Delano Elementary School should be celebrating its 100th anniversary at the end of this year. Instead, CPS is closing it and placing Melody School in its building. Despite CPS’s repeated promises to send students to “higher performing” schools, Delano is a Level 2 school and has been off probation for two years while Melody is a Level 3 school and is on probation. By in large, Delano students have scored considerably better on standardized tests than Melody students. And Delano was just made an honor roll school.
Delano is located at 3928 W. Wilcox St in West Garfield Park, an area that has long been the focus of developers:
“This is a very desirable location. It is easily accessible to downtown via the Green and Blue Line and an express bus downtown runs on Washington Street. It is also easily accessible to the expressways. I think the city just wants to make this land available for upper income housing. There are a number of vacant lots across from the school, and whole blocks of vacant lots most of which have been there for ten years. The citizens there now are mostly welfare recipients. The city is supposed to work for the citizens. What happened to the lottery money? They mismanaged the funds, and now my kids have to suffer. This is a clear case of prejudice. CPS is shaking kids up in a bag and shuffling them around. Johnny has to get used to a new seventh grade. Life will change. He knew his teachers. We made actual gains. We knew what we had, now we don’t know what we’re going to get.”–Tiszar Green, LSC chair
Parents and teachers worry about the programs and personnel that will be lost with the closing of Delano. They wonder why CPS didn’t provide them with proper resources before.
“We have been asking for air conditioners for years. As a track E school, students had to endure the excessive heat in August. Some of them got sick, and we had to call the ambulance. So they sent us fans.
This is a community school. Most days the school stays open until 7 p.m. We have a number of programs including Family Focus, art programs, restorative justice, dance and drama. I volunteer to teach the dance program, and we have 32 kids preparing to have a talent show. These programs will no longer exist when the new school comes in. They will have their own people. We also have turned a vacant lot into a school garden.
We will lose good teachers and the many parents who have volunteered. We like the new principal. He is a very good person and knows how to talk to the kids and the parents. When the fifth grade class was told that the teachers would be leaving, they all broke down and cried.” –Avanette Temple, longtime school and community member
There is a great deal of mistrust of CPS motives. Parents question why they are closing Delano and putting Melody in their place:
“I can’t understand why they would bring Melody so far east. There are several schools in between. Kids were very happy. Now they are upset. I’ve been fighting for schools all my life. I’m not a person to give up. I will not give up.” –Vadie McGee, 82 years old, a Delano parent, grandparent and now great-grandparent, and volunteer for over 40 years
“I think Melody was saved because the school was one of the first to adopt Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s longer school day in 2011-2012.” —Dexter Leggin, foster parent of Delano student and has worked with Family Focus
“The CPS wanted us to accept their choice for a new principal, but the LSC wanted to make their own choice. I think they are retaliating against us for that.” –Tiszar Greene, LSC chair
A Delano alumni and business owner in the community echoed many parent fears about safety and gangs and the negative impact on the community of destabilizing the school:
“Delano is an important part of the lives of every child that grows up in the Garfield Park area. It has been the only safe haven in a war zone neighborhood for over 40 years. Gangbangers and drug dealers for some reason respect the school grounds and do not carry their activity near the campus. The blocks that border the school are all violent high-crime areas. Delano’s playground is the only place where kids can play after school and call their own. Our community has run out of these places. This is the only safe place basketball court in the Pulaski-Madison area.
Delano is located on Pulaski and Adams, which sits between three different gang territories. To the west of Delano is Pulaski. This is the dividing line of territories of the different gangs. If a child has to walk this way to school, he or she is in trouble. To the east is Garfield Park, which functions as another dividing line for gang territory. To the south is the 290 expressway, which also functions as a gang boundary. We cannot risk the life or bodily harm of any of our students. If anything happens to any student, we will hold CPS responsible. As a result of the closing of our school, our children will be in the street which will cause crime rates to rise, physical conflicts and altercations with other students from other areas.
If CPS closes any school, it would just add to the increasing problem of empty buildings, hence, our neighborhood is becoming a ghost town. I think CPS is aware that every time one school closes, a charter school will try to obtain that building. Therefore charter schools are increasing and continuing to impact CPS. This action makes me think that CPS is slowly privatizing our schools.
Delano has also provided a family environment for under-privileged kids. Delano staff have always been made up of strong teachers and volunteers who go beyond their job titles, because like a lot of schools in under-privileged neighborhoods, there is little or no parent participation or collaboration in some situations. It’s twice as hard on these teachers to keep the kids respectful enough to teach them . This fact alone tells you we have people who care at Delano. We are a school on the rise. Our statistics affirm that. ISAT trend value has increased over the last three years from 53.5% to 68% to 73.7%.” —John Miles, alumnus and business owner in community
A team of students from Delano’s Family Focus program was recently honored during the finals of the annual Louder Than a Bomb teen poetry competition and festival. Over 750 students from more than 100 schools participated in the competition, the largest of its kind in the world. Delano’s middle school youth team, the youngest team to compete, won the LTAB Chuck D. Lyrical Terrorist Award, given to only one of the hundred plus teams each year. You can read their entire award-winning poem about closing Delano here:
Delano is like a museum
Delano has a history
Delano holds memoreis
Delano’s children here and near
Be here, take a stand and tell Delano’s story
Me personally, I’ll do whatever it takes
Whatever you do, please don’t close this place
Delano is a family to me
Delano is my mom
Every teacher and staff member makes
sure that we are safe and secure […]
Post author: Paula Baron