Current Temperature


Saturday, December 21, 2013

EveryBlock is coming back? coming back?

Crossposted over at The Sixth Ward on Dec. 20, 2013. I miss this application that showed various data such as crime, permits, etc. There was a widget that was at various times shown either in the sidebar or on it's own dedicated page here (also on it's own dedicated page at The Sixth Ward called the "Blotter"). All the same I look forward to sharing data around both Bennett & Shedd schools even if Shedd is closed currently.

EveryBlock was shutdown back in February of this year by NBC News for whom they were a subsidiary. Now, NBC News' parent company Comcast is considering bringing it back and Chicago Grid even had the opportunity to see a non-public version of the site. It appears the site might be revived in Chicago first and then ulitmately expanded to other cities around the nation.

In light of it's abrupt closure earlier this year, there have been a number of sites who sought to fill the void EveryBlock left. Many have chosen this site, Nextdoor which is a lot more hyperlocal than EveryBlock was thanks to this idea of wanting more information out of the user when they join the site.

Well when EveryBlock returns I look forward to bring back the old Sixth Ward Blotter even if in the future it might need some tweaks for more coverage areas.

Find them on social media and let them know you're glad they're coming back in the near future.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sun-Times: Test-score gap widens between white, black students in Chicago

The report apparently not only discussed race, but also income according to those students who had free lunches.
Published Wednesday, the report shows that despite steady improvements over the last decade, Chicago still lags behind most major U.S. cities in math and reading at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels.

The gap in fourth grade math test scores between black and white students in Chicago widened to 40 points — the largest gap since the national study began in 2003, and significantly wider than the 31 point gap in the average major U.S. city.

Though the average white student was graded as “proficient” with “solid academic performance” in fourth grade math, the average black student had only “basic” understanding, or a “partial mastery” at that stage, according to the report.

The sobering statistics included a few bright spots for CPS officials, however. Despite the widening race gap, Chicago recorded the joint biggest fourth grade math bump in the nation.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chatham 14 holiday party with free movies

December 14th is my birthday and it would be worth it to drop off some items at Chatham 14 for those neighborhood children in need. Everyone has got to eat of course and every child should have a toy to play with. On top of that since temperatures this month had dropped to record lows they also need a coat and through Dec. 20th you can also drop off a coat for a free large popcorn. That was mentioned in another post. Anyway refer to graphic below for more information and hopefully you would either have something to give or you may benefit.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Get a free popcorn, for donating a coat at Chatham 14 Theaters

Until December 20, 2013 if you donate a coat that's either new/clean but gently used please drop it off in the Chatham 14 lobby. The cineplex is located at 210 W. 87th Street and not only are they accepting coats they want toy donations as well. According to this article from DNA Info:
For every new or "gently"' used coat donated during the theater's first annual winter coat drive, the theater will give away a voucher good for a large popcorn.

Venisha White-Johnson, director of operations for the Chatham 14 Theaters, said while the theater has done food drives in the past, the coat drive started after she saw so many kids coming to the movies in shoddy jackets.

"I see kids coming to the theater with coats too small, worn out and in some cases not suitable for cold weather," she said. "Times are hard for everyone, especially single mothers, so having a coat drive seemed more appropriate."

The donations are being accepted daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Dec. 20 at the theater at 210 W. 87th St. A voucher that can be redeemed anytime is given for every coat donated, and there is no limit to how many coats a person can donate.
Well we call for donations to food pantries this year, and now donations for winter coats. More than one way to provide a blessing for someone this holiday season!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What to do with the closed Shedd School building???

Shedd School taken in April 2012
While not part of the official closed schools list Shedd School, branch of Bennett Elementary School, had been closed down as of this year. While disappointing it probably shouldn't have been a huge surprise.

Having attended many meetings of the Bennett-Shedd Local School Councils it was noted that there have been an enrollment decline attributed to families either moving from the area or wanting to take advantage of other educational options such as charter schools. Whatever affected Bennett also affected Shedd School as well.

Whatever prompted this decision, Shedd School is now an empty building just like many around the city that have been closed in the past year mainly due to underutilization. Many communities affected are probably considering what they can do with these decommissioned school buildings. Can we afford to let them sit empty without a general use?

