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Vandalism, Graffiti At Cassell Elementary Prompt Call For Security Cameras

 George F. Cassell Fine Arts School in Mount Greenwood has been the victim of vandals over the last year, according to a letter sent to CPS from the local school council chairwoman.
George F. Cassell Fine Arts School in Mount Greenwood has been the victim of vandals over the last year, according to a letter sent to CPS from the local school council chairwoman.
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DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

MOUNT GREENWOOD — Courtney Sinisi was returning to her Mount Greenwood home on Father's Day when she saw children on the roof of George F. Cassell Fine Arts School.

It's not the first time the chairwoman of the local school council said there's been people atop the building at 11314 S. Spaulding Ave. And graffiti and vandalism have become commonplace as well.

Sinisi detailed several such incidents in an email sent Monday evening to Jadine Chou, the chief safety and security officer for Chicago Public Schools. The email also included a petition signed by some 230 parents and residents requesting that security cameras be installed at the school.

A similar request was made in a letter mailed Nov. 30, said Sinisi, who worries about school property that includes several gardens, an outdoor classroom and a chicken coop that were recently installed.

"The grounds and the school look great, but its a matter of keeping them that way," said Sinisi, the mother of two Cassell students.

Several incidents that threatened the school and were detailed in the letter include:

• Between Oct. 21-23, the school's modular building was marked with swastikas as well as a phallic drawing. The vandals also used white glue or paint to draw more graffiti on the wall of the building.

• On Nov. 27, spray paint was used to mark the school with several phallic pictures as well as the words "f--- school."

• On June 3, someone got into the school library and knocked down several bins of books. There was again graffiti found throughout the school, litter scattered everywhere and holes punched in the walls of the modular building.

• On June 12, vandals trespassing on the roof caused rainwater and condenser water to pour into the gym ceiling, causing several ceiling tiles to fall to the floor. The gym floor was stained by the water, but it did not suffer any serious damage.

• On Sunday, someone cut down a tree on school property and left abandoned household goods and furniture on the grounds.

Chou responded to Sinisi's email Monday evening with an email of her own, saying she was aware of the problems at Cassell and has been in touch with Principal Eileen Scanlan regarding the issues.

"Unfortunately, at this time, due to the budget issues, we have not been awarded any capital funds to do any camera work for this coming school year," Chou said. "We had originally hoped to handle camera installations in the current school [year], but these budgets were withheld."

Chou said Cassell is on a list of "high priority" schools to receive cameras, and the work will be done as soon as money becomes available.

Sinisi appreciated the prompt reply but worried that the vandalism will only get worse over the summer. Besides the incidents she specified, she said that garbage routinely is found on school property, including beer cans, condoms and other litter.

Such problems have been going on for some time, but an effort to document the damage didn't begin until August. Other incidents include damages to light fixtures and doors on the outside of the buildings and banners torn from the school's building and fence.

Sinisi said she is "not meaning to bash CPS or anything" and would rather focus on all the good things happening at her school. But she worried that without some action the school will continue to be damaged at the hands of vandals, and someone could get hurt.

"What's it going to take, the air conditioning system falling on the gym floor?" she said.