Community members rally against closings

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“When our school is under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back.”

Less than 24 hours after Chicago Public Schools officials announced that more than 50 schools, including four in Austin, will close, parents, teachers and community activists gathered at Horatio May Elementary Community Academy to protest.

“Closing schools creates more blight,” said Valerie Leonard, an expert on community and organizational development.

The group of around 30 members chanted in front of the school – which is slated for closure – “parents united will never be defeated.” A few students from a classroom window shouted back, “save our school.”

The entire staff of May Academy will be out of a job in June, but the building will remain open and become a welcoming school to neighboring George Leland Elementary and Louis Armstrong Elementary.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced the 54-school closing list – believed to be the single largest number closed in U.S. history – while Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on a ski trip in Utah.

“We would like to thank our vacationing mayor for bringing us all together and uniting the city of Chicago with these attacks on poor black and brown children,” said Dwayne Truss, Raise Your Hand board member and an Austin resident.

Truss blamed the school closings on laws pushed by Wall Street, who he said is funding and directing education.

Students from May will be allowed to return to the school – which will be called Leland and led by staff from the neighboring school – but all the teachers currently at May will be laid off and have to reapply for open positions.

Asif Wilson, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at May, said Thursday was the only day he walked into the school without a smile.

“Fox News reported the night before, with a picture of my school, that I would be losing my job,” said Wilson.

But Wilson said he walked out of the school Thursday with a smile because his students cheered him up.

“My students demonstrated to me verbally, in written form, mathematically and scientifically, that they are the future of tomorrow and that I shouldn’t be upset because I am a great teacher,” he Wilson.

Wilson’s biggest concern with the school closing is whether he can return to teach his students, whom he considers to be like his own children.

Next week, teachers and community activists plan on holding yet another rally at May, informing the community of what they consider the injustice of the school closing. The Chicago Teachers Union a will host a rally 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Daley Plaza.







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