Last Tuesday Tara Stamps gave her students at Jenner Academy of the Arts an assignment, to write a letter home.
The letter would be a good writing exercise. Could they marshal facts? Find their own voice? Spell and punctuate?
It would also serve another purpose.
After class, Stamps' sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders went home with one-page compositions that contained passages like these:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I know that you guys might be busy or occupied with something else but tomorrow at 9:00 am I need one of you to attend this meeting about CPS closing Jenner down. There will be breakfast there with other parents ...
Your Loving Son
Its me Simeon. I need you to help protest against the closing of my school. ... The system is all rigged up, everything that happens is something trying to get the lower and middle class to scamper away.
And so it came to pass that on Wednesday morning, 50 or so adults got together in the Jenner parents' room, which had just been given a new name.
"This is the Save Our School Center now," LaTonya Boykin, the assistant principal, told the assembly.
Here in the S.O.S. Center, parents could sit at the long tables and make signs. Here they could pick up petitions.
Pass them around at the Jewel, they were told, at Dominick's, at church. Don't crumple them. They need to look nice when they're presented to the board.
Here was a phone for making calls, and a list of numbers. Call the mayor, the alderman, the congressman, the senator, the Board of Education.
And call other parents.
"We had the kids write down their mama's phone numbers," Boykin told the group. "The real phone numbers."
Parents were told to come to the S.O.S. room at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28. Dinner would be served, followed by rides to the community meeting to testify in front of school officials on why Jenner should stay open.