Contact: Aileen Kelleher (312) 351-0395
For immediate release
Parents Hold Prayer Vigil At Board President Vitale’s Home In Plea To Save Schools On Turnaround List
Parents, students, staff and community members from McNair, Dvorak and Gresham schools, exasperated by lack of democracy in CPS decision-making, hold vigil at home of CPS Board President David Vitale
CHICAGO - On Tuesday, April 8th, 2104 at 5:30 pm Action Now parents and community leaders are holding a candlelight vigil at the home of Board of Education David Vitale, 4925 S. Woodlawn, in an effort to save Dvorak, McNair and Gresham Elementary schools from becoming AUSL turnarounds. Speakers at the vigil will be:
- Dr. Diedrus U. Brown, Principal of Gresham Elementary
- Antwainetta Hunter, a parent from Dvorak Elementary
- Latrice Hurd and Destini Watson, students from McNair Elementary
- Anna Khawam, teacher from McNair ElementaryZerlina Smith, Action Now parent leader from the Austin community with a daughter at Saucedo Elementary
- Zerlina Smith, Austin community leader and CPS parent
Parents have seen that the Board of Education refuses to listen to community input when it comes to making drastic decisions about public schools. The historic school closings in 2013 were widely rejected by parents, teachers, students and community members in public hearings, marches and protests, yet the Board of Education went through with the closings anyway. With the announcement that three schools may be forced through the harmful AUSL turnaround process, parents see no other option but to make a direct appeal to David Vitale, the President of the Board of Education by holding a prayer vigil at his home.
"The Board of Education was appointed by the Mayor and they don't listen to anything the community has to say. AUSL turnarounds don't work and are just an excuse to keep privatizing our schools. They get millions of our taxpayer dollars but don't even perform better than neighborhood schools! We are serious about saving our schools so we have no choice but to take our message straight to Vitale," said Zerlina Smith, parent leader with Action Now.
Before becoming Board President, David Vitale was the Chair of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL), which is the only organization that receives contracts to turnaround public schools. Vitale’s presence on the Board of Education presents a conflict of interest that contributes to Action Now’s decision to hold a vigil at his home. The questionable nature of his relationship with AUSL should be examined further before AUSL receives any taxpayer funds through lucrative CPS contracts.
The AUSL turnaround method is problematic because it requires that every staff member in the school be fired. If Dvorak, McNair and Gresham become turnarounds, hundreds of living wage jobs, the majority of which are held by people of color, will be eliminated. The turnaround method contributes to the current trend of education reform that seeks to replace experienced teachers of color with a younger, whiter and cheaper teaching staff. In AUSL’s turnaround of Stagg, the percentage of teachers who were African American dropped from 80 to 35 percent when AUSL took over.
Experienced teachers of color who have established vital relationships with children as well as the community are more likely to stay in their positions, while new staff from outside of the community are ill-equipped to deal with the many challenges facing students who live in high-poverty neighborhoods. This results in a high turnaround rate among AUSL staff, which is detrimental to student performance – only 42 percent of teachers at turnaround schools in 2008-09 were still there three years later.
The silencing of the voices of parents and communities, coupled with the suspicious relationship between AUSL and CPS, points to the lack of transparency and democracy in the decisions made by the Chicago Board of Education. Most current CPS education policies appear to be motivated by profits instead of what is proven to help children succeed. For years, schools in low-income communities of color have been starved of resources and labeled “failing” just so that private contractors like AUSL or charter schools can sweep in with an influx of cash to save the day.
When private contractors take over schools, they destroy bonds between teachers and students and receive millions of taxpayer dollars that would have been better spent at the school prior to privatization. It is a money-making scheme that is not only destroying our public education system, but dismantling democracy in our schools.
Action Now is a grassroots community organization of working families in Chicago fighting for racial, social and economic justice. For more information please visit www.actionnow.org