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Parents, teachers and community members opposed to school closures gathered outside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's North Side home Monday evening, holding signs saying that the mayor and the Chicago Board of Education has "silenced" them.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Ravenswood, according to NBC Chicago, and the group planned to continue their demonstration outside of City Hall on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the board will decide whether or not to close or "phase out" seven schools and "turn around" 10 others. The protesters told the Chicago Sun-Times they just want a chance to meet with the mayor before the decision is made, and claim they have been ignored by his administration.
“People are fed up,” Jitu Brown of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization told the Sun-Times. “The hope is that the mayor understands that his constituents are serious, which is why we are doing it the way we are doing it, and that he gives audience to the people who elected him.”
In a statement, Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll told ABC Chicago that "with almost one out of two students not graduating high school, and only 7.9 percent of our 11th graders testing college ready, we can no longer accept schools that fail."
Officials said most of the schools slated for closure have been on the chopping block for years. Parents and teachers from Wendell Smith Elementary School, which is slated to be "turned around" came to the Monday evening protest and said their school should be funded properly before it's dismantled.
"I ended up with 57 kindergarten children that I couldn't share with anybody because I was the only one left," Sandra Triche, a Smith kindergarten teacher, told ABC.
Smith employees and parents aren't the only ones upset about a proposed turn around. On Friday, members of Occupy Chicago joined parents and community members to protest the turn around of Brian Piccolo Elementary School. Some sat inside the school until they were able to speak to someone with the Board of Education.
"They have a new principal," Shronda Wilson, a parent of two children at the school told the Sun-Times Friday. "They haven't given her a chance. She has come here from the beginning of the school year and done a tremendous job. They have good teachers here."
The plan for "turning around" schools includes firing existing principals and many teachers, and Piccolo management is expected to be taken over by the well-connected program Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).
Despite the protests, the board is expected to approve most of the turn arounds and closures at a Wednesday meeting.
“What has been tried in the past has not worked and going back to the same failed policies is not in the best interest of our students," CPS said in a statement. "For the first time in many years, we are putting the academic needs of our students first."
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