CHICAGO — Sherise McDaniel is scared.
The 33-year-old single mom has testified at hearings, organized parents and shouted in picket lines to get the attention of Mayor Rahm Emanuel — the only guy she thinks can save her kid’s school.
She has told anyone who will listen that she’s deathly afraid her 8-year-old son will get beat up — or worse — if Manierre Elementary in Old Town is closed and kids are forced to attend Jenner Academy, just a short but dangerous walk through rival gang turf.
McDaniel said she even invited Emanuel to join her and other concerned parents on a guided tour from the Mickey Cobras gang turf that surrounds Manierre through Gangster Disciple territory kids will have to navigate to attend Jenner.
But the mayor didn’t show up.
“Mayor Emanuel couldn’t care less about these poor little black ghetto children who will have to walk through a part of the city where they could get shot and killed,” McDaniel said. “The danger of walking to Jenner, through that park, is very real. … And the mayor is not paying attention. He’s not listening to us. He doesn’t care. He has an agenda, and he wants to stick to it. And that’s it.”
Sarah Hamilton, Emanuel’s top spokeswoman, said the mayor and Chicago Public Schools boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett do want to hear the concerns of parents from Manierre and the other 53 schools set to close as part of the largest school consolidation in U.S. history. That's “one of the main reasons CPS has held hundreds of community meetings,” Hamilton said.
On Wednesday, Emanuel had this to say: “I want to see the students at Manierre and every child in the City of Chicago grow up to have a bright and successful future, and that starts with a quality education, which is what CPS is working to provide each of our children.”
McDaniel said she doesn’t believe him.
“Who does he think he is, God? He talks like he’s saving people,” she said. “I find him very tasteless and disrespectful. It’s as if I’m talking to him, and he turned his back to my face.”
On Tuesday, McDaniel plans to join parents and teachers at the final public hearing before the Board of Education decides Manierre’s fate.
She doesn’t have much faith that the mayor or his hand-picked School Board will change their minds.
“They don’t realize this is serious. I refuse to send my child to that school,” she said. “If I have to sell body parts to pay for private school, I will.”