Over at RAGE's FB page there was an article about how a Kansas City neighborhood has come to grips with this issue. They turned the school into a community center.

If I recall correctly, this was something that was proposed by former 6th ward Ald. Freddrenna Lyle when unsuccessfully she ran for re-election back in 2011. Although in this case closing down schools hadn't yet found itself on the city let alone the 6th ward's radar. She proposed that when school is not in session that the buildings themselves be turned over to the community for their use.

So we have plenty of closed school buildings throughout the city perhaps it's time to figure out a use for them or at the very least re-imagine a use for the land they sit on. Hopefully if enrollment doesn't turn around for Bennett in the next few years I could see Shedd School becoming at least the new meeting place for the Roseland Heights Community Association.

Also, if you want to see one argument in favor of school closings here's one presented by Artistmac in one of his YouTube vids. This is added while recognizing that there are many who are still upset with the school closings this year.

Finally, the pic below shows this sign posted to Shedd School's backdoor - where once upon a time students would line up before class convenes - announces that for the 2013-14 year all students will attend the sister school at Bennett Elementary. I have a couple of other pics with this one but they'll be shown in another post.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pullman poised for a revival

[VIDEO] I've talked about Pullman on this blog in the past it's near Bennett School and now more shopping options here on the South Side with a Walmart schedule to open today. The story you see above from CBS 2 Chicago illustrates a rebirth of this historic neighborhood that was once a planned community. A company town that once produced many railroad cars once upon a time.

In addition thanks to the neighborhood's history there are calls to turn it into a National Park according to another article from CBS. It reached a milestone when the National Park Service said that the Pullman Historic District is worthy of becoming a National Park. In addition to being a planned company town it was also home to a major labor movement involving Black Americans that was formed amongst the Pullman Porters who once served on the sleeping cars of many American railroads.

Between Walmart and possibly becoming a National Park, Pullman may well be on the way up!

Friday, August 30, 2013

VIDEO: Don't Like the Public School Closings? Put Up or Shut Up.

[VIDEO] School closings have been a hot topic lately and the school year has just started. A longtime YouTube favorite "artist" make has his take on the issue. Many parents and others have been upset about these school closings. The question is are these closings necessary. That's what he takes a look at.

Needless to say there are a number of issues that need to be addressed when it comes to education in Chicago. I wish there were easy answers to these issues. We could talk about academics, social services, parents, economics, crime, etc.

I will say that I'd have been disappointed if for example Bennett/Shedd had been closed, however, I understand why CPS had to close almost 50 schools earlier this year. It's just awful that in closing almost 50 elementary schools there are residual issues and threats of violence with that. I would like to believe children under 14 are too young for that type of non-sense!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Curators of Dixon School" - got notice from a local TV station

[VIDEO] Last year I mentioned a documentary film - Curators of Dixon School - in passing as it involved a south side elementary school out of Chatham. The leaders there strived to turn the school into something of an art museum. I missed this story last year from Channel 2 and the reporter - Derrick Blakely - is also an alumni of Dixon School.

It's important because unfortunately there appeared to be no previews of this documentary and there have been many screenings as it was noted this was screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center last year and it was advertised for viewing earlier this year at the ICE Theaters Lawndale cinemas. Having missed the various past screenings for this film, I'm even more curious about the premise.

You know this would be perfect for WTTW if the filmmaker was so inclined!

ALSO, the film will be shown at Cole Park on August 11th according to the summer screenings page of this documentary's official website.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WBEZ: Chicago scales back on standardized testing

CPS will eliminate 15 out of the 25 standardized test that students must take between KG and 12th grades. What tests were they taking? I think I could count on one hand the tests we had to take each year every year through 8th it was the Iowa Tests. The IGAP tests would be every year too, however, the testing would be different for example we may have to take a science and social studies one year and then the next math, reading, and writing. In 8th Grade we'd also have to take a minimum skills proficiency test.

Anyway cutting some of these exams will save money another thing I can agree on do these tests allow for learning or are teachers instructing for success on an exam. One of my teachers did that unfortunately even before the need to use standardized exams to determine achievement and learning.

