Support capability

Austin’s demographics merit the construction of an additional high school in the community.

Austin is the largest community in both land and population with approximately 117,527 residents, according to the 2000 Census. By comparison, the population of Humboldt Park, East Garfield Park, and West Garfield Park communities total 109,736.

When the mayor and CPS released the “Modern Schools for Chicago” list, the South Austin Coalition and the Westside Ministers Coalition questioned the wisdom of building another school in Garfield Park. There are currently several high schools serving both East and West Garfield Park, including Crane, Marshall, ACT, and Al Raby, a small school at the Flower High School campus. The newly built Westinghouse High School will reserve seats for students within a certain radius of that school. Austin students, who were once Westinghouse’s largest student population, will likely be excluded.

However, Austin’s numbers prove that this community can support a high school.

There are approximately 1,700 eighth grade students residing in the traditional boundaries of the former Austin High School, located at 231 N. Pine. The Austin campus -per Renaissance 2010 guidelines- can enroll up to 450 freshmen per year for a maximum student population of 1,800. Michelle Clark High School, 5101 West Harrison, has enrolled a maximum of 150 freshmen from the community. Douglass High School, 543 N Waller, will accept only 100 eighth graders for fall 2007. Those numbers total 700 classroom seats for Austin’s 1,700 students. New high school construction is usually capped at 1,200 total students.

So this could be an additional 300 seats – for a total of 1,000 seats a year – in which students residing in Austin can fill.

A new school, with the proper planning, will attract those students and their families.

However, Clark and Douglass – two converted middle schools- have woefully inadequate facilities to effectively operate as high schools. Clark, for example, is at capacity and has no proper facilities for after school programs and the athletic teams (such as no football locker room).

If there is any new West Side high school be built, it should be built first in Austin.

Dwayne Truss
Education Committee member for the South Austin Coalition and the West side Minister’s Coalition

Blacks should step up

I am truly happy to have such a great assessment of the current state of affairs in Chicago [Here’s your annual chance to talk to the mayor, Arlene Jones, Aug. 16]. I hope all my black friends make these meetings. I hope the press covers the concerns [and] not just gloss over them. I will copy and post this article on Chicago Clout so more may review your wisdom.

Patrick McDonough
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We need to stand together for our kids

Now is the time for us to stick together and let it be shown that we can stand together for our children. They are not pawns nor are they expendable. The jailhouse is full enough. Let’s start building a better partnership amongst each other so this type of behavior won’t get a chance to rear its ugly head.

Linda Alston
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A step in the right direction

We share the community’s concerns regarding the limited options for Austin ninth graders this fall and in the years to come that were featured in Ashley Johnson’s article on Aug. 30, “Restructuring leaves some behind.” There has to be a comprehensive plan and resources for Austin students, and we will join with others in seeking a comprehensive solution to this crisis.

In the meantime, Austin Polytech is underway with 140 freshmen-all from the Austin community. Of those, 54 percent are girls and 46 percent are boys. We had a great opening day, and we had a successful summer program with 40 students who had the chance to strengthen their math and reading skills as well as play sports. They also got their first “taste” of manufacturing with a visit to one of our partner companies: Eli’s Cheesecake.

We have 25 local manufacturing companies that are our Austin Polytech partners. These are high-performance companies, largely in the metal working industry. They have pay ranges from $8 to $50/hour, plus benefits for production workers.

These companies are excited about the start of this school and will be hosting visits of Austin Poly students in their freshman year, and offering internships and summer jobs starting in sophomore year. These companies are successfully competing in the global economy, but many of them will face a loss of as much as 40 percent of their workforce in the next 10 years-with the baby boom retirements making it worse. This problem represents the opportunity for the Austin Community that Austin Polytech is taking advantage of.

Our students will all be well prepared for college with excellent standard courses, as well as a 4-year pre-engineering program. They will have at least two nationally recognized industry credentials with the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) that are recognized by companies across the country. And they will have paid work experience in local companies during high school that may be the opening for a life’s career before or after college.

These students won’t be “chained” to their neighborhood as suggested in the article but ready for real work and real careers that can support a good life whether in manufacturing or not. They will know and be known by the best companies in the Chicago area. And we know from the investment of the Austin Poly Partners and the national interest in this school that an institution providing top technical education, combined with work experience, can be an attraction to high-performance companies. Companies in today’s economy want the benefits of being close to a source of talent such as the city of Chicago. We think Austin Polytech will attract investment in Austin that will benefit Austin residents.

Austin Poly won’t solve all the challenges facing Austin, but it is a powerful step in the right direction.

Bernina Brazier
Austin Polytech assistant principal
Dan Swinney
Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council/CLCR executive director

Attitudes in Jena, La. are the real problem

You people are something else. You lie, you start wars for $$$ and will do anything for $$$$. I’m so glad I’m Africa American. You people know you’re wrong in Jena, La. You people never quit do you?

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Show the mayor we need change

Ms. Jones, thank you for the information [Here’s your annual chance to talk to the mayor, Arlene Jones, Aug. 16]. I have never heard of the yearly meeting with the mayor. Things need to be changed in the African American neighborhoods, but we must show that we want change. I will most definitely be attending one of these meetings. However, you did not state the time.

Jacqueline Hester
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