As we face the ongoing Dyett hunger strike and a new school year of cuts, tax hikes, and maybe even another teachers’ strike, I’d like to offer a little bit of good news about public education in the age of Mayor Emanuel.
For the first time in years there are fewer than 34 kids in Erika Wozniak’s fifth-grade class at Oriole Park Elementary, on the northwest side.
That’s because the school finally got a new addition to relieve overcrowding. So take a bow, Mr. Mayor.
As a bonus, on top of my good news, I’ll offer a short civics lesson on how to get the mayor to do what you want, so parents and students and teachers can learn from Oriole Park’s positive example.
Pay attention, everyone—this may come in handy.
Based on recent examples, I can think of several reasons why the mayor hands out goodies—like new buildings—to public schools.
He may happen to live in the neighborhood—which helps explain why Coonley Elementary got an addition.
The school might be in a rich community with lots of clout—which explains the addition at Lincoln Elementary, in Lincoln Park.
He may desperately want to cultivate the support of parents who send or will send their kids to a particular school—which is why selective enrollment high schools such as Jones and Payton got additions.
Or it might be that parents, teachers, and community members have been bugging him relentlessly about a particular school.
In the case of Oriole Park, the grade school got its addition after about ten years of parents writing letters and pleading at various meetings and hearings.
Also, the aforementioned Ms. Wozniak has been impressively unafraid to be a royal pain in the neck from time to time, going so far as to appear in a commercial for Jesus García’s mayoral campaign.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say.
In the case of Dyett, activists from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization finally got the mayor to reopen Dyett in part by going on a hunger strike and storming the stage at a recent budget hearing.
Apparently the amount of squawk a wheel has to squeak to get some grease is a relative thing in Chicago.
Sometime let me tell you how much squawking people at Simeon had to do before Mayor Daley got around to building them a new high school.
In so many ways, Mayor Emanuel truly has learned from the master.
In any event, Oriole Park’s new addition opened this year. Now there’s enough space for three, not two, fifth-grade teachers. So there are only 25 kids in Wozniak’s classroom, as opposed to as many as 38.
Stopping by on the first day of school to join in on the celebration was Tim Cawley, the chief administrative officer for CPS.
“He was very pleasant,” says Wozniak. “He walked into my class and said, `I counted the chairs in your class room, and you only had 25.'”
I suspect that’s a subtle way of saying—you got what you want, so stop complaining already!
Cawley also told Wozniak how “clean” her room looked.
Which may be a subtle way of telling her he’s aware she filed a union grievance last school year because of cuts to the school’s janitorial service.
Wozniak’s classroom should look clean. One day last week, seven janitors showed up to clean the school.
“I had a custodian in my room cleaning the windows,” says Wozniak. “I had a janitor scrubbing the floor behind the bookshelf. It was unbelievable.”
I suspect the extra janitorial attention had something to do with the fact that Mayor Emanuel was scheduled to stop by Oriole for a visit to see the new addition.
Here’s a suggestion for keeping the schools clean, administrators: just have the mayor visit each one every week or so.
Anyway, Mr. Mayor, I give you grief for the dumb stuff you do. I have to show you love when you do something right.
Now get on the horn with KOCO and settle that Dyett thing—all right?