Hope and Loss

Dear Friends, 
Thanks for the great work done Saturday 16 and all week.
Good News! I will be meeting with the Principal tomorrow, Monday 18 to try to resolve the impasse for the ecology and gardening program. Stay tuned.
And, we are missing two wheelbarrows: the big double wheel one, and a smaller red one. I assume this has something to do with the rowdy gathering of youth on the sports field on Saturday night. Please keep an eye open in the neighborhood in case the barrows turn up.
Be well, stay strong, 
Mr. Leki

Raise your voice for Waters Ecology

July 15, 2022 Ecology director, Mr. Leki, and Waters parents ask for your voice of support,

Petition Link


It’s urgent. Thank you.  Please leave “display my name publicly” if you feel ok about that. it helps. I know some waters parents and staff want to remain anonymous and that’s fine, but it doesn’t help nearly as much and things are in the balance.

Save the Community that Built the Garden and the Ecology Program

Dear Friends, 
The attack on Waters Garden and Ecology are not about Mr. Leki, it is an attack on a locally grown, generations-long effort to heal our world and build our community.
The relentless demand to follow the rules is what has given us barren asphalt school grounds, traffic choked streets, bad air, filthy rivers, and disaster.  And always, just behind the demand to conform, is the quiet letting of contracts, the influence of powerful entities that take our wealth and use it to make it theirs. 
Please speak up to Save the Ecology Program and Save the Garden.

This Is What We Will Lose
Mr. Leki

Letters of Support

Dear Waters school,  my name is Vladimir Von Klan and I was a student of Pete Leki at Waters. The program is an amazing way for young kids to learn about nature and the nature around us. Kids these days seem bound by technology and things that aren’t healthy for them. Learning about nature will help these kids. By destroying the garden and the program itself won’t be the smartest idea at all. You will be stripping these student from learning amazing things about our world. It sickens me that the human race takes away the beautiful things in nature to put in something man made. Let these students learn about nature. Let nature thrive. I beg of the school board and whom ever is in charge to not make this decision. I work for the California conservation corps and I fight to keep nature thriving. The things I have learned from Pete’s program has lead me to my work that I do now.

Vladimir Von Klan

Well heck. This information is equally unsettling and untrue. 
I can’t assume the hours you spend “doing your job,” but what I know is that your regular school hours and irregular gardening maintenance schedule makes you a trusting and consistently present grown up acting as a mentor and supervisor in the misc hours where kids of all ages are most vulnerable. Not to mention the commitment you show to the Waters improvement project, the children it is intended to nurture and the community at large. 

I also know that the knowledge and camaraderie you facilitate on your trips to sauganash is LITERALLY a cathartic camp-like experience. One that many families can’t begin to afford, and one that enhances the learning environment, through all areas of study. You take privilege out of the equation of being a steward to nature, something I have never seen before. I simple detail critical for the natural and emotional resurgence in communities everywhere. 

I have no idea of a constructive way to support your efforts (money is insanely tight these days). But if there is any action I can take to assist in bringing light to this misstep, please do let me know. 
Allison Pelsoci

I have known Mr. Leki since long before we even had children.  There is no doubt that he has poured his entire heart and soul into the work that he does.  He cares deeply about his work and your children.  If you don’t believe this you don’t know him.  His efforts, vision, and leadership have defined Waters Elementary.  I have said this for many years.  His work, with many others, has significantly changed the reputation of Waters for the better. 

 Perhaps we are taking a short term view to a long term issue.  Investing in Mr. Leki and his ecology program focuses our children to consider broad issues.  We need broad thinkers in our future and we need to start children down this path early.  This is not just an ecology issue.  Previous generations failed at this and we have an obligation to do better.  A textbook version of ecology will fail to achieve this broad view.

 It’s a matter of trust; I trust Mr. Leki to run the ecology program as he sees fit. I trust him to allocate his time as appropriate. I trust him to educate our children for the future.  I trust that we are spending our money wisely with Mr. Leki.  You simply cannot replace the impact that Mr. Leki has had today and long into the future.  Trust him and fund him.

