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A curious case: Avondale and Logandale

Of all the school actions to be considered by the Board of Education this week, the consolidation of Avondale Elementary and Logandale Middle School may be the most curious.

On its face it seems like a minor tweak: two schools across the street from each other, one with pre-K through 5th grade and the other with grades 6 to 8, would be combined into one school sharing both buildings.  Yet it’s inspired a storm of outrage and protest by large numbers of parents at both schools.

School supporters will march and rally outside Avondale, 2945 N. Sawyer, on Monday, April 25, at 2:45 p.m.  Tuesday morning they’ll present a counterproposal (see below) to CPS officials in a meeting at Avondale.  The board is set to vote on the consolidation proposal on Wednesday.

Over recent weeks, hundreds of Avondale and Logandale parents have joined marches and attended meetings and hearings — more than any other school on CPS’s consolidation list., said Bridget Murphy, education organizer for Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

‘A horrendous process’

“I’ve never seen parents and teachers get together, unite and fight like this,” she said. CPS “has really touched a nerve in these schools.”

It’s been a “horrendous process” leaving parents feeling “totally insulted,” said Murphy.  And the CPS proposal ignores and undercuts ongoing efforts at the schools to address the very same issues the district is raising.

CPS never consulted parents, who learned about the consolidation proposal from a Sun-Times article, said Sonia Cortez, community representative on the LSC of both schools.  Since the announcement, there have been conflicting statements by CPS officials about the purpose of the proposal, she said.

“First they told us this was to save money, then they told us it isn’t about money,” she said.  “We don’t feel we’re getting the real truth about why they want to do this.”

“The proposal is an effort to better utilize available facilities,” said CPS spokesperson Frank Shuftan, noting that Avondale is overcrowded and Logandale is underutilized.

Parent involvement

It’s a problem that parents have been acutely aware of and have been working to address, Cortez explains.  Eight years ago Avondale’s LSC fired the old principal and brought in Ana Martinez Estka, who is seen as open to parents and supportive of English-learning students.  The LSC recently gave her a four-year contract renewal.

At Avondale – the overcrowded school — parents now volunteer extensively, some on a daily basis, and its pre-school program has a long waiting list.  But only 40 to 50 percent of Avondale parents send their children on to Logandale.

Last year Logandale’s LSC fired the school’s longtime principal, an “old-school” type who was seen as hostile to parent involvement (he even barred parents from volunteering in the school) and as culturally insensitive.

After an intensive, months-long selection process requiring countless volunteer hours, they hired Evelyn Roman, who had previously served as assistant principal at other schools.  CPS now wants to put her in charge of the combined schools.

“She’s been a principal for three months, and she still has a lot of work to do” at Logandale, said Cortez.  “And now they want her to take on 700 more kids?”

With close to 1,000 students — more if the pre-school program expands –the combined school would be among the top 10 percent of the district’s largest elementary schools.  Parents point out that all but one of those 47 schools are predominantly Latino.

And with Avondale losing its gym and art teachers – Cortez says they’ve already been given notice, along with Avondale’s lunchroom staff – the huge school would have only one teacher for gym and one for art.  Half the school would troop across the street every day for lunch, rain, shine or snow.  That’s a problem, Cortez said.

Community proposal

Meanwhile the two schools’ LSCs have been meeting and have developed a joint counterproposal, which they’ll present to CPS officials Tuesday.  They’re suggesting shifting the fifth grade to Logandale, which would result in 650 pre-K-to-4th grade students in Avondale’s larger facility and 323 in Logandale.

They’re proposing creating a common vision for both schools, with curriculum alignment and joint professional development, and with shared community school activities.

Their proposal would continue the years of work they’ve put in improving the two schools.  It’s not clear what the CPS proposal would accomplish, besides creating bitter feelings of disrespect in two schools where parents’ involvement should really be honored.

It’s a “poster child” making the case for school facilities reform embodied in a bill now moving through Springfield, Murphy said.

SB 620 would establish an independent planning commission that would have approval authority over facility standards and a ten-year facilities master plan drawn up by CPS.  The commission would review an annual capital improvement plan as well as school actions.  School closings would require detailed educational impact statements and student transition plans, and parents and staff could appeal decisions to the commission.

It would bring transparency and accountability to a process that has been opaque and apparently ad-hoc for years, roiling school after school, in some cases displacing low-income students repeatedly.

