Nearly a dozen people spoke during the public comments section of the meeting at 42 W. Madison St. Many offered personal stories about how the plan authored by Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) could negatively impact students.
Others spoke about the racial ramifications of the plan, and still others questioned the data and projections O'Shea relied upon to devise the plan that he believes would relieve overcrowding in one school, stem declining enrollment in another and provide investment in an aging school.
Howard Ludwig explains the concerns among 19th Ward parents.
O'Shea's plan calls for merging Kellogg, at 9241 S. Leavitt St., with nearby Sutherland Elementary School. The combined school would operate out of Sutherland's campus at 10015 S. Leavitt St.
Keller Regional Gifted Center in Mount Greenwood would take over the Kellogg building in Beverly. This would allow Mount Greenwood Elementary School — which O'Shea and others say is overcrowded — to move into Keller's building, just 3½ blocks away at 10841 S. Homan Ave.
Shuffling the schools around would free up funding for Esmond Elementary School in Morgan Park, O'Shea said. This often-overlooked school at 1865 W. Montvale Ave. hasn't seen a significant infrastructure investment since the early 1970s and is in need of a new building, the alderman said.
"My family moved to the Beverly area because of its diversity and great schools," said John Gross, a parent of three students at Kellogg, and an opponent of O'Shea's plan.
Gross was among those pointing to the racial divide within the plan. He and others asked School Board President Frank Clark to reject the plan and suggested a task force be formed to offer alternatives.
But Clark said that he hasn't received a plan from O'Shea or anyone else. He applauded the crowd for its resolve, but said he is unable to reject, approve or change a proposal until it's placed on the School Board agenda.
"You are very early in the game," Clark said. "I am more than slightly impressed with the turnout and the passion."
Clark made this comments after hearing from Gross and others, including Jeff Pinzino also of Beverly. He too spoke about Beverly's diversity and neighborhood schools as a draw and said O'Shea's plan would shutter a high-performing, majority-black school.
Indeed, Kellogg has a student population that is 83.3 percent black and would merge with Sutherland, which is 61.5 percent black. Both schools have the second-highest rating awarded by CPS.
Meanwhile, Mount Greenwood is 83.6 percent white and has the highest rating issued by CPS, as does Keller — a magnet school which operates with a predetermined set of guidelines regulating its makeup.
Micheal O'Doherty of Beverly is the father of a kindergartner and a second-grader at Kellogg. His children attend the school through the Options for Knowledge program, which allows students living outside the neighborhood boundaries to apply to enroll.
The merits of this program have been questioned since O'Shea's plan was unveiled Sept. 6. However, O'Doherty vouched for it saying it adds racial diversity to the school — unlike his own upbringing on the west coast of Ireland where, "everyone looked like me."
"The faces of Kellogg students should be on your posters downstairs," he told board members.
Both Tim Noonan and Chris Steinmetz of Beverly questioned the projections and data O'Shea has used to justify the plan. Steinmetz, a member of the Local School Council at Sutherland, said the information is both "misleading" and "cherrypicked."
"The unending flaws in the data cannot be summarized in two minutes," Steinmetz said, referring to his time limit for speaking before the board.
Several critics of O'Shea's plan also contend that merging Kellogg and Sutherland would merely shift overcrowding from Mount Greenwood to Beverly. Kathleen Benson, a parent with students in first and seventh grade at Keller, took this assertion one step further.
Benson said students from Mount Greenwood Elementary would overrun Keller's facilities almost immediately, thus providing little relief when compared to the disruption caused to students throughout the ward upended by the plan.
"This proposal was created without input from key stakeholders," Benson said.
Emily Lambert, an LSC member at Kellogg, also spoke at the meeting and said she believes O'Shea is not listening to the group. She described O'Shea's claims of declining enrollment at Sutherland and Kellogg as an "imaginary problem."
"We are going to come back and visit you every month until this proposal is off the table," she said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: