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Parents end ‘occupation’ of school after promised meeting with CPS leaders

Updated: March 20, 2012 8:23AM

Angry parents and protestors have called off their occupation of an underperforming elementary school on Chicago’s Northwest Side after they were promised a meeting with education officials before a vote on the future of the school next week.

The protesters had spent Friday night and Saturday camped out at Brian Piccolo Elementary Specialty School, where teaching staff could learn this week whether they’ll be shown the door.

But Saturday afternoon, a member of the Board of Education met with them inside the school and agreed to grant the protesters a meeting with the entire board, said Rachel Perrotta of Occupy Chicago, a group demonstrating with the parents.

The meeting had been one of the parents’ demands while occupying the building, Perrotta said.

Earlier Saturday, 13 protestors had remained inside the school in Humboldt Park, with Chicago Public Schools officials refusing to let them bring food in.

Another 50 — many of whom had pitched tents — were outside the school at 1040 N. Keeler.

Asked whether they were trying to starve the protestors into leaving the building, spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler responded, “They have been reminded that they’re welcome to leave any time they want.”

The protest came just days before the Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote whether to replace staff there and at 9 other under-performing schools. Parents had vowed not to leave until Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to discuss their objections to the board’s “turn-around” plans.

Board of Ed Vice President Jesse Ruiz and Jamiko Rose, chief of family and community engagement for the Chicago Public Schools, met with the group to hear their concerns.

The parents object to the mayor’s plan to hand over management of the school to the privately run Academy for Urban School Leadership. Shronda Wilson, whose two kids, ages 5 and 7, attend the school, argued that Piccolo has a promising new principal. “They haven’t given her a chance. She has come here from the beginning of the school year and done a tremendous job. They have good teachers here.”

However, in a statement Saturday afternoon, Schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard said: “The fact is, Piccolo has been failing its students year after year, and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to give these students access to a higher quality education.”

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