New Letters to Mayor Show Growing Support for Improving Chess in CPS
- Published on Friday, 23 March 2012 16:01
- Written by Jerry Neugarten
A series of recent letters from Illinois chess leaders to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel show support is growing to strengthen the chess program in Chicago's public schools. The letters, collected here, were written by the state's Grandmasters and International Masters, CPS chess coaches, major organizers, parents and others. Focusing on the low number of chess players in Chicago and the city's virtual absence from the state and national competitive scenes, they urge the mayor to support ICA's proposal, at no cost to the city, to raise funds and set up an independent office which would introduce chess to thousands of new kids and bring many new coaches into Chicago's schools.
Only about 1,500 of the 400,000 students in CPS have access to a chess program, compared to 23,000 in New York and 4,000 in smaller cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami. Roughly 10% of CPS schools have chess programs in relation to percentages as high as 80% elsewhere. New York generally dominates national competitions.
Some of the letters urge the mayor to model a new chess program on Chicago's successful Debate League, overseen by the independent Chicago Debate Commission. One such letter was signed by Michael Zacate, a respected 45-year veteran of chess in Illinois and CPS. Another letter making the same recommendation was signed by coaches representing the vast majority of chess players in CPS. Other letters describe the plight of parents who have struggled to run clubs on their own and the inability of families in their schools to pay the fees charged by private chess companies.
Talks on the ICA proposal with senior CPS staff began two years ago. The Mayor's office took over the discussions last summer and convened a meeting on the proposal in November. The letter from GMs and IMs , who were represented at the meeting by GM Yury Shulman, includes an account of the meeting and concludes with an unqualified endorsement of ICA's proposal. "Only the ICA has the energy, vision and expertise to build a top quality program and has done the careful planning required," said their letter. "Your leadership is required to break the stalemate."
ICA has offered to run the program for free and has teams of volunteers ready to start, including 14 individuals who have produced city, state or national champions. Approximately $400,000 will be needed to run the program, and ICA has engaged one of the city's top fund-raisers, who has offered her services on a pro bono basis. The only requests made by ICA of the city are a formal announcement of support, deemed essential in the fund-raising effort, and the designation of a liaison within CPS to help ensure that the program runs smoothly.
The proposal enjoys broad support from the Illinois chess community. Additional supporters are listed on page 12 of the proposal.
A letter from Eileen Schmakel, the mother of Whitney Young student and national champion Sam Schmakel, ends on a light note and a personal appeal to the mayor: "We will do all the work, we will pay for everything, everyone will love you and it will look good on your resume."
Letters to Mayor Emanuel:1CPS chess coaches (March 6, 2012)
Illinois Grandmasters and International Masters (January 20, 2012)
Michael Zacate (February 6, 2012)
Sevan Muradian (February 18, 2012)
Eileen Schmakel (February 15, 2012)
Herbert Lichtman (February 15, 2012)
Julie Vassillatos (September 12, 2011)
Additional letters:1GM Yury Shulman to Jenné Myers, Mayor Emanuel's Chief Service Officer (November 30, 2011)
Pattie Zinski to Jenné Myers (November 29, 2011)
GM Mesgen Amanov to Jenné Myers (November 15, 2011)
Illinois Grandmasters and International Masters to Mayor Richard M. Daley (Oct. 29, 2010)
1. All letters are published with permission of the authors.