Attacks on Clemente High School:

Who's the Real Terrorists?
--Friends of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center

Over the past decade, Roberto Clemente High School's Local School Council (LSC) designed and implemented various reforms to offer students the best education possible, the kind of education every child deserves.

The majority of Clemente's students come from low-income homes in the predominantly Puerto Rican/Latino areas of West Town and Humboldt Park.With gentrification taking root, some politicians and realtors would prefer to turn Clemente, located at Division and Western, into a yuppie school, preparing it for the children of the coming wave of affluent, non-Latino residents. They dislike the portrait of Puerto Rican baseball hero Roberto Clemente beaming down from the outside wall of the school and the Puerto Rican flags that span Division Street nearby. During the past few years, they have waged a relentless and coordinated campaign to dismantle the progressive school reforms at Roberto Clemente.

Chicago Sun-Times cartoon published in February 1997, following bogus charge of misuse of funds by the Clemente High School Local School Council.

For a year and a half, the Chicago Sun-Times has published sensational headlines, alleging misuse of State Chapter 1 funds at the school. While certain accounting errors have come to light, two internal investigations by the Chicago Board of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education found no evidence of wrongdoing. Yet the false charges persist, promoted in a broad and decidedly negative media campaign.

A State Legislative Committee convened hearings this past Spring, supposedly to scrutinize the expenditure of anti-poverty funds by the Clemente LSC. The Chair of this Special Committee - conservative State Rep. Edgar Lopez, who advocates for Puerto Rican statehood - said that all sides of the story would be heard. Yet the largely hostile witnesses who have testified so far have presented only biased opposition to Clemente's reform efforts.

The Special Committee's principal witness is Rafael Marrero, a known FBI agent provocateur who previously bombed a bank and military recruiter's office. Marrero was also the source of the lies, innuendoes, and half-truths that made up the Sun-Times stories.

The Special Committtee's Counsel, Steven Miller, used to work for the U.S. Attorney General's Office in Chicago and advanced his career by prosecuting the Puerto Rican independence movement. He and Edgar Lopez claim their investigation concerns education, not the issue of local control over community institutions. Yet the Committee's hearings have served to attack the independence movement as well as the school reform effort at Clemente.

Miller has spent nearly $1 million over the last one and a half years on behalf of this inquisition, intimidating community activists and anyone who knows anyone who advocates Puerto Rican independence. Miller has sent State Troopers to harass people at home and at their jobs. He has issued frivolous subpoenas to individuals and organizations. Now he has submitted his "evidence" to a Federal Grand Jury and threatens prosecution for anyone who might contradict the Special Committee. Indeed, Millier has mastered '90s style McCarthyism.

We believe a group of federal, state, and local agencies have allied to not only wreck Clemente High School as we know it, but to ultimately eliminate the Puerto Rican independence movement.

This attack occurs at a critical juncture - while the U.S. and Puerto Rico debate the status of the island on the hundredth anniversary of the U.S. military invasion of the island, and while the movement to free the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War grows.

The Friends may be reached at 773.342.8023.

Clemente High School:
Progressive Reforms

Accomplishments at Clemente High School during the period of school reform over the last decade:
* Graduation increased to more than 400 students per year, with a majority of graduates attending college
* Parent Institute organized adult education classes for parents to
earn high school diplomas
* Parent Mentor program hired 50 parents, who assisted with attendance and security
* Incidents of vandalism dimished each year as more than $1 million was spent on facility improvements
* Chicago police reported fewer incidents of violence each year; gang incidents and fights became negligible; improved safety for students, faculty, and staff
* Dearborn Institute established Peer Mediation program as process for conflict resolution
* Multicultural curriculum designed by renowned Puerto Rican educator and sociologist
* Largest bilingual program in Chicago; best Vietnamese bilingual program in Illinois
* Student murals about Mexican-American, African-American, Puerto Rican, and Women's histories
* Cultural, music, and art programs brought internationally-acclaimed artists to Clemente, e.g. Ballet de San Juan
* Cultural immersion trips for students to Mexico and Puerto Rico
* Two satellite campuses established to keep "at-risk" students from dropping out
* Masters Degrees in Education earned by over 20 teachers through project established with Northern Illinois University
* Partnership agreements with Argonne National Laboratory and University of Puerto Rico to expand students' exposure to the sciences

The irony of the Board of Education's attacks on the autonomy of Clemente's Local School Council is that several of these innovations are now being emulated by the Chicago Public Schools on other campuses.

Student-made mural inside Clemente High School.

Three Little Pigs...

As State Rep. Edgar Lopez (left) dons sheep's clothing by offering phony support to a few progressive causes, he continues his witch hunt on the Puerto Rican independence movement. He and Steven ("Joe McCarthy Jr.") Miller (right) argue that Puerto Ricans are, by nature, second-class citizens who do not deserve educational quality. They strive to move all low-income Latinos out of West Town and Humboldt Park, to make room for their friend, the Third Little Pig (center).

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