Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Open Letter to the Community about St. Clotilde School

St. Clotilde Catholic Church at 8430 S. Calumet has recently caused a community stir by housing an altnertive school that started this year, without the community knowing about it.

Here is the link from Aldereman Sawyer's office: An Open Letter to the Community about St. Clotilde School

And the letter...

Dear Community,

In recent weeks there has been legitimate concern in the community about a new school that has moved into St. Clotilde on the 8400 Block of South Calumet. I have reached out to the church, school and community leaders to do an investigation into this project, and I am writing this letter to provide you with some information about how this school came to our community.

For those who are unfamiliar, it is the Richard Milbourn School, an “Alternative Safe” educational facility that accepts students from the 6-12th grades. An Alternative Safe school is a school for students who have been expelled from their primary school, but have not yet exhausted their options for returning to their home school. This facility keeps these students anywhere between 45 days and 2 years. The school had approximately 35 students when I met with the Administrator on September 12th, and can potentially house as many as 115 students. The middle school aged students are bused to and from the school and the high school age students must take public transportation to get to the school. Security officials are posted at the bus stops in the morning and afternoon, escorting students to and from school. The Administrator understands the concerns of the neighborhood, and the school administration seems well meaning in their attempts to mitigate issues in the community.

My concern, however, is in the process that was used to bring the school into the area. This school was placed in this building by the administration of St. Clotilde and the Chicago Public Schools without any consultation with the neighbors or with my office. This is disrespectful to the community and shows a complete lack of regard for the legitimate concerns of a neighborhood to opening this school in a residential neighborhood. This is not an attempt to demonize children who have made a mistake; however, there are legitimate questions about filling what was traditionally an elementary school with high school aged students. There are legitimate concerns about having teenagers take public transportation to a school that is multiple blocks from most sources of public transportation. The process that was used in installing this school ignored all of those legitimate concerns in the neighborhood.

I hope that this is not indicative of the level of cooperation we can expect from the Emanuel and Brizard administrations. I want to be partners in improving both our schools and our children, but that requires collaboration with teachers, parents, government and the community. I am asking my Chatham neighbors to keep an eye out on this school and let us know if they are being good neighbors. I would also encourage those who want to assist the school in their goal of placing these students on the right path to visit the school and offer your assistance. They have pledged to maintain an open door policy and work with the community, and I intend to hold them to that vow. The city had a poor process for placing the school in our neighborhood, but we will not allow the school to remain in our neighborhood if it actually results in problems in our community, and for that, you are my eyes and ears.


The Honorable Roderick T. Sawyer
Alderman, 6th Ward

The school has been turned over at least twice (St. Clotilde had their own school. When i moved ito the neighborhood a couple of years ago, there was New Way Christian School, which since folded). As I have walked by the church several times, I have noted just how empty and inactive it is, though having a block to work with (including a huge parking lot). I can see how desperate the church may be to have some income to maintain the property. What was the church like in its "glory days", and what happened to the people who enlivened it then?


  1. St. Clotilde went the way most Catholic educational institutions went on the South and West sides. When the communities racially changed and African Americans became more prevalent in those parishes, the white suburban parishoners left physically and financially.

    The board there has been aggressively marketing the property since they closed the school. Several alternative schools have pitched proposals to the community and were met with resistance. So it is no surprise that they did the back door move this time.

  2. I live in the immmediate community surrounding St Clotile. I am aware of only one other school attempting to move into the St Clotilde space. It was an alternative school that serviced students who had been removed from the Chicago Public School system. The community did object.
    The community was concerned with these students and the problems that they had experienced and the high senior citizen population in the neighborhood.
    The next school that wanted in was the Christian School. The community did not object. There were no problems with this school. I personally know of several community residents who went to their public meeting before they opened and offered their assistance.

    Barbara Gardner

  3. I attended St Clotilde in the sixties. The only difference between then and now is our parents had hush money available. Most of us kids moved away from the fairy tale family community. Beautiful charming and corrupt. Think back St. Clotilde community elders. Now's your chance to give time to kids in need seniors. Teach them love. It will renew you.

  4. Every time I drive by 8430 South Calumet (Saint Clotilde) I get goose bumps. This is due to the fact that I am a 1983 Graduate of Saint Clotilde (1975-1983). It amazes me that the property to this day is well maintained. My Catholic faith began at Saint Clotilde and was a proud altar boy in the church. The church parking lot was actually our playground (we played softball). Still recall those old white nuns coming to that parking lot and ringing a huge bell to end our softball games. During the 1981-1983 years, fund raising called "Four Corners" were hugely popular. The 3rd floor was our rec room (career days and science fairs) were held. When the property opened in 1930 until about 1975, the whole area was white and strongly catholic. However even during the years I was on attendance (blacks were attending both church/school), the "older blacks such as Rev. Wilbur Daniel who lived across the street from the property) the whole area was still like it was since that property was built. However, like many things it came to an end. My family moved away in 1985 as well as many others. Unfair or not, a criminal element moved into the area, especially in Cole Park (down the street) with a murder of a former Chicago Police Officer. Its truly sad that this has occurred today, as like anything it wasn't always that way.

  5. St. Clotilde thrived as a predominantly African American congregation and school for many decades. Elders members of the congregation either moved or passed away. Many St. Clotilde alumi still reside in the area, but equal numbers have moved away. While some alumni did send their children to St. Clotilde, for many it was cost prohibitive. It was within the range of affordability for many when the ucompensated Sisters of Mercy comprised most of the teaching staff. For many years the Archdiocese afforded St. Clotilde excellence in clerical leadership (Msgr. Cantrell, Fr. Kenneth Brigham, Fr. Dennis O'Neill), who energized the community, but that too declined. I returned to St. Clotilde in 2004 to arrange my mother's funeral only to encounter a callous coldness from the priest that would drive anyone away. As an alumni, I see many reasons for the decline of a once prosperous congregation. I do, however believe that a resurrection could occur given the introduction of more positive and engaged leadership and support from the Archdiocese.


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