This was the message that Keith Tate, President of the Chatham Avalon Park Community Council (CAPCC) told Chicago Public School(CPS) representative Jennifer Vidis, Deputy Director of Alternative Schools. While the focus of the meeting was to be on EZ Pawn, who decided not to attend the meeting, Roderick Sawyer, Alderman of the 6th ward invited Mrs. Vidis to come out and address the community.
The uproar started last month when resident living near St. Clotilde Catholic Church (http://www.stclotildechurch.com/)noticed moving trucks full of supplies unloading these goods in the former elementary school. When they asked questions, they were rudely told by St. Clotilde and Milburn representatives it was none of their business. When the regular school schedule started they saw buses unloading students. Numerous attempts by residents and community organizations to find out information about this school went unanswered and finally when Alderman Sawyer inquired it was stated it was an alternative "safe" school for student ranging from the 6-12 grades who had been expelled from Chicago Public Schools (http://www.cps.edu/) who could be reinstated if they showed improvement in their behavior.
Questions arose as to why the community wasn't notified by CPS, Chicago Archdioces( http://www.archchicago.org/)and St. Clotilde parish. Also, the community had questions about the students and the reason some were expelled because they noticed the school had armed security guards.
CPS and the school's principal reached out to the Alderman after the story showed up on television and newspapers. The answers CPS gave were unacceptable to the community and they decided to send Ms. Vidis out to address the community's concerns. The Chicago Archdioces and St. Clotilde parish have yet to respond to numerous inquiries.
Ms. Vidis was greeted by Mr. Tate with a straight forward and direct opening stating his displeasure with CPS, Chicago Archdioces, St. Clotilde parish over this matter. Mr. Tate stated CPS and Milburn's offer to create a community advisory council was far too little and way to late because this was something that should have been handled prior to the school's opening.
Ms. Vidis stated that the CPS is mandated under State law to provide these young adults an education. A decision to move Milburn from the former Holy Angel's facility, because of health and safety concerns, were known back in early July. She further stated that the Chicago Archdioces offered Milburn the St. Clotilde location. These answers just fueled the anger of the crowd.
Questions and comments from the audience ranged from the lack of disclosure from the Milburn, CPS and Archdioces parties who knew Milburn had to move from the former location. Also, that there have been allegations of residents witnessing a student engaging in indecent exposure and another skipping school. Also, it was asked why other Alternative and Charter Schools in the area such as Sullivan House,Charles Houston and Gary Comer locations were not considered. Ms. Vidis stated these students were not eligible to attend these schools because they were expelled from the CPS system and these schools are considered CPS schools. Also, Milburn won a competitive bidding process to offer this type of schooling. Per Milburn's website http://milburnschools.org/ they do not operate any other schools in Illinois.
Lastly, after the call to void the Milburn contract and move the school, Ms. Vidis stated she would go back and speak with CPS legal counsel about the matter and would attempt to come up with some solutions to address the community's concerns.
Also, the Chicago Police Department attended the meeting to address concerns over the violence that occurred this past weekend. A call by CAPCC to have the Chicago Public Library build a 15,000 sq ft building versus a 16,500 one and a half story building was brought up again. The final topic was cadidates introductions. Kari Steele stated she is runing for Water Reclamation District Commissioner. Two candidates made it public that they were running for 34th District State Representative seat that is being vacated by Constance Howard. Elgie Sims and Sondra Wortham both stated that they are in the running for the office and they join Paul Gregoire and Richard Wooten.
The only question now is will Ms. Vidis come back out to Chatham for the Greater Chatham Alliance meeting and answer questions for those residents.