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Proviso Probe

Monday, May 01, 2006

HEALTH, demonstration a McKinley Elementary School [D88]

This morning I was able to observe the conditions at McKinley Elementary School in Bellwood. Everyone agrees that the physical condition at McKinley Elementary School is unsatisfactory.

The District 88 Board of Education is divided into a majority block (four votes) and an opposition block (three votes). The majority includes: Marilyn Thurman (president), Ton Anderson, Maria Castrejon and Tommie Miller. (See Proviso Probe for the meeting that made Thurman president of the board.) The opposition is comprised of Althea Busby, Antonette “Toni” Dorris and John Wicks. Before Castrejon switched factions the current opposition block was in the majority.

The majority block sees the problem at McKinley as primarily being about the water leaking into the school. The majority has voted to put a new roof on McKinley for $300,000 and the school will be replaced at some point in the future.

The minority block disagrees with spending $300,000 to fix the roof. James Graham, Sr., the former director of facilities, has advised the minority that a product exists that will seal the leaks for a few years for $20-30,000. But the leaking roof isn’t the primary problem at this point.

The minority points to a health survey done by University of Illinois at Chicago, an evaluation by the Cook County Department of Health (see Proviso Probe for text) and numerous ailments of students and staff as evidence that the air quality of the building is unhealthy. Mold growth and asbestos make McKinley an unhealthy place to work and attend school. Replacing the roof isn’t going to fix either of these problems.

Further, the minority points out spending $300,000 fixing a building that everyone agrees should be replaced as soon as possible is wasteful. The minority accuses the majority of wanting to put money in the pocket of a politically connected contractor. Presumably the contractor will engage in some form of kickback—campaign contributions, hiring cronies, etc.

This morning Board Members Dorris and Wicks were at the school distributing a flyer that stated, “MOLD and ASBESTOS KILLS!” [sic]. Along with seven parents and community activists they were inviting parents to attend this evenings District 88 board meeting at the Administrative Center on Eastern.

Board Member Dorris made the case that the district has money to relieve overcrowding at Grant Elementary School (which serves the mostly Latino population of Stone Park), but considers the health threat at McKinley (which serves the mostly African-American population of Bellwood) a lower priority.

Dorris claimed that the Village of Bellwood may contribute funds to rebuilding McKinley out of the newly proposed TIF district money.

Board Member Wicks made the case that District 88 has failed to get reasonable return on investment from past construction. He compared District 88 to District 92.

Last week when I spoke to Board Member Castrejon she said that it was unrealistic to expect the students to be removed from McKinley as soon as September, 2006. To build a new school requires a bond to be issued. Issuing a bond requires a referendum. The board is doing the best it can with the options the staff has presented.

In my opinion (IMO) the health threat at McKinley should be a priority. If District 88 can’t obtain the money through normal channels it should go outside normal channels to do what’s necessary to educate McKinley students in an environment that does not pose an active health risk. District 88 should get help from the Village of Bellwood, Cook County, the State of Illinois and the federal government to address the immediate health threat.

Sending affluent “White” children to a mold infested school would be unthinkable. The government would do what was necessary to keep those children safe. District 88 parents have got to demand their children get treated with dignity too.

To get the money to replace McKinley the District 88 board needs to work together. Unfortunately there are interpersonal conflicts that will prevent working together. Part of the conflict may be theories of governance, but much of it is these people just don’t like each other. As Arnie Bryant says, “The District 88 board is dysfunctional.”

If Board Members Anderson and Miller could be untethered from their political boss, board attorney Emanuel “Chris” Welch… And if Board Members Busby and Castrejon could form a strong working relationship… And if the board seated Board Member Thurman far away from Board Members Dorris and Wicks, just maybe, District 88 could put the welfare of staff and students first for long enough to enact a plan that would allow McKinley students to go to school in a safe environment—meaning not the current building—in the fall.

7 Comments:

  • I took some pictures of the physical problems at McKinley, but Blogger isn't letting me upload them.

