Friday, November 02, 2007


Big talk.

Everyone is always talking about the importance of education. Everyone is always talking about convincing kids to stay in school or get back in school. Anti-crime activists tell us we have to get kids off the streets and in class.

Like so many other things, more often then not, it's just talk.

Unfortunately for them, students at an alternative school in Tucson took the talk seriously. They left the streets, went back to the classroom...and then they got locked out.


The company which owns their school building and its property managers first decided the students could study in a run down, dirty decrepit building. The students didn't think much of that idea so in the spirit of corporate America the landlord put chains up on the doors and told them they could take their business elsewhere.

Talk about "no child left behind."

Yesterday morning, students at César Chávez Middle School and Aztlán Academy in Tuscon, Arizona arrived at the school to find the doors had been chained shut. The alternative charter schools, which operate as part of César Chávez Learning Community Inc. began in 1999 and presently have about 165 students, aged 11-18 years. It's a charter school (often a problem).

The school is located in the middle of a down on its luck shopping center. Some Calif.-based property managers oversee the center for owners 88 Tampa LLC and HPSC I LLC, which bought it last year for $5.6 million. They plan to renovate the shopping center and make some money. The school be damned.

Anyway to continue the story when the students got to school yesterday bolt cutters had to be used to ensure that the students would be able to take their state-mandated AIMS testing, according to Veronica Antonio, the assistant director of the school.

The kids took their tests and later took to the street in protest of the lockout.

Officials at the school say they have had previous issues with the property including heating and cooling problems along with infestations of rats and mice.

Gee, that can't be a very good educational environment. The students know it. The staff knows it. The property owners could care less. It's a business.

The kids and the staff want out of the building more than anyone, but hey, they need a couple of months. They don't need to be evicted in the middle of the night.

Did I mention that nearly 90% of the students at the school are Latino?

"Every time we have made complaints, we get an eviction notice," Antonio said Thursday afternoon. "Just like them, we want out of here because it's not a good learning environment for the kids. But we need time, we cannot move 150 kids in 24 hours."

According to Antonio, an agreement was worked out so that the school would continue to operate at that location until Dec. 19 when winter vacation begins. From there they planned to place the students in portables on a property the school has acquired elsewhere.

In portables...that's the best we can do for kids who are trying to make it against all odds? They can try to learn with rats or they can head for the double wides. What a deal.

What's wrong with a nation that can spend billions on war machines, but can't find the means to give some kids the chance to learn.

But we talk a good game anyway. Hell, if these kids were in Iowa some politician of the liberal stripe would stop by for a photo op about how much they care...and some politician of the conservative stripe would stand out front to complain about illegal immigrants stealing our birthright.

That's what makes this country great.


The following is from KMSB in Tucson, Arizona.

Local students protest against school landlord

A battle between a local school and its landlord prompted more than 100 students to walk out of school in protest today.

They claim the school is rundown and a tough place to learn.

Students at Cesar Chavez Middle School and Aztlan Academy say they learn to fight for their rights.

When they got to school, the front doors had locks on them that had to be cut off. Students protested because they believe it was the landlord’s way of taking away their education.

Although it may seem unusual to see over 100 students stand along Sixth Avenue screaming, holding signs and playing their instruments, when you learn why they are doing it maybe you will understand.

“We haven’t had air conditioning in three years,” Sister Judy Bisignano, the school’s director, reveals. “There’s no heater in the winter. The mice run across the computer.”

Classrooms at Cesar Chavez Middle School and Aztlan Academy ended early so students could hold a protest.

Bisignano admits, “We march all the time for justice.”

They decided to do it today when students and staff got to school and the doors did not open.

“There were chains on the front door of the school,” Bisignano explains. She says the building’s landlord put the chains there because they want them off the property. The school has ongoing structural problems Bisignano says the landlord will not fix.

Nevertheless, students look beyond the problems every day. For many, they say it is better than the problems they face at home.

“These kids have all been on the streets,” Bisignano reveals. “They’ve returned to school.”

Students tell Fox 11 News they will do whatever it takes to get an education, even if it means missing school.

Gael Valdez, a student, explains, “It’s like a big family there. Everyone cares about each other.”

“They give you the best support,” Jovanka Gomez, another student, reveals. “They cheer you on to keep on coming to school.”

Bisignano admits, “Cesar Chavez taught people how to assert their rights in a non-violent way. What better way than to get the kids involved.”

Fox 11 News spoke to the landlords of the building tonight. They say they had nothing to do with the chains. Sister Judy disagrees.

Regardless of who is right, the school plans to move to a new location near 29th Street and Interstate 10 early next year.

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