Press release from community group on Piccolo win

From: BT Youth
Sent: 2/19/2012 12:24 PM
Subject: Press Release

For More Information, Contact: Cecile Carrol, 773-426-0842; Ana Mercado, 312-498-6479, bt.youthorg@gmail.com
twitter handle @tbourschoolschi | twitter hashtag #piccolo www.btchicago.org

        Parents end Piccolo Elementary School occupation after CPS Board agrees to meet in run-up to Wednesday board meeting

     Students, parents demand removal of Piccolo and Casals from “Turnaround” list

Parents ended the Piccolo Elementary School occupation at 3:30pm yesterday after Vice President of CPS Board of Education, Jesse Ruiz, met with them at Piccolo and committed the rest of the Board members to meet with the parents regarding their demands that the board reverse its decision to “Turnaround” Piccolo and Casals and engage with them meaningfully on a community proposal to promote educational excellence at the school.

“Thank you to the hundreds that came out in the cold to support us and show that they care about our kids,” said Piccolo parent and Local School Council Chair Latrice Watkins.

        The Board of Education plans to vote on Wednesday, February 22 to hand over management to AUSL, the Academy for Urban School Leadership. The private ‘non-profit’ firm has close political ties to City Hall <http://bit.ly/wXD4s2> .

Despite receiving millions in additional funds from CPS and private entities that regular public schools do not get access to, AUSL ‘results’ are little better than – and in some cases lag behind – district averages.

The protest and occupation to resist takeover by AUSL was led by a core group of committed Piccolo parents who were acting on behalf of 288 parents who had voted ‘No’ to the Turnaround of their school in January but were ignored by CPS.  They are asking that CPS – the Chicago Public Schools administration – instead invest in the current school and provide current staff with the types of resources and funding that the district currently plans to funnel to AUSL. Their core appeal: Education should be about what parents want for their children – not what’s good for politically connected private school operations.

Parents were also critical of the way authorities handled the occupation. They blocked a group of Piccolo parents from getting back in the building to relieve other parents and did not let food or supplies in the building; including for one diabetic parent, the right of use to her medications. That treatment has, nonetheless, left parents undeterred.

“I got the strength to stay [in the school] through the pain, because I knew I was on the side of justice, and this will inspire other schools to stand up to privatization,” said Elisa Nigaglioni, parent occupier and member of the West Humboldt Park Community Action Council, who met for a year to draft a proposal for improving Piccolo, Casals and Cameron Elementary Schools.

Parents and their supporters have vowed to defend their children’s school – and the public’s right to neighborhood public education – in their scheduled meetings with board members. Parents are guardedly optimistic as they wait for a call from CPS to confirm the times for the hour-long meetings on Monday and Tuesday with individual Board members to inform them of their concerns with AUSL, and have a real conversation about their community counter proposal.

“It’s shameful that it had to come to this for CPS to engage meaningfully with the parents’ proposal,” said Cecile Carroll of the community group Blocks Together, which supported the parents’ occupation.

Blocks Together, the parents and their allies have vowed to step up efforts to prevent what they see as a wholesale assault on accountable public education in the city.

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.