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It has begun! After months of anticipation, the historic shut down of the southern portion of the CTA Red Line finally got underway the morning of Sunday May 19.
On Monday May 20, Riders for Better Transit and community partners across the South Side will mobilize for a day of action to organize around the Riders Bill of Rights. Volunteers will be at CTA stations collecting signatures for the Riders Bill of Rights, which will help ensure their voices are heard throughout the duration of the Red Line closure and beyond. You can view and sign the Riders Bill of Rights here.
Look for volunteers in blue Riders for Better Transit shirts at Garfield Green Line Station between 4:30 and 7:00 p.m. on Monday May 20!
In addition to grassroots mobilization, Riders for Better Transit has been helping to spread the word and connect with residents through local media outlets. Check out some of the coverage below:
Last month's 48 reported violent crime incidents in West Town were one fewer than in April a year ago. There was one homicide, on April 28, described by the Chicago Tribune as a bar fight that spilled onto Division Street in the 2500 block.
The East Village Association analyzed statistics downloaded from the City of Chicago Data Portal and published on the Tribune Crime in Chicago website, comparing them to the same period a year ago.
|Crime type||April 2013||% change||Jan-Apr '03||% change|
Editor's note: Five of LISC's partners had successfully funded their Seed Chicago Kickstarter campaigns as they approached their funding deadlines on May 16, raising more than $48,900 for community improvement projects. View the results.
When World Business Chicago launched its Seed Chicago campaign in early April on the “crowdfunding” website called Kickstarter, it was a bold enough idea that the national news site Atlantic Cities asked, “Could Kickstarter Work as a Tool for Neighborhood Economic Development?”
It’s still early, but the answer looks like: “Yes.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel picks up lunch from The Tamalespaceship food truck in Pilsen, one of the first 11 projects to be posted for funding consideration via Seed Chicago.
Photo: Patrick Pyszka, City of Chicago
The second of 11 first-wave projects was fully funded a couple of weeks later. That one, called Global Gardens Bees ‘n Seeds, will add beehives and a seed-saving garden to an Albany Park farm where refugees from Bhutan and Burma are growing food for their families. More than $5,000 has been raised so far.
But it’s not a slam-dunk for every project.
The urban-farming-and-job-training organization Growing Home Inc. has attracted more than 170 backers. But it still needs $11,000 to reach its $20,000 goal. And some of the for-profit participants, who were recruited into the program through the micro-lending organization Accion Chicago, set ambitious fundraising goals. A hair-braiding school in Englewood, for instance, hopes to raise $32,000, and the Tamalespaceship food truck business needs $34,000 to build out a storefront restaurant in Pilsen.
Kickstarter uses an all-or-nothing approach. If you reach your goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged. If you don’t, no one is charged.
“You have to have a great idea, first,” says LISC Program Officer Dionne Baux, who helped surface the first round of nonprofit participants from within LISC’s Neighborhood Network. “But you also have to set your fundraising goal to a level you can reach, and you have to really promote the project to all of your networks of supporters.”
World Business Chicago will soon announce an "open call" for new projects.
Photo: Patrick Pyszka, City of Chicago
Still, World Business Chicago (WBC) is excited about the potential of Kickstarter to “catalyze reinvestment, grow small businesses and spur employment growth.” On April 15, Mayor Rahm Emanuel engaged in a roundtable discussion with leaders of all 11 inaugural projects, noting that “we as a city will only be as strong as our neighborhoods are strong.”
Seed Chicago is an opportunity to highlight “the best of what Chicago has to offer,” said Julia Stasch, vice president of U.S. programs for the MacArthur Foundation. By learning from this initial group of projects and recruiting more, the project could generate $1 million in investment annually and create 250 jobs, Stasch said.
And that would provide a very clear answer to the question of whether crowdfunding can spur development of Chicago neighborhoods.
World Business Chicago will soon announce an “open call” for new projects, and it’s already soliciting ideas from interested individuals and organizations.
Displaced tenants of Cabrini Green filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority in an effort to return to their neighborhood after redevelopment.
After the last iconic tower fell, the Cabrini Green row houses were all that remained of the public-housing complex.
