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Renaissance 2010: Sweeping Changes

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Ask people in low-income communities if they have heard of Renaissance 2010 and the majority would likely say they have. Ask them if they know what Renaissance 2010 is and chances are they would say they don’t. Ask if they know schools on the South and West Sides of Chicago have been closing and reopening as “small schools,” and they would most likely answer a definite “Yes.”

That, in essence, is Renaissance 2010: the closing and reopening of both grammar and high schools as “small schools” – schools within a school. The goal, according to Chicago Public Schools, is to reinvent the Chicago Public School system by the year 2010. The policy was made official at the Board of Education’s September 23 meeting according to CPS spokesperson Sandy Rodriguez, despite ongoing protests by community advocates.
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Harold Ickes New School Update

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The December 1999 RJ first revealed that the residents of 2233 S. Federal St. would feel some of the pain of progress.

The end finally came in recent months, when 65 families received word they would have only five weeks to vacate the premises that had been placed on a prioritized schedule to be demolished. Zip! Zap! No questions allowed. Just be ready for the movers because they will come. And come they did. Read more »
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Youths Rally For Summer Jobs

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Young Chicagoans debated with City officials in February and March about the provision of summer jobs.

In February, Chicago youths rallied at City Hall to protest cutbacks in the number of jobs offered through Mayor Richard M. Daley’s office.

They demonstrated again earlier this month at the State of Illinois building to ask the governor and state legislature for funds to provide 16- to 19-year-old African American and Hispanic young people with employment this summer. Quintana Woodridge, a resident of the Ida B. Wells development and a youth organizer for the Youth First Campaign of the Southwest Youth Collaborative, said the young people were rallying for the city to provide the same number of jobs as last year. Read more »

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Dear Resident

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Welcome to the first “Back-to-School” edition of RJ. This is the first edition of RJ to be published prior to the opening of school and I would be remiss in my efforts and commitment to RJ’s readership if I did not take this opportunity to address you on the subject of education.

I once read “The purpose of education is to guarantee a successful adult life.” And to that I would like to add, “Without education, you are left to life’s other, less desirable devices.”

And our community lives with the results of these less desirable devices every day. I read this over 15 years ago in an education manual and it has stuck with me ever since.

For all intents and purposes, everything that we see and hear would lead us to believe that education is an American Priority…NOT! One has but to observe – not watch – observe the daily news shows which chronicle the day-to-day life of America, telling Americans what they need and want to know. Unless there is an event of catastrophic proportions, there is only one subject that gets more airtime and coverage than any other: SPORTS. Daily newspapers come equipped with a Sports Section. Sports, that’s the American Priority.

And sports stars command millions of dollars in salary each year. Not for educating children, building homes or saving lives. They command millions for bouncing, kicking, striking or throwing a big, small, round or sphere-shaped ball, other object or sometimes other person. And America loves it. We set aside special time to support and cheer them on. We dress like them, no matter the cost. We hang their pictures on our walls and hang on their every word. Can you imagine how well educated our children would be given the same kind of attention and support that sports command? In countries where students excel, sports stars are paid much, much less money than they are in America and understandably so.

Before I continue, I must tell you that in addition to writing for RJ, I am an employee of the Chicago Public Schools. My children and I also are products of the Chicago Public Schools. I like to think of myself as an advocate for children and education. Here in Chicago, over the past few years, it would appear that children and education are receiving more priority at the city level.

Chicago, however, is a conglomeration of varied communities, usually based on economic levels and race or the lack thereof which usually results in melting pots such as the Uptown Area, where I lived at one time. In Chicago, education has always been either a community priority or not a priority at all.

Communities that work together for the benefit of all of its members generally prosper in all areas, especially education. The Options for Knowledge Program, allowing children to attend school outside of their community, proved to be a great educational opportunity for my family.

But in addition to education being a community priority, education must also prove to be a home priority if our children are to be successful in school, resulting in a high school diploma.

I would ask that each household in our community examine itself to find its priorities. If education is not a priority, it should be. If education is a priority, it should be one of the top two.

There is only one other Entity that can have a more profound effect than education in shaping our minds, our lives, our future. Education is a foundation on which to build.

The Board of Education, with new testing guidelines and bridge programs designed to ensure that a student arrives in high school with the skills necessary to succeed, is only a third of the equation. Most of our students complete eighth grade successfully.

High School is where we start to loose ground. Students need a great deal of support in high school. Parents have to watch more closely and check more often to make sure that their student is on time, on task and on target. Students must come to school each day on time with the necessary tools (completed homework assignments, books, paper, etc.) prepared to listen, learn and participate in class. Parents must make sure that students arrive on time each day, with the necessary tools and a loud and clear expectation from parents that they are to listen, learn and participate in class. Parents must support students, their school and the educational process if their student is to be successful. This is what they do in the homes of communities where education is a priority.

