New and improved North Side Schools scorecard

Below you’ll find a new and improved North Side Schools map.

What happened? Soon after the previous map was issued the Chicago Tribune issued its summary of the ISAT scores. Frankly there wasn’t any new information there. (Although some of the data visualizations may make the report useful).

And the Chicago Public Schools issued its School Progress Report.  This was full of great information and we wanted to update the map based on what was there. Make no mistake, though, as we reported a few weeks ago, the so-called “comprehensive map” is not so good.

We proud to give you what a parent needs to make decisions.

We’ll update the high school map shortly.

 

 

Download a PDF of the spreadsheet (With a big tip of the hat to reader Kim McCarten for helping us see our shortcomings).

 

Ravenswood and North Attendance elementary schools scorecard

***UPDATED 12/2/2011 A more recent version of the map and spreadsheet are available.***

 

How would you rank our area public schools?

In the next week parents will be sent a new report by the Chicago Public Schools. According to media reports, the ‘progress reports’ will accompany student report cards starting today.

The reports will emphasize students reaching benchmarks to go to college, according to the Chicago Tribune. Other indicators will include “teacher and staffing information, graduation rates, school climate, leadership and parent satisfaction,” the report says.

All of these measures are available through independent sources gathered here for you by The Bulldog.

Using surveys published within the past 18 months by Newsweek and Chicago Magazine, test scores compiled and analyzed by the Chicago Sun-Times, input from parents, students and community members on GreatSchools and in a University of Chicago survey and finally data provided by the Chicago Public Schools, The Bulldog set out this week to understand our public school system.

It is a difficult system to navigate. In the Ravenswood area there are four area public high schools: Lane Tech, Amundsen, Lake View and DeVry. In addition, a high school student has a wide choice of other schools. And a small part of our coverage has attendance at other schools, Roosevelt and Senn.

Mistakes made by parents and adults are paid for by children.

And we find this very frustrating, virtually no one in politics takes responsibility for the problems. They blame unions, parents, ‘the schools.’ We might look no deeper than the TIF issue to understand how this sorry situation has been twisted to benefit long-time politicians.

The Bulldog chose to start by creating a database that presents in one place a place for you to examine all the information on your school choices. We’ve presented this information to you as a searchable Google map and as a spread sheet that you can use to sort, filter and examine the information.

Today, we start with our area elementary schools.

In addition, we’ve added an outline so that parents who don’t live in Ravenswood or the North Attendance area can follow along and develop their own database.

Did you have a suggestion? Did you see an error? Drop it in the comments and we’ll try to deal with it.

 

Ravenswood area neighborhood schools

North Attendance Area selective enrollment schools

 

 

The Ratings and Rankings

Further Notes on the Schools

 

Political Representation

Q: Where is the information from? What does it mean?

A: CPS Performance rating is a ranking of 1-100 issued for each school by the Chicago Public Schools. A score of 100 is best. If a school is on probation this is noted in the balloon. The information is available on the CPS.edu website.

The Chicago Sun-Times ranking of elementary schools (classes K-5), middle schools (classes 6-8) and high schools (classes 9-12) ranks schools based on the number of schools ranked. A ranking of one is best.

The University of Chicago Consortium study of CPS schools is exhaustive, covering many of the ‘soft’ issues that educators and parents believe are important to success. Each school has exhaustive reports including surveys of students who praise and critique the school. This ranking is based on a scale of -5 to +5. +5 is considered the best.

The Chicago Magazine ranking of schools was published in June 2010. The ranking of the top 250 elementary schools includes both city and suburban public schools. A ranking of 1 is best.

The GreatSchools site invites parents, students and educators to discuss their school. This rating is based on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best and is awarded by the site. Further scores are published for community involvement.

Q: I don’t see my school. Why? 

A: Maybe we missed it? Ask a comment, we’ll answer. Other reasons: this is a site primarily designed for neighbors in the Ravenswood neighborhood. In the process of creating the database we attempted to identify every school choice for Ravenswood parents in CPS. That means that all of the North Attendance Area selective enrollment schools should be included.

Parents in the other two attendance area will need to develop their own data base. (This is really time consuming, but we’ll help by showing what we did. See our outline, below).