Its residents should have been able to return after the row houses were renovated.
But only a quarter of the 586 units were rehabbed.
Elizabeth Rosenthal represents the Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council. She explained that residents stand to lose much more than fair housing.
“It’s an area of opportunity. It has access to good schools, access to jobs, it’s on public transportation lines--there’s that new Target going right there,” Rosenthal expanded.
In response, CHA spokesperson Wendy Parks stressed that there are no fixed plans for the Cabrini homes in question.
“We have said in the past that we are committed to adhering to the needs of CHA residents. We did not specifically state what that would look like with regard to revitalization of Cabrini homes,” Parks said.
The agency plans to invite CHA residents and area stakeholders to provide input on any proposed plan for the area--no date for those meetings has been set.
Englewood Renters Left Without Electricity, Gas Due To Foreclosure: ‘We Were Left In The Dark’ (VIDEO)
Eight members of the Shaw family, including a 14 month-old baby, have been living without gas or electricity for nearly a week, according to parents Shantisha and Ezekiel. Their two-bedroom garden apartment in Englewood, on Chicago’s South Side, is flooding and has mold damage. The two apartments above them are vacant, with broken and boarded-up windows.
“We can’t live like this any more,” said Shantisha Shaw, 36, regarding the home she’s shared with her family since February 2011. A stroke survivor, Shantisha is permanently disabled and lives with her husband and six children.
But neither Shantisha, nor her husband, Ezekiel Shaw, said they were notified the building was being foreclosed upon. They said they were not given a 90-day notice to vacate, nor were they provided any instructions indicating where they should send their monthly $550 rent — which includes utilities — following the foreclosure.
The Shaws say they were not provided with any landlord or contact information pertaining to who would be responsible for maintaining the property after the foreclosure.
“We’ve been left in the dark, literally,” said Ezekiel, 45. “What are we supposed to do?”
He said he’s been given the run-around:
In February the Shaws received an eviction notice from Pierce & Associates, a leading Chicago-based foreclosure law firm.
“Demand is hereby made upon you for immediate surrender of possession of the above premises,” the February 4 letter, identifying Pierce & Associates as attorneys for Freedom Mortgage, states.
“But we don’t have any money, I don’t know what they expect us to do,” said Shantisha.
She said the building's utilities were shut off last week and “it’s been like hell”:
It is under these conditions that the Shaw family is receiving support from the Keep Chicago Renting Coalition, which hosted a press conference and rally this week outside the family’s home at 6936 South Green St.
According to the group, city law — the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance — requires that landlord notify renters about foreclsoure filings within seven days of the legal action. The coalition also notes that the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law obligates those who take over foreclosures to notify renters of their acquisition of the property within 21 days of securing it. None of this happened in the case of the Shaw family. Additionally, Pierce & Associates should have given the Shaw family 90 days to vacate the premises, the coalition alleges, as mandated by the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009.
The coalition of community, social service and labor organizations also alleges that Freedom Mortgage violated the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance by failing to maintain the property after they acquired ownership.
“We want Freedom Mortgage to assume responsibility as new owners of the property, and we need Pierce & Associates to apply best practices regarding renters’ rights,” said Dan Kleinman, policy director for Action Now. “When a law-abiding tenant is willing and able to continue paying rent, they deserve the opportunity to keep their lease. And if the bank absolutely refuses, they need to provide a form of compensation that dignifies what the renter is going through.”
The group has reached out to the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Kleinman said officials expressed interest in helping the coalition pursue the correct means of redress for the Shaw family.
“We need to send a clear message to, not only banks, but the legal firms that represent them, that the law has to be followed and renters’ rights have to be respected,” he said.
Kleinman accused Pierce & Associates of “constructive eviction”, which is the illegal practice of rendering a property uninhabitable in the interest of persuading a tenant to leave the premesis on their own volition.
“The Shaws have done nothing wrong,” he said, noting the buildings’ other tenants have already been “scared out.”
He added that if, or when, the Shaws leave their home, the building stands to sit vacant and potentially depreciate property values in the neighborhood and provide a haven for crime and vandalism.
