AUBURN GRESHAM — At a Tuesday Local School Council meeting at Walter Gresham Elementary School Principal Diedrus Brown told parents Chicago Public Schools officials changed the door locks and did not give her keys.
"The locks were changed Saturday, the day after the successful sit-in by parents," Brown told a standing-room-only crowd. "I have been told by CPS that no one can be in the building past 6 p.m., including myself. I now find myself rushing to finish work to meet this curfew. When I arrive in the morning, I must be let in by security."
Lauren Huffman, a spokeswoman for CPS, attended the meeting but declined to comment.
Other elementary school principals, who asked not to be identified, said they have keys to their school buildings and can stay as late as they wish without CPS security guards being present.
Students were represented at the meeting by sixth-grader Mariah Crawford, who read a list of demands to CPS from the student body.
"A sponsored trip to the DuSable Museum, lunch, souvenirs, and transportation for the entire student body," said Crawford, 12. "And a tablet for every student, and all teachers, faculty and security retained in their current positions."
Crawford's mother, Tiffany Walker, told CPS officials that 354 Gresham students had written and mailed letters to President Barack Obama last week asking him to stop the turnaround plan for the school.
Jadine Chou, chief safety and security officer for CPS, and Phillip Hampton, chief of community and family engagement for CPS, both attended the meeting but did not speak.
Security outside and inside Gresham Tuesday was heavy and included Chicago Police officers. Everyone entering the building was required to pass through a metal detector, a security measure that's not the norm for Local School Council meetings, Walker said.
Several parents spoke about their disapproval of the 'turnaround' plan for Gresham, 8524 S. Green St. When a turnaround occurs, all employees, including the principal, must reapply for their jobs, and the nonprofit Academy of Urban School Leadership handles management of the school.
LSC member and Gresham parent Anthony Jackson said Gresham teachers were being made "scapegoats because the board does not have its act together."
Clarence George has an eighth-grade daughter and a sixth-grade grandson who attend Gresham. He alleged that CPS already had decided to make Gresham a turnaround before the first public hearing in April.
"We are not going to allow [CPS] to come into our community, take over our school, disrupt our community and our children's lives," George said as he looked at CPS Network Chief for Englewood/Auburn Gresham Elizabeth Kirby. "This is our school, and not matter what happens, we are going to be a thorn in your side."
William Dickerson, president of the LSC at Gresham, said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Chicago School Board President David Vitale were all invited to attend the meeting, but all were no-shows.
But Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), whose ward includes Gresham, did attend.
"I stand with Gresham school parents and staff who want to keep this school from being a 'turnaround.' And I will do whatever I can to prevent this from happening," Brookins said. "Children need stability in their lives, and getting rid of the whole staff from cafeteria workers to the support staff is not the way to do things."
Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett sent written explanations of why they could not attend, and Vitale sent an email to Ollie Clement, a Gresham parent and member of the newly formed Gresham Parents, Students and Community United for Change group.
In part, Byrd-Bennett's statement said, "I am currently out of the office for medical appointments; however, when I return, I will ask my scheduler to work with you to identify a mutually agreeable date, time and place."
The mayor's statement informed the LSC that he instructed "top leadership at Chicago Public Schools to meet with you as soon as possible."
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