I want to share another example of the Chicago Public Schools’ continued blatant disregard of the Austin community.

This past Saturday, Sept. 22, there was a little-publicized community meeting to discuss the establishment of two contract elementary schools in Austin. The hearing was organized by the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of New Schools. LEARN Charter School, proposed location 5112 W. Washington Blvd, and the “American Quality Schools/Westside Ministers Coalition Partnership,” proposed location, Harrison and Central (formerly Plato School), were invited by the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of New Schools to submit proposals for the two sites.

I became informed about the meeting during a visit to observe the interaction of the two new schools at the Austin high campus. I phoned several colleagues to inform them of the meeting. I copied and distributed flyers to two community-based organizations that were not notified about the meeting. 29th Ward Alderman Ike Carothers, who was present at the meeting, received short notice and expressed his concern that there was little publicity about the meeting. Several other community residents present were indirectly informed about the meeting at the last minute. Parents for Choice (probably a pro-charter school parent advocacy group) was well represented. Obviously the Office of New Schools imported parents from other communities and wanted to exclude Austin community residents and parents from this meeting.

The stated purpose of the proposed two schools is to provide additional “choice” for parents under Mayor’s Daley Renaissance 2010 plan.

It is not a major secret that the Austin elementary school students are not performing as well as we all need them to. The CPS answer to improving academic performance is to close underperforming schools and reopen those schools as Renaissance 2010 schools, or to give current school operators additional school sites. Some schools are actually “privatized.” Some schools are operated by true educators who are sincere about educating students, regardless of their background.

But if these schools are so dynamic, why not share the magic with the regular CPS neighborhood schools? Why the almost secret community meeting? Maybe because one school operator (American Quality Schools/Westside Ministers Coalition) did not want to publicly discuss its school’s (ABEA) first year performance at the Austin campus?

I have challenged and will continue to challenge the CPS to do the following to level the playing field: Do away with the attendance boundaries in Austin and give parents true choice; and give the local principals, parents, teachers, and LSC the same latitude as the charter/contract schools so we can begin comparing apples to apples.

I also want to note the attempt to paint me as confrontational and negative. If attempting to bring the truth to the community and fighting for community involvement in all taxpayer-funded matters are both negative and confrontational, I relish the portrait.

Dwayne Truss is an Austin parent and resident.