Meanwhile, Patricia Fron, buildings program administrator for the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, said banks fighting against establishing a landlord-tenant relationship is a popular trend in the Chicagoland area.
“We’ve found that it’s common practice for banks — they don’t want to be landlords,” she said, adding financial institutions most likely don’t want to be held responsible for property maintenance.
Fron agreed with Kleinman that Pierce & Associates are practicing “constructive eviction.” She said the “intimidating” eviction letter and shut off of utilities was an “effort to constructively evict the tenants from their homes instead of taking them through the proper eviction channels.”
The Lawyers Committee for Better Housing is a member of the Keep Chicago Renting Coalition, as is the Albany Park Neighborhood Council; Action Now; the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council; the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization; the Logan Square Neighborhood Association; the Metropolitan Tenants’ Organization; SEIU*-HCII; and Unite Here Local 1.
But Fron said she, and the coalition, are not entirely sure why banks recoil at the the idea of tenant-landlord relationships. From their perspective, she said, it would seem to make more sense to continue the renting relationship:
Participants in Wednesday’s demonstration outside the Shaw’s home, said the family’s situation underscores Chicago’s need for the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance.
The proposal, which has veeb endorsed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, would also require lenders who acquire foreclosed buildings to either pay tenants $12,000 per unit to move or maintain the renters’ lease until the building is sold, with a maximum 2 percent rent increase from year-to-year.
"This compromise ordinance ensures that tenants maintain their rights if their building is foreclosed," Kathleen Strand, a spokesman for Emanuel’s office, told the Chicago Tribune. "Under current law, renters do not have long-term security and receive no assistance with the costs associated with relocation once their building enters foreclosure.
The legislation has 43 co-sponsors and sits in the Chicago City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate. According to the Keep Chicago Renting Coalition, the bill will likely see a vote by the city council on June 5.
“The Keep Chicago Renting ordinance would help keep families, like the Shaw family, in their homes while avoiding further vacant properties in our city,” said Diane Limas, president of theAlbany Park Neighborhood Council, during Wednesday’s press conference.
Limas said the ordinance holds banks and their affiliates accountable for their actions. She accused lenders, like Freedom Mortgage, of not caring about tenants:
For now, the Shaw family said they have no choice but to wait. Ezekiel is an out-of-work chef and Shantisha can’t work due to her disability. They said they can’t afford to move, and have already spent a sizeable portion of their savings.
A representative from Pierce & Associates could not be reached for comment.
Kleinman called the Shaw family “innocent victims” of a broken system.
Ezekiel said he hopes the Keep Chicago Renting Coalition helps his family get the utilities turned back on.
If the utilities are not turned back on, Ezekiel says “we really don’t know” what to do next:
Improving urban education means attracting and keeping the best and brightest teachers in urban schools. That’s one of the few truisms about education on which people from virtually any point on the political spectrum can agree.
The College of Education at Illinois State University has one of the largest teacher education programs in the country, but for decades ISU struggled to place teachers in Chicago Public Schools. From 1967 to 2004, ISU records show, 487 alumni were hired by CPS – or about 13 per year on average. Yet since 2004, another 367 have gone to work for CPS – a considerably faster flow of 46 per year.
Katie Meersman, who graduated ISU's College of Education in 2012, works with a student at Westcott Elementary in Auburn Gresham during her time as a STEP-UP Fellow and PDS Intern.
Last spring, CPS hosted 1,200 student teachers from 64 different universities across the nation, and the district hired only 8 percent (97 teachers), yet almost 40 percent of those hired graduated from ISU.
The recent hiring upsurge coincides with a new partnership that ISU launched eight years ago with LISC Chicago and one of its partner agencies, Enlace Chicago (then called Little Village Community Development Corp.), which not only provides student teaching experience but attempts to immerse students in their respective communities. The seed of the idea germinated from discussions between LISC and State Farm about how universities could better partner with citizen-based organizations.
Named the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline™, it has consistently worked with 16 schools in Little Village, spreading to six schools in Auburn Gresham in 2011-12 and five schools in Albany Park this school year. LISC lead agencies have been tapped in all three places – Enlace in Little Village, Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp., and North River Commission in Albany Park – to help facilitate the university-school and university-CBO relationships.