Monday, July 29, 2013

August 3, 2013 - 17th Legislative District Family Wellness Heath Fair and Back to School

Family Wellness Health Fair

State Representative Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) in partnership with state Senator Donne E. Trotter, state Representative Marcus C. Evans, Jr., Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore, Jr. and Wal-Mart is hosting the 17th Legislative District Family Wellness Heath Fair and Back to School rally on Saturday, August 3 at Avalon Park in Chicago.

As we prepare to celebrate the start of a new school year, the Fair will provide students of our area with school supplies as well as the opportunity to receive health information for the entire family, including free child immunizations (shot records required), HIV/AIDS testing and adult wellness checkups (blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes), all screenings will occur free of charge.

Sims represents Illinois' 34th House District, which includes portions of the South Side of Chicago, Chicago's south suburbs, and Will and Kankakee counties. For more information, please contact Penny Tillman at (773) 783-8800.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ward Room: Why Elites Don't Think Public Schools Important To City's Future

I find this article from our local NBC affiliate quite depressing. It's an opinion, but it's quite sad that we see CPS graduates as nothing more than lower level workers and that's where they'll stay!
In this city divided between a small overclass of lawyers, consultants and IT professionals, and a large underclass of cashiers, dishwashers and landscapers, the local elites see the public schools as a training ground for service jobs that require little education. Chicago’s status as a regional hub enables it to poach college graduates from surrounding states, thus allowing the city to maintain an educated class with no public investment.
Close 54 public schools and cram the dispossessed students into overcrowded classrooms? Emanuel, who is Chicago’s quintessential global citizen, knows it won’t affect Chicago’s standing as a global city. Today at 4 p.m. in the Daley Plaza, thousands of students, parents and teachers will rally to keep the schools open. Their voices won’t reach the top of the Richard J. Daley Building. 
This was published on Wednesday and I apologize for not providing more coverage of the school closings that have occurred within the past week. However you can check out the coverage over at The Sixth Ward to see what's going on.

BTW, most of these closings involve mostly underutilized schools and Bennett would've been one of them but Bennett isn't slated for closing. Although I did hear from one of the neighborhood groups that Shedd will close next year.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Come see "The Curators of Dixon School"

It will be shown on the west side at ICE Theater's Lawndale 10 cinemas on Wednesday far from both Bennett/Shedd and Dixon School on the south side. The Lawndale cinemas are located at 3330 W. Roosevelt Rd. I also posted about this documentary last year as it was part of an independent film fest held at the Art Institute of Chicago. Refer to the flyer below for more details.

Also check out the doc's official website @

Remember last year when I posted about a summer movie promotion for kids at ICE Theaters alas since October they no longer operate and since December no longer own their former Chatham 14 location near 87th & Dan Ryan.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chicago Mag: Can $86 Million Save a Neighborhood? with the elementary school angle

Comer with his Revere Elementary friends in 2000
If only our schools had some type of generous benefactor as it appears that Paul Revere Elementary had. An alum came in and immediately started cutting checks especially since he definitely made good after not only leaving this school, but the neighborhood around the school where he grew up.
On a mild September day in 1999, Gary Comer drove from his Gold Coast apartment to a neighborhood on Chicago’s Far South Side. Known as Pocket Town, it’s a small triangular “pocket” of Greater Grand Crossing bordered by Oakwood Cemetery to the north, the Norfolk Southern tracks to the west, and the Metra tracks to the east.

Like many parts of the South Side, Pocket Town had become overrun with drug dealers and gang violence in the 1970s. Block after block was blighted. The local school was failing. Fifteen percent of residents lived below the poverty line, and unemployment topped 25 percent.

Comer, a diminutive 70-year-old in khakis and a crewneck sweater, got out of his car and walked into the two-story red brick Paul Revere Elementary School. “This little guy, who barely reached my shoulder, came up to me and tapped me,” recalls Shelby Taylor, the principal at the time, a tall man with a deep voice. “He asked to take a tour of the school.”

