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Added Feb 21 2012

There is a new charter school that is being built at Milwaukee and Central by the Aspira organization.

Initially, people were up in arms because it would drastically reduce parking in the area. So the school changed their design to include an increased parking garage.

People were concerned that it would take away the green space. The school is going to have a roof top garden - and they spared the Avondale community garden in their expansion.

And people are concerned about the "troubled youth" that the school invites to our community. Folks, these are local children from our community who will have a beautiful new school with new opportunities.

Additionally, the school will leave their doors open for community use in the evenings. We should be thrilled to have these new neighbors.

So why were people outraged about the school at this meeting? Am I missing something?

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    T: Thanks for your ever-informative comments. I seem to be wandering into polemics here. I just tend to think of charters in the same way I do Habitat for Humanity. Some wonderful small scale solutions that draw an inordinate amount of attention while others are engaged in the less glamorous task of whole community housing solutions. I'll look into the Youth Connection Charter Network, though. Sounds like people willing to address the toughest problems.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    SFW: If you're worried about kids from out of the neighborhood causing problems, I'd be concerned about the quality of the charter itself. Check out Aspire's model and its record. Hold out for a charter with a good reputation.

  • Anyone who thinks charter schools are good for education doesn't know much about education. Here is the deal in a nutshell:
    CPS will give a politically-connected group, like ASPIRA, a charter. They'll then give ASPIRA 85% or so of the funding they'd give a typical neighborhood public school. ASPIRA then does whatever it wants with the money. So CPS wins, because it has just saved 15%. And ASPIRA wins, because they get their name out there and receive millions of dollars to play with, with little oversight. Who loses? Kids, who receive a discount education and uncertified, unqualified teachers. Teachers lose too, as they receive less pay for longer hours with no contract or union backing, Charter schools are backed by Dems and Republicans because they are the ultimate political tool/scam. But they hurt the very group that schools are supposed to help- kids.
    There is a reason you don't see charter schools in the suburbs: "education" is not the problem and teachers are not the problem. Bad parents with bad kids are. It's not a school problem. It's a family problem.

  • LJ Community member

    Tom G: I agree with you, though you refer to charters as private, which isn't really inaccurate. Charters exist as an act of public law and have public oversight.

    Yes, charters do draw problem-solving intelligence away from the system. I'd even say that charters can be expressions of individual and institutional egotism. "The public system can't do it, but we can and we'll show them how." Easier said than done, most of them find out. But I don't see individual charter schools as the problem, per se.

    I don't know of anybody making the argument that we should actually invest in improving local systems of public education. I see that as the problem, and it seems you and I might agree on that.

    So why aren't we talking more about how to make the school district more effective organizationally? It needs the attention and as you point out, it hasn't been getting it.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    Edgebrook: Just following your line of reasoning, suburban schools are better because they have good parents and good kids, and city schools are worse because they have bad parents and bad kids? I want to be sure that you really meant this before I tell you where to get off.

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    LJ: Thanks for the clarification. So we have quasi-public schools with nonprofit private boards, not the for-profit schools like Edison that are in other states. Full disclosure: I work for public higher-education. I tend to see this as part of a broader political movement of disinvestment in government. My school has a state charter to provide access to public education traditionally at a lower cost than private education. The state government has cut back from funding about half to a present 15%. Consequently, tuitions have risen and students have become scholarship dependent, if they're not priced out of our market. We must raise major amounts of government, private, and corporate research funding to keep a quality faculty. Charter schools also are dependent on 20% or more of private funding to survive. Our prisons are being privatized, our military operations are being privatized, etc. Who is taking us down this path and for what reasons?

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    I think (or would like to think) that what Edgebrook1 meant is that the suburbs don't resort to charter schools because there's trust in the system as a whole, and if certain students are failing, the responsibility for their failure falls first on them and their families. Of course, the flip side of that is that the problems that plague inner cities and limit students' ability to reach their full cognitive potential are much scarcer in the suburbs (well, most suburbs -- they're rife in, say, Melrose Park, Maywood and Cicero). When they're as widespread as they are in, say, Englewood, to the extent where they're affecting entire schools, people can't help but point fingers, and since they'd rather not point fingers at the poverty and segregation, they point fingers at the schools instead.