The program works to build bonds and encourage these student teachers – many of them white and from the suburbs or rural areas – to consider urban, minority-majority school districts like Chicago’s. This approach has drawn notice in Washington, D.C., reaching even as high as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who mentioned the program’s work in community immersion of students as a model—and whose department has invited Robert Lee, founding director of the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline and others to give presentations on how they’ve structured the program, particularly with regard to cultural competency.
A Little Village family sits down to dinner with a STEP-UP Fellow, part of the program's optional residential component that helps to further immerse ISU students in their respective communities.
“Providing [students] with a cultural context for the community in which they will work demonstrates your commitment to improving education for every child in your neighborhood,” wrote Peggi Zelinko, director of the Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Program Office, in a July 2011 letter to ISU.
Lee and an ISU colleague presented to the department and other universities participating in the federal Teacher Quality Partnership in June 2012, highlighting research showing the beneficial effects of cultural competence on teaching and learning.
“We are really excited to highlight the literature and your publications in this area and want to use this meeting as a time to discuss and review the reform that have been implemented, researched and supported through literature, research, and promising practice,” wrote Patricia Barrett, DOE management and program analyst for teacher quality, before the meeting.
Nuts, Bolts and Numbers
Teacher education students are not required to participate in the pipeline. ISU graduates approximately 1,500 education students per year, but only 133 new students enrolled last year, joining the existing pipeline of 340 still on-campus, says Lee.
Mitchell Staroscik, a 2010 ISU graduate, assists a student at CICS Longwood during a science class.
ISU Alum 'Glad to Be Back' at Auburn Gresham Academy
Among the 367 new Illinois State University recruits to Chicago Public Schools in the past eight years has been Mitchell Staroscik, who, while an undergraduate at ISU, says he brought environmental sciences to life for high school students through real-world experiences in their community.
Now an early childhood development teacher at Simeon Career Academy in Auburn Gresham, Staroscik has returned to the school where he did his student teaching. And he’s glad to be there, having connected with students, faculty and staff during his student teaching days in fall 2010.
“I was having different conversations with students and learning about them, more than just getting the science across to them,” he recalls. “I don’t think that I know, necessarily, where they’re coming from – their lives have been very different from mine, for better or worse.”
Indeed, the time Staroscik spent learning about Auburn Gresham has given him a common knowledge that creates a mutual comfort level, he says. “There is something to be said for eating at the same restaurants. You’re more willing to hang out in the neighborhood.”
When talking with friends or family members who might be nervous about hanging out in Auburn Gresham, Staroscik adds, “I can explain to people how Auburn Gresham is actually nice – how there’s good places and good people.”
Staroscik began with the summer-long STEP-UP program at Spry Elementary in Little Village and lived with the pastor’s family in La Villita Community Church. He taught summer school in the morning and worked for Enlace Chicago in the afternoons, handling data collection that contributed to grant writing to obtain more funding for the agency’s violence prevention work.
“We only take students who are supremely motivated to end up teaching in urban education and in Chicago,” he says of ISU’s program, having returned to serve as a STEP-UP Resident Advisor “You go through the interview process and talk about your commitment.”
Staroscik says his summer experience as a fellow prepared him greatly for his semester at Simeon. “I already felt like I had done student teaching,” he says.
Staroscik’s position at Simeon focuses on teaching early childhood development as part of the school’s Teaching Academy.
“It’s partly human development biology class, partly teacher preparation work,” he says. “Right before I left student teaching, I told the principal, ‘I want to be here.’ I have a wonderful respect for the administration. We have great students. They gave me a call this summer and said, ‘Hey, we have an opening.’ I’m so happy to be back.”
In Chicago, a total of 132 ISU students have participated in the program’s culminating, senior yearlong Professional Development School internship, averaging 30 per year in recent years Lee says. ISU also has a total of a dozen PDS sites across the state of Illinois, including Wheeling, Pekin, Elgin, Springfield, Normal, Palatine, St. Charles, Bloomington, and a consortium of 13 rural high schools.
