Like many other neighborhood public schools, Galewood’s Sayre Language Academy, 1850 N. Newland Ave., has a long wish list of funding needs that its budget doesn’t cover. The elementary school is hoping that neighborhood businesses and local residents will donate money and time to help cover those budget gaps. 

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), whose ward includes Galewood, has been working with the Galewood Economic Development Committee to help make it happen. The committee invited Galewood business owners to the school on Oct. 9 for a special evening meeting. 

Sayre Principal Folasade Adekunle laid out what the school has to offer and what they need, while business owners got a chance to talk with the staff and offer their own ideas. The staff and Taliaferro himself expressed hope that this will start relationships that will benefit everyone involved. 

Galewood Economic Development Committee is one of the several advisory volunteer committees Taliaferro has put together over the years. One of its members is Beth Ranucci, a family and real estate attorney. 

“I just want to help the community be greater than it is,” Ranucci said.

Adekunle said that there were plenty of examples of North Side neighborhood public schools that got financial and volunteer support from their communities and she didn’t see why Galewood should be any different.

“Galewood needs to define ourselves and set ourselves apart,” she said. 

“We have a lot of businesses that are very interested in helping out and sponsoring our public schools,” said Taliaferro. “This is our opportunity to bring public schools and businesses together to discuss that.” 

During the meeting, the school staff shared handouts detailing exactly what Sayre is looking for.

The biggest-ticket item is a new playground that students and local families can use outside of regular school hours.  

As previously reported by this newspaper, Tucker Development, which is redeveloping the former North/Harlem Sears, agreed to donate $100,000 toward the playground, but the school still needs another $50,000 to fully cover the costs.

In addition to the playground, Sayre is trying to raise $3,600 to build an Early Childhood Nature Space—a small play area that would feature picnic tables and low-cost, all-natural forms of recreation that would help students “unwind and connect with nature,” according to the handout. 

In recent years, the school has been working to build green spaces, adding a Pre-K garden, a larger learning garden for older students and a greenhouse.

Every year, eighth-graders have an opportunity to take a field trip to New York City, but around 65 percent of those students come from low-income families and can’t afford to take the trip. Sayre is raising money to cover scholarships to help those students.

Another major program in need of funding is Tot Time — arts enrichment workshops for little kids and their families that take place every third Saturday of the month. The event is organized by Sayre Family and Friends Organization as a way to do something for surrounded families and to bring attention to the school’s early childhood education offerings. The school is trying to raise $2,500 to cover the cost of paying the teaching artists and buying supplies and food.

Many items on the list have to do with regular maintenance. That includes new public address systems for the auditorium and the school in general, putting better signage above the main entrance, building a new electric marque to make it easier to display announcements, and installing industrial-sized fans to cool the gym. Like many other gyms in older school buildings, Sayre gym doesn’t have air conditioning.

Not all of the requests are monetary. Sayre is looking for prizes for its annual Bingo Night Fundraiser, which will be held Feb. 23 at Hamburger Mary’s Oak Park location, at 155 S. Oak Park Ave. Sayre is also looking for an event space to host an annual Winter Wonderland Ball for pre-K and kindergarten students. With the student population growing, the event has outgrown the school gym, so Sayre is looking for a place with the capacity to host at least 200 people.

“We are hoping to get great support from our businesses and support them in turn,” said Nicole Montella, the chairperson of Sayre’s Local School Council.


Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...