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Ames parents continue fight against Marine Military Academy

Meetings scheduled for

Tuesday, November 5.

Fighting the latest attempt to turn Ames Middle School from a neighborhood school into a citywide military high school, approximately 85 supporters gathered on short notice to spend about three hours canvassing their neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side (the building is located at 1920 N. Hamlin Ave.) on Saturday, November 2, 2013. The canvass followed a week of confusing signals from the alderman, the mayor, and Chicago Public Schools.

The canvass was part of the latest skirmish in a long-running battle over whether the school should remain as a neighborhood school for the heavily Spanish-speaking Logan Square neighborhood — or be converted into a new "campus" for the Marine Military Academy High School.

Marine Military Academy is a Chicago Public School with selective citywide enrollment and a curriculum that requires all students to participate in the U.S. Defense Department’s Junior ROTC (JROTC) program. Since it was begun six years ago, Marine Military Academy has shared the former U.S. Grant Elementary School building with the Phoenix Military Academy (Army) at 145 S. Campbell on the West Side. The West Side site has been renovated at a cost of several million dollars since then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel joined then-CPS CEO Arne Duncan to dedicate the Marine Military Academy six years ago.

Why Ames, the community about four miles away has been asking? Ames has long been a site where community activists have fought to get what they want from the Chicago Board of Education. More than a decade ago, community groups such as the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) asked for a new school to relieve overcrowding at the other schools in their neighborhood. The construction of Ames represented their victory, but not the end of their struggles.

Since then, there have been repeated attempts to close Ames or change its focus. Last year, LSNA and others — including Ames students, parents, alumni and teachers — rallied to stop a proposal by the local Alderman, Roberto Maldonado of the 26th Ward, to close Ames and move the Marine Academy into the building. They also kept the school off the list of 50 neighborhood schools closed at the beginning of this school year.

Yet the Alderman’s proposal wasn’t dead. On Tuesday, October 29 Mayor Rahm Emanuel endorsed Ald. Maldonado’s plan. Ames parents and other supporters protested outside of Marine Academy.

By Friday, October 31 2013, the mayor and his hand-picked Board of Education seemed to be partially backing off. At a staff meeting that day, Ames Principal Turon Ivy said the latest official word he had received was that Ames would continue to offer grades 7-8 next school year, but that Marine Academy would move in and share the building, with its military curriculum for grades 9-12.

State Senator William Delgado (whose 2nd District includes the Logan Square neighborhood) came to the Ames staff meeting on Friday and told the faculty that he opposes the plan to change Ames to military academy. He implied that racism or economic class prejudices may motivate some school decisions. “Why do North Side schools get STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] Academies?” he asked, while poorer and minority communities on the West and South Sides of the city get military academies instead.

Ames parents and community members are keeping up the pressure to leave Ames intact as a neighborhood school with bilingual programs for local 7th and 8th graders. As a follow-up to Saturday’s canvassing, they have announced meetings on Tuesday, November 5, at 9 a.m. and repeated at 4 p.m., at Ames, 1920 N. Hamlin.

Former Ames student and Marine Military Academy student. Why we don't support a Military Academy at Ames.

The Saturday canvassing included several components: a voter registration drive, a request for neighbors to sign a petition and call to protest the decision to turn Ames into a selective enrollment military academy, and a campaign to have city Tax Increment Financing money returned to neighborhood schools.

Prior to canvassing, a former Ames student and a current Marine Academy student addressed the crowd and representatives of Chicago media, to explain why they opposed changing Ames — and opposed the undemocratic way such school decisions are often made in Chicago.

Keywords: Ames, Ames Middle School, chicago, CPS, Emanuel, Logan Square, Maldonado, Marine, Marine Math and Science, Marine Military Academy, neighborhood school, public school, rahm emanuel, Roberto Maldonado, ROTC, school closings

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