Q: My school shows a N/A or a N/R. What does that mean?

The reports are not comprehensive. In some cases no data was posted for a school.

In the case of one school, Chicago International Charter School, also known as CICS, we had issues with the data as it was sometimes aggregated for the more than 4,000 students in the CICS system of schools instead of for each school. Why is that important? Examine the relative differences for the Noble Street Schools, also charters, and you’ll see that the information should be broken down by school.

Q: One survey says the school is on probation, another lists it among the best, still another says the school didn’t meet Annual Yearly Progress. Help!

It is difficult to penetrate all the lingo used by educators. Our advice is to stop them when the initials come out and ask them to explain each set of initials.

There are differences in how different measures view the progress of a school. You as an adult will need to evaluate the different measures and make an informed decision.

Now, the AYP trips up even the best schools. A school can fail to meet AYP for RELATIVELY low scores in math or reading. We believe you’ll find AYP reports for the top three schools in the area. In some cases, the students in some categories, such as minorities or disabled, scored in the 80′s, missing the AYP of a score in the 90′s.

In other cases, among the poorest scoring schools, AYP demanded scores in the twenties or thirties and were missed. It is all RELATIVE.

But it is also an indicator of where the resources of the school, often determined by the Local School Council, should be focused.

Q: What other advice do you have for a parent?

First, we’ve listed the politicians responsible for these schools. This is not only your money, it is your child’s future being screwed up. Hold them responsible for improving the schools.

We’ve found the politicians love to cut ribbons, but they are also taking property taxes from TIF districts and using them for planters and special deals for developers. YOU have to say you notice and are holding them responsible for the schools.

The second advice we have is to dive deep into the University of Chicago Consortium report. The report explores areas that experts, parents and students all agree are critical to academic success. Here is one example, one school in the area discusses poor leadership with teachers criticizing each other.  That is an area of concern.

Which brings us to our final piece of advice. Go to the Local School Council meeting. Introduce yourself to the parent and community member representatives. If every parent in the school made a commitment to attend one LSC meeting during the year there would be dramatic increases in LSC participation.

Q: My primary language is Spanish (or Polish or Greek or something else). Do you have this report available in Spanish?

No. We are language illiterate here at The Bulldog. We apologize. There is a widget available that can give a rough translation of the text. You’ll find it on the sidebar to the right.

Q: Okay, but how was this information gathered? How do I do it for my neighborhood school that is not in Ravenswood?

Follow the instructions below.

