Ames Middle School Parents to Alderman Maldonado: No Marine Academy Closed-Door Deal at Our Neighborhood School!

Media Advisory for November 1st, 2012
Contact:  Bridget Murphy 773/384-4370 ext. 41 (office) or 520/429-1544 (cell)

Ames Middle School Parents to Alderman Maldonado:
No Marine Academy Closed-Door Deal at Our Neighborhood School!

Phillip Hampton, Executive Director of Family and Community Engagement, Chicago Public Schools, signing "Ames Belongs to the Community Banner" before 1500 people at LSNA 50th Anniversary Congress.

 “At Ames, we are working hard,” says Delia Bonilla, mother of two and Local School Council member at Ames Middle School. “We have a health clinic. Our Elev8 program just received an award from the White House.  It’s more than a school. It’s a community center.”

 But, the Ames community could soon be dismantled due to a closed-door deal.

 Alderman Roberto Maldonado is boosting a proposal to the Chicago Board of Education to convert Ames into a 7th-12th grade Marine Academy. Alderman Maldonado has pushed for this proposal without a community process and despite overwhelming community opposition.

 On Thursday, November 1st at 9:30am, Ames parents will host a “Community Meeting on the Future of Ames” at Ames Middle School, 1920 N. Hamlin. Alderman Maldonado has declined the invitation.

 Maldonado’s Marine Academy proposal, which did not come from the community, would make Ames the first military middle school in Chicago and first neighborhood school to go military. In other words, all area 7th graders would have to accept the Marine uniform just to go to their neighborhood school.

 Ames parents, together with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), urge Alderman Maldonado to drop his Marine Academy proposal for the following four reasons:

  1.  Lack of community process. Alderman Maldonado has not visited Ames or its feeder schools to discuss his Marine Academy proposal with parents, Local School Councils, or the Logan Square School Facilities Council (LSSFC). Alderman Maldonado has not held a single community meeting on the subject. Parent, student, and community voice must be valued, not ignored.
  2.  Ames is a Level 2 school, improving under strong leadership, and winning national recognition. Ames has a strong, positive new principal who is working closely with the network schools chief and the community.  In addition, Ames, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, and LISC Chicago have partnered together to build Elev8, a model community school program.  Elev8 even includes a community-serving health clinic inside the school.  In October, this program recently won an award from the White House and accolades from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
  3.  A community survey shows that 96% want Ames to continue as a neighborhood school and 87% do NOT want a military school.  In October, Ms. Bonilla and other Ames parents went door-to-door and surveyed 357 community members about Ames. The overwhelming majority (87%) did not want a military school. Instead, nearly everybody (96%) wanted a neighborhood school that serves all students in the area.  The LSSFC met with a representative from the CPS military service academies this summer and learned that military academies do not serve many special education students, bilingual students, or other students who are not a “good match” for the school. This distinction was a deal-breaker for LSNA and the LSSFC.
  4.  There are lots of exciting options for the extra space at Ames. The major reason for enrollment decline at Ames was the surprising Board of Education decision in April 2012 to remove Mozart Elementary as a feeder school.  Neither the Ames nor the Mozart principals nor the network schools chief—let alone the local school councils—were aware of this board decision until after the fact.  As a result of that closed-door decision, LSNA formed the Logan Square School Facilities Council (LSSFC) with the support of 1,500 people—including Philip Hampton, director of Family and Community Engagement at CPS—at our annual Congress in May. The LSSFC has been working with the network schools chief to consider plans for the additional space at Ames. There are plenty of exciting options for maintaining, expanding, and improving Ames as a neighborhood school.

 It is unclear how seriously the Board of Education is taking Alderman Maldonado’s Marine Academy proposal. At the Board of Education meeting on October 24th, board president David Vitale stated that he was unaware of any change at Ames.

 Ames parents, however, are not going to leave anything to chance.

 “We want to work with the Board of Education,” says Ms. Bonilla. “We want them to hear our voices. The school belongs to our kids and our community.”

Who: Parents from Ames and surrounding schools
What: Community Meeting on Future of Ames
When: Thursday, November 1st at 9:30 a.m.
Where: Ames Middle School, 1920 N. Hamlin Ave. 

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