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Parents Protest CPS Turn-Arounds

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Walter H Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., which is slated to be closed under a new plan announced by the Chicago Public Schools. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

A South Side community group “fed up” with the Chicago Public Schools closing and turn-around process in low-income areas of color brought their protest to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office this week.

“CPS’ top-down school actions in North Kenwood and the Greater Bronzeville community have caused spikes in violence and destabilized schools, and not improved student outcomes,” reads a statement from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, also known as KOCO.

KOCO members, along with parents from North Kenwood, Oakland and Bronzeville neighborhoods, rallied outside Emanuel’s office on December 1, and called on him to partner with them to implement “The Bronzeville Global Achievers Village,” an alternative school transformation plan they’ve developed over the past 18 months.

KOCO member Shannon Bennett told Residents’ Journal shortly after the protest that members from his organization and several community parents, along with representatives from the Centers for New Horizons and the Grand Boulevard Federation, first met with CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard at their office on November 21 regarding KOCO’s plan to counteract CPS policies concerning school closings, phase-outs and turnarounds. Brizard said he would get back to them but did not, according to Bennett. “So that’s why we have gone around him, and go to his boss,” Bennett explained.

Bennett said members from KOCO delivered a letter to Emanuel through one of his staff members, and added that members of his organization are particularly upset about the phasing out of Walter H. Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., which KOCO noted in their press release is the only neighborhood high school in Kenwood-Oakland. Sending students to Wendell Phillips Academy High School, 244 E. Pershing Road in the Bronzeville community, will result in increased violence, he argued. In 2005, Bennett said he personally experienced a spike in crime in Kenwood-Oakland after the closing of two schools, the Jackie Robinson and Price elementary schools.

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Is CHA Holding Vacant Apartments?

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Leah Levinger, coalition coordinator for the Chicago Housing Initiative, talking to reporters about the huge vacancy rate at public housing sites, before the CHA Board meeting at Lathrop Homes on September 20, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Is the Chicago Housing Authority sitting on vacant units that could be going to needy families?

Housing advocates recently took the CHA to task for failing to lease all of its available units. The CHA, however, recently boasted of winning an award from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development for having a 98 percent occupancy rate for its senior, mixed-income and family housing portfolios.

CHA has more than 9,200 apartments in buildings designated for seniors and over 11,400 units in family developments and scattered sites, and also administers 37,000 Housing Choice Vouchers. But the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of seven community-based organizations working to preserve low-income housing, recently told the CHA Board that the agency is manipulating its numbers to make it seem as if more of these units are leased than actually are occupied.
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Residents’ Journal Editor-in-chief talking about Summer Youth Employment

by Mary C. Piemonte 


Click on the image to view the second episode of this season’s “RJ TV,” on July 18, 2011.

Watch Residents’ Journal‘s Editor-in-chief Mary C. Piemonte, talking to Jitsu Brown, the education organizer from the Kenwood/Oakland Community Organization, about his group’s efforts to get Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to fund an Community Youth Investment Act, he signed into law last year, to employ youth throughout the City of Chicago this year.

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