To the editor:

The dispute over the South Loop School described in Neighborhood News, “Sign of Trouble” (May 7), does indeed go much deeper than a simple fight over a sign. To find the true epicenter, you need look no further than the local school council. As a new resident of Dearborn Park, I decided to attend an LSC meeting to see where my tax dollars were going. I almost did not make it to the meeting–all of the doors to the school were locked. I banged on enough until someone finally let me in. What followed at the actual meeting almost defies description. I can only say that it was the most pathetic, farcical display of “democracy” that I have ever witnessed. It would almost be humorous if not for the children’s lives and substantial dollars that were at stake.

The second meeting that I attended (yes, the doors were locked again) was even worse. The council was getting set to approve the upcoming budget. Mr. Young protested that it would be illegal to vote on a budget when council members hadn’t had the required time to study it, but to no avail. The budget was quickly and easily passed. What was especially distressing to me was the fact that at least two representatives of the Chicago School Board were present and allowed it to happen.

Looking at the budget, I can’t help wondering why the LSC chose to spend only $645 on science lab equipment and $22,284 on “parent’s stipends.” I have never even heard of such a thing–paying parents to “volunteer” at a school? Where can I sign up? I can only imagine what must be buried in the rest of the budget.

Ms. Woodard states in the article that a “small but vocal minority” of nearby residents “have their own agenda.” Thank God for the vocal ones because the rest of the families in the South Loop just silently vote with their feet and send their children to magnet or private schools. I have been unfairly called a racist because I questioned the status quo. However, one big reason that I chose to live in the South Loop was because I wanted my children to grow up in an integrated neighborhood and attend an integrated, excellent school. Neither I, nor my black, Asian, or Hispanic neighbors could possibly send our children to a school that is a complete failure in all statistical categories.

If the mayor truly wants to attract and keep middle-class families of all races in the South Loop, he will investigate the goings-on at the LSC. The possibility that one isolated LSC is dysfunctional should not detract from the huge successes that he and Mr. Vallas have achieved overall with the Chicago Public Schools. I invite the mayor and anyone else that appreciates good theater to come to the next LSC meeting. That is, if they can get in the door!

Ross Rhone

South Loop