Letters to the Editor

Hyde Park does not need to be branded

To the Editor:

I was unsure whether to laugh or cry at the news that the new Special Service Area No. 61 is “working on branding the neighborhood,” and that the South East Chicago Commission has already met with two branding companies “whose names could not be disclosed” (the reason for this secrecy was not clear). I was under the impression that Hyde Park already had a “brand”: we are intellectual, progressive, integrated, independent-minded and just a little edgy in an urban sort of way. I would say that part of Hyde Park’s “brand” is to disdain the very idea that our neighborhood would need branding consultants.

Sadly, the idea of re-branding Hyde Park fits in all too well with the University of Chicago’s apparent agenda to “compete with its peer institutions” through gentrification and the promotion of upscale retail. The university already has a brand as well, and the life of the mind used to play a prominent role in that brand. Brand management is supposed to communicate and safeguard an institution’s core values so that they are not unintentionally diluted. I will be interested to see how any SSA tax dollars spent on branding our neighborhood fit in with my idea of what my neighborhood is all about.

Michael Scott

Encore thrift is a Hyde Park gem

To the Editor:

One fine day in April of 2013, I was strolling to the lakefront to feed the birds and I happened to see a thrift shop on East Hyde Park under the viaduct of the Metra train on the right hand side of the street. The address was 1553 E. Hyde Park Blvd. (corner of 51st Street and Cornell Avenue). Now, I usually wear tailor made clothes because off the rack clothing does not fit my thin body. But this day I went inside Encore, the thrift store for men, women and children. I was happily surprised – clothes that fit me. I found the staff very gregarious and kind. Specifically Amy, one of the staff. Rebekah was also very nice.

It was fun just browsing at this shop, for they have many high fashion clothing items of all sizes for men, women and children of all ages. But please bring enough money because they will not lower their asking price. Still the prices are very fair. They will hold your chosen garment for 24 hours. There are no refunds or exchanges. Children’s clothing is plentiful, so you can dress your tyke very well.
Encore is a not-for-profit store and accepts donations of clothing and handbags everyday. Drop in and patronage these fine people!

K. Xavier Zehir

Canter’s closure and the question of race

To the Editor:

Canter Middle School, formerly housed at 4959 S. Blackstone Ave., has closed, and Ald. Will Burns (4th) is leading the drive to install Kenwood Academy’s Academic Center in its stead. This move replaces an open enrollment junior high school with a selective enrollment junior high school. At his community meeting on Monday, June 16, Burns suggested that moving the Academic Center is a more sustainable solution for the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood. He suspects that the community supports the selective enrollment Academic Center in a way that the community did not ever support Canter Middle School.

The Alderman is not wrong. Factions of the Hyde Park community do support the selective enrollment Academic Center over Canter Middle School’s open enrollment model; however, the Hyde Park/Kenwood community is composed of multiple factions and no single faction’s aims can be correctly identified as the aims of “the community.” It does a disservice to the community’s Black residents to ignore the racialized divide driving the popularity of Kenwood Academy’s Academic Center. The rhetorical appeal of the Academic Center to a non-negligible number of white Hyde Park residents stems from the fact that these parents do not want to send their 7th and 8th grade students to an open enrollment, predominantly Black school. These Hyde Park residents will only send their children to predominately Black schools if the Black students are handpicked. This preference for installing an Academic Center as opposed to an open enrollment junior high school has everything to with anti-Black racism.

The presence of anti-Black racism among white Hyde Park residents should not surprise anyone. The markedly un-Chicago semblance of racial integration in our neighborhood erupts from a shotgun marriage between, on one hand, the University of Chicago’s policing and housing efforts to make non-Black faculty and staff feel comfortable, and on the other, greater Chicago’s attempts to herd Black residents into the South Side of the city. These two antagonistic factions account for much of the demographics of the Hyde Park, Kenwood, Washington Park and Woodlawn communities. Historically, anti-Black racism in our neighborhood is most clearly expressed in the university clinging to the racial covenants restricting Blacks from owning, renting or leasing land in Hyde Park, and while these covenants were legally overturned in 1948, the aim of these covenants – that is, to make white university affiliates feel comfortable in the neighborhood – still remains intact in the relation between the University of Chicago and Antheus Capital. One only needs to investigate the manner in which Burns, the University of Chicago and Antheus pick and choose which schools and businesses survive and thrive in the neighborhood to see how the political and economic comfort of whites turns into anti-Black racism. The switch from Canter Middle School, an open enrollment school, to the Academic Center, a selective enrollment school, is yet another case of the comfort of white residents depending on degrading Black economic, political and social life. The move surrenders the development of too many of our neighborhood’s Black children to the faction of white Hyde Park residents who will only send their kids to a neighborhood school if the school jettisons a percentage of their low-scoring Black students. Unfortunately, our political rhetoric has normalized this Faustian bargain, as opposed to calling it what it is: capitulating to anti-Black racism.

The switch from an open enrollment middle school to a selective enrollment middle school will disproportionately select out Black Hyde Park/Kenwood residents, since a multifaceted legacy of anti-Black racism tends to depress grades, test scores and other traditional signs of academic success.

There was another way. Burns could have stood up against anti-Black racism in his ward by calling on white parents to name and address their ingrained anti-Black racism and send their children to their neighborhood schools. These open enrollment schools, if you can find the will to get over the blackness of their students, are wonderful.

