As you may know, Disney II faces a CPS school action. In our case, this is a positive thing. However, the process has not been without its challenges and roadblocks. We applied in August, and CPS announced its approval of our proposal in December 2012. Immediately the conversations turned to: "Where are they going to put this expansion? CPS is going to put it in Thurgood Marshall Middle School, right?"and an onslaught of conjecture-fueled upset from neighborhood groups, neighbors, other schools, school groups, the press, and watchdogs.
In late March, CPS announced its proposal to co-locate the Disney II expansion with nearby Thurgood Marshall Middle school. And immediately, the charge of the conversation was amplified. Suddenly, TMMS became a much-loved neighborhood gem upon which every stakeholder pinned his/her hopes and fears.
Hopes for a way to buck the system and gain automatic entry (GIPNA's proximity overlay proposal), hopes for a relief valve for an overcrowded neighboring school (Belding's request to redraw attendance boundaries), hopes for a different high school model (Murphy LSC's on-stage proposal), hopes for a renewed interest in a neighborhood middle-school model (TMMS teachers), hopes for re-election (Ald. Arena), and fears for the strength of current programming (Murphy parents).
As a stakeholder myself, I've taken a keen interest in the process. I've attended many meetings about this, from poorly-communicated District-sponsored meetings to well-publicized community meetings on the network level to legal-compliance meetings within the community and downtown. I have attended LSC meetings and LSC meetings, and community-led meetings. I've had innumerable conversations with neighbors, friends, and classmates' parents about the process and what each new development means. For the record, this details the process. It is an imperfect document, a reflection of the imperfect details provided to Disney II by the District.
To be honest, the process from March 31 through today has stunk. Half of my neighbors won't talk to me or to the smattering of other Disney II families who share our neighborhood. I don't really blame them; envy is a powerful and difficult emotion. I wish every parent really had the options that the system has led us to believe that we have. Because choice in the context of elementary education is a fallacy. Choice is applicable to a select few--those with the means to pay for private or parochial school and the lucky souls whose names were chosen out of a hat.*
The gradual dissolution of my relationships with my neighbors--especially because I have opted to engage them--bothers me. CPS's School Actions policies and the media have primed everyone for a fight. Although I am open to debate, I don't want to fight with anyone. I believe every one of the statements I made at every CPS public meeting. My intent, and the intentions of those intimately involved in the Disney II expansion project, are good.
But the part of this that bothers me the most is this feeling that we are all fighting for scraps. While listening to a handful of parents and teachers express outrage at CPS in the guise of rejecting Disney II at Monday's meeting, I was reminded of my earlier work with Raise Your Hand and its initial mission of equal funding for all. We banded together to show CPS that we want a bigger pie rather than fight each other to get a bigger slice. Unfortunately, fighting for scraps is exactly what has happened in the public comment portion of the expansion process.
This is, quite frankly, ridiculous. I am not part of a scheme to subjugate high-poverty, low-resources students and their families within the public school system. Growing our school by 200 students next year is the best example of meeting our priorities that I can give. As I wrote last year, there is a difficulty in setting and funding to priorities within CPS. Antoinette Sea-Gerald wants equity for charter schools? Belding wants equity? I want equity too.
* More on what that means for me later.