  1. CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS DATA… Go to the following link and to find your school: http://www.cps.edu/Schools/Find_a_school/Pages/Findaschool.aspx
    1. If you know your school name enter it in the box. The CPS site is an unfriendly site: sometimes entering part of a school name works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there is no listing when you’ve been accurate with your spelling. If you can’t find the school through the name box, enter the ZIP Code the school is in. That should give you a list of every school in the ZIP Code.
    2. Find a map of Chicago ZIP Codes here: http://www.city-data.com/zipmaps/Chicago-Illinois.html
    3. We found that looking for schools through ZIP Code returned the best results. The querry will return a list of all schools in a ZIP Code. Most schools will be ‘neighborhood’ schools. These schools have “attendance districts.” You can find the attendance districts for the city on the map here:
      1. North http://www.cps.edu/SiteCollectionDocuments/Zone%20maps/Elem_North.pdf
      2. Near North/ West/ Central http://www.cps.edu/SiteCollectionDocuments/Zone%20maps/Elem_Near_North_West_Central.pdf
      3. South http://www.cps.edu/SiteCollectionDocuments/Zone%20maps/Elem_South.pdf
      4. Far South http://www.cps.edu/SiteCollectionDocuments/Zone%20maps/Elem_Far_South.pdf
    4. If you follow the hyper-link to the school you’ll find a page called ‘At-a-glance.’ The information from our report is not on this tab. It is under the tab called “Scorecard.”
    5. Scorecard gets meaty.
      1. The performance rating we publish in our balloon comes from the bold faced number immediately below the check boxes.
      2. A second number to examine here is the probation status of the school. Charter schools are not put on probation and will have a N/A checked.
      3. Below that are scores for the previous three years detailing about nine measures. The most interesting score to us was the ‘Relative school impact on student growth’ measured against reading and math. We believe these should be positive. Negative numbers here seem to indicate the school is holding students back.
      4. Finally below, at the bottom, are some important reports presented in PDF format. We found class size by examining the ‘State School Report Card’ for each school. That was a lengthy process.
  2. CHICAGO SUN-TIMES RANKING… The Chicago Sun-Times ranking report can be found at this site: http://fh.suntimes.com/reportcards/
    1. We found that the report was difficult to navigate. So we set it up to return a list only of CPS schools, then looked for the schools we were listing.
      1. Click ‘Advanced Search’.
      2. Under District go to “City of Chicago SD 299”. Click search.
      3. The return will be a list of all CPS schools. Choose the school you are interested in.
        1. At the top of the next page will be the name of the school, attendance and the grades served. This is a very long report with a lot of great information.
        2. On the next line, below the hyper-links, the Sun-Times lists school rank.
        3. Below that is some text. Much of it is boilerplate. Take a moment to read why the school missed its AYP. Not the Composite scores in the box.
        4. Far down the page is where you can find average class size for the school. The Bulldog used a different source for its class size.
  3. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO CONSORTIUM REPORT AND RATINGS… The University of Chicago Consortium report can be found here: https://www.ccsrsurvey.uchicago.edu/2011/
    1. You’ll either need the ZIP Code or the school name to start your search. By the time we got to this report for the database, we had already developed our list of target schools. This is the best independent report and is based on independent information. All the other information is based on reports to the state. Everything else is based on the same base of information. We highly recommend reading these reports in depth.
  4. CHICAGO MAGAZINE RANKINGS… The article for Chicago Magazine starts here: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/October-2010/Best-Elementary-Schools-Ranking-Charts/
    1. Follow the link to the best Chicago schools: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/October-2010/Best-Elementary-Schools-City-of-Chicago/
    2. The link isn’t obvious, but the ranking continues here: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/October-2010/Best-Elementary-Schools-City-of-Chicago/
    3. The immediate issue with the ranking is that it seems to be based only on the percent of students who meet or exceed the state standard. So, other factors that determine success, such as those measured by the UofC study, are ignored.
    4. Finally, it appears the data in this study is dated, as the methodology indicated it was based on reports from 2005.
  5. GREATSCHOOLS RATING… Finally we get to the GreatSchools ranking. The site notes here: http://www.greatschools.org/illinois/chicago/Chicago-Public-Schools/that deadlines for high schools are due in December and for elementary schools in January.
    1. This page allows you to browse the top ranked schools. To find a particular school we used the text box in the upper right corner. This site will anticipate your key strokes with suggestions for the school based on what you type.  The site also has comments from students, staff and parents about the school.

Bell and Lane top Sun-Times school report card

Two area public schools were named among the top 50 in the state in the annual Chicago Sun-Times ranking of Illinois schools.

Bell School was one of 13 Chicago Public Schools that met the standards for the top 50 elementary schools. The neighborhood school was one of just six District 299 schools that did not have eligibility requirements for enrollment and still was ranked by the newspaper.

Bell ranked 29th among CPS schools and 33rd in the state, the report says. The middle school classes ranked 19th in the state.

At a recent meeting of the Bell Local School Council concern was expressed that parents were pulling students from the school for the middle school Academic Center at nearby Lane Tech.

That might cause the school to experience a lower score in the future.

Although Bell was highly ranked, the school still failed to meet the requirements for the No Child Left Behind Act due to lower than accepatable reading scores among its disabled population.

Lane Tech was ranked 20th among all Illinois schools in the ranking. The large school boasts having a larger minority and low income proportion of its student body than many smaller magnet schools.

Six of those smaller schools, including nearby Northside College Prep, were ranked above Lane. The newspaper said the top three public schools in the state were all in Chicago: Northside, Whitney Young and Walter Payton.

Lake View High School was ranked 470th among 638 high schools. Amundsen ranked 536th on the same scale. Both schools were identified by the newspaper as in need of improvement for the ninth year in a row.

Lake View, the report says, is struggling with low math and reading scores among its entire population, with low scores for Hispanics and low-income students.