Lee reports a growth in interest in the program, noting for example that 1,200 teacher education students are expected to participate in 51 “clinical trips” of one to three days apiece to participate in service learning opportunities at partner schools. That’s a six-fold increase since 2006, when 200 students took part in eight such trips, he says.
Another indicator of growth has been the fact that for the past three years, ISU students have had the opportunity to get an early taste of the pipeline the summer after either their sophomore or junior year, by participating in a four-week intensive residency program called Summer Teacher Education Partnership for Urban Preparation. These STEP-UP fellows, who have totaled 61 over the three summers, simultaneously teach, intern at community-based organizations and take seminars on a variety of topics, while living in their respective communities with host families.
Nine Years, Three Communities
Katya Nuques, associate director of Enlace Chicago, recalls that her organization worked closely with LISC and ISU in their quest to create the pipeline. “The challenge they had identified was, this institution [ISU] graduated one of the highest numbers of teaching students in the nation, but the numbers of teachers coming to Chicago was almost nothing,” she says.
Little Village seemed like a worthwhile place to start given the 26 schools serving 18,000 students in that community. And Enlace had deep experience both working in the community and partnering with its schools, says Nuques, who served as director of education from 2005-10 and returned to that role on an interim basis in 2012.
Kathy Thin (from left), Laura Mueller and Leslie Gonzalez, all 2011 ISU graduates, review student work during a STEP-UP workshop.
“Most of the students are white students from suburban or rural areas of Illinois. They have very limited knowledge of what urban education entails,” she says. “The students get a very real sense of what teaching is like, and what it’s like to teach in an urban setting.”
Since 2010, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corp. has helped develop partnerships with Rudyard Kipling, Westcott, Clara Barton and Green elementary schools, as well as Perspectives Calumet and Simeon Career Academy. The ISU partnership has helped to build on the work GADC was already doing, says Tenisha Jones, director of education for the agency.
“It allows us to tap into their expertise,” she says. “They work to help us promote what we’re trying to do.” Responds Dakota Pawlicki, program coordinator, “We couldn’t do this work without GADC’s partnership.”
Each community competed to have ISU establish a program at their local schools. Faculty and staff from ISU toured three communities in early 2010 and selected Auburn Gresham for the program. Working with GADC staff, they then met with aldermen, ministers and residents who participated in a charrette and took a tour of the community with ISU staff, said Jones. The university asks LISC partner agencies to showcase their plans and vision, and how they see ISU fitting into their quality-of-life efforts through the New Communities Program.
STEP-UP Fellows work with youth and residents at the 26th Street Plaza in Little Village during a STEP-UP community action project.
In Albany Park, the pipeline started flowing last October through the PDS to Patrick Henry and North River elementary schools and expanded to Schurz, Mather and Roosevelt high schools in January. Even prior to then, ISU students from the other two neighborhoods already have visited classrooms and community institutions, says Melissa McDaniel, program director at the North River Commission.
She’s been impressed with ISU’s genuine willingness to work with the community and schools to tailor the program; for example, when someone suggested that teaching fellows learn more about the administrative side of schools, the university responded. “I love that it’s a fluid opportunity, as opposed to a set program,” she says. “It’s about responding to what schools say they need.” McDaniel adds, “I haven’t seen a program like ISU’s that is intentionally trying to invest resources in a school.”
The pipeline has a residency component that some students choose to take advantage of once they arrive in Chicago for student teaching, which sets it apart from other programs. Pawlicki says the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline works with local partners to find housing for the ISU students.
Last year, seven students lived in Auburn Gresham and 29 lived in Little Village housing for example, while this school year there are four in Auburn Gresham and 16 in Little Village; the number will vary each year, he says. ISU professors also live in the same housing during the summer months as they work to redesign their courses. A grant from State Farm subsidizes their stay to make it more affordable.
STEP-UP Fellows work at a corner "pocket park" in Little Village.
Other students live nearby and choose to commute, says Sarah Cohen, site coordinator in Auburn-Gresham. “Regardless of [where they live], they’re all participating in community programming,” she says. “They get to know an inside-out perspective on where students are coming from, on a day-to-day basis. They help them develop tools to prosper. They’re not just going into the classroom to teach.”