In communities like ours, there are many other things that can factor into whether or not a student can/will successfully complete high school. One such factor is family history, which actually affects every area of a child’s life. A student’s chances of completing high school are less when their parents, older siblings, extended family and past generations have not completed high school. It quietly says that education is neither important nor necessary to the family and no one is expected to finish high school. Another factor is family and economic problems which can impact a student’s ability to get to school and perform well when they do. Student socialization is also a factor. High school students, especially freshmen, can suffer more than they benefit from the freedom to socialize that high school provides.

First-time high school parents: your student should have more work in high school than elementary school, not less. They will have homework every night. There are no study periods, so they didn’t do it in school. If you don’t see them with books, doing homework, there’s something wrong. And actually ask to see their work. And actually read it and ask questions about it. It can educate you too. Make sure that your words are not the only thing that says you expect your student to do well in school.

If you say you expect your child to do well in school and you let them stay out late at night, you don’t mean it. If you’ll pay for a pair of the “new” Jordan gym shoes but complain about a class fee, you don’t mean it. It’s not so much what you say as it is what you do.

For students and families that need help and support, there are many sources. But you must seek them out. More importantly, you must help yourself first. There are some things that only you can do for yourself. If you have any questions or concerns, do not wait. Contact your student’s school immediately. It is easier to keep up than it is to catch up. And while your student may not be a genius in school, I am always amazed by the things a student can get their parent to believe. If it does not sound believable, it probably is not true. Parents, the truth is only a phone call away. Human nature does one of two things: It does what it has to do. Or it does what it can get away with. Don’t let your student get away with anything. A student who knows that their parent will check on them is more likely to be where they should be, doing what they should be doing.

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Cabrini-Green: Changes and Relocation

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Each morning when they awake, the families remaining in 500 and 502 W.Oak St., two nineteen story high-rises in the Cabrini Green Public Housing Development, find themselves hanging in an uncertain balance between relocation and homelessness.

While some families have been relocated to other apartments in the development and others offered Section 8 Certificates, the remaining families – after numerous meetings with numerous people – are still unclear on what their fate will be. Read more »

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Schools March for Victims

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Because of the brutal attack that nine-year-old Cabrini-Green resident Girl X suffered, Chicago Public Schools officials decided to hold a march recently to raise money to help students and staff members that have been affected by violence.

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Foundation held its first walkathon in Grant Park on Aug.16 to raise money for the Crisis Support Fund.

THE WALK AND THE PARTICIPANTS

The walkathon was basically a 2 ½ mile walk around the perimeter of Grant Park that began at 9 a.m. Because it was early Saturday, I didn’t expect as many people as there were. To my amazement, there were many participants representing many schools across the city. In fact, some participants were also there representing the Chicago Board of Education itself, with its many departments. Here are just a few of the many participants: Englewood Technical Preparatory Academy, Cockrell CPC, CVS High School, Kenwood Academy, Nettlehorst Elementary, Parkside Academy, the Montefiore Special School, The Arab American Council-Alnmhajireen Mosque & School, Parents As Teachers First, and the Park Eddy Foundation. That’s just a few!

On route, the Percy L. Julian High School’s marching band greeted the walkers with some fabulous sounds.

THE VOLUNTEERS

There were volunteers stationed in various parts of the park. Some volunteers, like the ones from Robert Morris College’s Soaring Eagles club, served the thirsty walkers water as they walked with their banners in hand, while others (traffic marshals) guided the enthusiastic walkers on the right path to their final destination. Upon arrival, the walkers were encouraged by Avis Lavelle, a Board of Trustees member, saying, “A job well done, we made it!”

There were booths stationed within the park for many purposes. Some were serving the hungry walkers lunches. In other booths, the volunteers were handing out raffled T-shirts, caps, backpacks and tickets to certain restaurants. There was also a registration and a booth for a local TV station.

THE RALLY

After the walk, a rally was held. Two high school students and a second grader as well as other selected people read poems, talked about the coming school year and said how pleased they were with the outcome of the walk and what the walk meant to them. CPS Chief Paul Vallas was among the speakers and received a $5,000 check presented to him by Anil Shama, president of the Association of Indians in America, and his associates, who also invited the walkers to join them at their booth after the rally for some Indian food, music, free T-shirts and caps in celebration of their 50th Independence Day.

After all the speeches and congratulations, Mary Nell of 950 AM, a hip hop/rap radio station, announced the entertainment of the day, the Chicago Cheerleaders, the Percy L. Julian High School Marching Band and others.

The event ended at 12 p.m.

THE CRISIS SUPPORT FUND

The Crisis Support Fund is part of the Children First Fund. It was created after “Girl X” was brutally raped in January 1997. The Fund is designed to provide emergency financial support to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and staff who are victims of crime and violence in their time of need.

THE CHILDREN FIRST FUND

The Chicago Public Schools Foundation is an independent non-profit corporation that was first established in July 1996. Within its corporation is the Children First Fund. The Fund’s primary objectives are “to supplement, assist and aid the Chicago Public School district in its pursuit of excellence by providing funds for identified needs and programs.”

For further information about the Crisis Support Fund or about the Children First Fund, call the “Children First Fund” hot line at: 773-535-8672.

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