Of Joe-Pye and Dunning-Kruger

When I first started to volunteer at the Waters garden I was afraid of weeding. To be honest, I still am. What if I pull the wrong plant? Think that I’m helping only to discover that I pulled the rarest, most valuable plant in the garden. So I made sure that I learned the species to pull one by one. First creeping charlie, an invasive species that is pretty easy to recognize, if not so easy to eradicate. Then came Joe-Pye, I carried a specimen with me as I worked to compare with what I was about to pull, so that I could be sure that I pulled the right thing. Joe-Pye weed is pretty easy to recognize too, so I quickly became confident. Perhaps too confident; at garden night, when other tasks ran out, I could look for the plants on my weed list and pull them, safe in the knowledge that these were plants that should be removed. I taught others how to recognize them so they could pull them with me.

Then I discovered that Joe-Pye is a native plant. I questioned, why remove a native? Well, it gets tall, crowds out other plants. Pulling it helps the more ‘valuable’ plants by giving them more space and light. This satisfied me for a bit, but as I watched the work in the garden it began to dawn on me that there was more to it. The question was not so much what to pull, but where and when to pull it.

Native ecosystems evolved over epochs that are difficult to comprehend. Different species competing for the same resources gradually establish an equilibrium, some even come to rely on one another. Different plants flower at different times in the year to reduce competition for the pollinator insects; species like the oak trees have mast years, where all the trees synchronously produce so many acorns that the animals that eat them are overwhelmed and can’t consume them all. When humans first arrived in the Chicago region, they disturbed this equilibrium. Some species were driven to extinction, but over time a new equilibrium emerged. The humans, plants and animals of this area lived in a balance with one another.

Then came the modern world. Natural areas were suddenly considered to be ‘unimproved land’ just waiting to be torn up and exploited. The delicate equilibriums built over thousands of years were destroyed. Some species seized their moment. Tall goldenrod and others sprung up wherever disturbed land was left unmanaged. But others became rare and precious.

When we try to restore native ecosystems we are trying to achieve in a few years something that would only occur naturally over thousands. The plants and animals have not evolved to deal with this kind of environment, thousands of years of battles are re-played in our gardens. For a restoration to be successful it needs a watchful eye. Someone to say, “the rosin weed are taking over that section of the garden, let’s thin them out before they go to seed”. Someone who understands how to guide the plants towards that equilibrium in this new environment. 

I don’t know how to do this. Maybe one day I will; but a couple of years ago I didn’t even know that I didn’t know this. This is the Dunning–Kruger effect. People with limited knowledge of a subject tend to overestimate their competence; it is only as you learn more that you learn how much there is still to know. Knowing that this can happen is key to seeking knowledge with humility and applying that knowledge with precision. It is the value that experts bring to the table; not just because they can speak with the authority of years of learning, but because they can foster this humility, having stumbled on the same pitfalls themselves.

Joe-Pye is a beautiful plant. I know now that it has an important place in the garden, that we should not indiscriminately pull every example we see. Sometimes it grows to excess, gets too tall, crowds out other plants. Then an experienced eye will see where and when it needs to be removed. For me, I will be happy when I can tell the two Joe-Pye species that grow in the garden apart.

Jeremy Atherton, Waters Parent

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.

Floristic Quality Index and Ice Cream

Hello Dear Friends,

Twenty+ people showed up on Wednesday night to work, play and enjoy food and music. We repaired a broken bench, pulled wheelbarrows of bindweed,  pruned the Ninebark (native shrub), raked the grass around the fire circle, removed the grape netting and harvested the last of the grapes in Journeys and Refuge Garden, and more. We made a small fire and cooked quesadillas, and Jeff, a school dad, serenaded us on guitar, while bats swooped overhead. All school families, friends and neighbors are welcomed.Tomorrow, Saturday September 3, from 9:00 until noon,

We will meet again to do more garden tasks, including the beginning of our Floristic Quality Assessment!

This scientific tool will allow us to qualitatively and quantitatively score our native plant community restoration. We will end up with an index number so that we can compare our garden with other restoration sites, and with itself, over time. Tomorrow we will begin identifying every native plant in the garden, creating a list, looking up the plant’s scientific name and Coefficient of Conservatism (C number). This number ranges from 0 -10, 0 being plants that, tho native, are weedy and aggressive, to 10, plants that will not tolerate disturbance of their very particular habitat and community. The list is then analyzed mathematically to come up with a score.

We know, from decades of study and work, that our garden is fabulously rich, ecologically speaking. Beginning with our ancient oaks, whose roots have held on to the mycorrhizal fungal associations necessary for a healthy native plant community, to the effects of 25 years of prescribed burns, our garden hosts at least 120 native species. It is an ecological, historical, educational, cultural and community treasure, nurtured by generations of school families and friends. 

So, join us and learn and enjoy these wonderful waning days of summer.

