the Frederick C. Robie House on the University of Chicago campus.

Our dedicated staff and board extends its gratitude to the homeowners who so passionately care for their historic dwellings and graciously share the fruits of their labor, much to the delight of Frank Lloyd Wright aficionados worldwide who attended the 2014 Housewalk. We appreciate our Hyde Park sponsors: Hyatt Place Chicago–South/University Medical Center, Giordano’s, Piccolo Mondo and PorkChop Hyde Park. Our thanks also to Blumgarten and Co., whose donated arrangements graced the Heller House.

Thank you to Ald. William Burns (4th) and his staff, whose advice and support were indispensable.

The Trust’s mission is to engage, educate and inspire the public through the architecture, design and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. The funds raised during the Housewalk allow us to preserve our museum sites for future generations and also offer stimulating youth, family and adult education programs.

Next year, the 41st annual Wright Plus Architectural Housewalk will take place on Saturday, May 16 in Oak Park, Ill. We look forward to once again sharing this memorable event with the community.

Celeste Adams
President and CEO
Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

Anyone else worried about our robins?

To the Editor:

In the past three months, my observations of the state of nature have brought about a profound sense of alarm and concern about the possible precipitous decline in the population of our beloved avian songster, our once-abundant robins. Very few of them seem to have made it back here this year, I have not heard or seen them or their beautiful songs at dawn or in the evenings. I maybe see two or three a day. Sadly, I have not heard more than five robin songs since March. Perhaps they are disspirited. Something traumatic must have happened, be it disease, habitat loss, pesticides, or, perhaps the severe and unprecedented winter cold that penetrated south to the Gulf of Mexico.

What puzzles me is that I have not heard anyone talk about this. I have not read anything in the media, or noted any comments about this elsewhere. The cardinals seem to have fared better. Their sounds are more often heard now than those of robins. Has anyone else noticed this, or are there explanations for this apparent situation?

Charles G. Staples

Put learning at the center of education

To the Editor:

I applaud the Hyde Park Herald for reporting on the newsworthy events that inform and revitalize our community. The Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood represents such a diverse and civic minded community and I am proud of our accomplishments and contributions to the further development of Hyde Park-Kenwood — home of President Barack Hussein Obama and possibly a presidential library.

HP-K should focus on school community and the future of our children. If we want to set a precedent of a well-balanced economy within our school community it requires all community members to identify themselves as education stakeholders. As you know the prosperity and freedoms — no matter how big or small — we experience every day are due to everyone working together on one accord — furthering education.

Today, I plead that we all reconsider the school of thought that permeates the development of our school community and our child-centered education philosophy. There’s one school of thought that I advocate — readiness, and there is another school of thought used today — high stakes testing and school choice.

My school of thought — well research-based — allows for a child to be assessed and tested on his or her own instructional level as to experience the beauty of his or her proficiency or mastery of any given standard. The latter school of thought tests a child on his or her frustration level that results in failure and man-made deficiencies, and gives the family a false sense of the necessity of school choice.

Families can determine their child’s reading level by their child reading and retelling a book —independent reading level by use of the Fry readability formula. Therefore, the instructional level is one level above the independent level, and the frustration level is two levels above the independent level.

Throughout history we have learned that literacy (reading and writing), standards, and benchmarks determine upward mobility in society unless we inherit wealth. So, literacy as we know is imperative to success and even survival in an volatile society, while humanity is often challenged by a lack of resources and violence.

Our responsibility, education stakeholders, is not to let the illiteracy cycle continue —encourage literacy. Please allow our children an inquiry-based education informally (in community/home) and formally (in school). Open the doors of your business for children to ask questions. Maybe give them a small treat if they understand the concept and principle you use to operate your business. Let them in on the main idea, details, and supporting details of your business as convenient. Make your home print rich and require that your child find his or her reading level and monitor as they retell books.

Illiteracy threatens the concept of community and people working together for a common goal and the rewards of that goal being priceless — education.

Patricia Breckenridge
CPS Teacher/Reading Clinician
HPK resident

Time to lend a hand again in the parade

To the Editor:

I just wanted to say thank you for all the Hyde Park Herald’s strong past support of the 4th on 53rd Parade and let you know that we are looking to get the community involved once again this year. We need volunteers for the big day. It’s the everybody marches, nobody watches parade on July fourth.

