Days after Payton College Prep forfeited last Saturday night’s baseball game, amid parents concerns about their kids traveling to play Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, the matchup has been rescheduled for this Saturday night.
The news came after a Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett met with Payton’s principal and baseball coach over the controversial cancellation.
“This was an opportunity for her to hear directly from both of them to hear what happened, and what could be done to prevent it from happening in the future,” CPS spokeswoman Kelley Quinn wrote in an emailed statement. “They also discussed what could be done to start the healing process between both school communities.”
On Monday evening, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped by Brooks’ game against Morgan Park High School at Brooks, where he talked to players on both teams, students and Brooks Principal D’Andre Weaver.
“These are good kids,” Emanuel told WBBM-Channel 2 at the game. “It’s not only a good baseball team. This is now the 13th best high school in the entire state.
“Sixty percent of the kids are in AP classes. These are very good kids, and I want everyone in the city to know it,” he added.
Earlier Monday, Payton Principal Timothy Devine denied that his school canceled the Saturday night baseball game at Brooks over concerns about Payton students’ safety, and he called reports to the contrary “a gross misrepresentation of the facts.”
“What I have found thus far is that the cancellation came about due to poor communication by the coach to our baseball parents about the date and time of the game, who would be responsible for transportation to and from the game, and which players would dress for game,” Devine told students and faculty, according to a CPS source. “This poor communication led to frustration on the part of some families and the ultimate cancellation of the game.”
Devine talked about the controversy over the school’s public announcement system on Monday. A written copy of his remarks was provided to the Chicago Sun-Times by the CPS source.
Devine said the cancellation had nothing to do with “race or purported violence in the Roseland community.”
Devine’s words came a day after Brooks’ baseball coach Bryan Street vowed to never again play the North Side school. Street told the Sun-Times over the weekend that he was deeply disappointed after learning that eight Payton parents had refused to let their kids travel to Brooks for a 7 p.m. Saturday game, citing safety concerns. On Saturday, Payton head coach William Wittleder told the Sun-Times, “About three, four parents [came] up to me, saying they’re not letting their kids go down there.” Wittleder called the decision to cancel the game “one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had.”
But Devine said the cancellation had nothing to do with concerns about security. “Importantly, many of our Payton students hail from the Roseland community and many of our Payton students have friends at Brooks . . . ” Devine said. “Payton has many ties to Brooks and the community in which is it situated.”
Devine blamed the media, saying: “Obviously, the media chose to pick up the story and morphed it from issues completely internal to Payton’s baseball program and concocted it into something that it is not. . . . In the absence of fact, fiction found its way into the story.”
At Payton’s baseball game at Taft High School on Monday night, a Payton parent who didn’t give her name echoed Devine’s statement: “As a parent, it’s a really sad position the kids are in right now. Inaccurate stories are really putting them in a difficult position right now of being stigmatized.”
As school let out Monday, Payton senior Max Bouvagnet shared his opinion: “Parents are completely justified to not want their kids out at 10:30 at night in some part of the city they may not know and that may not be even remotely close to where they live,” he said.
Bouvagnet and several classmates said the issue was not about class or race.
“It was a safety issue wherever it would have been in the city,” Bouvagnet said. “Some sort of classism or elitist thing was insinuated because it was in a neighborhood that has been associated with black people or poverty or violence or whatever, but I think [if this happened] on the North Side no one would have said anything because they wouldn’t have been able to make a connection like that.”
Enid Gonzalez said Monday outside Payton that she pulled her daughter out of competitive swimming because she couldn’t drive her to every swim meet.
“As a parent, you have to make decisions about what’s right for your kid depending on where they have to travel and how they get there,” Gonzalez said. “Taking public transportation is not always safe. . . . But if the school buses kids, absolutely they should go wherever the sport takes them.”
© Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC