December 3, 2022


The Education People

Whittier: What Fanned the Flames

By now you’ve probably read a detail or two about the showdown in between Pilsen citizens and Chicago Public College officials over the industry residence on the playground at Whittier elementary faculty.

For 43 days mom and dad and neighbors occupied the ramshackle, 84-year-old 1-tale making they fondly get in touch with la casita to keep CPS from demolishing it.

Colleges CEO Ron Huberman said the subject residence had to be demolished due to the fact it was so unstable it may collapse the protesters required him to use the cash that would be used on demolition to fix the constructing and convert it into the library the faculty presently lacks.

The community push breathlessly adopted the saga, which culminated on Oct 20, when Huberman agreed not to demolish the discipline dwelling and the dad and mom identified as off their sit-in.

But there is a curious and challenging backstory that is so much long gone unreported, involving 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis, congressman Luis Gutierrez, and officials from Cristo Rey Jesuit Substantial School at 1852 W. 22nd Put.

Although they’re considerably less than a block from every other, Whittier and Cristo Rey are worlds aside. A Catholic university with a predominantly doing the job-class Latino enrollment, Cristo Rey is housed in two structures that are much less than ten years aged. Whittier, at 1900 W. 23rd St., is 117 years previous and in evident need of tuck-pointing, painting, and other simple upkeep.

On September 30, 2009, Father Jim Gartland, president of Cristo Rey, established up a meeting with Solis, Whittier principal Zoila Garcia, and many Whittier area college council associates where he available a strategy to change the Whittier playground and parking lot into an synthetic-turf soccer subject.

To Cristo Rey officers, it was a earn-earn situation—they’d oversee building, paying for the undertaking with a mix of private donations and whatsoever dollars they could raise from the feds and state. “We would use it for tactics after school,” states Peter Beale-DelVecchio, development director at Cristo Rey. “During the day, Whittier could use it and on weekends it could be a community subject.”

But according to Solis and Beale-DelVecchio, Garcia and the LSC members rejected the proposal. (Garcia did not return phone calls for this tale.) While the school’s asphalt playground could use improving, they felt they had extra pressing needs—like asbestos elimination from the faculty and the development of a library and new lunchroom. “We’d been inquiring Solis and CPS for repairs for years,” suggests Michelle Palencia, a Whittier parent. The mother and father feared that the soccer job would by some means wind up swallowing dollars meant for Whittier.

In addition, the soccer area would force the demolition of the previous industry home, which experienced grow to be a little something of a group center, the place people collected for conferences, GED lessons, and activities like sewing clubs. “They made it clear to us that they did not want the subject dwelling demolished,” says Beale-DelVecchio. “They told us their principal intention was to have a library and a assembly place. We revered that. We said, fine—we’re not listed here to trump your priorities.”

Yet, Beale-DelVecchio says Cristo Rey still left the assembly with a glimmer of hope. He claims Whittier officials remaining open the risk that if CPS did not occur up with the income to resolve the industry dwelling, they might settle for the soccer area.

On November 4, 2009, Huberman fulfilled with Solis and Whittier officials and told them the discipline home had to be demolished. Solis and Beale-DelVecchio then tried using to established up a next meeting with Whittier, but it hardly ever took place. “We assumed we had a date and Whittier canceled,” Beale-DelVecchio says.

In January 2010, the Culture of Jesuits, performing on behalf of Cristo Rey, submitted a request to congressman Gutierrez’s office for $1 million in federal funds for the soccer field.

Immediately after lawmakers obtain these “earmark” requests, they decide which types to mail on to Washington for doable funding. The deadline in Gutierrez’s business for the submission of earmark requests was February 16. “Our imagining was that if we did not get the ask for in this yr, we’d have to hold out a different entire year,” states Beale-DelVecchio. “I know it sounds like we had been getting untimely due to the fact Whittier hadn’t even agreed to the soccer discipline, but we didn’t want to get rid of an opportunity, as distant as it was.”

By February, nevertheless, it seemed obvious to Cristo Rey that Whittier officials, who hadn’t set up an additional assembly, had been even now opposed to the soccer area. “As significantly as we had been involved, it was dead,” claims Beale-DelVecchio. Cristo Rey’s soccer teams currently observe in Harrison Park and engage in their residence game titles at a nearby YMCA.

Meanwhile, the dispute involving CPS and Whittier mother and father more than the destiny of la casita ongoing. And shortly right after the neighbors and mothers and fathers started their sit-in on September 15, a supporter of the protesters, all through a schedule Google search, arrived throughout Cristo Rey’s earmark ask for on Gutierrez’s internet site. It was just one of 52 these types of requests stated. “The industry will be used by learners at Cristo Rey, Whittier Elementary University, as properly as the inhabitants of the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods of Chicago,” the listing explained.

The protesters have been alarmed. “No one particular advised us that Cristo Rey experienced gone to Gutierrez,” says Carolina Gaeta, a Pilsen resident and community organizer who’d joined the parents’ crusade. “We’re like, ‘What’s heading on in this article that we never know?’” A number of protesters say they named the congressman’s place of work to obtain out what the request intended and that their calls weren’t returned.

Alderman Solis states he did not even know the Jesuits experienced produced the earmark ask for right until Gutierrez named him about the protesters’ phone calls. “He states, ‘Danny, Danny—what’s with these Whittier mothers and fathers? Why are they contacting me?’” Solis says. “He informed me that [city clerk] Miguel del Valle had dropped a dime on him—that del Valle experienced instructed all those dad and mom about the authorization request mainly because he was seeking to convert the mom and dad against him.”

Gutierrez and del Valle have been political rivals due to the fact the early 1980s, when the two have been young activists in Humboldt Park. By the time the Whittier protesters had started their sit-in, del Valle had declared his mayoral candidacy and Gutierrez was publicly thinking about 1. (Gutierrez has since announced he will not run.)