West Side loses advocate for education

June 8, 2014
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Many in the Austin community are mourning the death of longtime resident and education activist James Deanes.

“I can see the great loss we are going to have in not having someone to go out and advocate on the behalf of those who don’t know,” Phalese Ann Binion, president of the Westside Ministers Coalition, said Thursday at the group’s monthly meeting.

Deanes, 66, died Wednesday morning in his West Side home.

Deanes is being remembered as a reformer within CPS and one of the architects of Local School Councils, which were created in the 1990s to give parents a bigger say in their children’s education.

Deanes was appointed by then-Mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s to lead the Parent Community Council, which played a major role in getting state lawmakers to pass the law creating LSCs for the state’s largest school district.

A moment of silence was held Thursday at the Westside Ministers Coalition’s meeting, where Deanes was remembered as a fireball who was down to earth yet passionate about education and informing the community about public education.

“He let us know exactly what was really going on regarding CPS, not that fluff we would see on TV that was watered down . . . he would share . . . what was going on and how it would affect our children,” Binion said.

West Side resident Jo-Anne Terrell recalled Deanes’ dedication to advising different organizations and  LSCS.

“He came out on his own time  and gave us training. He advised us to learn that (CPS) manual inside and out,” Terrell said. “He was passionate, and he made it personal.”

Some criticized Deanes  for being both an educational activist and working for CPS, said Dwayne Truss, who considered him a mentor and his civic father.

Truss said being on the inside was a great way for Deanes  to incite change from within.

“He was able to change things inside and out,” Truss said. “They say change comes from within, and he was dedicated to making sure he changed the bureaucracy of inside to respond to parents.”

Deanes retired last year from his position as senior policy adviser for local school council relations for CPS, but he still remained active in community and school issues.

Visitation for the father of five – two of whom were quoted in a Sun-Times obituary last week – will be 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove Ave. A wake will be held  10 a.m. Tuesday  at Salem Baptist Church, 11800 S. Indiana Ave., to be followed by funeral services at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Mt. Hope Cemetery, 11500 South Fairfield Ave.

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