The Westside Health Authority (WHA) needs to refocus and work with credible established individuals and organizations to move forward the construction of the proposed new high school in Austin and work on real education issues.
Please understand that the Chicago Board of Education will eventually build a new high school in or near the Austin community. However, it may not be the Brach’s site.
I am totally in favor of constructing a new high school building at the Brach’s site, but if the buyer refuses to resell the land to the Board of Education, the board’s proposed Kenton Avenue site (between Jackson and Harrison) has to be studied as an alternative.
If Ald. Ed Smith can’t be convinced to rescind his support for building a manufacturing plant at the Brach’s site, the focus has to return to what is realistic, so that the Board of Education won’t abandon building another high school in or near Austin.
I did the research to justify the construction of another high school in Austin on the behalf of both the Austin Transitional Advisory Committee and Westside Ministers Coalition.
Some members of the network wanted to tear down the existing Austin High building and replace it with another school with a reduced capacity (1,200 seats from 2,000 seats). The Board of Education’s current policy is to build new high schools with a maximum capacity of 1,200 seats. Others wanted to return the Austin campus to a neighborhood school, an effort four years too late.
Rev. Lewis Flowers and I lobbied and convinced the network to support the construction of an additional high school in Austin to increase the number of high school seats.
When the Board of Education proposed building another high school in the under-populated Garfield Park community, Rev. Flowers lobbied individual Board of Education members to convince them to build a new high school in Austin first.
I had a meeting in November 2006 with an elected official informing that person of the opportunity to construct a new high school in Austin. In the spring of 2007, I crashed a WHA meeting and demanded that they forget about wasting time fighting to return the Austin campus to a neighborhood high school and join Rev. Flowers in lobbying for a new high school building which could become a neighborhood school.
I choose not to continue my participation with the network, because the WHA faction of the network wanted to focus on their agenda and retard discussion on ideas that were not about a new high school.
A myriad of education issues facing the Austin community are being ignored, including Renaissance 2010, supporting Douglass High School, supporting Michele Clark High School, improving the feeder schools, stopping the erosion of Local School Council powers, the achievement gap between African-American and Hispanic students, and a school safety plan for the upcoming fall school year. These issues have or are being dealt with others outside of the education network.
I am not sure of the WHA agenda. My agenda is that a new high school is justified in Austin to serve the largest neighborhood feeder school population in Chicago. We need to have the capacity within the Austin community to offer additional high school choices for our children. Stop the press conferences and get the school built.