I was reelected to another 2-year term on the Pilsen Academy Local School Council! For the second consecutive election I received the most votes, tied with my running-mate Dolores Cortes! Thank you to all those who came out to vote and congratulations to all those who will be serving with us.
It’s taken all summer to write this post, because like the 2 previous summers, I’ve been busy. This one was especially busy as I got engaged, bought a house, got a new job, and held two forums with two nationally recognized experts on lead in Chicago’s water. Additionally, I was re-elected to the local school council (LSC) at Pilsen Academy as a community representative. I’ll keep this post to that topic.
As you may remember, I ran with 3 existing parent representatives and another community representative. Our 3 parents won and I won. Unfortunately, our other community representative lost. Typically these races are uncontested and the seats remain vacant. Why was this LSC race so hotly contested? In a year where we actually did something, we made two enemies.
Principal Ali’s Last Stand
In one of many fruitless attempts at overturning the LSC’s decision, the previous principal convinced some people to run for parent representative. Of the two who ended up winning, one wasn’t even a parent. They were a non-guardian grandparent who, word on the street has it, was told he was signing up for a job where he only needed to show up once a month; i.e. the LSC meetings. This is consistent with talk of the old principal paying off LSC members. One rumor has it he even paid for a quinceañera for one parent.
As one would expect, neither of these people have shown up to any of the 5 meetings we’ve had so far. With another parent moving out of the neighborhood and no teachers on the council, we have 7 members who are willing and able to show. This is the minimum number of members required to do anything. Unfortunately, between sickness and travel of various members, today was the first day where we had the 7 members required for quorum. We established a regular meeting time (8:15am on the third Thursday of every month on the second floor of the annex). I was also voted to be the secretary again!
Pilsen Alliance’s Failed Revenge
The other group that appeared to be angered by our success at getting things done was Pilsen Alliance. They get money from the Chicago Teachers Union. So it looked bad for them when, after teachers suffered years of abuse from the previous principal, they did nothing to help. Not only that, it appears that two of their members switched sides and started helping the principal.
In response to me calling out their leadership, they ran two community representative candidates to get me off the council. Pilsen Alliance’s executive director, Byron Sigcho, was simultaneously running for a community representative seat at Juarez High School, so they had an organized team electioneering outside the polls on election day. They ran no parent representative candidates at either school.
I ended up having to spend the day with the LSC moms passing out our flyers and talking to parents and neighbors… Which was fun. It was the second-rate Chicago politicking that was not fun. First, a Pilsen Alliance rep was trying to spin it like they were responsible for ousting Principal Ali. The LSC moms were incredulous. Then they attacked me for being half-Mexican; e.g. “not really Mexican”. Hilariously, their candidate: also half-Mexican. Finally, they displayed their ability to make up anything while also being bad at math. They were telling parents that I was doing this for political reasons and that I would quit when it came time for the aldermanic races in 3 years. The LSC term only runs for 2 years.
I try not to take this stuff personally, but successfully defending myself from a coordinated attack by a determined opponent felt good. Unfortunately, Sigcho exerted too much energy on having me replaced and lost his own race. After the embarrassment of losing such a tiny election, they started grasping at straws and claimed that the smallest case of election fraud was the reason for his loss.
Our new principal spent the summer cleaning out the school’s 12 years of hoarding. I scored a “Sweet” old book. The dumpsters outside of the school were full all summer.
The school’s counselor was let go. I previously accused him of colluding with the old principal against the teachers. He claimed in a public meeting that Ali had given him a great review and this was not consistent with the new principal’s review. A partisan review from Ali was consistent with my understanding of the situation.
All of the middle school kids (6-8) are now on the first floor. Apparently this makes them easier to manage.
It appears Pilsen Academy will be getting a Parent University!
So that’s the local politics in Pilsen as I see it. Hopefully as our new principal settles in we keep the drama to a minimum. As I wrote earlier, I’ve got a lot of other things going on right now. Talking to teachers and staff it’s so far so good. Stay tuned.