The bill passed the State Senate by a vote of 49 to 12 on April 15.  No Chicago Democrats voted in opposition, though a few didn’t show up for the vote.  It’s now under consideration in the House.

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Category: CPS, Logan Square, school closings, school facilities

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11 Responses

  1. Diana D. says:

    My kids go to both these schools one in avondale kindergarten and one in logandale 6th grade, I honestly think they should put both schools together they share same lot they can build a connecting bridge fot students to go back and forth it will be better for both schools makes more room for the kids on the pre k waitlist as far as it goes parents working to help is a bunch of bull they have less than 10 parents working there only 2 crossing guards for avondale many ppl i know asked to help out at the school and they DONT ALLOW YOU IF YOU AINT MEXICAN it would be the best of the school if they got a new principle these students dont bring home much homework no reading,spelling,math books as far as mrs. Roman from logandale she doing a good job i say nobody complaining my son dont she is nice she will meet with parents get to know them unlike eska avondale would be a better school if it had a new principle..

  2. kate says:

    The schools are right next to each other–on the same campus. The principal of Avondale just wants to keep her job. There are other new princpals who handle over 1300 students with buildings blocks away. No excuse–the two schools should be combined.

  3. […] looks like the community proposal prepared jointly by parents at Avondale and Logandale (see previous post) will not be considered by CPS – unless the Board of Education decides tomorrow that, as Ron […]

  4. Johnny says:

    Whew! It’s interesting that these people that are complaining have probably never been inside the school and asked to help. I know that many parents go and help every day and it is more than 10 parents. Everyone has a chance to be a parent mentor but they do not realize that it is a commitment. I think that the principals of the schools each have strengths. Sometimes parents do not like a principal when they do not get what they ask for. Perhaps that is the case for these people.

  5. Ornelas says:

    We are fight for the process not principals. We are asking to hold the consolidation until SB 620 bill passes. That way we can see a transparent layout plan. No on is opposing the consolidation. If you feel so strongly about this maybe you should have voiced your opinion at all the meetings. As a parent, would you not like to see actual data that proves which principal is better. Everyone is trying to give Mrs. Roman credit, but with all due respect all that work was done by the previous principal not her. Of course students do better in a middle school, it’s a common trend in every school setting. Also, if I had 250 students I would expect them to achieve becuase the classroom size if small, which is ideal for learning. Become involved and will informed. Thank you

  6. Ornelas says:

    I also forgot to mention, why would they build a bridge if they are downsizing for money reason? It’s not going to happen.

  7. dianad says:

    WELL PARENTS SHOULD REALLY STOP COMPLAINING THAT THERE KIDS WILL HAVE TO GO OUTSIDE IN RAIN AND SNOW TO GET TO THE OTHER BUILDING ARE THEY SENSELESS AND DONT REALIZE THAT THEY LIVE IN CHICAGO WHERE IT RAINS AND SNOWS ALOT AND THERE CHILDREN WALK TO SCHOOL IN IT SO IT DONT MAKE SENSE THEY COMPLAINING ABOUT THAT AND YOU MUST BE ONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT BE ALL HAIL MRS ESKA REALLY WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE BUS THERE KIDS TO OTHER SCHIOOL INSTEAD OF STAYING AT AVONDALE? OR WHY SOME STUDENTS TRANSFER OUT? SERIOUSLY AVONDALE NEEDS AWHOLE LOT OF RECONSTRUCTION AND A PRINCIPLE THAT RESPECTS PARENTS AND WHAT SCHOOL DO YOU KNOW THAT JUST CAUSE THEY HAVE AN ASSEMBLY AND IT AUDITORUIM IS SMALL TELLS PARENTS WELL IF YOUR CHILD HAS ALREADY PERFORMED LEAVE THE AUDIORUIM CAUSE OTHER PARENTS WANT TO COME REALLY SERIOUSLY SHE IS NOT A GREAT ASSET TO AVONDALE ANYMORE AT ALL ITS TIME FOR HER TO RETIRE PLAIN ANS SIMPLE BRING IN SOMEBODY ELSE RATHER ITS MRS ROMAN OR NOT MY GHETTO NEIGHBOR WOULD BE A BETTER CANIDATE FOR HER JOB…….. AND YOU MUST BE SO OFFENSIVE CAUSE YOUR ON HER SIDE PAYROLL IF THERE IS MORE PARENTS BEING MENTORS WORKING THERE I CANT TELL CAUSE IM THERE EVERYDAY TAKING AND PICKING UP MY KIDS FROM AVONDALE AND LOGANDALE THE ONLY ONES OUT THERE ARE THE TEACHERS WIT THERE CLASS AFTER SCHOOL WHERE ARE THE WORKERS AT WHEN THE GANGBANGERS ARE OUT ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE SCHOOL OF AVONDALE? GUESS WHAT THERE AINT ANYONE OUT THERE WHO CARES OR WAIT THEY DONT HAVE MANY WORKERS AS YOU CLAIM THERE IS….. YOU GUYS WAISTING TIME ANY THE CPS MONEY BUY RENTING BUSES TO TAKE YOU DOWNTOWN TO PROTEST FOR SOMETHING THATS A DONE DEAL DONT YOU THING INSTEAD OF THE TEACHERS AND SO CALLED MENTORS THAT SUPPOSENLY WORK AT AVONDALE SHOULD BE TEACHING THESE KIDS THAT GO TO LEARN SO INSTEAD OF GETTING ON THE BUS AT AVONDALE SCHOOL APRIL 27,2011 AT 9AM TO GO PROTEST LET THEM STAY AND DO WHAT THEY GET PAID TO DO AND THATS TEACH MY KIDS AND EVERYONE ELSES KIDS THAT GO TO AVONDALE……..