The problems the report highlights at Amundsen are similar, but more pronounced with lower composite scores.

Among the neighborhood elementary schools Blaine followed behind Bell, being ranked 103rd statewide and 52nd among middle schools.

Audubon and Coonley followed Blaine. Audubon was ranked 308th for elementary grades and 204th for middle schools. Coonley was ranked 388th for elementary and 391st for middle school.

Other schools and the ranks for elementary and middle school composite tests in the Sun-Times ranking:

    • Audubon ranked 308 and 204.
    • Bell ranked 29 and 19. The school did not meet AYP due to low reading scores among its disabled students.
    • Blaine ranked 103 and 52.
    • Budlong ranked 999 and 834. The Budlong composite was hurt by low reading scores. The composite fell to 80.9 percent from 81.4 the previous year.
    • Bell ranked 103 and 52.
    • Chappell ranked 1198 and 691. The composite score rose to 82.3 percent from 75.3 percent.
    • Coonley ranked 388 and 391. The school composite score fell to 90.8 from 92.0 the previous year.
    • Courtenay ranked 991 and 346. The school met the AYP, but had falling scores of 90.8 percent v 94.5 last year.
    • Hamilton scored 1422 and 880. Hamilton did not meet AYP due to reading scores. Composite has increased to 78.2 from 69.0.
    • McPherson ranked 1444 and 920. The school did not meet AYP due to reading scores and Hispanic reading scores (which actually exceeded that of the general school population) but had rising composite of 78.5 v 75.7. McPherson has been identified as in need of improvement by the newspaper for the 10th year in a row.
    • Ravenswood ranked 1698 and 1395. The school had a composite rank of 71.8 percent, up from 67.3 percent. It did not meet AYP due to math and reading scores. It has been identified as in need of improvement for the third year in a row.
    • Trumbull was ranked 1843 and 1035. The school did not meet AYP due to both math and reading scores. Trumbull has a falling composite score of 68.4 percent v 77.2. The school has been identified as in need of improvement for the first year.
    • Waters was ranked 1218 and 528. It did not meet AYP due to math scores. The school had rising composite scores of 81.1 percent versus 78.9 the previous year. Waters has been identified as in need of improvement for the 10thyear in a row.

Survey shows some schools still have K openings, some very tight

A survey of the 12 public schools in or serving the Ravenswood neighborhood show enrollment at some schools is very tight, while others can still accept Kindergarten enrollments.

Eleven of the schools were neighborhood schools, meaning the schools have an attendance boundary. Only one of the neighborhood schools, Ravenswood, said it had no opening in Kindergarten classes remaining for today. According to the clerk at the school, Ravenswood had a waiting list of 200 for any openings in K

Courtenay, a small school of just 164 students, said it had no openings. Courtenay is a North Area school, meaning parents across the North Region of the Chicago Public Schools may apply to attend the school.

Trumbull reported to the Bulldog it had about ten openings left. Chappell and McPherson also reported openings.

Waters, Hamilton, Bell, Coonley, Budlong, Blaine and Audubon all said they had openings, but only for children who lived within their districts.

In total, 33 classes of Kindergarten will start today in the Ravenswood area. Bell reported the largest sized class: about 30. Most schools indicated the Kindergarten classes will be about 20 or less.

Parents still wishing to enroll their five-year old in Kindergarten should immediately contact their neighborhood school for details on enrollment requirements.

About 200 families remain on a waiting list to place their child in Kindergarten at Ravenswood School, a survey found. Credit: Patrick Boylan

From Schulter to Pawar; a story of us

The Bulldog’s second story, March 15, 2010, was about an upstart grad student who planned to challenge Eugene Schulter. Nearly 1,100 posts later, and The Bulldog can report that the upstart is your new alderman. Was it as much of an upset as other media outlets say? Ameya Pawar himself reports that he was surprised by the outcome. Was it a surprise? Today, in celebration of Pawar’s win and his elevation to alderman on Monday The Bulldog looks back to consider the campaign.