 Robert Zacks

Re-Fund and Restore

Dear Waters Community, 

At the end of the school year I received a double whammy from the school.
First, I was told that I would receive a 30% wage cut. I was told that this was because not enough money was raised. Some days later I learned that the Principal had created a pie chart of my activities and shared it with the LSC. This showed that I only work 45% of a full time job, and this was the rationale for cutting my salary.
Shortly after, I was sent my proposed job description as a CPS Miscellaneous Employee.
I have attached a link to this job description below.
I sent back the job description for Director of Ecology Programs that I created with the last administration.
Besides the hurt and insult, I wonder which job you would like me to do?
I got word that on the 15th of July I will receive my last paycheck from Waters Today.
Nothing else is in place.
Below the links is an impassioned demand that the school and LSC Refund Ecology, Restore my role as Director, and try to heal the damage that has been done.

Misc Employee job description

Director of Ecology Job Description 2018


Letters of support.

Dear Waters Local School Council (LSC),

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter in support of reinstating the compensation of Pete Leki. My name is Andrea Dennis. I am a resident of the community (Maplewood and Sunnyside). I moved to this school district for my future children to attend Waters because of the ecology program. I am a volunteer in the garden. I have also partnered with Waters during my time as the Director of Environmental Education at Friends of the Parks and most recently as an After School Matters instructor utilizing the garden as a classroom space. I attended the community meeting on July 9, 2022 to learn more about the defunding of the ecology program. I urge you to re-examine this decision for the following reasons:

  • INACCURATE CODIFIED ROLE & RESPONSIBILITIES: Mr. Leki’s role has been erroneously categorized. The comparison of his role being a coach or after school program is instructor, grossly misrepresents his role, experience and responsibilities at the school. His responsibilities necessitate time behind the scenes to prep for his instructional time. This is not assessed AT ALL in the current coding of his role. The work he does (for example to prep potatoes for the kindergartners) takes months of preparation and is unaccounted for. His ability to take students to the Forest Preserves because he is registered and trained with that institution, which couldn’t happen with anyone else, is unaccounted for. The expert knowledge he has and level of experience is unaccounted for. The longstanding connections he has with community groups that helps students connect with real world issues is unaccounted for.  The budget and coding of his role needs to be reassessed. 
  • DEFUNDED PROGRAM THROUGH REDIRECTED NONPROFIT FUNDS: Waters Today was created to fund the ecology program, now that nonprofit nor the donors of that nonprofit (which I am counted amongst), have agency to fund the ecology program. His compensation is no longer able to be subsidized by that nonprofit (or others like it since those decisions would go through the school).
  • DIVISIVE NARRATIVES: The narratives that it was a mistake he received the salary he did; that he should be defunded because other schools don’t have a role like this; or that some teachers are upset plays into a race to the bottom mentality. In the current climate change and mental health catastrophes our youth are facing, we absolutely owe it to the next generation to invest in programs and stewards of the land and community. What example do we show when we defund a program like this or position? Who wins?  This decision is demoralizing and divisive and the ones hurting are our children. 
  • INTANGIBLES OF THE HIS ROLE & THE ECOLOGY PROGRAM: There are numerous studies around what keeps a community safe, and all hands point back to community engagement. The garden keeps the school safe. How can we count the number of prevented crimes or prevented mental health breakdowns because of the garden? This has to be taken into consideration or the value of the program is grossly undervalued.
  • CLOAK OF SECRECY AROUND THIS DECISION: If the community knew that there was any sort of possibility that this role and program would be defunded by 30% there would have been an outpouring of civic engagement to join LSC and Waters Today.

I’m disappointed that in a moment like this when we are facing so many threats to the safety of our children, we have to spend energy in fighting to have this role and program NOT be defunded. But I also have hope. I have hope in all of you that this outcry will help you call forth the value and importance of this program. That you will fight with every fibre that you have to think creatively to act on behalf of our youth and reinstate this funding.

Thank you for your support of refunding Mr. Leki’s role and showing the value of this program. 

