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Ames LSC Still Against Change to Military School, Could Seek Referendum

By Victoria Johnson | November 5, 2013 4:38pm | Updated on November 5, 2013 7:34pm
 The Ames Middle School Local School Council had a special meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the announcement that it will become a military school next year.
Ames Meeting
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LOGAN SQUARE — Despite the announcement last week that Ames Middle School will become a military school next year, the local school council seemed poised Tuesday to fight the change.

In a special meeting called to answer parent questions and address concerns, LSC members discussed gathering signatures to put a non-binding referendum on the March primary ballot that would ask local voters if they supported the change.

Even politicians joined the public criticism of CPS officials and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), who worked together to turn Ames into a military school despite vocal neighborhood opposition.

"Why is the option in low-income communities of color militarization?" asked State Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), whose comments were met with loud support from the attendees. "I say alderman, shame on you. Listen to your community."

Neighborhood attorney Joel Monarch even pledged to help LSC members put the question on the ballot.

Emma Segura, an LSC member and parent at Ames, said after the meeting that she and the other LSC members "will do whatever we have to. We're overwhelmed. We don't know what else to do."

Principal Turon Ivy did what he could to provide information to the dozens of parents who attended Tuesday's meeting, but admitted that he, too, was not yet getting all the answers from Chicago Public Schools officials.

Among the most worried were parents of children in feeder elementary schools who were planning to have their kids attend Ames in the coming years.

Though current Ames seventh and eighth graders will automatically be accepted into the new high school that will be part of the school, younger students will no longer be automatically accepted to the school. They will have to apply for admission like other students around the city.

"An alternate middle school has not yet been identified, but as soon as I have that information I will pass it on," Ivy said.

CPS officials have said those feeder schools could be expanded to include seventh and eighth graders, although nothing has been finalized.

Among worried parents was Anna Espinosa, who had planned on her son, now at McAuliffe Elementary, attending Ames. She echoed concerns long raised by parents fighting against turning Ames into a military school.

"As parents we just want to be part of the process," she said. "We want for our voices to be heard."

Christina Torres, another parent who planned to send her children to Ames, fought for two years against the change to a military school, which CPS denied was under consideration last December.

"We don't want this military component. We don't want Ames to change. We like it the way it is," she said., "It seems that no one cares what Ames students, Ames parents and the community want."

The council publicly requested that CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett and school board president David Vitale come visit the school, something they say has never happened since discussions of changing the school began.

Cook County Commissioner Edwin Reyes (8th District) and state legislative candidate Will Guzzardi also spoke in support of parents who were against the change.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in an email Tuesday evening that CEO Byrd-Bennett "received an invitation at approximately noon yesterday [Monday] for this morning's 9 a.m. meeting and was not able to recuse herself from prior commitments."

She said CPS did send an unnamed representative to an evening meeting for people who could not attend the morning session.

"We respect the community’s input and look forward to working with parents to address any of their concerns and to discuss all of the quality local school options available for their children," she said.