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Olympic Week in Chicago: Daley Wins the Strong Arm

By Kevin Robinson in News on May 5, 2009 2:20PM

2009_5_owia.jpg While White House adviser Valerie Jarrett got a special ethics waiver to help out with Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, Mayor Daley was busy dropping the hammer on public school principals for Olympic Week in America. The president of the Chicago Public Schools board, who is also a member of the Chicago 2016 Olympic committee sent an email out to city principals April 22, urging them to get their schools behind the bid. According to the Tribune, Board President Michael Scott sent out an email saying "I am requesting that you register your school for Olympic Week in America. Please take a few minutes to identify a staff person who can register your school." Scott's e-mail added that each school's participation would be graded as "gold, silver or bronze," and that activities to promote the city's Olympic bid include raising the Chicago 2016 flag at the school and including Olympic-themed activities in the classrooms. Scott's email said that one of his staffers would follow up with principals by phone.

While Scott's email closed with "You must sign up by Monday, April 27", he said that participation was "absolutely voluntary." The Chicago Teacher's Union however felt that the email was coercive. "The language in the memo didn't seem to leave participants much choice," said Rosemaria Genova, press secretary for the Chicago Teachers Union. She noted that it would be difficult for educators to get behind the bid when schools near Olympic venues are slated to close. "Many people favor the idea of the Olympics coming to Chicago, but it is difficult for principals, teachers and staff to participate in Olympic-themed activities when schools are closing in areas near Olympic venues." Those site include Lathrop School near Douglas Park and a campus near the United Center, both proposed Olympic venues.

Tom Tresser from No Games Chicago, a group opposing the bid, said that principals may feel threatened if they don't comply. "If the principal's contract is up this year or next year, will it be renewed?" Tresser told the Tribune.