    I'm moving toward, "Cynthia was right" about leaving Blogger.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 11:05 AM, May 01, 2006  

  • Hey Carl,
    We really wish we could see some pics firsthand on that school districts mold infested school. I guess my first question is why did they build the new school on 25th ave without considering demolishing McKinley first? I guess the only one around now who could answer that question would be the Thurman lady. McKinley is over 80 years old and it is a death trap from what they are telling the parents. It is even rumored that the current principals heart and health problems may be directly related to the unsafe and unsanitariy conditions inside the walls of Mckinley school. Can we get the health department out or maybe even OSHA to make a decission on weqather or not the school is safe or is it in fact a 'sick school".

    By Anonymous "grape juice", at 11:57 AM, May 01, 2006  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous telling the truth, at 3:01 PM, May 01, 2006  

  • Didn't your moma teach you anything about The Fair Use Doctrine in terms of Copyright Violations...

    You could shut this place down and Cost Carl a boat load of money

    You may not place a full article on a blog

    you may not place an article on a blog w/o citing it i.e http://www.russstewart.com/4-19-06.htm

    Also, the way you have spammed this board up with this article

    You make it appear like you wrote it and Not Myself Attorney Russ Stewart of the Nadig Newspaper group


    Pull this down or you will get a call from me

    By Anonymous Russ Stewart, at 3:51 PM, May 01, 2006  

  • Don't take other people's work without referencing the source. It's rude and technically illegal.

    And when you do quote their stuff you should keep it to 10% or less and no more than four paragraphs.

    However, my understanding of the law is that I'm not any more liable for what people post in the comments than Blogger is. Federal law protects both the blogger and the host company from liability for stuff placed by third parties in comments.

    So, if you slander somebody or otherwise violate the law, you ass is on your own.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 4:09 PM, May 01, 2006  

  • I am an alum of McKinley who just happened to google it to see what I would find. I am sick to my stomach to hear of the school's condition as well as the safety of the children. Is the entire school bad now?

    Although not in the area any more I urge you to keep fighting and let your voices be heard. You will win if you keep up the noise.

    Good Luck!

    just call me a "1981 6th grader at Mckinley"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:55 PM, May 08, 2006  

  • OK after thinking more about this last night, I have questions that I hope someone on this can answer..

    Can the school be repaired?

    What about getting a referendum to the taxpayers to raise the money that is needed for whatever decision is finally made?

    Get this story on TV...Fox News, Oprah, something as a lot of people in the area may not have internet access

    Can the school be gutted then redone? Would it be cheaper than a whole new structure?

    Is there a task force for this?

    Is the Bellwood Mayor aware of this and if so what is he doing about it?

    What about the teacher's union? When is their contract up and they make this a demand?

    Has anyone talked with other schools about this to see what they did?

    ie send kids to one school maybe PT even while McKinley is fixed, rebuilt, whatever?

    FINALLY worry about placing blame AFTER we know the problem is fixed/being fixed and the children are safe.

    This could be used to teach the kids how to fight with pride about something rather than bash both sides.

    These kids are our future whether they end up living in Bellwood or not. Hopefully Dist. 88 can see this as an opportunity to educate them in other ways besides the books and make them into responsible and caring citizens.

    For some school is their retreat, their teacher, their savior from the harsh outside world. Don't make this worse.

    Get Dist 88 to make this #1 on their list and get a group going on it. If Chicago can do things like this, I KNOW Bellwood can!

    EMPOWERMENT PEOPLE! REMEMBER EMPOWERMENT!

    GOOD LUCK!!!!

    PS I don't live in Bellwood now, but I was born and raised there for over 20 years. I am a former student of Dist 88 and Dist 209 and I believe in the future! DO IT FOR THE KIDS!!! ANd hey, if an "outsider" can help, please post suggestions as I'd love to get involved.

    Also, can someone write and explain how far back these problems have started? I know the middle portion of the school dates back to 1928 and the front 1961 and if I remember, the part by Eastern was 1976 or 1977.

    By Anonymous Start from square 1..., at 8:07 AM, May 09, 2006  

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