Ravenswood Elementary: Can You Spare a Square of Paper?

By Patty Wetli | Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ravenswood Elementary School. Credit: Mike Fourcher

Forget high-level discussions regarding a longer school day, teacher tenure and national initiatives like Race to the Top. Ravenswood Elementary, 4332 N. Paulina St., has a more pressing concern: The school is running out of copy paper.

If Brian Ban, a neighborhood resident for 10 years, is elected as a community representative to the school’s Local School Council, his primary focus will be to make neighbors aware of what’s going on in their own back yard. “I’d send out an S.O.S.: ‘We need paper.’”

A member of the 47th Ward’s Center47 block club, Ban is convinced area residents would be more than willing to help the school, if only they were asked or knew how to help. “There’s very little outreach outside ‘Friends of...,’” he said. “We had the LSC [candidate] forum and I asked, ‘Do you go out to neighborhood groups? Do you get on the agenda and ask, What can your group do to help us?’”

Having formerly worked in corporate relations, Ban sees the need for a communications strategy that would better connect Ravenswood to its neighbors, particularly at a time when the school is being challenged to do more with less.

Though not as lauded as fellow elementary schools in the ward such as Bell or Coonley, Ravenswood has quietly become one of CPS’ best-kept secrets; in a show of confidence, the principal enrolls her own children at the school. Ranked a Level 2 school of “good” standing (Level 1 is “excellent”), the school has gained a reputation for its emphasis on small class size and its curriculum, which, as a fine and performing arts magnet cluster, supports artistic as well as academic achievement.

But this steady improvement has resulted in growing pains. “I think we’re going to need [an annex],” said Edie Babbitt, mom to a kindergartner at Ravenswood, where she’s running for parent representative on the LSC. Each grade will have two classes next year and the school’s multi-purpose room, dubbed the “cafegymatorium,” is taxed to the limit.

“You need more money to expand the school,” said Mike Brandfon, also a community candidate for LSC. “Parents are involved, doing whatever they can, but parents are not enough, with diminishing funds.”

As fewer low-income students enroll at Ravenswood, the school loses the money attached to those children. According to Ban, this shortage could reach $200,000 in the 2012-13 school year. “They have big challenges; you need big solutions.”


LSC elections for elementary schools will be held April 18, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., at each school. All residents, not just parents, are eligible to vote at their neighborhood school.



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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Colleen-McVeigh/100001103045649 Colleen McVeigh

    Ravenswood Elementary is most certainly well known in the community and outside the community. Last year, we had over 700 students apply to attend our school through the lottery system. Obviously some one somewhere has heard of our ‘little’ school.  In addition, the “Friends of” group to which Mr. Ban disparagingly refers is a a crucial coalition of parents, teachers and community members who work to raise money for the school and volunteer at school functions.  AND as part of that group, a community relations task force works to communicate with the community and with businesses in the area.    Mr. Ban and his running mate Mr. Brandfon should actually visit the school before contacting media such as the NCJ to make ill informed self serving statements.  All of the information they cite here came from information informally shared at the LSC Candidates Forum.  Until the forum, neither had set foot inside the school.  Although both were invited to attend the highly recommended school musical the following week, neither one showed.  What a shame….both men would have seen what an ‘unknown, underfunded’ educational institution is capable of.

    • bban

       Hi Colleen – Thanks for the feedback.  I have taken the Ravenswood School tour and loved it!  We have a tight block with some 20+  in-district kids under the age of 5.  Most of our residents, if not all, do not know that the school lacks certain fundamental items (at times) such as paper, which struck a chord with me.  My feedback comes from speaking with parents, school leaders and teachers, taking the tour, and lastly the LSC Forum.  If you would like to talk direct, or if anyone else has question for me, feel free to call me on my cell phone (773) 454-7423.  I welcome open dialogue and would have loved to have met you at the LSC Q&A the other night at the Dank Haus which was open to everyone.  Also, I’m not running with anyone.  I’m just a concerned resident/parent trying to be an asset to the community/school. Please remember that this article was not an essay coming from my pen, but a reporter who happened to attend the community Q&A.  I certainly don’t think you will disagree that Ravenswood faces some difficult challenges ahead, and in that realm I look forward to working with you (either as an LSC member or parent) to meet them and surpass them.   

