ENGLEWOOD — Community members and parents at Dewey Elementary Academy of Fine Arts said Thursday that Chicago Public Schools is jumping the gun when it comes to its plan to shutter 54 elementary schools and restaff six others.
That comes after parents had a showdown with CPS workers sent to inventory supplies at Dewey Wednesday afternoon.
Dewey is one of six schools slated as a turnaround school, meaning CPS would bring in a new staff there aimed at improving student performance.
Officials said an inventory of supplies is being taken at each elementary school on CPS' list, but Dewey parents said Thursday they were angered that the process began before they had a chance to make their case to CPS officials at a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Matthew Johnson, who heads Dewey's Local School Council, said he stopped by the school about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to find an inventory group in the parking lot.
Johnson said he and other parents demanded the group "get the hell out" of the school, which the group eventually did.
Johnson and school officials also said CPS asked Dewey teachers not to assign homework requiring books so inventory of school books could be taken.
"For two days in a row, my son didn't come home with any books because they had to do their inventory, so they basically disrupted the culture of our school and our kids' education," Johnson said.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) told parents at Thursday's meeting she was disappointed in CPS' actions because the Board of Education had not approved actions at Dewey, and the inventory team came while children were still in school.
"They don't need to see that," Dowell said. "What CPS did yesterday was unconscionable."
CPS officials could not be reached after Thursday's meeting, but before the meeting, a CPS spokesman said he could not confirm or deny that an inventory team was at Dewey during school hours.
CPS spokesman David Miranda said that as a rule, CPS does not take inventory during school hours.
Miranda also said the transition process will be a lengthy one, so CPS is trying to complete inventory at affected schools.
At Thursday's meeting, Dewey Principal Eric Dockery said he believes what happened Wednesday shows that CPS has made up its mind.
"What has been decided already, I will say, is that we will be turned around," Dockery told parents.
Dockery said CPS is right to examine Dewey, which has been on probation for five years. Dockery said he knows his school's test scores are too low.
"We know that," Dockery said. "We own that."
But the Dewey principal said the school had its "Hurricane Katrina moment" in 2009 when its former principal died during a Local School Council meeting.
Dockery said scores plummeted that year as the school shuffled through multiple principals before he took the job in 2010. Since then, Dockery said the school has been making changes and showing improvement.
CPS officials are recommending the Academy for Urban School Leadership head Dewey's turnaround. But teachers and parents said they disagree with that decision because that would likely lead to replacing the entire current staff. Parents like Matthew Johnson said he believes an urban school leadership-led turnaround would also cause enrollment to drop.
Dockery unveiled Dewey's proposal for the turnaround to parents Thursday. His proposal includes keeping most of the staff, something he said is important because of the established relationship between the school's teachers and its children.
"To me, a turnaround at this point would be more detrimental than helpful," he said.
Dewey's public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the CPS Central Office at 125 South Clark St.