Andrea Dennis

July 2nd Garden Gathering

Dear Friends, 
Join us this Saturday, July 2, 9-12, for garden stewardship.
I would like to spend time:
in the Journeys and Refuge garden, weeding, watering and tying up berries and grapes.
Also, we can start harvesting gooseberries and currants to make cool summer drinks for:  Celebrate the Garden, Celebrate Ecology Day next Saturday, July 9. (Separate email headed your way soon)
Also, cleaning up the pile of branches by the Fire pit,
Weeding north of the cold frames
Weeding Northern Avens and Helleborine orchids wherever you see them
Water the Nature Play Space and remove green plastic screening.

Hurray for the work of the Waters Waterers (WahWahs). The gardens look fabulous.  We had a funny entanglement with Jen yesterday. No, not with Jen, but with the hose. The main garden hose is very long because we need to reach the parkway plantings along Sunnyside. Poor Jen was dragging a spaghetti pile of hoses and getting stuck all the time. Here are two strategies we can consider for hose wrangling:
because each section of hose has a valve at the end, we can keep the last two sections coiled up, just inside the Sunnyside fence and attach it only when watering the parkways, and, or, when you have the hose extended to its maximum length, and are finished watering, walk with the end of the hose all the way back to the cedar shed. So, now you have a long straight hose going out, and the other returning. Grasp the hose at your feet (that is closest to the water spigot, and begin coiling in a hula-hoop sized circle, pulling and coiling, pulling and coiling until the whole hose is neatly coiled, with the working end on top waiting for its next use. It took me about 3-4 minutes to do this. We have several expert wranglers who can show you the ropes. Beth, for example.
The prairie is abloom with pink wild roses, yellow heliopsis, Monarda, and sky blue spiderwort. Check it out, breathe deep.


Dear Gardening Friends

Dear Gardening Friends,
Saturday, 9-noon is Garden Day at Waters.
But this Saturday, June 18, is the 47th Ward Eco-Fest at Welles Park, 10:00 until 2:00 . Waters Garden and Riverbank Neighbors will be “tabling”, engaging our community about our work and our history.  And at 10:40 I will be leading a Sing-a-long under the Gazebo, singing Waters Ecology songs with our school students, parents and community. Please join us for this great event.
Thank you,

A note from Arunas:

If you’re traveling this summer and want to make sure your garden gets watered while you are away, you have two options: 
1. You can make friends with your neighboring gardeners and ask one of them to water your plot while you're away. 
2. You can plant a blue flag from the shed in your plot and one of the other gardeners or Waters Waterers will water it. The blue flags are in the shed in a bucket to the left of the door. There are also red flags if you do not want anyone to water your plot (some people are particular about when and how they water).

If you are at the garden and notice the blue barrels are getting low on water and you have a few minutes to spare, please fill them up from the hose. You don’t even have to fill them up all the way, but it’ll make it easier on everyone if we all try to keep the water barrels full. If you don’t know how to operate the spigot for the hose or where it is, we’ll be happy to show you.

Try to keep the land around your plot tidy and weeded. If you’re trying to keep the Creeping Charlie at bay and it’s already gone to seed, please dispose of those weeds in the green Dumpster on the north end of the parking lot. Do not dispose of the Creeping Charlie in the compost bins. There was also a recent delivery of wood chips, so if you do weed around your plot you can follow that up with a wheelbarrow or two of wood chips to slow future weed growth.

Garlic scapes (the curly tops on hardback varieties of garlic) are starting to appear in many plots around the garden. These are edible and delicious. You can use them pretty much as you use garlic, but the taste will be a little lighter and springy. They’re great in pestos or sautéed in recipes where you’d usually use garlic. Here’s one of my favorite garlic scape recipes.


Tree Champions and Waters Eco-fest Sing Along

In this post:
Tree Olympics Results47th Ward 
EcoFest with Waters School Sing Along

Tree Olympics Results

The “Tree ID Olympics” were held on Monday, June 13, and all three 1st Grade classes achieved champion status, defined as correctly answering at least 45 out of 50 tree questions correctly. Results:

Room 210 49.5/50

Room 208 47.5/50

Room 211 46.17/50

Terrific work First Grade. Oh the Trees!