The early campaign: Late February 2010 to September 7, 2010

Ald. Eugene Schulter

Ald. Eugene Schulter Credit: Jane Rickard

Early in the campaign Schulter looked like a shoo-in for another term. He was blessed with a ward organization that was large, organized and if not always effective, well financed. In addition Schulter had mastered the art of bringing home the pork. In meetings around the ward Schulter promised and delivered on millions of dollars of public projects. The largest, the $200 million bridge project for the Union Pacific, would tap into Federal stimulus money to create a new Ravenswood Station. The project would take years to complete and would require a specialized work force. However there were other projects too.

Looking back Schulter was playing old-time politics.

  • In late March 2010, Schulter cut short a vacation to oppose a plan to cutback on street sweepers. But the street sweeper plan, forecast to save the city millions of dollars, refused to die despite its withdrawal by Mayor Richard Daley.
  • In late July Schulter appeared with Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn when Quinn used a Ravenswood home as the backdrop to sign into law a seven percent property tax cap. At the signing Quinn noted Schulter’s work on behalf of property tax reform.

Aside from the new station for commuters, the bridge work would not provide significant benefits for a Ravenswood workforce not generally engaged in the specialized construction of the railroad bridges. However there were clear benefits for families with the new playgrounds and to businesses benefiting from the landscaping. Yet the financial crisis was creating questions about the administration of the TIF districts used to pay for much of the local projects while nationally the Tea Party and the Republican Party were addressing the proper role of government.
The strengths that Daley, Quinn and Schulter relied on for political support, identifying tax dollar projects, were eroding under financial and political pressure. It is still not clear how big a liability big spending will be both for the government and for some politicians. However what is clear is that the issue, at this point, mid-way through 2011, still has legs.

The middle campaign: September 7 to November 2

Ameya Pawar. Credit: Jane Rickard

The world turned upside down on September 7 with the unexpected withdrawal of Daley from the contest for mayor. Schulter accompanied Daley that evening to a German-American function at the Cultural Center. While Daley’s attitude was one at peace with his decision, Schulter’s face betrayed concern. The Bulldog talked to Pawar that day. He forecast that Daley’s decision wouldn’t change things in the 47th Ward. But in fact, the mayor’s decision had changed everything. Within days Schulter’s name was being listed as a possible contender as mayor. Schulter’s main asset was his large campaign fund. But this was a stronger asset than many candidates possessed. Schulter indicated soon enough that he was not interested in the post.

Schulter held an aldermanic campaign fundraiser shortly after he removed his name from consideration. Campaign financing reports indicate his aldermanic campaign raised a multiple of what Pawar had raised in the months previous. In fact, few voters were thinking of the municipal elections coming in February. The 2010 general election was still on the horizon. In the streets of Ravenswood The Bulldog would run into Pawar, walking a block in his quest. At this point it must have seemed a lonely and forgotten effort. Pawar, in an interview with The Bulldog last week said these days formed a foundation that served him well later in the campaign. People, he said, remembered him knocking on their door or knew he had met with neighbors. They were withholding their opinion, but watching developments. Two further developments may have been considered. The first, the city budget came up for consideration by the City Council prior to the General Election.

  • In October Schulter announced he would oppose plans to cut budgets to chambers of commerce. In Chicago chambers of commerce receive support from the city. Direct support may vary from a few thousand dollars annually to tens of thousands. In addition, the chambers administer Special Service Areas, each providing municipal type services valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. As demonstrated by issues associated with the Logan Square farmers market recently, a local alderman can use the city support to reward or to punish chambers. Despite calls to cut the chambers, which would allow them to function as independent political entities, Schulter and the chambers rallied to oppose the cuts. Schulter went so far as to say he would not support any budget that cut chamber support.
  • The City Inspector General issued a report detailing $243 million in estimated savings on Oct. 25.
  • Fitch, a bond rating service, downgraded the city’s rating on Oct. 28.
  • The Civic Federation released a criticism of the budget. That was followed by a delay in an $800 million city bond sale.
  • Standard & Poor’s followed the lead of Fitch, also downgrading the city’s bonds. The downgrades have added to the cost of city borrowing and made borrowing more challenging.
  • In early November Schulter voted for a budget that borrowed heavily from ‘rainy day’ funds created by the sale of the parking meter system. The budget was widely criticized for failing to address the structural deficit of the city. The $1.5 billion parking meter fund was spent to avoid addressing the structural issues. Critics described the situation as kicking the can down the road for the next mayor.
  • Schulter would not comment to The Bulldog about the budget, but it appeared that he wouldn’t offer solutions to the fiscal crisis, and would defend his current aldermanic prerogatives against cost cutting.