We are looking for the following volunteers to take part:

  • Banner Carriers: We need at least 10 volunteers to carry sponsor banners and wave. It’s a critical need.
  • Decorators: people to help decorate the park, the parade and the people. Help blow up balloons using helium tanks, put up activity signs and help with the bike decorating.
  • Marshals: people who are willing to walk alongside the parade and “keep order” (i.e. prevent chaos), especially for the crowd of bicyclists and tricyclists.
  • We need volunteer face painters and volunteers to help supervise activities in the park, as well. If anyone would like to bring new games or activities, those ideas are more than welcome.

To help out, your readers can call me at 773-955-3622 or e-mail Kirsten Srinivasan at kirstensri@gmail.com.

We are extremely grateful for the community’s support and are looking forward to another great July 4th. May the fourth be with you.

Stephanie Franklin
4th on 53rd Event Chairman

Dyett closure not the fault of aldermen

To the Editor:

In the May 21 edition of the Hyde Park Herald, guest columnist Jay Travis wrote about educational inequalities by comparing Dyett High School to selective enrollment schools and other high schools in other parts of the city. It is not hard to make the argument that there are glaring disparities. There are many reasons to be upset and lots of places where fingers can be pointed. However, I would not go as far as to say that the demise and ultimate closing of Dyett is the result of poor aldermanic leadership.

With the current decision-making structure, aldermen do not have any direct influence on Chicago Public Schools (CPS) policy as it pertains to the closing of schools. They can advocate for their schools, but only if the school is in their ward, which is not the case with Dyett and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd). Beyond that, all they can do is introduce non-binding resolutions to City Council expressing their dislike of a proposed action. They can gather input from the community and relay it back to the decision makers, but at the end of the day, the Board of Education will decide the fate of each school.

As Travis points out, Alds. Will Burns (4th) and Dowell have been outspoken critics of CPS’ selective enrollment criteria because of the disparity in enrollment between African American and Caucasian students. Like Travis, I applaud this effort, but also agree that we need to protect and sustain our neighborhood schools.

I am a Third Ward resident, so I can only write about what I have seen from Dowell who has represented our community for the last seven years. During this time, I have seen her orchestrate and/or attend public meetings for every school action CPS has proposed.  When Phillips High School was turned over to the Academy of Urban School Leadership, she convened a community meeting and established the Phillips Oversight Committee to work with school officials, parents, students and other community stakeholders to ensure neighborhood students were getting a quality education.

In regards to last year’s school actions, Dowell worked closely with members of the Bronzeville Community Action Council to keep 25 of the 27 schools that were initially on the hit list open. Even with the closure of Overton and Parkman, there was no overall loss of neighborhood schools. This was because community efforts led by Dowell turned two city-wide schools into neighborhood schools. Since Drake Elementary moved into the Williams Multiplex building, the children who live at Dearborn Homes can attend the school in their backyard.  Previously, there was no guarantee of enrollment for these students and many of them had to travel across King Drive to get to school. Similarly, when Wells Prep moved into the Mayo Elementary building, the attendance boundary that belonged to Mayo stayed intact. Wells Prep also had a city-wide enrollment policy, but because of the alderman’s efforts, the students who attended Mayo were able to stay in the same building. Additionally, Wells Prep is one of two elementary schools in the Third Ward that is ushering in a new IB program.

Along with her efforts to promote more equitable enrollment at selective enrollment schools, Dowell’ s record does not seem indicative of someone who ignores inequality. It seems quite clear that she has been an advocate for neighborhood schools. She has also been an outspoken critic of charter schools because she knows they drain needed resources away from our neighborhood schools, thereby compounding problems of inequality.

I understand Travis’ frustrations as they are shared by many of us in the community. However, I think it is counter-productive to make generalized statements such as expressing your disappointment with aldermen “about the lack of concern for the future of youth who rely on neighborhood schools as a pathway to success” that is based on your dissatisfaction with how one specific instance was handled. Getting a clearer understanding of what elected officials have done in the past and what they can effectively do in the present and future under the current decision-making structure or working towards changing that structure would be a more effective towards creating the educational outcomes we all want to see for all of our students.

Angelique Harris
Chair-Bronzeville CAC

Thanks to Strive’s supporters

To the Editor:

On behalf of Strive Tutoring, I extend a sincere thank you to the individuals and local businesses that supported Strive’s Annual Spring Benefit on April 5. We owe a special thanks to Hyde Park Bank, which graciously allowed us to hold the event at the beautiful and historic 53rd Street Bank location. Indeed, only as a community endeavor could the Strive Benefit have come together so successfully in support of free educational and mentoring services to kids right here at home. Thank you local businesses and community members for joining hands in support of such an important and invaluable service to our neighborhood!

