Community Action Council official in Hyde Park

Staff Writer

Hyde Park-Kenwood has an official Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Community Action Council (CAC). Four of the group’s board members were voted in during its Wednesday night meeting and are drafting a four-point list of neighborhood school needs for the CPS board.

Denise Hill, mother of two at Ray and youth ministry leader, and Kristy Ulrich Papczun, former teacher and parent of a preschooler, were elected as interim co-chairwomen of the official Hyde Park Community Action Council (HP-K CAC). Jeffrey Alstadt, former assistant principal of Ray, and Lakeisha Hamilton, Ray and Kenwood Academy High School graduate and chairwoman of the local school council at Jackie Robinson Elementary School, were elected as interim co-secretaries for the council. The four officers will serve until the end of the school year, June 2014, then an election for permanent board officers will take place.

As a CAC, the Hyde Park community will develop strategic plans for elementary and high schools within the boundaries of Robinson Elementary, 4225 S Lake Park Ave., to the north; Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., to the west; Carnegie Elementary, 1414 E. 61st Pl., to the south and Bret Harte Elementary, 1556 E. 56th St., to the east.

The community was motivated to start the group as a step toward keeping open Canter Middle School, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave. The group’s mission expanded to also advocating keeping Dyett open.

“Our middle school closing is causing pressure on Ray and Bret Harte and Dyett’s closing could put pressure on Kenwood,” said Jane Averill, pre-school teacher at Ray, speaking about how the increased enrollment in welcoming schools are affected by the two closing schools.

Papczun said keeping Canter open is still on the CAC’s hot topics list but the group’s four-point plan is a broader list of concerns such as opportunities for a middle school experience, early childhood education, social emotional development and marketing for neighborhood schools.

“The four points are a working document and are flexible in development as we learn what the schools need,” Papczun said. “There will be a lot of communication with administrators and community about how they should be developed.”

The group is still accepting membership applications. Camille Hamilton-Doyle, co-chair of the bylaws committee of HP-K CAC, said there are currently 21 applicants, “which is fine but CPS prefers that we have more.”

According to a proclamation from CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett CACs should have approximately 25 voting members that include community stakeholders such as parents, students, community based organizations, faith-community leaders, elected officials, administrators from institutions of higher education and other education leaders, local business owners and community members.

Hamilton-Doyle said the HP-K CAC has a good mix of members but is in need of more members who own businesses in the community.

The HP-K CAC will meet at 6 p.m. every 4th Wednesday of the month at Kenwood.