September 20, 2011
In recent weeks there has been legitimate concern in the community about a new school that has moved into St. Clotilde on the 8400 Block of South Calumet. I have reached out to the church, school and community leaders to do an investigation into this project, and I am writing this letter to provide you with some information about how this school came to our community.
For those who are unfamiliar, it is the Richard Milbourn School, an “Alternative Safe” educational facility that accepts students from the 6-12th grades. An Alternative Safe school is a school for students who have been expelled from their primary school, but have not yet exhausted their options for returning to their home school. This facility keeps these students anywhere between 45 days and 2 years. The school had approximately 35 students when I met with the Administrator on September 12th, and can potentially house as many as 115 students. The middle school aged students are bused to and from the school and the high school age students must take public transportation to get to the school. Security officials are posted at the bus stops in the morning and afternoon, escorting students to and from school. The Administrator understands the concerns of the neighborhood, and the school administration seems well meaning in their attempts to mitigate issues in the community.
My concern, however, is in the process that was used to bring the school into the area. This school was placed in this building by the administration of St. Clotilde and the Chicago Public Schools without any consultation with the neighbors or with my office. This is disrespectful to the community and shows a complete lack of regard for the legitimate concerns of a neighborhood to opening this school in a residential neighborhood. This is not an attempt to demonize children who have made a mistake; however, there are legitimate questions about filling what was traditionally an elementary school with high school aged students. There are legitimate concerns about having teenagers take public transportation to a school that is multiple blocks from most sources of public transportation. The process that was used in installing this school ignored all of those legitimate concerns in the neighborhood.
I hope that this is not indicative of the level of cooperation we can expect from the Emanuel and Brizard administrations. I want to be partners in improving both our schools and our children, but that requires collaboration with teachers, parents, government and the community. I am asking my Chatham neighbors to keep an eye out on this school and let us know if they are being good neighbors. I would also encourage those who want to assist the school in their goal of placing these students on the right path to visit the school and offer your assistance. They have pledged to maintain an open door policy and work with the community, and I intend to hold them to that vow. The city had a poor process for placing the school in our neighborhood, but we will not allow the school to remain in our neighborhood if it actually results in problems in our community, and for that, you are my eyes and ears.
The Honorable Roderick T. Sawyer
Alderman, 6th Ward