    But I think there's another factor at work: Not only do suburbs rarely reach the degree of dissatisfaction with their schools that opens the door to charters, few of them would ever tolerate the curricular and atmospheric rigidity prevalent in most charters for THEIR OWN children. Charters thrive on the mind-set that OTHER people's children need a different kind of education, one that's less flexible, less forgiving, and less designed to nurture creativity and initiative.

  • Tracy C domestic engineer, COO of the family

    I suggest if anyone has 2 hours to watch the documentary "Waiting For Superman" very interesting.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    Oh, God, don't even get me started on that movie.

    If you've got two hours, read the first half of Educational Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality by Gerald Bracey. Then set aside another two hours to read the other half. Don't waste your time on pro-"reform" propaganda films.

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    Correction: The title is Education Hell, not Educational Hell.

  • Inactive user

    Or, you could go the Consortium's website and read lots of informative,data-based reports on ed movements and reform efforts and make up your own mind.

  • dd

    yes there needs to be change and unfortunately change takes time and when you have a child ready to go to school you cant wait for change you have to act to what is available at the time and try to be available to make things better where you end up sending your child to school. be it public private or charter IMO

  • jane photographer

    I just did a quick read of the comments and did not see this point made, one of the reasons parents, teachers and others are upset about charters is one simple fact. The board has admitted publically that they "starve" schools that are in trouble by denyig them funding and other assets. For example one of the schools closed last week is a three story building. For years it's roof has been in such bad shape the third floor classrooms finaly had to be abandoned due to the water running in when it rained, there was never any money to have the roof fixed. Now that it is going to be a charter school, tada! The roof is getting fixed along with many other things. My question is are you sure that ASPIRA is paying for the new building or are the taxpayers and ASPIRA getting the new building while our CPS kids and teachers are dealing with the problems of a 100 year old building a few blocks away?

  • Barbs hey you kids, get off my lawn!

    @Jane, you might want to ask about who is paying by contacting:
    Sonia Sanchez, Director
    Government & Community Relations
    ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois

    @Michael M: This site was not, until recently, an empty lot, but had a bank building and parking lot on much of it. It's not clear if the building was torn down before, or after purchase.

    My biggest concern centers around the fact that Aspira has failed to educate their kids, and I have good reason to believe what @Edgebrook1 states; that Aspira is rife w/ cronyism, nepotism, mismanagement. This school is not a good thing, but instead an expansion of an already proven failing charter.

    The location of this school, at a key intersection of what is a "Little Poland/Polonia" neighborhood also seems a bit strange. Is this a push by the Latino community to mark territory? A reaction to "gentrification" that is apparently slowly moving up Milwaukee Ave. and into Avondale? I am most cynical as to why this corner was chosen as opposed to so many other vacant lots located all over Avondale, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.

    does anyone know, are there connections between Aspira and LSNA? Aspira and former HDO members?

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    Anyone who is interested in more information regarding the ASPIRA school, please use this link and read the interview with Logan Square Concerned Citizens and ASPIRA.

    There will also be an informational meeting :
    Wednesday March 14th, 2012 at 7:00 pm
    Location: St. Hyacinth Basilica Resurrection Hall
    3636 W. Wolfram
    Invited Speakers: All Local Aldermen
    Chicago Police Commanders
    Chicago Public Schools Representative
    Aspira Inc, of Illinois High School Operator.

    Anyone who is concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent should attend as well as anyone who is concerned with how this high school will impact our community and traffic!
    What will be the impact on the existing Milwaukee business district?

    A brand new brick and mortar school will certainly be an improvement from watching the drunks camp out there with their carts but will we be trading vagrancy and drunk and disorderly for gang loitering, graffiti and gang related shootings and then retaliation!

  • Tom G Living in Avondale since 1994

    T: Thanks for the Consortium link--I used to work there and they are scrupulous in how they use data to measure school improvement. Problem is, I combed their site for references to Aspira and found nothing. Which reports contain the data?

    Also, there is enough public data that we can question why Aspira was chosen. Last year two of their four schools were categorized at the lowest level 3 for academic performance, meaning that they can be closed down. There has been a well-documented case of grade changing, allegations of a strip search, and teachers reporting mismanagement in Substance and Catalyst. There is plenty of documented evidence of cronyism and nepotism tied to local, state, and national politics. This top-down decision-making is government at its worst.

    At the meeting, why not demand community input into the selection process, although I'm sure CPS will say they've done that. Why can't other providers state their case for running a school in the community? If Aspira is the only charter organization that has stepped forward, SO WHAT? Do we have to accept what the ruling elite gives us? Aspira was founded on principles of activism, so they'll look really dumb if they're in league with CPS to railroad the process past community activists.