Days later, Comer wrote a check for $68,000 to fix an electrical problem in the aging building that prevented computers from being used in the computer lab. A grateful Taylor asked Comer what he could do for him in return. Comer responded, “Well, Shelby, I would like a good soul food lunch.” Over greens, grits, and cornbread, Comer told him: “I will use all of my resources to help turn Revere around.”

Dumbstruck, Taylor learned that the unassuming senior citizen was the billionaire founder of the mail-order clothing empire Lands’ End. Comer had graduated from Revere more than half a century before. And it turned out that helping the school was only the beginning. Comer soon resolved to do no less than transform the lives of the families and young people of Pocket Town.
Aside from money this is what Comer did for Revere:
Early on, Comer and his staff at the foundation debated whether to prop up Revere or design a new charter school from scratch. They chose the former. “We would’ve had to close down the school for a year in order to turn it into a charter, and that’s where the conversation always stopped,” explains Schleicher. “What would those kids have done [in the meantime]?”

A research junkie, Comer spent countless hours studying Revere. He learned that its students’ reading, math, and writing scores were chronically so low that Revere had been on Chicago Public Schools’ academic probation list for years. Absenteeism was rampant. Taylor, who had started on the job five months before Comer came knocking, was the school’s fourth principal in 18 months. “Gary knew more about my school than I did,” says Taylor.

For every problem Comer encountered, he would propose a solution. To stop students from wearing gang colors, for example, he “bought every single kid—nearly 700 of them—three tops, two bottoms, and a sweater,” says Taylor.

Comer helped set up a science club and sent daily e-mails to its members. He put maps and globes in every classroom. He bought laptops for students. And when President Clinton launched a federal initiative to bring new technology to poor urban communities, Comer personally handled Revere’s bid for funds. “I spent that Christmas with Gary, in my office, filling out the applications,” says Taylor. (Revere wound up receiving $368,000, which paid for a total of 138 computers in its 23 classrooms.)

Taylor says Comer’s commitment to Revere eventually reached upward of $1 million annually—twice as much as the school was receiving from federal and state aid combined. With that money, the school did everything from remodel its auditorium to bring in experts to train teachers.

When students graduated from Revere, they headed to South Shore High School, a couple of miles away, which had an abysmal graduation rate of 50 percent. Comer wanted Pocket Town’s kids to have a strong high school right in the neighborhood. He decided that building a charter school—publicly funded but privately run—was the way to go.
That charter school is Gary Comer College Prep located at the corner of 71st & South Chicago. Next door is the eponymous youth center also built for the youth of "Pocket Town". Can't argue with keeping the young people out of trouble.

Also this with regards to Revere's absenteeism:
Back at Revere, attendance remained low. One reason, Comer learned, was that many students’ immunizations were not up-to-date. “Fifty to 100 kids couldn’t attend school because [of that],” says Schleicher. So the foundation partnered with the University of Chicago’s mobile clinic to provide free annual shots. Then, in 2009, the foundation partnered with the health care provider Access Health to open a clinic inside the youth center. It offers nutritional counseling, sex education, and psychotherapy to every Pocket Town child as of this year—all for free.
Well since this blog is named for my old elementary school, how did Revere fair thanks to Comer's help?
Unfortunately, when it comes to schools and housing, results have been mixed. Let’s start with Revere Elementary. Students initially showed significant academic improvement. For example, while only 20 percent of them met the national academic standards in 2001, 52 percent did in 2006. As a result, Revere came off academic probation.

But then progress stalled. According to Chicago Public Schools’ 2012 scorecard, less than 25 percent of Revere students meet the national student performance average. Unsurprisingly, Revere is back on probation. “The situation is dire now,” Taylor says sadly.

[Bill Schleicher, a longtime Comer adviser who manages the family’s assets] blames CPS red tape: “It cost us more money than we expected, and we did not get the type of results we wanted as soon as we wanted.”
Well, the idea was great. Still it's very important to do what you can to continue to fight for these neighborhoods. With some victories there are some defeats. Of course whatever slide Revere has seen, it's success thanks to Mr. Comer is something to be seen.

BTW, Gary Comer died of prostate cancer in 2007 and at least he left a legacy behind.