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Blaine Elementary Fundraising Campaign Also Benefiting Manierre

By Mina Bloom | April 1, 2016 7:01am
 Derrick Orr, principal at Manierre Elementary School (l.), and Troy LaRaviere, principal at Blaine Elementary, are partnering to help address the CPS budget shortfall.
Derrick Orr, principal at Manierre Elementary School (l.), and Troy LaRaviere, principal at Blaine Elementary, are partnering to help address the CPS budget shortfall.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco; DNAninfo/Ariel Cheung

OLD TOWN — When CPS budgets were slashed yet again in February, leaders at Blaine Elementary sprung into action.

Principal Troy LaRaviere and parent group We Are Blaine launched a fundraising campaign, imploring the community to step up and donate.

But instead of focusing only on Blaine's budget shortfall, school leaders decided to do one better and also raise money for their sister school, Manierre Elementary, 1420 N. Hudson Ave., an Old Town school that draws mostly black, low-income kids from the Marshall Field Garden housing complex. 

Blaine was hit hard during the mid-year cuts. It stood to lose $127,000, or 3.3 percent of its budget. Manierre lost significantly less ($14,000, or 0.82 percent of its budget), but the cut was "devastating," according to Manierre Principal Derrick Orr. 

The difference between Manierre and Blaine? Most Manierre parents cannot afford to help fill the budget gap.

"If we were to rely directly on families at Marshall Field Garden [for fundraising], it would be very, very hard," said Orr, who continues to visit churches and organizations to seek financial support for his school.

Manierre parents only account for about 5 percent of the donations for the school's college upcoming trip. Most of the donations have come from people in the community who don't have kids enrolled at the school, Orr said.

Meanwhile, Blaine, 1420 W. Grace St., mostly draws students from the affluent Southport Corridor and West Lakeview area. 

"When they saw the cut, [LaRaviere] gracefully took us in and said, 'You know what. We're really good at fundraising. We understand you're moving forward with this academic progress, and we want to be a part of that,'" Orr said.

So far, the Lakeview school has raised about $120,000 toward its $141,000 goal, which includes Manierre's $14,000 budget shortfall. Whether Blaine meets the goal or not, at least 10 percent of the money raised will go to Manierre.

The money raised will save between four and six teacher positions at Blaine and go toward future programming at Manierre.

The campaign is part of a larger newfound partnership between the two schools, which started when Manierre joined the same local network of CPS schools this school year under the guidance of network chief Ernesto Matias. Plans are in the works to host joint field trips and other events with teachers and students from both schools.

"Chicago is a melting pot, but it's so segregated. You can live five blocks from someone but have a completely different socio-economic background," Orr said.

Manierre students "need to learn how different kids are living," he added.

LaRaviere praised the teachers and students at Manierre, saying what's happening in the classrooms there "rivals" the classrooms at Blaine, a school that is routinely recognized for its academic achievements.

"And we don't start off with children that have been failed by this political and economic system in Chicago. The skills of our teachers get to shine. They don't have to compensate for the failure," LaRaverie said.

Some of the damage is already done: Manierre's accelerated math program was cut midway through the year, and its teachers are now working without pay to run after-school programs. 

But Orr called the financial help from Blaine a "big relief," especially when it comes to planning next year's budget. 

"We can't control the crisis the CPS is in right now, so we have to do the best to advocate for the students," Orr said. "Whatever hand we're dealt, we try not to play the blame game. Right now, we're trying to be proactive, rather than reactive."

That opinion was shared by Betsy Melton, one of the Blaine parents leading the charge.

"The message is every child deserves a fully funded education," she said. "This may be the only way they're going to get it ... if we can do these partnerships."'

To donate, visit Blaine's website. The schools are still accepting donations. School leaders said no donation is too small.

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