    Why Aspira?

  • And if the CPS starves schools (which they do)
    How about Mayor who would seemingly willingly starve the schools of 25% of CPS students.

  • Inactive user

    @Lisa, come on now. You're going to believe what Karen Lewis says w/o any outside substantiation? To me, this article just proves what a terrible bargaining position she's in, and underscores that members of the CTU would be better served by another president.

  • I am honestly curious about how the Mayor's Office will respond to this. look at this actions and how he treats people. Does this surprise anybody?

    His comment had been reported to me by others...but until today..I had not heard the 'official reference' to the moment.
    I do believe Karen Lewis. I don't think she has reason to invent this. The Mayor's bedside manner and treatment of Chicagoans states plenty in itself.

  • Inactive user

    Give me a break, Lisa. She has no reason to invent this? How about because she is desperately trying to not lose a failing PR battle with central office and, true to form, instead of working to re-position the CTU in the public's eye as an organization in the service of children, she is instead tossing out unsubstantiated and inflammatory accusations. It seems desperate to me.

    The Mayor's office is going to just say he never said it and move on. Note, I'm not saying he DIDN'T say it, just that Lewis' motives for reporting it are far from altruistic.

  • Inactive user

    Also, if Lewis is so concerned about whether or not people in education believe in the intrinsic abilities of kids, she should focus on something she can control and impact: the belief systems of the members of her union.

  • Of course the Mayor's office will deny it.

    CTU is interested in the service of children. CTU recently released a very interesting proposal for the education of Chicago's children last week. There were many very creative and appropriate ideas that made quite a bit of sense and deserve recognitiion.These ideas make more sense that the rash 7.5 school day and then to top it off...the Track E school year (in a place like Chicago...where buildings are ill-equiped for summer) for all (both ideas need considerable study).

    I think the fact that senator Soto is sponsoring a bill to help but a moraturium on closing schools speaks volumes. This is an effort that CTU has been involved in grass root efforts to help communities and neighborhood schools. It is the BOE who turned a blind eye to parents and kids....not CTU.

    CTU and its grass-roots activism...which is working for the PARENTS and the noted. Karen Lewis and CORE are not the same old same old Union of yore. She and most CORE members were classroom teachers. They were in the trenches. They KNOW the problems of. students/communities


  • CTU is working with nationally recognized persons and organizations which recognize that there are problems...mass problems of inequities in our school district and how the school district has treated them (every so more pronounced since the BOE was made a mayorially appointed organization).,0,5442410.story

    I think the fact that CTU and CPS are becoming national topics
    is BIG news...and hardly indicates that she is having problems with her message. Ed Schultz 'gets it' with what IS happening in Chicago.

    It is the Mayor who is looting the public trust.

    It is Rahm that wants to
    A) limit public speech...look at his sneaky changes to public protest that were unveiled in the middle of the holiday season and then he nailed the coffin on MLK day.
    B) he calls the protests of parents/students 'noise'...thus belittling their thoughts...CTU never did that...
    C) he doesn't act like a man of the people...more like the 1%....
    He claims to support the middleclass....hummmmm a strong middle class except for teachers. And librarians. And firefighters. And bus drivers. And police—well, until the G8/NATO summits leave town. The mayor willl be sort of nice to cops until then.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    @Barbs. Why does ASPIRA have to confine themselves to certain areas, and I'm not sure what you mean by Hispanics marking off territory ina Polish enclave. I'd like to think that I'm missunderstanding you. I don't know enough about the subject to offer an opinion. Apparently there are pros and cons, if I'm to believe what I've been reading on this thread, but some comments like your are begining to open my eyes. Please starighten me out.

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    Does anyone else think that there is a problem here when the valedictorian and entire graduating class take off their gowns and display t-shirts in protest of the issues with the Aspira Charter School. Watch this:

  • Catbus Philosopher, Third-Class

    How is it that neither the Chicago Tribune nor the Sun-Times EVER reported on that?!

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    Catbus, I don't know why either because the Tribune posts the report cards on all of these schools and Aspira has been failing these kids miserably! Seem to be politics as usual here, as two people on the ASPIRA board either worked or still work for State Senator Iris Martinez.

