Is Mayor Emanuel Here?

Last week as some 60 parents, students, teachers, and community activists from Manierre School on the near north side embarked on the third “Walk the Walk” protest against school closings, organizer Sherise McDaniel called out, “Is Mayor Emanuel here?”

Since the announcement of 54 school closings, parents of soon-to-be-closed schools have commenced walking the route children will have to take to their receiving schools, inviting the press and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to join them.

Manierre

So far, the mayor has not shown up. He did respond to queries from reporters that he wanted to ensure that Manierre kids “have a bright and successful future.” However, they can’t do that if they’re threatened by gang violence.

Yesterday Manierre parents made their last pleas at the CPS impartial hearings.Manierre received a $200,000 library renovation from Target that included a computers, televisions, iPods, 2000 books and a parent corner as well as murals on the wall. Further, the teachers at the Child Parent Center receive training and other benefits from the prestigious Erikson Center for Early Childhood Education.

George Manierre Elementary School is located at 1420 N Hudson Ave. The receiving school, Edward Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts, is located at 1119 N Cleveland, across a busy intersection including a street that is five lanes wide.

Ten years ago, this area was teeming with children from the Cabrini Green High Rises. In 2000, before residents were relocated, Manierre had over 800 students enrolled. As of this year, they have 351 according to CPS data. Jenner also once had hundreds of Cabrini Green children. But while the enrollment has declined, gang rivalries and tensions have not.

Alderman William Burnett pointed out that the families in this community have “a generational curse. Some of these kid’s parents were killed by other kid’s parents. That’s the real stuff in that neighborhood.”

Parents say they have already seen gang threats on Facebook. CPS could decide to send Manierre kids to Franklin Fine Arts Academy, which is three blocks closer. Or LaSalle Language Academy, or Walter L. Newberry Math and Science Academy – all of which are nearby. But these are selected enrollment schools reserved for the city’s cream of the crop.

On the walk, Sherise McDaniel from the Parent Action Council pointed repeatedly across Sedgwick to how “nice” the neighborhood looked as she warned us not to be fooled. The Evergreen Terrace Apartments are largely Section 8 and the Marshall Field homes are little pockets of low income housing nestled between posh Old Town townhouses and mixed development on the busy riverfront. Parents fear this closing will spark an “all out gang war.

Throughout these stressful weeks since the announcement about school closings frustrated parents are beginning to say, “I’m just going to move” or “I’m going to find a different school.” School closings to further gentrification is nothing new; and with the list for charter schools just getting longer Rahm has more reason to demand more charter schools.

I have a feeling in the upcoming weeks we’ll see more drastic parent actions….