Harold Ickes News

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Building Improvements Uneven
Harold Ickes Homes can now boast that one building has the honor of having seven floors with brand new blue tiles in the hallway of each level. It is truly lovely to see. I wonder when our nine story building will be on the receiving end.

Yes, in our building we have iron pipe hand railings, new push plates on the front and back doors, but the doors are beat up and falling apart, so the new plates are not even adhering to them. One side of our double front door fell off of its hinges somehow overnight.

At least the glass blocks that grace the front of the building have been replaced, thank you. So some upkeep work has been done.

Noble Community Members will be Missed
In other news, we’ve lost a number of long-time residents in a short period of time. Mrs. Ida Brown, Mr. Joseph Cunningham, Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Joann Green, Mr. James Liggins, and “Moody” from the Douglas family all succumbed to natural causes. If that wasn’t enough, Bernellia Davis, the mother of Gloria Williams, our own Local Advisory Council president, also passed.

We offer our sincere condolences to each family. Some of these residents were pillars of the Harold Ickes community for decades. Ms. Ida Brown, for example, was a fixture on her porch. If you didn’t see her sitting there, you knew something was wrong. They all shall surely be missed.

Residents Enjoy “Family Feuds”
An event that took place October 2004 seems worthy to revisit right now so residents can be aware of the program if it repeats this autumn. The CHA games program took place at the very new Harold Washington Cultural Center at 4700 S. King Drive in the heart of Bronzeville. CHA Commissioner Earnest Gates created the program. All residents were invited to learn about the Plan for Transformation, the 10-year, $1.6 billion redevelopment effort, through team efforts and games like a modified version of the Family Feud. A week ahead of the games, we were able to study the CHA manual for answers. Sharon Gilliam, Chairperson of the CHA board, was in attendance.

This reporter was invited to be a team member, and accepted the challenge to experience a day of educational enjoyment. It all worked out because the teams consisted of all ages – children, adults and senior citizens.

The winning teams earned appreciable cash prizes and the audience participated in a rich raffle. Using family style teams made the whole production especially endearing.

National Teachers Academy Update
After the surprise upheaval of the administrative staff at National Teachers’ Academy-Professional Development School in July 2004, the entire school community – teachers, engineers, office clerks, lunchroom staff, security officers, volunteers and parents – took the new partnership contract with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with quiet acceptance.

The original staff who stayed on realized the strength of the young foundation of the new school and decided not to let the dream die. They put forth their best energy into staying for the sake of the children, the reason for it all. Even though the grades that did rise in the two years of steady commitment were not enough, relationships did form between staff, children and volunteers.

The joint responsibility for educating the children and the student teachers has taken on a serious cohesion whereby all staff members, from the chief engineer to the lunch room manager, have taken on the spirit of the school slogan, “NTA is the place where learning never ends.” At NTA, even staff members who aren’t instructors go out of their way to teach the children. They do it in a way that is genuinely unexpected yet highly acceptable.

An example: one a third grade teacher, asked the chief engineer if he would take her class on a tour of his work area in the school. He consented and this reporter was invited to go along. Our tour was also accompanied by Director of Media Fred Brown who documented the session for the future classroom educational viewing.

The first stop was into the office of the chief engineer. He began by showing huge, poster-size photos of the land that the school sits on before and after construction. Then he showed the original architectural design for each of the two buildings, the main school and the Park District/Infant Toddler Center. He moved to his computer and pointed out the state-of-the-art grid that held the atmospheric information of each square foot of each room in the school’s complex. Then he showed us how he used the computer to make any necessary adjustment to the atmosphere in any area of the school.

The National Teacher Academy's Chief Engineer shows third grade students how he controls the airflow throughout the classrooms and school from his computer, while Director of Media Fred Brown documents the lesson for later viewing Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

From there, the tour moved upstairs to the roof where the huge fresh air recycling center houses giant fans. After that, we went to the room where the ultra modern heating system’s computers communicate with each other to get the job done.

The children were awed, asking good questions, absorbing ready answers, and when they were allowed, touching safe machinery.

This kind of learning for elementary pupils is truly unheard of.

Brown will take up where the tour left off by showing the students how the video he took will be edited in his laboratory.

Another example of support staff involvement with the kids is the lunchroom manager. He spends three days a week after school helping some students with their homework.

We also have the example of John Pointer, community representative at NTA. He developed a coffee klatch called JP’s Corner where the parents come regularly on Friday mornings to talk over issues that concern all parents including CHA housing relations, school/teacher relations and other issues. Pointer also spends time as a mentor, encouraging the 850 or so students, even pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, to follow the rules.

Emilio Valencia works security at NTA. He and his new wife are Hispanic. Yet he and she have returned to Harold Ickes two days a week to pick up youths with their parents’ permission, and take them to their church for cross-cultural experiences and spiritual nourishment. While that seems like a lot to do for Ickes resident families, his church, the New Life Covenant on North Mozart Avenue, held a Christmas party for 500 children in the gymnasium of the NTA park district. Among the many gifts given were 50 brand new bicycles. Each of the children received a new bible of their own.

The best report comes from the parents’ response. For the first marking period after the changeover to UIC, the report card pickup numbers revealed that 90 percent of the parents picked up the cards. Two classrooms boasted 100 percent parent turn out to pick up cards. These numbers show improvement and parental involvement. This is always good news for our children and community.

Officer Should Apologize
Contrary to the colorful statements made by the Police Officer Wardell Harris, “a pile of manure” has nothing to do with the tireless efforts made by the staff and community members who love what they do at NTA-PDS. Harris used that language in a November 2004 Chicago Tribune article to describe the area around Harold Ickes Homes and the school. None of us deserved the unkind, unfounded, ill-advised opinion of one public “servant” who did not take into consideration that the children who attend NTA CAN READ what he was quoted as saying.

This reporter believes that an apology to the community from one who is being paid to “Serve and Protect,” should be made even at this late date. He should try to explain to the children just what he meant.

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