Instead of political leadership, Burns gave himself to the market model of politicking and acceded to anti-Black racism in order to keep neighborhood white parents from moving to Beverly or sending their kids to Whitney Young.

The closing of Canter Middle School is a shame, but this shame is not directly the fault of Burns; the alderman’s greatest crime is capitulating to the comforts of the anti-Black racists who live in his ward.

Irami Osei-Frimpong

All races can produce good teachers

To the Editor:

I just received the June 18 issue of the Herald and would like to comment on the article re the Ray School principalship. I have never taught at Ray School or in Hyde Park. I spent 21 years in CPS on the Southwest Side in multi-racial, multi-ethnic situations, as a reading and learning disabilities teacher. Before CPS, I taught in another school system and in the reading clinic at the University of Chicago. My husband, Chuck, served as a school social worker for CPS in North Kenwood-Oakland for 27 years. Before that, he worked for the County in public aid and welfare work. Almost all of his clientele in those situations was Black. I am a native Chicagoan and Chuck is originally from New England. I mention this to illustrate my concern about the stereotypes about the effectiveness of white people in situations that are multi-racial. Aside from the close relationships developed in both of our situations, Chuck routinely visited in the public housing complexes in Chicago (including those not in North Kenwood-Oakland and was often asked to accompany his Black co-workers, who were hesitant to make these home visits.) Chuck never suffered any violent or seriously dangerous experiences. And, he was a school social worker during some of the problematic gang activity in the local communities.

Race does not predict or determine either competence, empathy or effectiveness in a multi-racial situation. That was my experience and my observation during my career. I witnessed outstanding and average principals, of several races/cultural backgrounds. The white principal at my last school was very good. A Black principal at one of my schools, who was outstanding, was able to deal constructively with a long-time teacher who needed to leave, shortly after this principal was placed in that school. I taught with Black, white and multi-racial teachers. Most of the teachers I knew were good. Some, including non-white teachers, were not, and this was not just my observation or judgment.

While there are cultural differences between different racial groups – having friends of different backgrounds, I am aware that I don’t know all of the tangible or intangible aspects of these – the ability of a teacher to relate to different kinds of students is based on attitude, understanding, positive expectations and competence. There were many examples of white principals and teachers who teach in multi-racial situations with great success. One principal, Ms. Beckwith, is just that – one principal who apparently had problems that transcended race. Certainly, people of different races/cultures can be seen as role models for students, but mainly if they care about and enjoy teaching students of all kinds.

From my discussions and observations about what was happening at Ray during these recent years (and I did vote as a community member, for the LSC, and participated in the survey anonymously regarding the next principal), I believe there have been concerns other than race about the future direction of Ray. Because Chuck and I are strong supporters of public education, we oppose the current policies of the mayor and our president, particularly in relation to high-stakes testing and the privatization of public schools. We believe in the strengthening of the powers of the LSC, the parents and the community.

We believe that the Ray School stakeholders do, also. The new LSC now has the task of finding a permanent principal. But it also has the task of building trust and consensus about objectives for an effective school, grounded in a philosophy of education that honors the contributions of all.

Joan Staples

Help out with the 4th on 53rd this year

To the Editor:

Thank you so much for the wonderful article in last week’s “Hyde Park Herald” about the upcoming 4th on 53rd Parade in Hyde Park. It’s great that Hyde Parkers will know about the festivities planned for the Fourth of July in the neighborhood.

We are excited about the big day and still looking for volunteers to act as banner carriers, decorators, marshals, a balloon artist and face painters. To help out, your readers can call me at 773-955-3622 or e-mail Publicity Coordinator Kirsten Srinivasan at kirstensri@ gmail.com.

Not only are we grateful for the community, but we also thank everyone for volunteering their time.

We can’t wait to march with this year’s crowd and celebrate an old-fashioned Fourth of July. Thank you again for your support and excellent coverage.

Stephanie Franklin
4th on 53rd Event Chairman
and the 4th on 53rd Parade Committee

Burns weighs in on fate of Dyett High

Editor’s note: The following letter was recently distributed by Ald. Will Burns (4th).

To the Editor:

On June 9, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School held a press conference on the future of the school.

There have been some false, misleading rumors about where I stand on Dyett High School, so I’d like to set the record straight.

I opposed closing Dyett High School in 2011. Like the Coalition, I support keeping Dyett open. Specifically, Dyett must be an open enrollment, high quality, neighborhood public high school. The process to work through the details for what that would entail should include community involvement through a collaborative process.

The Coalition has asked me to endorse their specific plan for Dyett. While there are elements of the plan that reflect the values of a high-performing high school, the Coalition, to date, has not engaged a wide range of Bronzeville stakeholders like the Bronzeville Community Action Council.

Right now, encouraging the Chicago Board of Education to reverse its decision on Dyett is our top collective priority.

And that is something that we can all agree on.

Ald. Will Burns (4th)

Burns support should go further

To the Editor:

I was very happy to see that Ald. Will Burns (4th) has publicly stated that he supports Dyett remaining open as an open enrollment, high quality, neighborhood public high school. However we need an alderman who will not only use his words but his actions to actively work to make sure that all of our children receive a quality education now.

Burns, although late to the game, could remedy that by holding public hearings. Not only would that give an opportunity for Dyett supporters to present a plan that has been researched and developed with community input over a two year period but could satisfy his concern expressed in his recent e-mail that there “should be more community involvement.”

Finally we need Ald. Burns to get the school board to re-open Dyett for the fall of 2015.

Vicky Long

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