Parents ‘Disappointed’ Over School’s Future

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - EducationAmes Middle School students and parents were blindsided this past week over the announcement made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and Alderman Roberto Maldonado that Marine Military Academy is scheduled to move into the community school.

“We fought for two years for this not to happen. We were promised Ames Middle School would be left alone,” said Emma Segura, parent and Logan Square Schools Facilities Council (LSC) member, during a press conference at Ames Middle School last Saturday. “Alderman Roberto Maldonado always wanted to turn Ames Middle School into a military school. I’m not against military schools, if they had the right teacher for every student it would be fine, but they don’t. They don’t have teachers for Special Ed kids or bilingual students. Ames Middle School is a really good and our children are happy here.”

According to the Logan Square Schools Facilities council, an organization comprised of representatives of many schools’ parent leaders, released a press release stating that only 26 percent of students of Marine Military Academy met or exceeded standards in reading in 2012 and 32 percent in math; compared to Ames, which had close to 60 percent of students who met or exceeded standards in reading in 2012 and 73 percent in math.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated in a press release that he is only complying with the high numbers of applications for military seats as a reason for the expansion. According to the Mayor, there are more than six applicants for every available military seat and so ‘this expansion will help meet parental demand,’ said the Mayor. “We want to ensure that students graduate from the City’s high schools 100 percent college ready and 100 college-bound.”

All current 7th and 8th graders at Ames Middle School will be able to choose to stay and will continue to be able to choose from general education courses and electives. The expansion, which will include new science and computers labs and classrooms for art and music, will be paid for with 7 million dollars in TIF funds. Between 2005 and 2012, the number of students applying to Military Academies has increased by 237 percent.

But parents and students at the press conference that took place at Ames Middle School urged the Mayor, Ald. Maldonado, and CPS representatives to visit Ames to hold a series of conversations over whether or not community members agree with the change.

“Not once have these politicians visited Ames Middle School. Not once have they tried to talk with us parents or even witnessed the success of these students,” said LSC member Gayle Sturm. “I am very disappointed. We have worked very hard to keep Ames Middle School a traditional school and we will continue to fight. What people don’t realize is that military schools are selective-enrollment as well as a school that does not provide an array of after-school programs nor do they provide bilingual education programs. The alderman needs to stop playing politics with our schools and actually meet with parents and students.”

Last year, Ames parents conducted a door-to-door community survey around the school and found that 357 Ames neighbors and found that 87 percent of them were opposed to a military high school at Ames. “If the alderman or the mayor are looking into a facility to house the Marine Military Academy why not look at other empty facilities like, Von Humboldt or Lafayette?”

According to the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), only 58 percent of Marine students enroll in college, less than CPS average. LSNA regarded Marine a ‘push-out factory,’ with only 56 percent of the 122 students who entered as freshmen in 2010 graduating, less than the citywide average.

“I believe Ames Middle School should remain a community school and not have it turn into a military academy because it’s not for everyone,” said Raul Arias, a student at Marine Military Academy, who also spoke at the press conference. “I thought military school was about students having the choice to go there. It turns out parents have no other choice, but to force their child to go to a military school because there aren’t many options in their communities.”

In the coming weeks, LSNA, LSC, and Ames parents will host several meetings with the hope of coming to a resolution with Alderman Maldonado and CPS officials.

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