If Board of Education President Rufus Williams hadn't heard much of the Edison Regional Gifted School and its 287 students before today, he has now.
With word spreading quickly about upcoming school consolidations
and cutbacks in city schools, Williams and other board members got an earful, and then some, at the board's monthly
The chamber was packed with parents of Edison students and other schools rumored to be on the hit list; many of the parents arrived at the Chicago Public Schools downtown headquarters nearly three hours ahead of time.
"We're led to believe at Edison that it's a fast train and it's all being done in back rooms," said Glenn Krell, a parent.
"We've been told it's a done deal," said Robin Rumsey, president of the school's council.
Some walked to the microphone angrily, and went well beyond their allotted two minutes. Others became tearful.A proposal is expected from the CPS on Thursday or Friday, but CPS officials did not release details today. today. One reported recommendation has students from Edison, 6220 N. Alcott Ave., moving to Albany Park Multicultural Academy, 4929 N. Sawyer Ave.
While there were parents of students from several schools rumored to be closing or moved, approximately 60 Edison parents assembled at the front of the room in a show of unity, stretching all the way across the front of the chamber while their two designated representatives spoke to the board.
Williams grew irritated when several other Edison parents who had signed up to speak about other topics at the meeting quickly shifted the subject to school closures.
The commotion began less than a week ago when word spilled out concerning the CPS' planned consolidations to fill up schools that weren't filled to capacity. Rumsey said she first got wind of it last Friday, then spent the weekend rallying parents to attend Wednesday's CPS meeting.
Williams insisted that no decisions have been made, that there
would be an announcement made "later this week" and that it would
be followed by a series of public hearings.
But when pressed for a
public hearing date concerning Edison, Williams said he didn't yet have one.
Along with Edison, there were testimonials from parents speaking for Abbott Elementary, 3630 S. Wells St.; Anderson Elementary, 1148 N. Honore St., and Gladstone Elementary, 1231 S. Damen Ave.
"Please, let's start thinking about stability," said Terry Hallom, who has a child at Gladstone. "We just keep uprooting kids every two or three years because a school isn't full."
But the Edison group was most vocal in pressing their concerns.
At one point, after nearly two hours of emotional speeches, Williams tried to slow the onslaught.
"There is a process. â€¦ You're doing a disserviceâ€¦ It is
insulting," he said.
And what followed were even more passionate pleas, accompanied by applause and shouts from the audience.
Matthew Farmer, father of a kindergarten student at Edison, accused board members of not returning phone calls and CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan of not returning an e-mail.
Christine Kim, mother of a student, tried to speak through tears. "We followed the CPS process and chose our school."
After all of the verbal jousting, Williams agreed to meet privately with representatives of the Edison group.
"Now we're being told, 'We'll talk about it,' and that's great. We achieved a lot today," Rumsey said.
Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.