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Parent sit-in ends at Gresham Elementary School

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Updated: June 18, 2014 6:24AM

A parent protest ended early Saturday at Gresham Elementary School on the South Side, officials said.

One parent said police escorted all protesters out of the building at 12:30 a.m.

But a Chicago Police official said a “peaceful agreement” was reached and “everyone went home safely.”

Parents unhappy with CPS’s plans for a “turnaround” at Gresham had vowed to sit in at the school until they got a meeting with top district officials.

“Until they agree to sit down with us and have a serious discussion regarding the turnaround, we’re going to be here camped out,” Anthony Jackson, a parent and coordinator of Gresham Parents, Students and Community United for Change, said Friday.

At a news conference late Friday afternoon, there were roughly eight parents and 40 students participating in the protest.

Gresham was one of three schools approved for turnaround by the Board of Education on April 23. Turnaround schools are chosen from among those on academic probation.

The schools will be handed over to the non-profit Academy of Urban School Leadership — and all the teachers and staff dismissed.

Gresham Principal Diedrus Brown said her school, with 58 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards, was performing better academically than many other schools not chosen for turnaround and also better than some AUSL schools already in turnaround.

“CPS has done a terrible harm to the children and teachers and staff,” Brown told the protesting parents Friday. “It is saying that they’re a failure and that is not the truth.”

In an earlier note to parents she wrote: “Why are they really proposing to make Gresham a turnaround school? It is not for declining academic or probation status. . . . It is because of the money and they want this building!!!!!!”

Gresham has undergone $7 million dollars in renovations to prepare for sharing its space with a charter school that never moved in. It was given $30,000 worth of books but it’s library is locked most of the time because the librarian was cut from the staff along with an art and music teacher.

Parent Tiffany Walker, who herself went to Gresham, said the school has suffered from a lack of resources. “If they would give us the money, we would continue to produce results like we have in the past,” she said.

In a statement, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said: “CPS is committed to ensuring that all of our students have access to a high-quality education and strong school leadership that will provide them the foundation necessary for academic success. We do not take a decision to bring systemic change to a school lightly, but when change is in the best interest of our students, we will not waver.”

“For more than a decade, AUSL has improved schools from the ground up, showing increased attendance rate, academic growth and engaging school environments that put students on a path to success.”

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