The November General Election saw Illinois move against a Republican swing elsewhere. Here Democrats, with the exception of a US Senate candidate, generally won. The election left the Illinois Democratic Party in control of both chambers of the Statehouse and the governor’s office. In Cook County there was a push to elect independent Forrest Claypool, a Ravenswood resident, to the office of the Cook County Assessor. Schulter had thrown his hat in with Claypool, opposing the county party. Other Democratic Party organizations, notably Evanston, had also supported Claypool over Cook County Democratic boss Joe Berrios. Berrios’ victory was despite these objections and strong opposition by both the local daily newspapers.

November 3 through January 17

Matt Reichel. Credit: Steve Stearns

Schulter demonstrated the strength of the 47th Ward regular organization by filing 5,641 signatures. Even discounting the thousands of signatures collected by circulators living outside the Ward boundaries, Schulter gathered more signatures than collected by all other candidates running in the ward combined. Outside the ward however, it was clear there would be a change on City Council. Dissatisfaction with politics as usual and the promise of a new mayor combined to attract a large number of aldermanic candidates in many wards. Tom Jacks and Matt Reichel joined the hunt for the 47th Ward seat. On the final day of filing there was also a surprise filing: Tom O’Donnell. O’Donnell had been a circulator for Schulter. They were considered close. Schulter had supported O’Donnell to replace Larry McKeon. O’Donnell ran the Ravenswood Community Council for Schulter. In on-line discussions there were dark rumblings from persons claiming to be in the 47th Ward Democratic Party that ‘mean Gene’ would be receiving payback for slighting Berrios and Ed Kelly. The role of O’Donnell was a mystery. O’Donnell added to the mystery by turning aside all attempts to contact him. In late December it became clear that Schulter was seeking a position on the Cook County Board of Review. The position had come open when Berrios had taken the position of assessor. O’Donnell was covering the aldermanic opening if Schulter succeeded.

January 18 to the Coonley debate

Tom Jacks. Credit: Steve Stearns

Schulter’s announcement that he would withdraw from the aldermanic race was a move designed to convince Head Judge Tim Evans of how serious Schulter’s interest in the position was. O’Donnell’s administration of the RCC, the near financial collapse of the RCC, the fact that O’Donnell had only attended a single meeting of the SSA 31 in a two year period all came to the attention of the community January 25 when The Bulldog ran an article that examined O’Donnell’s community leadership claim. The Bulldog noted that O’Donnell lacked a door-to-door effort, lacked a phone, lacked a web site. “The heir apparent to Schulter is relying on the strength of the 47th Ward Democratic organization to get him elected,” we wrote. On January 26 the candidates appeared at Coonley School in a forum. It was the only forum or debate that featured all four candidates.

The Coonley debate

Tom O'Donnell. Credit: Jane Rickard

The Coonley debate is generally held to be the turning point in the campaign. Prior to the debate O’Donnell was raising money outside the ward. His supporters were confident of victory.

After the debate the momentum shifted to Pawar. The small gymnasium at Coonley was packed to standing room only. With each question, Jacks, Pawar and Reichel would ad-lib an answer. O’Donnell would leaf through a pad, placing it in front of his face and read the statement off the pad. In one case, regarding the Western Avenue South TIF it wasn’t clear O’Donnell understood the way TIFs work or what they could do. The ‘experienced community activist’ was turning out to be a dud who couldn’t explain what he’d do different after all his years of activism.

In many cases O’Donnell defended Schulter, despite the fact Schulter’s role wasn’t being questioned. Jacks answered one question, firing at O’Donnell about his qualifications. Jacks, without ever saying O’Donnell’s name, questioned the Chicago practice of political nepotism. On stage O’Donnell’s face grew red. Reichel tried to describe his plan to tax motorists, a toll based on congestion pricing. A similar system is used in Central London. Although he spoke eloquently, he described policies to address institutional racism and taxing upper class citizens to relieve the burden on poorer citizens. His largely white and upper middle class audience wasn’t interested.

