Read all about it…

Today’s newsletter topics:

1 Waters Ecology, Pete Leki, and the school in the news…

2 LSC meeting mark your calendar Tues, Sept 20. Stand up! (see below)

3 Send us your questions, your comments, your brainstorms, and your letters.

4 Who’s Managing this Garden? Cucumbers and tomato plants ripped out!

5 Saturday, Sept 17 9-12 Garden Stewardship morning.

6 Gardeners invited to join Riverbank Neighbors Sunday

7 Sunday North Center Sustainability Market



  1. Click on the image to link to the article. See below for essential quotes.

“Leki himself used to be a Waters parent and is now a grandparent to a student there. Three decades ago, while heading the Waters’ Local School Council, Leki led the effort to transform the school’s asphalt into a lush area that is now said to be home to more than 130 species of native plants.
Not long after, Leki became director of the school’s ecology program, overseeing the school’s natural spaces, supervising students as they harvest crops and leading field trips to places such as Sauganash to hunt invasive European buckthorn and Montrose Point to cast a pole for gobies. He has spearheaded compost and recycling initiatives as well. This work led him to be featured in CPS’ climate action plan for 2021-23.”

“In an email provided to the Tribune and the Board of Education, Leki told Rutkowski and LSC chairperson Liz Chandran on July 15 he would accept the offer, either as a CPS vendor or employee, and that he would seek to restore the other 30% of his salary through grants and fundraising through an independent organization. Chandran declined to comment to the Tribune.
“The entire community was under the false impression that I had refused the salary reduction and refused to be a CPS employee,” Leki said in an email to the Tribune. “There’s written proof, yet the entire recorded LSC meeting shows the principal did not correct this misinformation and later doubled down on it multiple times in writing to the community and it was later repeated to the press by CPS.”
Nathan Hunter, an LSC member who participated in negotiations, sent an email to Leki and Rutkowski shortly after the July 20 schoolwide announcement to express his disappointment in the abrupt turn of events. Hunter told the Tribune it’s not too late to find common ground and extend another offer to Leki.” read more here

2 LSC meeting mark your calendar Tues, Sept 20. 6:30 in person. (if you can’t attend, see #3)

3 We know that many of you can’t attend the meeting on Tuesday. Many of you are deeply concerned, but unsure and still have questions, so you aren’t ready to speak out. And, we know that many many parents, students, and teachers are afraid of retaliation if they speak out.

So, you are invited to send in your questions, your comments, your letters. We’ll share them. The LSC won’t share letters until a month later, and then, only in the minutes, where they won’t be seen. We especially want to hear your questions and your feelings about all this. The community wants to hear from you, even if you don’t want to share your name, you could share how your family feels about all this.

4 Who’s Managing this Garden? Cucumbers and tomato plants ripped out!

Who is in charge of the garden?? According to Stuart L., of the LSC, the Principal is in charge of the garden. So I suppose it was he who gave the OK to rip out the tomato and cucumber plants in the plot just west of the synthetic turf field. These plants were grown as part of a 3rd grade project. The kids learned about seed varieties, their needs and timeline. They planted them in February and we raised them under grow lights. The students did observations and recorded their progress. When April came we set them out doors to harden in the garden greenhouse. And in May, the 3rd graders planted them, and tied them to stakes and the wire trellis, Later, gardeners, parents and children added cucumber seeds in between. This tomato / cucumber patch  produced fruit all summer long and into the school year, watered daily by the Waters Waterers. They were in full production at the start of school, as planned.

Funny thing about school community gardens: they may seem to not have any fruit. That is because the grounds are open and public, and we have 650 students. Every tomato, and every cucumber that is discovered, is eaten by our students. The plants are producing, but the fruit disappears. This is okay. This is the idea. Like with raspberries. They are all eaten. This is good.

Thus my dismay when I arrived at school one day last week and saw that all the plants had been removed.  Who did that? Who made that decision? What planted bed will be destroyed next? Who is in charge?  The Principal?? This plot had been reclaimed from an ill-informed planting of cultivar flowers by a contractor. They were quickly obliterated by the relentless energy coming off the sportsfield. They were unprotected. We ended up with a big dirt/mud patch. What to do? We planted turf grass along the sidewalk, and behind it created a long planting area. For some years kindergarteners planted potatoes there. Because the area was under constant assault by balls of all sorts, we came up with a good strategy. We would plant the potatoes, then set up an A frame over them with  those 5″ square wire concrete reinforcement  things. So the plants would start in the spring, balls would be deflected, and by mid June when the plants were reaching the trellises, the pressure came off, school ended. Through the summer the plants would grow and when school returned in Fall they would be ready for harvest. Who did this??

In Spring, as soon as the ground thawed, community gardeners would dis-assemble the trellises, rake off the old mulch for composting, pull weeds and till the soil. They would add 8-10 inches of compost. The Kindergarten students would come out on a garden field trip to learn about, sing about, and plant potatoes. They also learned about compost and the bugs that help make it happen, and the first wildflowers of spring.

When all was planted, the gardeners returned and mulched the area with fresh straw, re-assembled the trellises, set up the irrigation pipe, and for the next four months weeded and watered the area, so that by Fall it was ready for harvest.

Who is in charge of the garden now. The Principal? These assaults on the garden are infuriating because they disregard the work of the 3rd grade teachers and students and parent volunteers, the community / parent volunteers, and the former Director of Ecology, who has developed a whole plan for engaging the school and garden. 

We need a budget for garden stewardship.  The Principal has alot of things to do. The Principal should not be in charge of wood chips and creeping charlie control. The garden is complex and has a synchrony to it, and a culture that appreciates the volunteers and the bustle of life that goes on there.  We need to have a Garden Steward that can assist and communicate with teachers on their plans to help make them successful. 

Meanwhile, the gardeners are available to answer simple questions, like, is there a free plot where we could plant something new. No need to destroy the work of the community, just ask. The gardeners will be supportive.

5 Saturday, Sept 17 9-12 Garden Stewardship morning.

There are signs posted around the garden saying that tomorrow morning, a contractor will be there to put in a steel pipe from the playspace to the sink on the ugly shed to provide a hose spigot.

This was not requested by the gardeners. There already is a spigot at the sink that was installed by the gardeners years ago.

6 Sunday, Sept 18, Riverbank Neighbor invite Waters Gardeners to join them. Stay tuned for more info. Join the Riverbank Neighbors list here. Riverbank workday (family friendly) Sunday 9-11. We’ll be volunteering to support the North Center Sustainability Market before and after our riverbank workday, as part of our commitment to be role models for our children. Gratitude to all. details below.

7 Sunday North Center Sustainability Market

Are you curious about how to reduce waste, but don’t know where to start? Are you interested in more resources to help you on your journey? Join us for The Sustainability Market, hosted by Reduce Waste Chicago and the North Center Neighbors Association.

Formerly the NNA Recycling Pop-Up, The Sustainability Market will feature RWC’s Reuse & Recycle Pop-Up for you to drop off common household items not accepted by the city’s Blue Cart program, as well as retail vendors, artists and exhibitors focused on environmental sustainability.

The Sustainability Market’s next event is at the Northcenter Town Square, 4100 N Damen, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, September 18. View all events and a list of accepted items here.