Diehards fight for Canter

Staff Writers

Hyde Parkers aren’t through fighting to keep Canter Middle School open.

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HP-K CC) Schools Committee voted to explore forming a Community Action Council (CAC) at its meeting Wednesday night at Canter, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave.

A CAC would consist of community members who would develop a strategic plan for the schools within their community. The CAC would then take its plan to the Chicago Public Schools Board. If the school board approves the council, the CAC would meet monthly to help guide the schools and implement the plan, with CPS and administrative oversight and support.

CACs are a tool that was introduced in 2010. There are eight other CACs in the city, one each in Austin, Bronzeville, South Shore, Englewood, Lawndale, Roseland and two in Humboldt Park.

“If we as a community, parents and educators, want to have a CAC in our area we need to work together to say what kind of schools we want,” Camille Hamilton-Doyle, co-chair of the HP-K CC Schools Committee said. “What do we want these schools to accomplish? And if a middle school is part of that we need to say it will alleviate some of the problems at Ray and Bret Harte and Shoesmith. … We need to show that the plan will work.”

To create a CAC, Hamilton-Doyle said, the community first needs to show it supports the idea of having one. Then the community needs to form a committee that will draft the master plan for what schools it wants in the neighborhood, how each will work individually and how they will work together.

The master plan then needs to be approved by the school board.

After that the committee will meet monthly and work with administrators, schools and the school board to implement the master plan.

“Do you get everything you want? No,” Hamilton-Doyle said. “But you get the majority of what you want.”

The group of about 40 people discussed what they would want in Hyde Park’s schools and voiced their support for keeping Canter open.

Earlier this year Canter was designated an underutilized school and placed on the school-closing list by CPS. The school, which serves 7th and 8th grade students, will be phased out beginning next year, allowing students currently enrolled there to finish middle school in the same building.

The council would primarily be comprised of parents and community members actively involved in the schools, she said.

Ald. Will Burns (4th) spoke briefly about CACs and how the one in Bronzeville has worked with its community but stopped short of saying he supported a CAC or wanted to see Canter remain open.

“I’m in support of voicing the community’s concerns to CPS,” Burns said.

Community members of the Bronzeville CAC, which has been a part of the program since its inception, presented several school plans including the “Bronzeville Global Achievers Village” for its neighborhood schools. CPS, which has undergone several changes in leadership and policy procedures since 2010, has not implemented any of the community models suggested. Mollison, Attucks, Price and some of the other elementary schools listed in the Bronzeville Global Achievers plan have been closed and Dyett High School, which the community recommended become a green technology and leadership-based school, is now being phased out.

A follow up informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Canter Middle School.