Angela Paranjape
Executive Director
Strive Tutoring

Thanks to La Rabida’s volunteers

To the Editor:

As National Volunteer Month of April comes to a close, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank all who give selfless gifts of their time and talents this month and throughout the year.

Your labors of love and compassion make the collective community a more vibrant space. Whether you collect trash from park grounds or serve soup to the homeless, you make the world a better place.

Many Hyde Park Herald  readers are among the 2.73 million Illinoisans who donate their skills and energy to make it possible for children to participate in sports, show kindness to those who must live apart from their loved ones in nursing homes and other institutions and for students to get a little extra help with their homework. Your 286 million hours of service would amount to $6.3 billion in pay, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Research shows that volunteers are healthier by giving. According to data collected by UnitedHealth Group, volunteers have lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being because you give of yourselves.

At La Rabida Children’s Hospital, where kids with chronic illness and disabilities forge strong bonds with our volunteers, the children’s smiles of appreciation keep volunteers coming back week after week, year after year.

Some of our volunteers from Hyde Park and elsewhere have been returning for more than 25 years. Last year, 229 volunteers gave 9,750 hours of service to the hospital.

Many of you joined us earlier in the month as we celebrated our dedicated volunteers. I expressed my deep gratitude for the hours you give freely reading to youngsters, holding and feeding babies, greeting families and/or tutoring students.
Working with children who live with chronic illness and disabilities is not easy. It takes a special person to sit at the bedside of a toddler struggling breathe or one who can’t eat without the assistance of technology. Moreover, you help provide a safe and nurturing environment for children who come here for care and make the work of hospital staff easier with the many tasks you perform. You are knitted into the very fabric of our staff and culture — part of the family.

Again, I am humbled to be part of a national tribute to volunteers that began 40 years ago and has since grown into a national call for everyone to do more than their fair share for the greater good.

I am grateful to all volunteers, but to La Rabida volunteers in particular. You are a vital part of our community and we could not meet our mission without you.

Judi Blakemore
Manager, Volunteer Services
La Rabida Children’s Hospital

Garden Fair is around the corner

To the Editor:

The 55th annual Hyde Park Garden Fair takes place on Friday, May 16, and Saturday, May 17, at the Hyde Park Shopping Center, 55th Street and Lake Park Avenue. Look for our ad in the May 14 Herald.
You’ll find thousands of plants: annuals, perennials, container plants, hanging baskets, shrubs, vines and roses, ground covers, wildflowers, houseplants, vegetables and herbs. Experienced members of the Garden Fair Committee select plants from trusted and innovative regional growers and nurseries. At the fair, the members can offer expert advice about selection, planting and cultivation. The Resource Center will offer mulch and compost for sale to complement your plant purchases. The Center’s truck will be located in the small parking lot just north of Treasure Island.

The Garden Fair Committee supports gardening in our neighborhood through grants to community gardening projects, donations of plants and maintenance of public gardens.

The proceeds of the fair also support the activities of the Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Conference, hydepark.org, the Garden Fair’s parent organization, dedicated to maintaining and enhancing an attractive, secure, diverse and caring community, through a variety of public programs and initiatives.

Jane Ciacci

The vicissitudes of modern living

To the Editor:

We write regarding our sense of frustration with the ATT/Dex “neighborhood” telephone directory for the Hyde Park and Bronzeville communities. In previous years, it was a convenient and vital resource for subscribers to use for finding local residential telephone numbers and addresses. Like a small town directory, it gave us the advantage of larger print, an antidote for the almost microscopic type used in the Chicago city residential directory.

Sadly, as of August, 2013, the most useful feature was eliminated in an apparent economic move. We realize that some people no longer use landlines, but there are still many of us who do. Now, all of the residential listing are stripped, making the directory strictly one for business and professional listings. The book is therefore much less useful. This is a disservice to many of us, especially seniors, who can barely make out the words in the city directory.

We call on the Herald, community organizations and fellow citizens to protest this development and let ATT and Dex know before the next edition about our concern. We hope the next directory will be more useful to all of us.

