UPTOWN — A school teacher at Stockton School has started a blog demanding that the Uptown school not be closed and asking readers to join in "standing up to the unelected school board."
Joseph Stockton School is both underutilized and on probation, according to Chicago Public Schools. With dozens of school closings being considered this year, the school's future is a topic of concern among teachers, parents and students.
That's why the teacher - who is untenured and asked that his name not be used - first started writing the Stockton Support blog in December.
The teacher said that Chicago media coverage about school closings left a lot of people in the community worried about Stockton's fate. Ald. James Cappleman's (46th) comment in November that he "wouldn't be surprised" if the next round of school closings hit Uptown certainly didn't ease any anxieties, the teacher said.
The website was his idea, but "it primarily started with parents and students asking questions," he said. The website was his response to help them, he said. He views it as aggregator of information about school closings in Uptown and Chicago, as well as a platform for community members to air their concerns and show their support.
"There was a desire for a better way to communicate rather than just word of mouth," he said.
He penned an online petition last month that asks people to support keeping Stockton open, although CPS has not yet named Stockton or any other school for closure in 2013. That would come in March. But the petition had nearby 200 supporters as of Tuesday.
Carol Trott, a caseworker at a local homeless shelter, signed the online petition.
"I work at a housing program for families out of homelessness, and all of our children go there," she wrote about Stockton, noting that "it would be very difficult for these children to go to another school, as all of their moms are disabled."
The petition questions CPS targets for space utilization and how meeting such goals would affect special needs students. CPS calculations fail "to account for the nine special education classrooms, including the specialized autism unit at Stockton," according to the petition.
Stockton's principal was not immediately available for comment.
CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said that the eight-person Commission on School Utilization appointed by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was formed to "give our school communities a chance to be heard in this process."
"The presence of special education programs and their impact on space use will be carefully considered — separate from specific school utilization rates," she said.
The teacher behind Support Stockton said some Stockton teachers know he is involved to an extent, but "it's sort of a touchy situation," that he doesn't discuss any more than he has to.
"At this point I don't think I'm doing anything wrong. It's another way for people in the community to get involved with our school," he said.
He said he was willing to take the risk by running the blog.
"If I make the wrong person angry I don't know what sort of reaction there could be to that. I have some reservations about how it affects my career but it's important, and I understand that it's important. I guess I'll have to take that risk."
But in a statement, Ziegler downplayed the risk, saying "public school employees may comment on educational issues, which are a matter of public concern, when they are acting as private citizens during non-work time."
Would the teacher recommend that teachers at other schools do the same?
"Absolutely," he said. "No doubt, if you're a part of your community and you're important to your community and you know your kids are gaining from being a part of that school. If you're not willing to do something like this, then why are you wiling to be a teacher?"