ROGERS PARK — A neighborhood group, called Our Schools Rogers Park, aims to launch an online "bulletin board" to spark discussions about Rogers Park's six neighborhood schools, which they say are on the cusp of an educational revolution.
Residents Joseph Randol, Dorothy Gregory and Myrel Cooke said their hope is to create "a unified Rogers Park school district."
"I think CPS is dysfunctional, but I'm not the only person in the world that thinks this way," said 78-year-old Gregory, who first thought up the idea of the group while talking to parents and community members who wanted to see education flourish here. "I can't change CPS, but the good stuff that is happening in our local neighborhood schools is fantastic, and that's what I want to concentrate on."
Ben Woodard discusses the new site and some of the its potential benefits and pitfalls:
Gregory said their effort would be focused on a new online forum at OurSchoolsRogersPark.com, where teachers, principals and anyone else can read about school achievements, events and needs.
She said the group would be entirely apolitical, a differentiation from other pro-education groups in politically charged Rogers Park.
"This is not a political bulletin board for people to vent on," she said of the online forum.
And the end goal, she said, is to keep neighborhood kids enrolled at neighborhood schools.
"They don't have to be shipped off, they don't have to be written off," she said.
Cooke, a Local School Council member at Kilmer Elementary School, said inconsistent leadership at Kilmer and some of the neighborhood's other schools — Sullivan, Field, New Field, Gale and Jordan — had hurt test scores and neighborhood confidence.
"Kilmer didn't have consistent leadership for the previous two years — at all," she said, referring to the suspension of former principal Lawrence White.
But, she said, things are getting better: "Our community partners are stronger than they were five years ago.
Randol, an LSC member at Sullivan High School, said new principal Chad Adams was part of an integral culture shift among school leaders in Rogers Park.
"This is the first time in the neighborhood where principals are actually communicating with each other," he said. "We are creating a unified Rogers Park school district"
Randol said parent and community involvement had been hard to bolster among Rogers Park's working and low-income parents, who might be "working two jobs and can't be involved as they might want to be in their child's education."
But, he said, that all could change.
"As soon as you have a community that's aware and wants to be involved, you'll see change," he said. "If we create awareness, then we've done our job — everything else will follow."