Parent, Former Teacher Writes In Favor of the School Referendum

This is one of the four points of view columnist Christine Wolf gathered to help form her own opinion before the March 20 vote.

I’m trying to wrap my head around the Better Schools Initiative referendum proposed by District 65 — but it hasn’t been easy.

Since I haven’t yet formed my own opinion, I’m sharing a few opinions I’ve collected from various community members. These opinions are by no means all encompassing. They’re just to get the conversation going so Evanston residents can decide for themselves how they’ll vote on March 20.

Below is a pro-referendum statement from Kirby Girolami Callam

Click on these links to read the other three opinions:

Pro-Referendum (Kirby Girolami Callam, D65 parent, former D65 teacher, CEO and co-founder of Chicago Talent Development Charter High School, D65 New School Committee Member)

Hey Christine, I am a pretty public player in support of the referendum. I think the impact it could have (new 5th ward school) as the key community asset that turns the slide of the neighborhood into a RISE is pivotal. Whenever I speak of Evanston with pride, knowledgeable outsiders laugh and point to the fact that we live in a prosperous community that still has a very low-income, minority community that lives "on the other side of tracks." Is this the 1950s or the 2010s????

How does the city work to create a more diverse and stable Fifth ward? My belief, as I saw it happen in the North Kenwood/Oakland community on the Southside, is to first and foremost invest in a neighborhood school.  With such a community asset, families will match the solid housing stock of the ward with affordability and a new local school and seek to move there.  It will actually have a chance to tip the scales and stabilize.  Right now, it doesn't have that chance because, given the choice, families who prioritize the benefits of a neighborhood school, will (and do!) choose to live elsewhere.

I wrote a small article on this for the Roundtable (yet to be published). It is attached [see below].

The New School: Voting YES Is a Smart Investment

The building of a new 5th Ward school is a complex issue, but it boils down to more than just addressing capacity issues and social justice.  I believe in a new 5th Ward school for three added reasons: 

Equity: All Evanston should have equal access to quality neighborhood schools. 

All but the 5th Ward offers the choice of a neighborhood school. Fractured into four schools to the north via numerous bus routes, 5th Ward residents benefit little from the community-building power of the relationship-building, resource-sharing, school-ownership, and parent-accessibility benefits that are the well-researched outcomes of a neighborhood school.

Good Public Policy: Neighborhood schools attract residents.

Families who highly value their children’s education and their own school involvement choose neighborhoods for the quality and accessibility of the local school. Currently, families who have the capacity to choose where they will live are unlikely to move into the 5th Ward.  A new school provides a whole new set of reasons to choose the 5th Ward as a smart place to live and raise a family.

Smart Investment: A stronger 5th Ward means a brighter future for Evanston.

When we envision Evanston in 25 years, will it still be a segregated city with a disproportionate minority, low-income population residing in the 5th Ward? If not, what will be done to change that? Investing in a new 5th Ward school will benefit current residents with opportunities to create a stronger community. It also provides a foundational beacon to attract future families who value the benefits of a neighborhood school. And if those families come? The resulting rise in home ownership and increased community capacity will mean greater stability and higher property values for the 5th ward and Evanston overall. Now that’s an investment worth voting for!

Anna Fillmore March 14, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Kenwood Oakland just had neighborhood schools like Dyett and Phillips get closed/turned around due to poor performance. Are these the examples that we are talking about for the 5th ward?
Kirby G. Callam March 14, 2012 at 04:24 PM
No. The Ariel Community Academy and the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School are the examples. They both moved into a newly renovated (formerly abandoned Shakespeare) school at 46th and Woodlawn in 2000. The day the announcement was made that the schools were coming in, real estate developers hung signs on the building and posted signs in yards announcing their investment to create new homes "across the street" from these incoming schools. If you drive around the area between Drexel to the west, S. Lake Park/Oakenwald to the east, 47th street to the south and 39th Street to the north, you will see an endless number of new homes and condos built just in the past 12 years. Certainly a number of factors created this outcome, but any real estate developer there or resident will point to the existence of the two new schools as the number one reason. And, just to clarify, the two high schools you mentioned are not in the North Kenwood Oakland communities. Phillips is is well west of Cottage Grove and north of 39th and is considered to be in Bronzeville. Dyett is well west and south of the neighborhood and firmly in Washington Park. Kirby G. Callam


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