  • also interesting on topic of charter schools are the conditions in some of the charter schools run by AUSL (which is the company being some fervently recommended by Rahm).

    two teachers tell it like it is at Orr (now an AUSL school)

    Strange but true...some LSC groups are going to take CPS to court regarding the schools that they want to close and turn into AUSL schools
    The lawsuit filed by LSC members at many of the closed and turned around schools, will be heard next Monday, March 12 at 2 pm.
    This lawsuit argues that, under the Illinois School Code, CPS “may not take such actions until they have complied with Section 34-8.3(c) and put in place “school improvement plans” that “include specific steps” that the LSCs “must take to correct identified deficiencies.”

    Here's an interesting twist: some people claim that Rahm is falling out of favor in the White House due to his various antics with CPS/BOE/school closings. Some believe that Nancy Pelosi cam to have a 'heart to heart' with Rahm. We know that Pelosi came to endorse Jesse Jackson Jr. at RainbowPUSH (which has affiliations with CTU regarding what Jesse Jackson Sr. claim that CPS practices educational apartheid. all....Curious.

  • It just gets weirder! Brizard wants to use public money for private and parochial schools. Why is he working in PUBLIC education?,0,3590608.story

    We need a publically elected BOE.

  • Inactive user

    Lisa, are you an employee for the CTU charged who uses EB as a place to conduct guerrilla pr under the guise of an average citizen?

    I'm just curious b/c you seem uninterested in dialogue and cross post things that read like thinly veiled CTU press releases...

  • Inactive user

    Also, AUSL schools aren't charters. They're CPS schools. Not charters.

  • I am an average citizen and a concerned parent.

    I don't believe that AUSL are standard CPS schools. It is my undertstanding that they are charter schools.

  • Inactive user

    They aren't charter schools, but they aren't standard CPS schools either. AUSL is a special case.

    They don't have LSCs, but AUSL isn't a charter management organization. Their schools fall under the same CPS budget guidelines that any other CPS neighborhood school has to operate under.

    What AUSL has, is a model for running school operations and systems that is unique to their organization. They also run teacher academies that train teachers under a residency model.

    Other things that make AUSL schools unique is that their leadership is "at will" meaning AUSL can let their principals and assistant principals go when they want, and the same is true for their teachers. CPS carved special space out for AUSL based largely on their ES results (Dodge being the cornerstone).

    As news reports indicate, their high school Turnarounds haven't seen much success, but the same could be said for the OSS Turnarounds. High Schools are just really f-ing hard to transform.

  • Inactive user

    I would also like to point out that while AUSL is the current target for anti-CPS sentiments, they -- as an organization -- do much more in the way of community outreach and engagement than any other ed organization I've run across. They have mixed results, but they're working in a field -- and finding decent success in pockets (Bethune,Dulles, Dodge being good examples) -- in a field where few people are finding any success. Also, their one non-Turnaround high school, Chicago Academy, has been making strides in FOT, attendance, and ACT scores, although I know that nobody is supposed to care how a kid does on the ACT, b/c all testing is bad, even though it's actually your ticket into college.

  • Thanks for bringing to light that AUSL does other things (besides the schools). That is the right and fair thing to point out.

    If you check out the occupychicagtrib article (about the two teachers at Orr) will notice that the teachers address the constant turnover of administration (which certainly can make implementation/follow through on discipline/schools rules exceedly difficult). Kids need consistency. The kids at Orr are not getting that. And the work environment there, seems at best, 'challenged'
    Orr was a difficult school before the turnaround (and as you state, T, some HS are just really difficult to turn around). (especially considering the already difficult socio-economic problems).
    Why is it that Chicago Academy is making strides? (is it the student population? parent commitment? something else?)

  • Inactive user

    Hi Lisa,
    You answered your own question about Chicago Academy a bit in your post. One big factor is that they've had stable leadership there for at lest five years. Research shows that the longer a principal stays in the role, the more likely it is for the school to improve over time. Chicago Academy High School is also a teaching academy for AUSL, which means they're working with teachers that have all been trained in the same systems and in the same manner, which improves the consistency of teaching across the classrooms. It also reduces the degree to which teachers are teaching radically different content across the same courses, which helps build the foundation for better teacher collaboration and peer-peer support.

    As you point out with Orr, they haven't had stable leadership since the turnaround, which has lead to the implementation of several different "ways" of doing things across the school, which would include codes of conduct, the establishment of a functioning leadership team and course-level teams etc.

