John Kass –
September 12, 2012
When Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis led her members out on strike this week, she said real school would be closed.
“Negotiations have been intense but productive,” she said. “However, we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike. Real school will not be open (Monday).”
Real school? You mean that public system where four of 10 students don’t graduate?
Since real school wasn’t open, I was compelled to visit an unreal school.
A South Side school where 100 percent of the students graduate, and 100 percent are accepted to college. A Roman Catholic all-boys school that draws from poor and working-class neighborhoods, a school where there are no cops or metal detectors, no gang recruitment, no fear.
An unreal school that is mostly black, but with a smattering of whites and Latinos, and where every student who sees a stranger in the halls goes up to the newcomer, introduces himself, shakes his hand, looks him in the eye and calls him Mister.
Leo High School, at 79th and Sangamon, seemed pretty unreal to me, too.
Leo isn’t pretty. It’s 87 years old. The staircase steps are worn and scalloped from all those years of boys tromping to class. But the minds inside are sure springy, like that of Jeremy Clark, future G-man.
“I want to study criminal justice and join the FBI,” said Clark, a junior. “Because I want to be an advocate for justice. It’s been a dream all my life to join the FBI, and I will.”
Clark hails from the Roseland neighborhood. He could have gone to a public high school. That, Clark said, would be “totally different. There, it’s every man for himself. At Leo, it’s a brotherhood. We’re all brothers here. You get things done together.”
I told him what Lewis said about real school being closed.
“So we’re not a real school?” Clark said and laughed. “No, actually it’s totally the opposite. The real schools aren’t closed. The real schools are in session, because we’re trying to learn.”