LOGAN SQUARE — Parents and neighborhood activists celebrated Tuesday night as election numbers showed their latest effort to prevent Ames Middle School from being converted to a military academy was successful, at least symbolically.
About two out of three voters in the eight precincts surrounding Ames voted Tuesday in an advisory referendum to keep Ames a neighborhood school and not to convert it to a military academy.
The Board of Education voted in December to approve the conversion of Ames, 1920 N. Hamlin Ave., to Marine Leadership Academy, a year after School Board President David Vitale said there were no plans for such a conversion, a reversal that left the surrounding community feeling betrayed.
Though the referendum is nonbinding, those who support keeping Ames a neighborhood school said they hoped it will send another strong message to CPS, the School Board and politicians that the majority of nearby residents truly do not want to see the school become a military academy.
"We're happy," said Ames parent and Local School Council member Emma Segura as she stood outside a victory party Tuesday night at Weegee's Lounge, 3659 W. Armitage Ave.
"Hopefully, now they will listen to us, and they'll leave the school alone. They thought we were just going to sit here and not do anything, but look at us," Segura said.
Another neighborhood school supporter, Amy Carrion, said even if the referendum doesn't change the outcome for Ames, she believed it might make things different for other schools.
"I think it's going to make a difference at least in how a politician comes into a school," she said. "At least now they know they have to go into the school to see what the community wants."
The final tally was 308-141, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
Neighborhood school supporters were so confident their Ames plan would pass by a comfortable margin that even before the vote, they billed the gathering at Weegee's for a "victory party."
The results will be presented to the School Board on March 26 providing the officials "a great opportunity for them to go back and reflect on their vote in December," said neighborhood activist Leticia Barrera.
"This is what democracy looks like," said Barrera.
Earlier in the evening, before polls had closed, a CPS spokesman reiterated the schools' stance that the change to a military academy will be a good one for the surrounding communities in Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
"Chicago Public Schools remains committed to working with the community to expand high-quality education options in Humboldt Park," CPS spokesman Joel Hood wrote in an email.
Hood said that "by bringing the proven Service Leadership Academic model to Ames, the school will be strengthened academically, offering another strong choice to parents and students while also helping meet the increased demand for a military education."