NTA Students Interrupt CPS Steering Committee Meeting:
“We’re not fighting for us. We’re fighting for them.”
CHICAGO – Student organizers from National Teachers Academy interrupted the Near South Steering Committee meeting held on Thursday, November 9th at True Rock Ministries. From the beginning, the voices of the NTA community have not been fairly represented nor valued by CPS. We have not had a true seat at the table. And so students decided to bring their own chair. But they were not welcome yet again by CPS. A group of approximately 40 NTA supporters, including middle schoolers, parents, and younger students, barged in on the meeting, chanting “We Are NTA! We won’t go away!” The middle school students then proceeded to refute, point-by-point, the items on the agenda for the meeting, which focused on ways to transition the current NTA students out of their building to make way for a high school to serve the Near South Side.
Seventh grader Keon Snulligan addressed the committee, which is made up of representatives from the surrounding communities, including Chinatown and Drake Elementary. “Why would you try to close something that you don’t have nothing to do with?” He continued, alluding to the fact that since 2015, discussions about closing NTA have been going on between CPS, Alderman Pat Dowell, and the Mayor’s office. “This is something that has been going on for years, and NTA is not just a school, it’s a community. And you don’t know what you’re throwing in the trash.”
The students’ comments were not welcomed by Herald “Chip” Johnson, Chief Officer of FACE2, who responded to their points about CPS’ plan to close NTA by stating, “It [the proposal] has nothing to do with closing NTA. The proposal says it’s transitioning into a high school…You all remain at NTA until your senior year of high school. NTA continues to be yours for the life that you are there for.” He continued, “A lot of other information that’s out there is poison.”
Before exiting the room, Elisabeth Greer, the chair of the ALSC at NTA, addressed the committee and urged them to push back against the proposal. “The reason CPS is trying to convert NTA into a high school is because they claim they don’t have the money to build one. This, however, is not true. The city has money. They just choose to spend it elsewhere.” She then pulled out printouts of news stories about the $95 million Cop Academy, the $75 million to be spent on the new Englewood high school, new annexes to be built for Dore Elementary, Sheridan, and Skinner West, as well as a proposal to build a new high school in Dunning. She also pointed to the upcoming property tax increase and SB1 as sources of additional funding. “We on the Near South Side deserve better than a 1,000-seat, converted elementary school. Build us a brand new high school that will accommodate all of us, including our neighbors from Chinatown and from Drake.”
Everyone was then asked to leave, which they did peacefully.
Once outside, the students expressed anger at how they were treated. They also stressed that as eighth graders, they will graduate from NTA long before CPS’ timeline to convert the Level 1+ elementary school into a high school. The students made it clear that they were protesting not on their own behalf, but on the behalf of the younger students at NTA. Student activist Taylor Wallace stated, “What about the fourth graders? The third graders? The first? The second? It’s not just about us. I know we’re graduating, but it’s their school, too.”
Fellow 8th grade student activist Marieyea Crawford agreed, “We’re not fighting for us. We’re fighting for them.”
National Teachers Academy is a Level 1+ school—the highest ranking given to schools within the district. Its population is approximately 75% African American and 75% low-income. CPS has recently introduced a proposal to close the high-performing school and displace its students in order to convert the building into a high school for the South Loop.