Jacks thought’s about government were better received but still did not appear to have meat to them. It is fine to criticize political nepotism, but what policy does that point to at the Ward level? News likes conflict. Listen to the discussion of Donald Trump and you’ll understand that the colorful and quick quote provided on deadline is meat to the news media. In the months that The Bulldog had been writing about Pawar we’d learned that Pawar wasn’t a good quote. What we mean by that is Pawar is thoughtful. He listens to questions, considers them carefully and answers with care. At one point in the Coonley debate the candidates were asked about the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance. That proposal would use TIF funds for affordable housing. O’Donnell, Jacks and Reichel all supported the proposal. Pawar said he would study it. It could, he noted, create political support for TIFs and he felt the need for TIF reform was great. Other means could be found to fund affordable housing, he said.

It was a thoughtful answer to a complicated question. It may be at this point that our photographer took the picture which accompanies this post. It seems to capture a moment in time when the possibility of winning seemed real to Pawar.

The Coonley debate. Credit: Jane Rickard

The end of the campaign: January 27 to election day

Pawar notes that after the Coonley debate he saw a dramatic uptick in campaign financing. Three days after the debate The Bulldog laid out questions about O’Donnell’s bio. A day later The Bulldog laid out the case against the Ravenswood Community Council. And, like any historic Chicago election, this one had a blizzard. At The Bulldog, the efforts of the RCC to clear the sidewalks were chronicled. The snow removal in the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor were compared to similar areas on Rockwell and in the Addison Street Industrial Corridor. [The RCC, which O'Donnell led, was responsible for snow removal on sidewalks. The city, led by Schulter, was responsible for snow removal on ward streets.]

On-line there were complaints of streets that needed to be cleared and alleys piled high with snow. Pawar says that this was a period of intense social media communication. Stories from The Bulldog, but also from other media, were being exchanged by neighbors. And neighbors were meeting on the streets of Ravenswood, clearing our streets and freeing our cars and talking politics. Neighbors expressed anger that Schulter had selected O’Donnell without allowing neighbors input. More than once I heard “who does he think he is with this guy?” Well, Schulter thought he was the alderman.

On January 31 a small event seemed to sum up the hopelessness of the O’Donnell cause. That was the day Pete Leki endorsed Pawar. Leki is an environmental activist who maintains the Waters School Garden. A small community group is closely associated with Leki’s work, the Riverbank Neighbors. In addition Leki is close to another activist community, the Beyond Today Co-op. In the years I have known Leki he generally worked with Schulter. The Leki endorsement was considered key at The Bulldog. It showed a genuine interest in Pawar among Beyond Today, probably at Riverbank Neighbors and also among the education community. Undoubtedly, there was an element of the artistic community that closely followed-up on Leki’s endorsement too. And the endorsement broke with Leki’s tradition of working with Schulter. It was an endorsement that was a multiplier. It may have appeared small, but was in fact a much bigger event.

O’Donnell now made a new enemy. The Center Square Journal, a blog that also features events in the Ravenswood neighborhood announced O’Donnell was pulling out of its candidate forum. O’Donnell skipped a third forum at Lake View High School later that same week. On the last weekend of the campaign The Bulldog launched the last of its investigative posts on O’Donnell, noting he was under investigation for using Sheriffs department equipment for political purposes.

Election Day

Ald. Ameya Pawar. Credit: Jane Rickard

On the morning of the election Pawar asked me what I thought his chances were. I had told him that I believed there was a 40 percent chance he would win outright, but that there was a only a small chance of O’Donnell winning outright. The day proved to be a lesson in getting out the vote. Winning in politics is often dependent on the basic things. GOTV, raising money and getting ballot access separate the professionals from the amateurs.

The 47th Ward Regular Democratic Party had proven itself by superior fundraising and an excellent ballot drive. Election day saw the regular organization with a superior GOTV effort. At many polling places there appeared to be no sign of Pawar, Jacks and Reichel. Despite that Pawar won. The election of this thoughtful man was an affirmation of neighbors using new and old social media. Neighbors talking while clearing a street of snow, trading e-mails and the decision of a neighborhood activist all added up to a win, with Pawar receiving as many votes as that enjoyed by Schulter in previous contests.

