NTA protesters take their fight to Mayor’s house
November 2, 2017

Photo courtesy NTA Parents
Opponents of converting National Teachers Academy to a high school created a papier mache Ferris wheel featuring a likeness of CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

Opponents of plans to convert the National Teachers Academy elementary school at 55 W. Cermak Rd. into a high school recently took their fight to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s front door.

About 50 parents, NTA students, and their supporters paid a Columbus Day visit to Emanuel’s Ravenswood home hoping to urge the mayor to keep the NTA as an elementary school.

Chicago Public Schools authorities announced plans to turn NTA into a high school in August, pending final approval by the Board of Education. The board members—all appointed by Emanuel—are expected to approve the plan early next year.

Turning NTA into a high school will displace 700 mostly black students, most coming from families with neither wealth nor power, said NTA local school council president Elizabeth Greer.

Greer called the CPS plan an example of “neo–colonialism” and “educational imperialism. Like the story of America, the NTA story is a story of colonialization,” Greer said.

“A community that has all the advantages of wealth and power has decided they deserve something, and they’re going to take it,” she added.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and chief education officer Janice Jackson don’t see it that way.

In a letter to the parents of NTA students, the two CPS officials called the move “an important step toward building diverse, high-quality neighborhood schools that will serve your children from pre-K through high school graduation. 

“We did not take this decision lightly, and we believe this is in the best interest of the entire community,” they wrote. “We also believe it was important to make a decision so we could move forward together.”

When Korey Bilbro, parent of an NTA student and one of the speakers at the protest outside Emanuel’s house, tried to leave a letter at the mayor’s door, police blocked him.

Another NTA parent, Latasha Williams, said she thinks highly enough of the school to make the 11 mile trip every day to bring her first grader to the school.

Williams, who is eight months pregnant, said she also wants her future child to attend NTA when he or she is old enough.

While it was unclear whether the mayor was home during the demonstration, his wife, Amy Rule, came home a short time before the protest began and stayed inside during the entire demonstration.

Greer and other irate parents earlier had protested the CPS plans with a papier mache Ferris wheel during August’s Bud Billiken Day parade, an annual South Side tradition and the biggest African-American parade in the U.S. The 12-foot creation lampooned Emanuel, Claypool, and 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell for spending $26.5 million to replace the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier with the new, taller Centennial Wheel.

Greer and Hannah El-Amin, another NTA parent, said that money would have been better spent on a new high school instead of converting NTA from an elementary school to a high school.

While area parents have been demanding a local high school for more than ten years, CPS argued at several community meetings over the past two years that the only way for that to happen would be to convert NTA from a grade school to a high school.

To contact the Chicago Public Schools, call (773) 553-1000.

—Patrick Butler