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8613989 Jenny Beorkrem

    This article seems like propaganda for Mr. Ban, rather than a real call to action for the local community, as the headline leads. Mr. Ban says he would issue an S.O.S., but why doesn’t he just DO IT in this article by telling his community what actions they could take. Is there a vehicle for donations? Are they taking donations of paper? Can it be dropped off at the school? Are there any other supplies they’re in need of?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8613989 Jenny Beorkrem

    Apologies, I’ve now read Mr. Ban’s comments below, but I’d still like to see some information about how people can help. The headline and first paragraph are misleading.

  • http://twitter.com/HoustonIsVile Houston is vile

    Propaganda?  This is an article about a man running for community representative for the school council.  How is this propaganda?  Mr. Ban was interviewed and explained his views.  I don’t understand comments from Ms. McVeigh and Ms. Beorkrem.  So many people sit by and do nothing.  Here is someone getting involved in his community who wants to help.  Yet the comments here criticize Mr. Ban because he didn’t attend a school play and the article (which he didn’t write) didn’t make a call to the community.  These comments are foolish, petty and barely address the content of the article.

  • bban

    Hi Jenny – The “FORS” website is a great place to start.  It is an incredible group of concerned parents and community members.


  • wendyvasquez

    Jenny, monetary donations can be made at http://www.friendsofravenswood.com (donation button in top right corner of home page).  There are also a couple of Donors Choose projects that are open (and almost funded!) that you can find on the “fundraising” page of the same website.  I’m sure the school would happily accept paper donations!  The middle doors on Paulina are the main entrance, and the office is directly above those doors.  Thank you!

    The community forum was scheduled for the same night as Ravenswood’s monthly LSC meeting, so no incumbent LSC members were able to attend the forum.

  • teachers_husband23

    I will remain anonymous because my wife is a Chicago Public School Teacher on the westside and I have seen how defensive her colleageus can get when regular citizens try to help out.  It seems to me people inside the education system tend to view any suggestions or acitve help as criticism.  It seems to me Mr. Ban is doing precisely what most of us feel citizens should do, try to participate and help out the public school system.  He is not “overstepping” and attempting to micro manage the classroom, he is simply pointing out that there seem to be some easy actions that local citizens could take to help solve issues.  Teachers should not have to bring supplies for their students (many do).   If every time people in our democracy step forward to help out (in this case Mr. Ban),  the entrenched special interests/status quo (in this case Ms. McVeigh, who sounds like a teacher at the school) get defensive and personally attack them, rather than engaging in a thoughtful discussion, and the rest of us sit by siliently, we have failed as citizenry. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Colleen-McVeigh/100001103045649 Colleen McVeigh


      “Entrenched”  “Special
      interests”— harsh words based on assumptions. 
        But rather than address your perceived issues with me, I want to
      clarify that I am not defensive because I perceive Mr. Ban to be
      overstepping.  Community support is always welcome.  I am irritated and dismayed with the tone of
      the article and the tone his quotes themselves take.  He presents himself as a savior to our
      ‘beleaguered unknown’ school.   We are not unknown, and have sought
      out community support and involvement—and have done so for years.  We have a robust parent/community group.   Mr.
      Ban has decided to run as a community rep on the LSC and has put himself out
      there speaking for the school, but he knows next to nothing about the
      school.  The information he shares in his
      quote was from an informal presentation by the principal, and is completely out
      of context.  Thus, T-H23, is the crux of
      my problem with Mr. Ban–speaking without knowing the facts, sloppy research,
      and a self serving agenda.

  • GregJanes

    There is a Friends of Ravenswood School meeting this Tuesday April 17 at 6:30 at the school.  I invite everyone to attend.   Let’s each bring a ream of paper to the meeting.  You can also go to http://friendsofravenswood.com to find out more about the school and ways to get involved.

    As a parent at  Ravenswood, I know all about the great things happening
    there.  I also know how difficult it is working in this school system.  As a former teacher, I know about the end of the year supply shortages.  As a current LSC member, I know that Ravenswood School has a strategy to move the school forward.  Everyone in the Ravenswood community is needed as part of that strategy. 

    • GregJanes

       The FORS meeting is at 7:00 p.m. tonight, rather than 6:30 a.m.  Hope to see everyone there.

  • RavenswoodParent

    It’s interesting how quickly these conversations get heated.  I’m a Ravenswood parent and I love the school — and yet I know I get defensive when people talk of how we need to “promote the school” and “raise its profile.” 

    Why do we need a higher profile?  As it is, we’re turning away families who are eager to enroll their students in our excellent Kindergarten programs.

    If a higher profile means more outside funding (and less of a burden on families who are already funding & fund-raising to make up the gaps that CPS doesn’t fill) I will support it.  Otherwise, it seems it would create an even higher demand for a school that’s already at capacity.

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