Gery Chico Achieved His Educational Legacy At The Expense of Dismantling Harold Washington's Educational Legacy

Gery Chico, like outgoing Chicago Mayor Mayor Richard M. Daley touts that one his highest accomplishments was
the role he has played bettering The Chicago Public School System, including his roles as Daley's Chief of Staff and School Board President. While those may be high moments for Chico and Daley, it is
a low moment for those of us who know that he achieved his alleged educational accomplishments at the expense of the legacy and work of Chicago's first
Black Mayor Harold Washington. There were many who worked with
Washington for years to achieve the point that decisions made on school
board appointments, contracting, and CEO were designed by Washington to
be made with the direct input from those at the local level, and Daley
and Chico didn't like it and dismantled Washington's legacy of direct grassroots
inclusion in the educational decision making process for the management
and operations of Chicago's Public Schools.

In addition to
Harold Washington's legacy, it also dismantled the legacy of Eugene
as Chicago Mayor who succeeded Harold Washington AND saw through
Harold's legislation and the empowerment of people, whose reform and
legislation brought together the grassroots community, business, and
corporate leaders after Mayor Washington appointed James Deanes as head
of the then Parent Community Council and The Education Summits when
former Education Secretary William Bennett angered Washington when
Bennett publicly called Chicago Schools the worst in the country. There
is certainly more to this story of how Harold's legacy involved his
answer to a School strike and over 1,200 people showing up at a public
meeting demanding that Harold Washington get personally involved and do
something to make education better.

As one of the local
organizers of the grassroots educational and civil rights
organization's local educational empowerment agenda led by the late Lu
Palmer, Vernon Jarrett, Marion Stamps, George Riddick and others -- a
movement that Harold Washington championed as a State Representative,
State Senator, U.S. Congressman, and Mayor of Chicago, to finally get
Chicago schools to be governed from the local level up and not top down
was finally realized in Harold's administration and Harold Washington
also said he envisioned local people in their own communities having
the power and make, and live by their own polices. It started with the
election of local school councils, sub district and Harold's new
Chicago School Board Nominating Commission where I, along with people
like James Deanes and others served and I became a Vice-Chair, where WE
had the power make Mayor Daley choose candidates from the community for
School Board members and we were able to establish "education-based
professional" requirements for the position of "General Superintendent"
For Chicago Public Schools, versus the non educators that Daley has
chosen over the years.

All these long fought for accomplishments
of Mayor Washington, Daley openly told us through his Mayoral
appointment to The Commission and directly when he summoned us to City
Hall, that he did NOT like being held accountable to grassroots input
that Harold fought for, in favor of his own personal decision making,
and followed through, so while this local empowerment achievement was
one of Harold Washington's biggest accomplishments from a grassroots
perspective -- notwithstanding the other accomplishments by Daley -- he
followed through on - the local school and grassroots empowerment that
Harold fought for and won -- WAS totally dismantled by Daley and Chico when Daley lobbied The Illinois State Legislature to eliminate The Chicago School
Board Nominating Commission, along with our former power by state law to
force the Mayor to have to choose Chicago School Board members with
local input and "Education-Based" qualifications to be a "General
Superintendent" of Chicago Public Schools and not a Chief Executive Officer.

The major media does a disservice with their one sided reporting of the Daley and Chico educational legacy by not mentioning that the Daley/Chico education agenda accomplishments they cite came at the expense of one of Harold
Washington's educational system legacy. There are still some of us around that are committed to
preserving the Harold Washington legacy as well.

It seems ironic to now hear Gery Chico today talking about his commitment to bring education closer to the community and not also mention how he dismantled the process established by Harold to create that very input.!!

One of the last
grassroots meetings I attended with Mayor Washington, he said to stay
focused on always educating people with the right information, and I
thought that this was one of those times to step up and preserve Mayor
Washington' legacy while we are commemorating Daley's and now Chico's Mayoral campaign and education agenda. Boy, can we who
were in those meeting with Harold remember him saying that his new
School Reform legislation would last because he would be Mayor for the
next 20 years?  Gery Chico cannot continue with his unbalanced reporting of his educational accomplishments without mentioning that his alleged successes came at the expense of The Harold Washington educational legacy. The truest owner of The Harold Washington educational legacy and commitment to grassroots empowerment was Mayor Washington's Springfield Legislative Floor leader, Carol Moseley Braun.


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  • I agree with Marksallen that more community involvement in Chicago Public Schools should always be encouraged. But the fact remains that before Vallas and Chico managed the Chicago Public Schools in the late 1990's, the Chicago Public School system was one of the worst in the country. President Clinton rightfully praised the amazing turnaround in the Chicago Public Schools from Vallas and Chico's leadership.

    Harold Washington was a great mayor with a great heart, but when it comes to the Chicago Public Schools during his time as mayor, the school system was atrocious. Mayor Washington didn't get to see many of his school reforms realized and maybe they would have been successful. We will never know. But the fact remains the schools were horrible when he was Mayor and they improved dramatically under Mayor Daley with Vallas and Chico at the helm.

    Nobody's legacy is being enhanced at the expense of Harold Washington's. He will always be revered as a great mayor by all members of our city. Sure there may be difference between Daley and Washington in their preferred management of the school system, their objectives to improve the education system for ALL the students of Chicago are the same. Nobody's legacy has a monopoly on good intentions, but results speak for themselves.

  • Thank you for your comments.

    As the former Vice Chairman of The School Board Nominating Commission, we did have the power to force The Mayor to consider School Board members and Officers who HAD to have proven educational backgrounds and that was taken away. Remember that the School Reform Legislation of Mayor Washington did NOT pass while he was alive, but under Mayor Sawyer, so Harold never had the chance to govern the schools under his own legislation while he was alive. And those of us who tried to carry that legacy on had it taken away by Daley and Chico.

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