Charles and Joan Staples

Permit parking will only lead to trouble

To the Editor:

The petition for permit parking on S. South Shore Drive between 54th and 55th streets is disappointing news to those of us who have been parking on that street for decades now. We who live on South Hyde Park Boulevard, East 54th Street and Cornell Avenue rely on those spots for our nightly parking, which are competitive as it is, so to lose these spots for the interests of residents from two buildings and East View Park is a major blow to our chances of finding a parking spot anywhere near our residences. The need for security is the reason given for this petition, but the result will be numerous and, surely empty, spots for a privileged group overnight, and the argument fails scrutiny. Security is a function of our police carrying out their duties and responsibilities, and folks who come here to hang out in the evening will find other ways to reach the park. Plus, undesirable events can occur before 11 p.m., the time when the permits start. The alderman says she is obliged by city ordinance to grant these residents their request. But this street is not a typical residential street. It is a major thoroughfare, does not have rows of homes right on the curb and is used by the CTA, delivery and repair trucks and numerous cars. Plus, it borders park district property on its east side. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that residential permit parking should not be applied in this instance? Or, at best, the parking spots from the Shoreland to the 5490 building could be permitted, but certainly not the entire street down to 54th! If this happens, there will be a lot of unhappy folks.

Rudolph Gartner

Praise for help from the U. of C.

To the Editor:

I have run a small business in Hyde Park for the past five years, the Hyde Park Print Shop. I am thankful for this opportunity to live my dream. Recently, though, I had to close up business on 53rd Street not merely due to the change in ownership of the property I occupied but also due to the economic times of the past year. The new owner, the University of Chicago, had a vision for the property that would need it to become vacant so that they could invest the capital into it that has been long overdue. I understood this as they began communication early on and made information very accessible to me as they moved forward with their ownership.

As I looked for another site to reopen in Hyde Park, I received the type of support from the University of Chicago one could only hope for. Through its real estate department they not only assisted in locating other possible locations, but also with lease negotiations, advertisement of my services and a revised business plan, as well as other financial planning that I would never have had access to if not for them.

Since then, I have found out I am not as “special” as I thought. When it comes to small businesses in Hyde Park, this is the norm, not the exception, when it comes to the university. From procurement of goods and services to providing small business services, the U. of C. goes far and beyond for local business.

Although I am no longer on 53rd Street, I am still in business and I have the University of Chicago to thank for this. Hyde Park’s history is a long and storied history; the commitment by the U. of C. to the local retailers and community at large is both encouraging and exciting from the view of this small business owner as I look to the future.

Imanuel “Manny” Basley
Hyde Park Print Lounge

Headline distorts truth at Augustana

To the Editor:

Augustana Lutheran Church told the Hyde Park Suzuki Institute on Jan. 18 that they would have to leave by Aug. 16. That is six months’ notice. Hardly an “abrupt eviction.” The sub-headline, “After abrupt eviction from Augustana, small musicians seek home,” on the front page of your paper, mis-characterizes the decision made by Augustana’s council. One would think you wanted to make the church look bad, when in fact, as your article points out, the decision is likely to be in the best interests of both parties. This is not good journalism.

Bruce Tammen
Augustana Lutheran Church

Join Jackson Park cleanup for the Earth

To the Editor:

Saturday, April 26, the Jackson Park Advisory Council is participating in the 25th annual Earth Day park clean up sponsored by Friends of the Park. JPAC invites all neighbors to join them at 9 a.m. at either the 57th Street Beach or  the 63rd Street Beach to clean up the plastic bags,  cans, bottles and debris left on the beaches by the winter’s storms and beach visitors. Earth Day T-shirts and goodies will be given to volunteers as long as they last, so come early. Families are welcome. Children can enjoy being with their parents and friends cleaning up the lakefront while enjoying a few hours at the beach.

Around the world, Earth Day is being celebrated in some creative ways. The Earth Day Network and Forest Nation are joining forces to provide fast growing tree kits for students to sell as fundraising projects instead of the usual candy and popcorn. The kit is then used in impoverished nations to plant fast growing trees to improve the economy and ecology of the impoverished community. Around the world, 260 universities in 42 nations are taking part in “Mobilize U” matching world college students with ecology cleanup projects in their communities. Many libraries are participating in a program called “Reading for the Earth” promoting environmental literacy for children.

Throughout Chicago and the suburbs, Friends of the Park has Earth Day clean up sites in parks and preserves. Volunteers are still needed. You can sign up by going to fotp.org and clicking on “Earth Day” or come at 9 a.m. on April 26 to one of the designated Earth Day sites. You will be glad you did your part to clean up the Earth.

Louise McCurry