47th Ward EcoFest with Waters School Sing-Along

Waters’ regular Garden Day will be suspended this Saturday to allow families to visit the 47th Ward Eco-Fest at Welles Park, 10:00 – 2:00 (See flyer below). Waters Garden and Riverbank Neighbors will be sharing information at tables there. At 10:40 I will be leading Waters School students and families in singing some of our ecology songs : Oh! The Trees, Viva La Pradera, Hoe Come the Water’s Brown, and more. All Waters students, siblings and families are welcome to join me under the Gazebo.


Stay Cool, 

Mr. Leki

Last Days!

Dear ecology friends,
The last days of the 21-22 school year!
Tomorrow morning, Monday, June 13, at 8:45, 6th Grade class Room 311 will visit the garden to haul wood chips and learn about organic gardening. Volunteers are welcomed to join us!

Starting at 11:45, 1st Grade Room 210, will participate in the Tree ID Olympics, in which teams within each class field 50 questions about the trees of our school grounds. If the class is able to correctly answer at least 45 questions correctly, they will have achieved the title of Tree Champions. This is an extraordinary process to watch: the students conferring in whispered, sometimes intense discussions, before finding consensus and offering the answer. Many minds are greater than their simple sum. Room parents are welcome to attend and witness and cheer on our students.
Room 208 at 12:30
Room 211  at 1:15.

3rd grade planted 40 -50 tomato plants that they raised from seed. These fruits will ripen in the summer and be available to students when they return in Fall. 3rd grade also feasted on the lush growth of romaine lettuce, cleaned, spun and laced with ranch dressing.

For staff and families who are fans of kale,our bed of kale is lush and ready for harvest. Please stop by after school, or let me know if you would like to have a bunch.

Garden days are now 9:00 until Noon on Saturdays, thru the Summer. Families are welcome to join us to work and play and learn and eat!

Mr. Leki

Quick Reminder: Lovely Day for the Garden

Dear gardening Friends, 
This is the last Garden day of this school year!  (Gatherings will continue through summer)  Vegetables are coming into stride. Students have been devouring the lettuce and becoming fans of fresh produce. About 50-60 tomato plants, grown from seed in school have been planted, as well as eggplant, peppers, basil, cukes, zukes, and all kind of flowers.
So there is much garden work to do, many flowers to view, and a chance to enjoy each others company.
Join us, 9-12,
Mr. Leki

Saturday in the Garden

Waters Waterers, schedule and suggestions
Compost Bin Guidelines
Saturday Gathering

Dear Friends, 

We have watering commitments for 6 of 7 days of the week. Only Wednesday is open.
Thanks so much. If anyone thinks they would like to offer to moderate an on-line system of managing this effort, please let me know. Otherwise it will be email and scribbled postings on the garden shed. 

Some reminders when watering:
*water all the raised beds, potted plants, anything not in the actual ground.
*water beds that are empty (they are not empty, but full of life)
*water all of the beds, not just the plants. All the soil needs moisture, to provide a welcome invitation to the rooting plants,
*water the soil, the roots, not the leaves. Seems weird, but for ag plants, moist leaves invite pathogens.
*How much water??? If we had instruments, we could probe down to make sure the water was reaching the roots. We can use our fingers for the same purpose. If the ground is dry an inch down, the plant will not get the water it needs. Conversely, if we water too much, the water will run out, leaching the nutrients necessary for robust growth. I know. It is a complicated equation which proves itself in great harvest or disappointment. But if we can keep the whole soil profile (depth) moist, water will find easy access to roots.

Compost bin guidelines
Right now, our compost bins are ONLY for garden waste. (See me or other garden leaders for a more thorough explanation). Please, CHOP your garden waste into small morsels. Do NOT leave piles of weeds for someone else to deal with.  Read the signs. 
Follow their instructions. We have both ecological and CPS rules to follow. Help us. Take a turn chopping with our wonderful chopper (training is encouraged) or use hand pruners.

Won’t you contribute your thoughts??
How are you doing? Do you have questions or ideas to contribute?
Please share and we will post them here.

Saturday morning
I will be out of town. Please do normal garden tasks: pulling weeds, clipping ash and mulberry saplings. Check Journeys and Refuge garden for bind weeds and Virgin’s Bower.
The Commercial Compost container was finally picked up, so it is again available for noxious weeds. Please check rain barrels for mosquito larvae and to make sure they are covered. Enjoy!