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    Anyone who is interested in more information regarding the ASPIRA school, please use this link and read the interview with Logan Square Concerned Citizens and ASPIRA.

    There will also be an informational meeting :
    Wednesday March 14th, 2012 at 7:00 pm
    Location: St. Hyacinth Basilica Resurrection Hall
    3636 W. Wolfram
    Invited Speakers: All Local Aldermen
    Chicago Police Commanders
    Chicago Public Schools Representative
    Aspira Inc, of Illinois High School Operator.

    Anyone who is concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent should attend as well as anyone who is concerned with how this high school will impact our community and traffic!
    What will be the impact on the existing Milwaukee business district?

    ASPIRA also has received failing grades as only 1% of their graduates are college ready!

    There were also three women struck and killed by motor vehicles at Monticello and Milwaukee Ave and I can attest to the difficulty in crossing the street there, even with the crosswalk. Once again this evening, I was three quarters through the intersection with the dog and someone turned right on Milwaukee from Ridgeway, without even stopping or looking.

    Also has anyone seen the amount of gang graffiti on Barry from Central Pk all the way east to Kedzie? Bring 600 new kids from all over the city and drop them in the mix of an existing gang conflict and wait for the powder keg to explode!

  • @T - would love to hear your take on UNO.

  • I just had the funniest run in with an unidentified elected official who was handing out pro library/anti school leaflets on Central Park and Oakdale (9pm)!?!? He was pushing a library over some charter school that was planned for the area. I can only imagine it was the one you're speaking about. He had a horribly incorrect understanding of some economic and political history. He was a weird dude.

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    @Ethically Engineered......yes, it is the same school. It was supposed to be built but the local businesses have filed a law suit against the zoning board for granting the zoning change. I think the person was Larry Ligas and he has been instrumental in helping to postpone or stop this project all together. The recent spike in gang activity and shootings is reason enough not to drop 600 kids in the middle of a turf war and if that's not enough, how about the fact they they are under performing CPS schools, which is quite sad. We do not have a library in the area and this would be a perfect location.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    @Colemeister and Ethically Engineered; Be very careful about any interactions that you may have with Larry Ligas. He's a local community activist who has has been around for many years. E-mail me, and I can be more specific.

  • Colemeister Avondale Concerned Neighbors

    @George F, I can't seem to email you, can you email me instead?

  • I'm not sure if the gentleman was Larry Ligas, but he definitely had an agenda. I couldn't get any well thought out benefit of a library over the school. He seemed upset that I was asking the question as if it was self evident. I will try to email you @George F. If I am unable please feel free to contact me via



  • Nice, just found this story from the Reader about Larry Ligas:

    Lessons in Propaganda

    Was the Sun-Times fed the Clemente/FALN story by a man with a political ax to grind?

    So weird, he is listed as a conservative democrat but he bristled when I pointed out that Paul Ryan voted yes to allow banks back into the securities business in the late 90s. Now, I'm really not sure what this guy is about.

  • Ah, ABC7 posted this. Apparently his catholicism is putting him at odds with Obama if this is the same guy.

    "Meanwhile, in Catholic churches across Chicago, parishioners joined the debate.

    "For far too long the Catholic Church has allowed president Obama to get away with a lot of his politics," said Catholic Larry Ligas"

    There was some info on court cases with him as a defendant and a matter of $300K in business taxes.

  • I love the interwebs.

  • Carter O'Brien Diversey to Belmont lifer

    Larry Ligas regularly gets flack for his group as it begs the question of what truly is a community group.

    Most people I've spoken to believe they fall far short:

    The Logan Square Concerned Citizens does not have meetings open to the public. They do not publish minutes, elect officers or in any way embrace alternative viewpoints. I don't think they even have a website where you can find a clearly stated position on anything.

    Now, everyone has a right to gather freely & so do they. Sometimes I agree with some of Larry's points.

    The problem is when Larry portrays himself as a spokesman for Logan Square. That's IMO deceptive and unacceptable.

    If you go here and do a search for him:

    You will find numerous comments over a decade running by neighbors, usually aggravated that they read a news story where Larry was as some sort of community representative.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    @Colemeister; Give me a couple of days. I'm home in nyc and won't be back until Monday night.

  • George F in Ravenswood displaced New Yorker

    I e-mailed Colemeister, and I'm sure he can foward it to you. I'm currently out of town until Monday night, so I don't get too much of a chance to check my e-mails.

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