Public meeting Sept. 26: Should Austin schools extend the day?

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Chicagoans have heard a great deal about Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to extend the day for Chicago Public School kids.

In Austin, three schools have already agreed to lengthen the day this year by 90 minutes.

But some West Side residents say there hasn’t been enough public discussion on the topic, and residents, parents and students have been left out of the conversation.

Dwayne Truss, a member of the South Austin Community Coalition, and Carol Johnson, a West Side community organizer, have planned a public education town hall meeting for this Monday, Sept. 26 at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave., from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. AustinTalks is sponsoring the meeting, and John W. Fountain III, an Austin resident and columnist for AustinTalks, will moderate.

At the meeting, community members will be invited to voice their concerns and opinions on the issue. They will also be able to complete a survey that asks if they support extending the school day and what they think schools should do with the additional 90 minutes.

Truss will present the information gathered from the surveys to school officials at the next Chicago Board of Education meeting Sept. 28. CPS has also set up a website to take comments from the public about how schools should use the 90 minutes.

The meeting is a way for The West Side to network and share ideas, and to help craft the most effective plan for extending the school day, Truss said. Truss has also sent invitations to CPS, the Chicago Teachers Union and other community organizations to participate in the discussion.

“I’m not personally against (extending the school day),” Truss said. “But we need to make sure we ask questions and analyze this thing before we do it.”

Austin’s Howe School of Excellence, 720 N. Lorel Ave., Nash Elementary School, 4837 W. Erie St. and Genevieve Melody Elementary, 412 S. Keeler Ave., are three of nine schools that already approved longer days as of Sept. 17, AustinTalks reported.

Cassandra Davis, 47, a 28th Ward resident, said she thinks extending the school day is a good idea, and Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th Ward, should be more instrumental in making that happen for his ward, which encompasses part of Austin.

Ald. Ervin should speak out more about extending the school day, because “then more people will listen,” Davis said at a recent job fair in East Garfield Park the alderman hosted.

“If you have kids that are willing to learn and willing to stay, then I think they should be able to stay,” she said.

Whitney Washington, 23, also attended the job fair. She said lengthening school would benefit kids on the West Side and other parts of the city, who don’t have access to after school activities.

“There are not too many activities to do after school anymore because a lot of stuff is being cut,” Washington said. “There are not as many after school programs. So if they are still in school, be my guest.”

William Siegmund, who challenged in February’s aldermanic election, also thinks the alderman should be more vocal on the school-day issue.

“Education is vital on the West Side,” Siegmund said.

Ervin could not be reached for comment by deadline.

Truss said that education officials and the mayor have rushed to approve the longer school days.

“What’s the rush?” he said. “Let’s focus where this will be effective — let’s not rush to score political points.”

This issue has become “a media battle” for schools and politicians with the students caught in between, Truss said.

“Nobody is saying, ‘Let’s sit down and have a discussion.’”

For more details on the meeting, contact Truss at (773) 879-5216.

4 thoughts on “Public meeting Sept. 26: Should Austin schools extend the day?

  1. We wanted to share with you a note we received from Austin teacher Tanya Foster-DeMers:

    Thank you for sponsoring this type of event and for approaching this issue with a sense of balance.

    I teach at an Austin school and never thought that I would witness such a sad day. Teachers who have served communities for years are not only being treated as “the bad guy,” but facing direct and indirect intimidation and fear.

    Parents are approaching teachers with a burning desire to get “$150,000.” Now I am beginning to wonder if the parents were promised some type of financial incentive. At any rate, this is not conducive to teaching and learning. Forcing teachers to work under these conditions says two very powerful things to me.

    Firstly, if the only thing that moves a school and community into action regarding its children is the “$150,000,” shame on us. Secondly, if you are willing to harass or badger teachers to “to get what you want, right now” at any cost, do you really care for your children? Do you realize that as I stand before 25 students every day, I become that bridge between educated and uneducated, and when you emotionally damage me and attempt to strip me of my dignity and rights you compromise my effectiveness?

    When a teacher is forced to spend time defending their choice and rights, you are robbing your children and that teacher’s students of the very best. As a teacher, my prayer is” forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

    My colleagues are committed to the Austin community and to serving children. I am the union delegate at Spencer Technology Academy. I am also a teacher and the creator of the TAFTM(IAHP)TM Instructional At-Home Plan and DVDs, which were developed at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year. This very innovative method of involving the parents’ of early childhood students was partly responsible for Spencer’s kindergarten population having 80% at/or above grade level at the end of the 2009-10 year and similar results for 2010-11 .

    Please keep in mind that at the start of any school year, there are only 35-45% of the students who are on track for academic success. The remaining students are considered at risk of academic failure, according to research and the assessment measure used by our school.

    Spencer had never experienced this kind of early childhood success, resulting in its population of students being at a point of grade level readiness. We are now well into year three. We spent our first month of school assessing students and holding (IAHP)TM Instructional At-Home Plan conferences with parents after school, on our personal time.

    This is no ordinary parent / teacher conference. A covenant relationship is established and the only thing that matters is that child’s success. This is only one example of what teachers do in Austin, right here and right now.

    Tanya Foster-DeMers

  2. I disagree with longer school days regardless of the pay. I attended school from 8-2:30pm and everyone else that I know as well. It sounds like Chicago is trying to compete for the sake of competing. Classroom management is the problem during the daytime which takes away from instruction time. The parent has the responsibility to do more than procreate, they have to be teachers to their own children. Many parents said that they get off of work at 4 or 5 while their children get out of school earlier, but they forgot about hiring and utilizing a babysitter.

  3. I agree to an extended school schedule because it helps students who really want to learn and need the extra classroom instruction. Parents have a responsibility in their children’s education. Education begins at home and continues at school. If students are failing, parents need to look at themselves and be honest about their imput. There’s tutoring being offered at many high schools, libraries, and delegate agencies. There’s also afterschool programs being offered by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, Chicago Park Districts and some would say, even your local churches. Don’t expect someone to invest more in your children than you are willing. You have a responsibility beyond procreation. It’s call parenting.

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