Association discusses Palmer, housing at NPV
by BRIAN NADIG
Academic improvements at Palmer School, the availability of senior housing at North Park Village and a Cicero Avenue mural project were discussed at the June 4 meeting of the North Mayfair Improvement Association.
About 60 people attended that meeting at the Gompers Park fieldhouse, 4222 W. Foster Ave. Palmer principal La Shawn Ray and Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) were the guest speakers at the meeting, which also featured the resignation of an association board member who has been a vocal proponent of traffic safety improvements on Foster Avenue.
Ray told the association that teacher assessments are being used throughout the school year to make adjustments on how students should be taught. "We want to make sure kids’ needs are being met on a more frequent basis," Ray, who is completing his first year at Palmer, said.
Ray said that test scores at Palmer have improved dramatically since last year. He said that Palmer’s reading scores ranked 10th out of about 40 schools in the region this year compared to last in 2013, while scores for mathematics increased to from 32nd 17th.
It also was reported that the chronic truancy rate at Palmer recently dropped from 14 percent to no higher than 3 percent. "We hold our kids accountable," Ray said. "Our suspensions are up, but if our gains in achievement are increasing, I can sleep with that."
Palmer assistant principal Jennifer Dixon said that the school tries to address the underlying emotional issues which cause a student to have disciplinary problems.
It was announced in April that Palmer will participate in the Comprehensive Gifted Program, which provides an accelerated curriculum for the top 10 percent of students in each grade.
Also at the meeting, a woman expressed concern about the long waiting list for people who want to move into affordable senior housing at North Park Village, 5801 N. Pulaski Road. Laurino said that about 600 units have been built at North Park Village and that no more are planned.
The 150-acre site, which for many years was occupied by the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium, now contains senior housing, a nature preserve and a nature center, a gymnasium and several government buildings. The planned development ordinance for the site limits the number of housing units, Laurino said.
The plan for the final phase of construction of senior housing at the site calls for about 60 new units, which will be intended for individuals with an annual income of about $28,000 or less, Laurino said. The project follows the recent opening of the 31-unit Edward M. Marx Apartments at the village, she said.
Association president Lynn Burmeister reported at the meeting that the association is holding a community vote to choose a design for a mural for the east side of a viaduct on Cicero near Gunnison Street. Arts Alive Chicago installed a mural titled "Help Cat," which features a cat with wide grin that consists of piano keys on the west side of the viaduct last year.
Residents choose from three proposed designs online and cast their vote through June 30, Burmeister said. Two of the designs focus on the architecture of the neighborhood, including bungalows, while the third depicts scenes from a neighborhood garden.
The designs can be found on the association’s Web site, which can be reached at www.northmayfair.org.
The meeting also marked the resignation of association advertising secretary Michael Stirk, who has criticized Laurino for her handling of traffic safety near Gompers Park.
A speed camera recently was installed near the park, and plans call for upgraded traffic signals on Foster at Tripp Avenue and at Kostner Avenue. However, the city Department of Transportation rejected a request for a "road diet," which was intended to slow traffic on Foster by reducing it from two traffic lanes in each direction to one, and it denied a request for the installation of a traffic signal at Foster and Kilbourn avenues.
In a resignation letter that was read at the meeting, Stirk said, "It is very clear to all involved that my identifying the alderman’s shortcomings makes some members of the community uneasy and makes me an obstacle to meaningful change. The alderman and her staff remain resolute to shutting out public input, withholding information, and her office remains inaccessible in any significant way."
In response, Burmeister and association vice president Matt Robertson said that Laurino has met with them on several occasions and that she has been working with the association to address a variety of concerns. They said that Stirk’s letter represented his views and not those of the board.
It also was reported that the route of the association’s annual Fourth of July parade will be reversed this year, with the parade beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Palmer School and ending at the Gompers Park lagoon. The association made the change because there is more shade at the lagoon, where games and other activities will be held after the parade. Parade participants are asked to gather at the school at 9 a.m. July 4.
The association recently posted its "Plan of Action," which is a community needs assessment based on comments and suggestions that were made at several meetings, on its Web site. The plan features comments on the businesses that residents would like to see open in the area, and it calls for holding more cultural events which celebrate the neighborhood’s diversity.
The plan also states that residents want more green gardening initiatives and would like to see a Divvy bike rental station and a Zip car-sharing program. The plan also suggests the creation of a public square with a water feature, trees and benches at Lawrence and Karlov avenues.
Laurino stopped short of endorsing the plan after being asked by the association. "I think you have a lot of great ideas," she said. "I’m clearly interested in continuing the conversation."
The association meets at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month at the fieldhouse.