In an effort to push a $30 million anti-violence plan, the Chicago Board of Education has decided to partner with a national advocacy organization based out-of-state, upsetting a group of local pastors who see no need to give the work to the Pennsylvania organization.
The board last week approved a $5 million contract with Youth Advocacy Programs Inc., a Pennsylvania-based national organization that offers services to at-risk youth around the world.
The anti-violence plan, put into place earlier this month, is in response to the dozens of CPS students dying each year. It will target the 200 most at-risk students through intensive counseling, mentoring and job placement, while also adding additional security to the 38 most troubled schools.
Members of the Pastors of Englewood Association, flanked by more than a dozen community supporters, told the board members they don’t want to be left out of the program that concerns the youth in their Southwest Side neighborhood.
They pleaded unsuccessfully with the board to postpone the Sept. 23rd vote until a later date.
Pastor James Dukes of the Pastors of Englewood Association said the $5 million contract that will be put in place parallels already existing efforts to help at-risk youth in their neighborhood, which has one of the city’s highest crime rates.
“For us to not even be considered for this situation is offensive. We should be the evaluators of this project, especially if it means they are coming into our communities,” said Dukes.
Dukes said his organization secures the attendance records from schools, prays for the children who are getting shot, and helps with funerals, counseling and after-school projects.
Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott said he has no intention of trying to carry out this program in isolation.
Malon Edwards, Chicago Public Schools spokesman, said the Pastors of Englewood Association has not been overlooked and will have an opportunity to become involved in the program along with any other interested parties.
“We want to make sure we have an action plan that not just involves the Englewood community, but everybody who wants to have input in this,” Edwards said.
Edwards said a meeting was scheduled between the faith-based community organization and key members of the CPS administration.
Upset by last week’s board action, the Pastors of Englewood Association, along with other pastors from around the city, are prepared to withdraw their vote of confidence for the 2016 Olympic Games, said Dukes. He wonders what kind of community involvement will be allowed with a much bigger initiative being proposed for Chicago—the 2016 Olympics.
“If we can’t trust to be involved with $34 million, how can we trust to be involved with $38 billion?” said Dukes.
Dukes said the Pastors of Englewood Association will continue to fight for what they see is best for their community.
“Especially because lives are at stake, these decisions cannot be left to back door meetings.”