CPS sends mixed signals over plans for middle school and military academy
BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporters November 1, 2013 6:54PM
Emma Segura and her children (left to right) Angel 14, Jessica 6, and Omar 13, pose for a photograph outside their Chicago home on Friday, November 1, 2013. Omar and Angel are students at Ames Middle school where next year CPS will transform the school into a Marine academy. | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 3, 2013 6:09AM
Ames Middle School in the Logan Square neighborhood will be receiving a military program and high school level grades, and Marine Military Math and Science Academy will remain in its own building on the Near West Side.
That was the windup Friday after Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools officials backtracked from their announcement earlier this week that the two would merge with Marine moving into Ames’ current building.
The reversal by officials initially infuriated Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th).
Maldonado Friday lashed out at the mayor and his handpicked school team and said he stuck his neck out politically to support Emanuel in the plan to combine the two schools and now, he was stuck out on a limb by himself.
“Talk to the people at CPS. They’re the ones. I cannot answer for them. If they were gun-shy, you should ask them why they were gun-shy. If this is the right decision for the kids of my community, they should not be gun-shy,” the alderman said.
But hours later Maldonado seemed to do his own about-face, telling the Sun-Times he’d received assurances from the mayor’s office that “nothing has changed” since Tuesday’s announcement.
“Now, kids [at Ames] will be able to go from 7th to 12th grade at Ames with the academic model of Marine Math and Science. That’s what’s going to start ... September, 2014. It’s going to be an expanded curriculum,” the alderman said.
But that is a significant change from what officials said Tuesday.
That’s when the mayor’s office issued a news release that said: “In order to meet the demand, the academic focus of Ames, which is currently a level three school that has been consistently 50 percent under utilized, will change to military. The school will be expanded from 7th grade to 12th grade and will become the permanent home for Marine Math and Science Academy.”
Protesters rallied outside Marine Tuesday when Emanuel and other officials made the first announcement.
Emanuel defended the plan on Wednesday, but then, Chicago Public Schools retreated and said Ames would be getting its own military academic focus next year and add high school grade levels. Both Ames and Marine will stay put in their respective buildings with the same leadership teams, said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll.
CPS’ Carroll and a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office said the information released Tuesday about Ames was simply wrong.
Carroll said there had been a “miscommunication in the press release,” which came from the mayor’s office.
Rachel Kruer, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, called it “a typo.”
But the switched signals left parents of kids at Ames with questions.
“They’re saying one thing now and another thing later,” said Emma Segura, 35, a parent of Ames students and a member of its local school council. “They can’t even get their facts straight.”
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis echoed Segura’s sentiments and said this debacle “is indicative of the chaos and the confusion that comes out of Clark Street [CPS headquarters].”
Meanwhile, the Ames LSC is meeting Tuesday and has invited CPS’ CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Board of Education President David Vitale, Segura said.
“It would be nice if they come and talk to the LSC members,” she said.