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Gresham Parent Group Demands Meeting With Rahm or CPS Bosses

By Wendell Hutson | May 20, 2014 8:17am
 Walter Gresham Elementary School parents staged a sit-in at the school on May 16, 2014.
Walter Gresham Elementary School parents staged a sit-in at the school on May 16, 2014.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

AUBURN GRESHAM — A group of parents who staged a sit-in at Walter Gresham Elementary School over the weekend to protest its overhaul by Chicago Public Schools is demanding that either the mayor, school board president or CEO come to a school council meeting Tuesday.

The Local School Council will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Gresham, 8524 S. Green St.

Tiffany Walker, a Gresham parent and member of the newly formed Gresham Parents, Students and Community United for Change, said it wants to to meet with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett or David Vitale, president of the Chicago Board of Education.

"We hope to see at least one of them there," Walker said.

Lauren Huffman, a spokeswoman for CPS, said she was unsure if Byrd-Bennett plans to attend the meeting. The mayor's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) said he plans on being at the meeting.

The demand comes after Walker and others staged a sit-in Friday night to protest the school board's vote last month to designate Gresham a "turnaround" school. When a turnaround occurs, the nonprofit Academy of Urban School Leadership assumes management of the school, and all staff members, including the principal, must re-apply for their jobs.

Walker was upset that when some parents left the school early Saturday morning to address the media with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's Jonathan Jackson, they weren't allowed back inside.

"It was about 12:30 when four parents including myself joined Jonathan Jackson outside for a news conference to update the media. Once we were done Chicago Police told us no one could enter the building," Walker said. 

According to Jackson, a Chicago State University professor of marketing, Chicago police told Gresham parents if they did not leave the school building they would be arrested.

"What I kept asking the police is, 'How can you prohibit parents from entering a public building when there are no posted hours" of operation? I never got an answer," Jackson said.

Gresham Principal Diedrus Brown was at the school Friday evening to support the sit-in, but Jackson said even with Brown there police still prohibited anyone who left the building from re-entering.

Adam Collins, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, issued a statement Monday, saying: "CPS leaders and the CPD District Commander spent the evening talking to those in attendance, and assured them that everyone wanted to work towards a peaceful and reasonable conclusion. The gathering ended peacefully and without incident."

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