Protesters Conduct Sit-In To Save Gresham School - NBC Chicago

Protesters Conduct Sit-In To Save Gresham School



    Demonstrators say they won't leave until they speak with CPS leaders or Mayor Rahm Emanuel. NBC 5's Rob Elgas reports. (Published Saturday, May 17, 2014)

    Dozens of parents, students and staff are conducting a sit-in at Chicago's Gresham Elementary School Friday to protest plans to turn the school over to a nonprofit school management organization.

    The Chicago Board of Education voted last month to turn over three city schools to the Academy for Urban School Leadership as part of a “turnaround” model.

    The demonstrators, including principal Dr. Diedrus Brown, began the sit-in at the school, located at 8524 S. Green Street, at about 3:45 p.m.

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    "I support my parent group, I support this sit-in, and I will support every activity that they recommend," Brown said.

    The protesters said they plan to stay until they hear from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS Chairman David Vitalie or CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett.

    "CPS has engaged with parents and school communities throughout this process and will continue to work with them on a smooth transition to next school year," CPS spokesman Joel Hood said in a statement. "Gresham parents participated in community meetings and public hearings around the turnaround plan and met personally with Board president David Vitale and other board members prior to last month's board vote. AUSL has a proven track record, combining academic rigor with strong school leadership, that will provide students with the foundation for academic success."

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    Police arrived at around 9 p.m. and wouldn't let anyone else inside the school. The head of CPS security was trying to negotiate with the demonstrators.

    A security official at the school said the protesters were peacefully escorted out of the building by police around 12:30 a.m. and the school will be locked until classes resume Monday.

    The other schools slated for turnaround are Dvorak Technology Academy, Ronald E. McNair Elementary School.

    CPS officials have said the changes will likely bring new staff, including union teachers who were specially trained to “help meet the specific needs of the children at low-performing schools.”

    AUSL will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in startup funds.

    "Why can't you give those schools that money to get the proper materials that they need," said protestor Gwen Herbert, whose grandchild attends the school.

    The Chicago Teachers Union claims the targeted schools were set up for failure due to a lack of resources.

    CPS said the three schools will receive facilities upgrades over the summer, including new paint, technology upgrades and new furniture.