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Whittier Elementary Mon Jun 27 2011

Ultimatum Delivered, Meeting Requested in Whittier Fieldhouse Fight

By Kelsey Duckett

UPDATE: At 11:15am today, Chicago Public School officials contacted the Whittier Parent Committee in response to a request sent by the committee on Sunday to meet with CPS Chief Operating Officer, Jean Claude Brizard, at 3pm.

CPS requested the group head downtown for a noon. meeting, but Evelin Santos, an organizer for the Whittier Parent Committee, said the group will not be rushing downtown for a meeting with less than 30 minutes notice.

"We are still negotiating a time and place for the meeting," she said. "But the meeting will take place today."

Brizard is expected to be present at today's meeting, along with State Senator Tony Munoz, State Representative Edward Acevedo and members of the Whittier Parent Committee.

The meeting was requested in response to the Tuesday ultimatum that was delivered to Whittier parents on Friday.

"We want to clear things up once and for all," Santos said. "We want to be heard, and we want CPS to honor its promises and begin to spend their money wisely and give this community what it worked for."

Whittier parents and community members have saved the fieldhouse, known as "La Casita" once and are prepared to continue to fight for its renovation.

"All the money that was allocated for Whittier and the fieldhouse was due to the advocacy and hardwork of the parents," she said. "It was the parents who worked to secure TIF funds and find available state funds. No money came from CPS, yet they want to tell us how to spend it. We want our voice back."

Chicago Public School officials delivered a Tuesday ultimatum to parents of Whittier Elementary students on Friday, the response from the parents and community was simple: Meet with us.

Community members and parents of students at Whittier Elementary School had a wish list entering this week, and meeting with Chicago Public School Chief Operating Officer, Jean Claude Brizard, was at the top.

The Whittier Parent Committee contacted CPS on Sunday, and asked for a 3pm meeting today at the fieldhouse, known as "La Casita." The goal is to discuss and resolve differences over plans to create a library at the school.

The request for a meeting was necessary, said Evelin Santos, an organizer for the Whittier Parent Committee.

"They can't deliver us an ultimatum without first hearing us and our thoughts," she said. "We were promised a chance to be heard, and that is all we are asking."

CPS officials voted last Wednesday, at their monthly board meeting, to move ahead with plans to create the anticipated library inside the school, rather than renovating the fieldhouse, which would include a library and community center.

When CPS made this decision, community members became outraged, saying that CPS went back on a promise to the community.

"We were promised a meeting," Evelin Santos, an organizer for the Whittier Parent Committee said. "We were promised a voice, and we were promised that no construction would begin until both parties came together and found a plan that worked for everyone."

The Tuesday ultimatum, which was delivered to parents on Friday by CPS officials, stated that if the Whittier Parent Committee "continues to interfere with the construction of the new library, it will be necessary to cancel the project for the summer."

Brizard stated in the letter: "I am convinced that CPS has followed through with our agreement in support of Whittier students. Specifically, we agreed to: 1. Cancel demolition, 2. Lease the fieldhouse for $1 per year, 3. Support Alderman Solis, Representative Acevedo and Senator Munoz's efforts to reallocate funds to renovate the fieldhouse, and 4. Build a library."

He went on to say, "The Chicago Public Schools are resolved to honor the agreement and complete the library project, but are unwilling to go forward without your [Whittier Parent Committee] cooperation."

"Basically, they are saying move and let us build you a library," Santos said. "Or stay put and you won't be getting a library at all."

Parents and activists have since taken matters into their own hands. A sit-in began six days ago, on Wednesday, June 22, and they have made it clear that they will not backdown.

"We have not left, and we will not leave," she said. "The construction crews have said they will not cross our picket line, meaning construction will not begin until we move. We are not leaving until we are heard."

According to a press release from the Whittier Parent Committee, State Senator Tony Munoz and State Representative Edward Acevedo agreed to be present at today's negotiations -- if CPS agrees to, and attends the meeting. The parents have also made several attempts to contact Ald. Danny Solis, but he has not replied.

This is familiar territory for the Whittier community, who occupied the fieldhouse for 43 days last fall when they first learned of CPS plans to demolish it.

As of 11am today, CPS officials claimed they had not "heard of" or responded to the request from the Whittier Parent Committee for a meeting at 3pm.

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Vincius / June 27, 2011 1:26 PM

I passed by at around 1pm and casita only has a few folks. I imagine they all wet downtown for a meeting.

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