CPS officials take to pulpit to urge first day attendance

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As members of the faith community prepared for a boycott of public schools starting Tuesday, the first day of the school year, Chicago Public Schools officials went on the stump in pulpits at several South and West Side churches urging kids to attend the

As members of the faith community prepared for a boycott of public schools starting Tuesday, the first day of the school year, Chicago Public Schools officials went on the stump in pulpits at several South and West Side churches urging kids to attend the first day and everyday of class.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan and school board President Rufus Williams were met with ovations and shouts of “amen” as they told parents in church congregations that in school was the proper place for their children to be Tuesday.

Church pastors, who sympathized with the “message” of the boycott, called for by Rev. Sen. James Meeks, D-15th, pastor of Salem Baptist Church, but rejected his “methods,” also encouraged students to go to school on the first day.

“We promote education,” Pastor Tyrone Crider of Mt. Calvary Church, 1259 W. 111th St., said before Williams spoke to the congregation.

“We are going to school on the first day,” Crider declared, as his congregation stood and applauded.

Williams’ message was emphatic.

“Attendance matters,” he said. The CPS official acknowledged that public school funding is an issue worthy of attention by state lawmakers.

But that “Black ministers would ever conceive of a plan to tell children not to go back to school” was not a viable solution to the problem, Williams told the Mt. Calvary congregation.

Williams took his message to two other South Side churches and one West Side church Sunday.

Speaking mostly at West Side churches, Duncan’s plea was impassioned.

“We’ve struggled too hard” to make the strides made in the city’s 400,000-student public school system, Duncan told worshippers at Greater Open Door Church, 1301 S. Sawyer.

Duncan said he also supported a need for more equitable school funding and thanked Meeks for bringing the issue to the forefront.

But the CPS chief rejected the idea of encouraging students to miss school.

“Our children need to go to school the first day and everyday,” Duncan said.

At each of the seven churches Duncan visited, three on the South Side and four on the West Side, he left book bags filled with school supplies for the churches’ students.

Rhonda Gillespie can be reached via email at rgillespie@chicagodefender.com.

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In photo: Rufus Williams outside of Mt. Calvary Church, 1259 W. 111th St., after speaking there Sunday, August 31, 2008.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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