Pawlicki says this “fundamentally changes the way a teacher approaches their classroom. … It really does equip candidates with the tools and the knowledge about the way communities work, the lay of the land.”
Local partners play a major role in setting up this dynamic, Nuques says. “Who’s going to identify those host families, for example?” she says. “Your staff member’s mom has a house, or someone we know from the church, or a lady who works in our garden. You need to have a deep knowledge of the community to make these programs successful.”
It’s critical for candidates to understand where students come from, Lee says. “They understand the neighborhood dynamics. Working with the community-based organizations, they’re able to partner in different ways,” he says. “For most candidates, it’s not their first introduction to the neighborhood,” as many already have participated in our other programming.
It changes the relationship for CPS students to run into their teachers at the local grocery store, for example, Lee says. “It provides another layer of ownership and respect,” he says. The hope is that it will help combat the “outrageous” turnover rates of 60 percent to 70 percent per year in some schools, he says, adding: “Kids experience that.” Jones agrees it’s “devastating” for students to build trust in a teacher and then have that person leave.
Bridget Heneghan, a 2012 ISU graduate, reads aloud while teaching at Westcott Elementary.
ISU teaching students in Little Village get grounded before they move into the community with community tours and school visits, where they meet the principals, other teachers and students, Nuques says. Whether they participate in PDS or STEP-UP, the students work in community-based organizations doing anything from planting community gardens to tutoring at Boys and Girls Clubs, Nuques says.
“We think it’s very important that they live here and work here—hopefully both. It’s a little bit more of a realistic picture,” she says. “It’s a great experience to learn about each other and find commonalities and similar interests.”
Living in the neighborhood makes it less likely that students will burn out, Cohen says, because they’ll better understand students’ lives—that in Auburn Gresham, for example, an unusually high number of students live with their grandparents. And student teachers learn to view their neighborhoods from the same asset-based lens as do LISC and its partner agencies—and to reject the negativity about so-called “inner city” neighborhoods that’s so often seen in the media, Lee says.
That’s meant, for example, that some have challenged local beat officers who demand to know what they’re doing in the neighborhood, Lee says. At first they’re afraid to do so, but then “their mindset shifted, and they started engaging with the police: ‘What do you mean?’ ” he says. “They’re starting to become social justice advocates.”
Since 2006, 56 courses across 22 disciplines have been redesigned at ISU through the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline. Each course includes a clinical experience that ranges from one-day to multi-day visits to Chicago classrooms and communities. ISU facultyredesigning its on-campus coursework with help from the partner CBOs, Lee says, has changed the definition of students’ clinical hours to less passive, “fly on the wall” activities and more in the way of working directly with students.
Rachel Grgin, ISU class of 2012, reads with a student from Westcott Elementary.
In addition to time in classrooms and schools, students are completing community-asset mapping projects, exchanging knowledge and experiences with local youth, and engaging in civic and service learning projects with community-based organizations.
Each clinical trip includes balanced time in the school and in the community, providing an early immersion into Chicago communities and meaningful opportunities for development of cultural competencies.It’s also given students the option to join the Pipeline as early as freshman year since some general education courses have also been retooled.
ISU students can also participate in the CONNECT mentorship program established in 2010, through which they are paired with older elementary school students and help them work through challenges those students identify for themselves. They interact weekly on Skype, elementary school students visit ISU’s campus to learn more about college, and the college students have a chance to visit Chicago, where they engage in youth-led and -identified community service projects like tree planting or cleaning-up a rundown athletic field, complete with new equipment.
At Simeon, high school students receive a dose of their own teacher education through the pipeline’s TEACH program, Lee says. “That’s a large push, getting high school students interested in the profession,” he says. “It’s about getting them thinking of ways to give back to their own community right now and becoming a mentor or a tutor at an elementary school that they attended.”
The partnerships with schools lead to ongoing relationships, Cohen says. “We’re giving back and providing professional development to them—helping with after-school programs,” she says. “It’s not just us talking to the school and then leaving. Students graduate, and then significant numbers get jobs in the schools.”