Schools Facing Closure Say Six Minutes Not Enough To Make Case at Hearing

By Adeshina Emmanuel on February 15, 2013 1:58pm 

 Chicago Public School officials prepared a presentation that was to be shown at the meeting at Truman College on Jan. 28. The second meeting is Saturday.
Chicago Public School officials prepared a presentation that was to be shown at the meeting at Truman College on Jan. 28. The second meeting is Saturday.
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel

UPTOWN — Teachers at Uptown schools eyed for possible closure fear they will have just six minutes to argue why their schools should not be shuttered at a public hearing Saturday, which many believe isn't enough time to make their case.

Chicago Public Schools officials are holding a second public meeting on school closures in the Ravenswood-Ridge school network on Saturday, this time with only four network schools remaining on the list of potential closures: Joseph Brennemann, Graeme Stewart and Joseph Stockton elementary schools in Uptown, and Lyman Trumbull Elementary School in Andersonville.

Details about the exact format of the meeting have been scant, other than it goes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.

In an email sent to Stockton teachers Thursday night, Stockton Principal Jill Besenjak said Ravenswood-Ridge network chief Craig Benes told her district officials will give a 10-15 minute presentation about the process at the start of the hearing. Schools then will be called in alphabetical order and each given six minutes to speak, according to the email.

"My input, for what it is worth, is that a parent and a student speak to what makes Stockton special," Besenjak wrote in the email. "We have six minutes to plead our case. Let's start brainstorming ideas and think about who we want to speak on behalf of Stockton School."

Unlike at a school closings meeting late last month, in which activists and others shouted down district officials, there will be no breakout discussion sessions after the meeting, said the email, which several  Stockton teachers also received Thursday night.

"It doesn't seem like enough time to ask any real questions or get any real dialogue, honestly," said one teacher. Another said the limit was an "injustice."

CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said the six-minute limit could be relaxed at the Uptown meeting because there were fewer schools on a new list of schools still facing closure than in other areas in the city.

About one hour and 45 minutes would be divided among the four Ravenswood-Ridge network schools on the list, Ziegler said.

She said the amount of time each school community has to speak "will be determined on the site," based on how many people show up and "who needs to speak."

Besenjak could not be reached for comment Friday morning. But on Thursday morning she said that "we have a wonderful school community," that is "hoping for the best," and that she will be at Saturday's meeting.

"We're going to do our best to prove that we deserve to stay open," Besenjak said. "Stockton is a school we are fighting for."

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