Letter to the Tribune Editorial Board Regarding Legacy Charter School

The Chicago Tribune recently ran an article and editorial concerning Legacy Charter School’s desire to move into the closed Pope Elementary School building. Here is a letter to the editor from Valerie F. Leonard, Co-Founder of the Lawndale Alliance.

Letter to the Editor Concerning the Proposed Move of Legacy Into Pope by valeriefleonard


Norman Amaker Public Interest Law And Social Justice Retreat

I have been invited to participate in a round table discussion during the Norman Amaker Public Interest Law and Social Justice Retreat, to be held the weekend of March 14th-16th, 2014 at Loyola’s Retreat and Ecology Campus located at 2710 S. Country Club Road, Woodstock, Illinois.

Panelist Brandon Johnson, a Chicago Teachers’ Union organizer, will discuss teachers’ and students activism and the entrenched City interests the CTU movement faced. Panelist Thomas Geoghegan will discuss his two federal lawsuits on behalf of parents seeking to prevent the closing of 50 schools. I will share experiences from my involvement as a member of the Committee to Save North Lawndale Schools and the Lawndale Alliance, including alternatives to school closings and the impact of school closings on local communities.

The overall goal discussion will be expanded from the specific incidents surrounding the movement activity around the closings to a discussion of the salient sociological and political challenges facing the Chicago Public School system and, above all, how to link movement ideas and goals to legal action–whether via impact litigation for policy, or the lawsuits surrounding the school closings, or, in general, how legal practitioners can best serve as allies to community-based social movements.


The Impact of School Base Budgeting

The City of Chicago just closed 50 schools last year. CPS promised when the schools closed, the schools that remained would have more resources. Since that time, CPS started developing school budgets on a per pupil basis. Here is a copy of the presentation to the Austin Community Action Council on school based budgeting.The presentation focuses on the policies that created the environment for school based budgeting, describes the process and describes the impacts of the new budgeting process.

Presentation to the Austin CAC by valeriefleonard


Lawndale Alliance Posts Grades for Elected Officials

The Lawndale Alliance recently released the results of a public opinion poll asking North Lawndale residents to grade their elected officials at the local, county, state and federal levels. The results are being shared with elected officials, community residents and local shareholders in what will be one of several steps to increase accountability of elected officials and to promote civic engagement among local citizens. “It is our sincere desire that our elected officials will give the feedback serious consideration, and work with local residents to improve community service”, said Valerie F. Leonard, the group’s co-founder.

The Lawndale Alliance asked 24th Ward residents who live in North Lawndale to grade their elected officials on a scale of A to F, with A being the highest, and F being the lowest. President Barack Obama received the highest marks, with over 53% of respondents giving him a grade of A or B. Mayor Rahm Emanuel received the lowest marks, with nearly 73% of the respondents giving him a grade of D or F. A copy of the report, “Grading Our Elected Officials”, is available below.

Grading Our Elected Officials by valeriefleonard


Support HB-1152

Representative La Shawn Ford is sponsoring HB-1152 a bill to create a task force to study the governance structure and process for the Chicago Board of Education.  We are asking Representative Arthur Turner and Representative Camille Lilly to serve as co-sponsors. Feel free to contact other members of the Illinois Legislature as well. Here is a link to the Illinois Senate contact list.

Here is a link to the Illinois House contact list.


Call Alderman Chandler ASAP!

Call Alderman Chandler ASAP!

Please call Alderman Chandler’s office at 773-533-2400 and ask him not to support any of the closed school buildings being converted to charters, or anything else, until after CPS finishes their process to determine how the closed school buildings will be used. This process will allow the community to share their opinions as to how the closed school buildings will be used. It will also allow members of the community and others to develop their own proposals for consideration. If you have any questions, please call me at 773-521-3137.


As you are aware, CPS has closed or phased out 50 schools and high school programs throughout the City of Chicago. The West Side was the hardest hit with 23 schools. This represents 47% of all closing schools in the City of Chicago. It should be noted that only 17% of all Chicago Public Schools are on Chicago’s West Side.

Drilling closer to home, the North Lawndale community has lost 5 schools to closure–Bethune was closed and taken over by Kellman Corporate School without real community input. Other buildings that remain vacant include Paderewski, Henson and Pope. The Mason High School is phasing out. Chalmers school was taken over by AUSL.

When CPS closed the 50 schools, the Mayor, Barbara Byrd Bennett, the CEO of CPS and the Board of Education promised that the closed buildings would not be turned over to charters, and that the community would play a strong role in determining how the buildings would be used.

Since that time, Chicago Public Schools has developed a school repurposing plan to determine a process for selling off closed school buildings. (“repurposing” means to determine a use for the building other than a public school). The plan calls for a committee to evaluate proposals from developers, including community groups, to purchase and rehab the buildings. The plan also calls for genuine community input into the process and provides for technical assistance to groups wishing to submit proposals. The repurposing plan has not yet been approved by CPS, and will require more time to be implemented. CPS has put a hold on the consideration of any proposals until their plan for repurposing the school buildings is approved, and the details are worked out.

In the meantime, the Legacy Charter School, which has been located in one of the Mason School buildings for the past 9 years, has expressed an interest in moving to the Pope School building. Legacy is in the process of buying property on Ogden and Spaulding to build a new school. They currently occupy 64% of the space in the building they rent on the Mason Campus. If they were allowed to move to Pope, they would utilize about 91% of the space. It is not clear whether or not the space vacated by Legacy would count against the Mason school, which is already under-utilized, due in part, to the demolition of the Lawndale Manor.

Here is a link to a Tribune story regarding Legacy’s proposed move to the Pope building.


Here is a link to a copy of comments I shared regarding Legacy’s proposed move to Pope prior to the last CAC meeting for further context. http://www.scribd.com/doc/207842276/Comments-on-Proposal-to-Move-Legacy-Charter-School-Into-Pope-School-Building

Here is a link to the Report of the Repurposing Committee.

Here is a link to comments I shared on the report.


North Lawndale Residents, Grade Our Elected Officials

Grade Our Elected Officials Today!

The Lawndale Alliance is asking you to grade our elected officials from the President to our Alderman, and provide comments as to why you gave the grade. Please, complete this survey as soon as possible. We will share the results by Friday, February 28, 2014. We will also make sure that our elected officials get a copy in hopes that they make the necessary adjustments to better serve the community. Your voice is very important. Please, respond, and send this e-mail to other North Lawndale residents and ask them to respond as well.Here’s link to the poll.  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XV8BT6H