  8. austin says:

    Get real Bridget! The reason the CPS people left the
    meeting at Avondale was they realized that group of
    supporters had been brainwashed and all the FACTS in
    the world could not change that! It is clear to anyone
    with any intelligence that this group wants to KEEP the
    PRINCIPAL w/o any regard to the students. How that
    principal has managed to keep her kingdom under the
    radar from CPS this long is amazing!

  9. luz says:

    Thank you Dinand for finally speaking out about what goes
    on at avondale. you are right when you say that estka
    principle onlyt cares about some parents and some
    teachers to. did she care about the students when she
    yelled at the worker outside for not letting the
    television truck come into the street that is blocked
    to keep the kids safe. why is only the staff that
    backs the principle at all the meetings. why they not
    in the rooms teaching the students like we all pay them
    to.

  10. Joy G. says:

    I worked at Avondale for 10 yrs. and was on the LSC on Estka’s first year there. I left after one year with her. DIANAD is on the money with this principal. She got the job by manipulation of resumes by the LSC and help from a close friend/co-worker from the BoE who was assisting the LSC with the hiring process. Same LSC moved to Logandale and got rid of Dr. Sweeney. If you carefully look at the staff changes for the last 8 years, you will find that Estka hired and let go many teachers. LOTS of exisitng teachers left as well due to verbal and mental abuse. Even to the last few months, she had a teacher leave that she just hired in the same school year. Newly hired staff learned quickly. There were rumors that she was to retire soon, but got the LSC to renew her contract to prime her goddaughter as the principal, who works at the school. This goddaughter’s mother is an aide at Avondale and her sister is now the bilingual coordinator at Avondale. NEPOTISM exists as well as favoritism. She’s an awful principal with no morals.

    A word to the writer of this article: Interview all the teachers who left and find out why. You’d be surprised what you’d find out. That in itself would be a curious case. It opens a can of worms of how this school ended up where it is now, and verifies what DIANAD is talking about.

    It’s been 8 years since I left. I continue to work at another CPS school. It’s been 8 years too long to finally see this principal go along with her entourage. I can only hope that the new principal at Logandale is aware of the new staff coming in her hands, especially those who are strong supporters of Mrs. Estka.

    Why bother to say anything? I put a lot of time into Avondale as a teacher. It had a great working environment, great community, wonderful & respectful students who had the capabilities to aspire what they want to become. I really loved working there until the LSC, with the help of a community activist named Victor Montanez, changed it. Where is Victor Montanez now? And look at what’s happened to the school community…

  11. livvy says:

    why has the school people let that anacaberea family
    run the school. that women acts like she is the principal. why do they pay the other woman who is in the
    office to be the half principal when the cabrerea woman
    on the 2 flooor runs the school to. why do they not have
    the counsil meeting at night for working moms can go.
    why are the good teachers there so very unhappy. every year the good ones go away from the crazy leader there.


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