Old-time politics, and in particular a strong Get Out the Vote effort, were unable to overcome frustration at politics as usual. The ward organization once again showed that it is unable to deliver votes for anyone but Schulter. Would the result have been different if Schulter had run? Yes. Schulter, for all his weaknesses, wasn’t O’Donnell.

Waters School wins environmental award

The National Environmental Education Foundation awarded Waters School its Green Prize Merit Award in Public Education, it was announced last week.

The award, which includes $5,000, recognized the efforts of the school as an inspiration for the neighborhood and as a medium for ecological education.

“Waters was an underachieving Chicago Public School located on a city block covered from end t0 end in asphalt,” a news release announcing the award notes.

“Four colossal burr oaks with asphalt packed around their trunks were the only remaining natural features from the time when the Chicago River once flowed past the site.”

The award notes the work of the Local School Council and environmental activist Pete Leki in leading the redevelopment of the school campus.

Read the news release from the National Environmental Education Foundation.

(For more information on the Chicago River, Read ‘The Chicago River; A Natural and Unnatural History’ by Libby Hill. Lake Claremont Press. 2000)

All school meeting planned at Waters

Raise Your Hand is holding an all-school meeting to organize representatives working to change recess and lunch policies at each school.

“We will have a toolkit from CPS and plan to share ino on how other schools have (added) more time for recess and lunch,” the invitation says.

  • Raise Your Hand “Fit For Learning” initiative on lunch and recess
  • Waters School, 4540 N Campbell
  • Wed., Apr. 6th. 7P
  • For more information.

Spring fund raisers for schools

Mark your calendars, Ravenswood residents! Schools in your area are holding numerous events this spring to raise money for their students and programs.

 

Ravenswood Elementary School

Ravenswood will hold its 3rd annual “Spring Forward” event on Saturday, March 26 from 7 to 11P at DANK Haus, 4740 N. Western Avenue. The evening will include live music, food and both a silent auction and a live auction. Tickets are available for purchase online by clicking here or at the door. General public tickets are $65 each, which includes two drink tickets.

St. Matthias Transfiguration Elementary School

St. Matthias/ Transfig is currently selling raffle tickets for its “Grand $lam Raffle” event. There will be 182 $50 winners drawn each day of the baseball season and one $2,000 winner drawn on the final day of the World Series. The first drawing will be March 31. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased from St. Matthias School Families, from participating Parishioners or by sending a contribution by mail. For more information, please click here.

John C. Coonley School

Coonley will hold its 6th annual “Spring Fling” Auction on Saturday, April 2 from 6:30 to 11:30P at DANK Haus. The open bar event will include food, a silent and a live auction, music, raffle and dancing with parents, teachers and Coonley neighbors. Click here to purchase tickets and click here to donate an item for auction. Ravenswood business owners can also purchase an ad in the auction book by clicking here.

St. Benedict Preparatory High School

St Ben’s will hold its “Movin’ as One Fitness ‘Fun’draiser” on April 9. Led by professional dance and wellness instructor Gloria Araya, participants will enjoy a variety of exercises including kickboxing, latin cardio, Bella Core Middle Eastern fusion, Djembe-African dance and yoga. Tickets are $40 for advance registration and $50 at the door. To purchase tickets online, please click here. Childcare is available for a limited number of participants.

Gordon Tech High School

Gordon will host a Walk to Wrigley on April 27. Gordon Tech students will walk approximately two miles from the high school to Wrigley Field and will raise money through community pledges. Organized by the Gordon Tech Parents’ Club and Activities Department, the goal of the day is to raise $25,000 for the school. Students will enjoy a Cubs game upon completion of the walk. Proceeds will support Gordon Tech community events, parents’ club events, student programs, activities and equipment and more.

Thomas J. Waters Magnet and Performing Arts School

Waters will hold its Spring Event and Silent Auction on Friday, May 20 from 6 to 11P at Dank Haus. The yearly fundraising event includes an adult night out for Waters parents, teachers and communities.