Ald. Maldonado: Demands Quality Education for El Barrio

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    Recently, we talked with Alderman Roberto Maldonado of the 26th Ward about his passionate desire to bring Marine Math & Science Academy to our community.

    Q:  Why do you want to bring Marine Math & Science to the 26th Ward?

    RM:  As the Alderman and a parent, I feel it is my duty to provide our children with a real option to get a quality education in the 26th Ward.  That is why I have been strongly lobbying to bring Marine Math & Science Academy to our community, at the site of the Ames Middle School located at 1920 N. Hamlin. One of the main misconceptions among those who oppose Marine Math & Science is that this is like a training camp to send our children to serve in the military after graduation.  That is absolutely not true.  In fact, Marine Math & Science’s main goal is to prepare students for college and professional careers by providing an environment of structure, discipline, and a high expectation of academic performance.  I believe our youth deserve this opportunity to succeed and their futures should not be compromised by misconceptions. No one who opposes bringing Marine Math & Science to the 26th Ward has the track record of protesting military actions that I have.  I actively demonstrated in Vieques, Puerto Rico against the U.S. Navy’s military exercises and its presence in this town island of Puerto Rico, which, I am proud to say, successfully closed that military base.   Clearly, I would never promote anything that would ultimately result in putting our youth in harm’s way.  It is discouraging that despite its state-of-the-art facility, Ames has demonstrated chronic under-performance, under-enrollment, and instability with its leadership team since its inception in 1997.  The persistent underutilization of this school clearly shows that if parents have a choice they won’t send their kids to Ames for their middle school education.  As Alderman, I am fighting for a better educational opportunity for our youth.  That is why I strongly support providing our students with the option of attending Marine Math & Science—a high school with a proven track record of graduating students who attend college.

    Q: Are students obligated to serve in the military after graduation?

    RM:    No.  Marine Math & Science focuses on delivering a high-quality education with an emphasis in service, leadership development, and personal responsibility, with the principal goal of preparing all students to attend the 4-year college of their choice.

    Q: What is the college acceptance rate for Marine Math & Science students?

    RM:    95% of the class of 2012 went to college.  Together the class earned $4 million in scholarships.

    Q: Is Marine Math & Science a charter school?

    RM: No.  It’s part of the Chicago Public Schools.

    Q:  Are the teachers former service members?

    RM:    The majority of Marine Math & Science teachers have not served in the military and they are all members of the Chicago Teachers Union.

    Q:  What makes Marine Math & Science a “math and science” school?

    RM:    Marine Math & Science puts an emphasis on math and science to provide ideal preparation for college courses and the future job market, which increasingly requires a highly skilled technical workforce.

    Q:  What about other classes and extracurricular activities?

    RM: Marine Math & Science offers college credit classes and electives, including Finance, Journalism, Sociology, Art, and Band.  All team sports are offered including soccer, football, basketball, and cheerleading.  Students also take JROTC as one of their courses every year, where students learn about history, government, citizenship, leadership, personal finances and responsibility, and physical fitness.   Moreover, students are required to engage in extracurricular activities giving parents peace of mind while they are at work.

    Q: Are bilingual and special education classes offered?

    RM:    Yes.  Marine Math & Science currently serves a student population that is predominantly Hispanic and over 95% low income.  About 10% of students receive special education.

    Q: How are students chosen to attend Marine Math & Science?

    RM:    For students for which Ames would be their neighborhood middle school, 7th graders will be automatically accepted if parents so choose.  There is no minimum grade point average for acceptance.  Students can also apply for High School enrollment directly to 9th grade.

    Q: Who is the Marine Math & Science Principal?

    RM:    The Principal is Fred Aguirre, who has a strong relationship with the Humboldt Park and Logan Square communities, as well as other Hispanic communities, and who is, himself, a graduate of Benito Juarez High School where he did Marine JROTC.

    Q: How does the learning environment of Marine Math & Science compare with that of Ames?

    RM:    Marine Math & Science and Ames show major differences in terms of discipline and behavior, as measured by the number of misconducts resulting in suspension (86.2% at Ames v. 37.3% at Marine Math & Science).  Marine Math & Science provides a safe environment for our students to learn with an emphasis on discipline and structure.

    Q: Can interested parents discuss this proposal further with you?

    RM:    Absolutely.  I welcome their input.  They can call me at my 26th Ward Office at 773.395.0143; visit me at Ward Nite any Monday, 3-6 p.m.; send me an email at [email protected]; or visit me on Facebook.  Together, we can provide our children the best educational options for their future.

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