And for those of you who can’t get enough, we will be working on the Riverbank on Sunday, 9-11:00, another powerfully beautiful and ecologically significant site.  Meet at Berteau and the River. And, a reminder that next Wednesday’s Garden night will include a field trip to the riverbank for a walk around, possible seed collecting, fire and food. 

Mr. Leki

Mr Leki testifying at CPS board today at 10:30 (online)

 If you can tune in to the 10:30 CPS Board meeting at 10:30, Pete Leki will testify. There are also a total of 50 others from across the city who will testify on other topics.

Letter from Pete Leki below;

I’ll be testifying to the board of CPS downtown this morning at 10:30. 

You can watch it live at https://www.cpsboe.org/

In the time since the most recent news article, the principal sent a letter to me, which seemed, at first, to ban or restrict me from the garden. However, with the intervention of the alderman, I’ve been allowed to continue to garden as a volunteer.  This first year principal has stated that he now manages the garden. 

He underestimates the expertise, effort, and time I dedicated to my job.  He expects the volunteers that I managed to step up and do the job that I did, including managing themselves.  I also submitted a letter to the LSC, detailing suggested corrections for the minutes of the previous meeting, and asking to be allowed to comment in the August LSC meeting. Instead, they ignored my letter and seem to have violated the open meeting act by not admitting me to the virtual meeting until they made a motion to adjourn. My corrections about misstatements regarding my job and the ecology program were ignored. 

It takes good community relationships to manage hundreds of volunteers. The gardeners are doing the best they can, but they are deeply concerned about the future of the garden. 

Additionally, I’ve started a podcast, titled, Mr. Leki Radio, which is linked on our website, WatersEcology.org

Tonight, we’ll have garden night, 5-sunset, with the usual tasks, food, music. All new and old community members and school families are welcome to come enjoy the garden and learn. We’ll learn the latest flowers in bloom and in seed and will have a task list for young and old.

Pete Leki

Garden this evening, 5 until dark

Dear Waters School Community Garden Friends,
Join us this evening for garden stewardship, fellowship, shared food and music. The garden is a place to feel peace, and courage. We need both.
Thanks to the awesome people who spoke in favor of the ecology program and garden at yesterday’s LSC meeting. I was not able to “get in”. I clicked on the LSC Zoom link three times and waited to be admitted. Nothing. I called a friend. She got in. I asked her to write in the chat that I was not being let in. I called CPS Downtown to complain.
Finally, I was in, just in time to hear a motion to adjourn after only 1/2 hour.
Thanks to the 1,000+ people who signed the petition.
See you this evening,

Stand up against retaliation!

August 16, 2022

Dear Waters Community,
Below is a copy of a letter that I sent to the LSC in response to the presentation that was given at the July meeting about the ecology program and my work. I hope that the current LSC will correct the inaccuracies and have an explanation for why I was fired after I had accepted the conditions that were offered to me. Based on the principal’s email and some LSC member’s comments on facebook, it seems clear that there has been retaliation for telling the truth in my emails.  We know that retaliation does happen in this world and in CPS.  I, too, was a hunger striker. We invite the community to reflect on the impact of the actions of those who appear to rolemodel, defend, and promote retaliation for truth and activism. We know that people are worried about retaliation for voicing their support of the Ecology Program. Many are also are deeply concerned about the disrespectful treatment of the gardeners, who are some of the most kind, gentle, hard working community members at Waters. More on that later.

I feel great disappointment and sadness that I will not be able to perform the ecology program with our students, parents and teachers this year. After 25 years, I will not be able to teach the lessons, lead the field trips, sing the songs, or tell the stories. I will not be able to witness Waters students develop during the school year, and learn to love and know our beautiful and endangered world.
I do hope to continue to be a presence in our school garden, to keep this treasure safe and healthy. It is the living legacy of thousands of Waters school students and parents, teachers and neighbors, over decades and generations. 

Please join us at the LSC meeting today at 4:30 to express your opinion and support:

Pete Leki

August 13, 2022

Dear Ms. Chandran, and all LSC members,

I just reviewed last month’s LSC meeting video and wanted to point out some errors and omissions. The most egregious one was that Principal knew that I had already accepted the salary offer and CPS employment on the Friday before the LSC meeting.  This is what most of the people who supported the Principal were asking for. Why didn’t the Principal acknowledge this? 

I want to point out very important errors and misunderstandings in your presentation and discussion.

Mr. Lange said that “nothing happens behind closed doors” and that the ecology program was discussed at six budget meetings. I was never told my program was being discussed, and was never invited to attend. It is improper for the Principal to discuss my employment, salary and program with the LSC. His job is to discuss it with me and then make a recommendation to the LSC. These were improper meetings. 

The April LSC meeting voted on a budget including the reduction of the ecology program, without the Principal  telling me about this startling bit of news. This is improper conduct for the Principal and LSC.

In one of your chart quotes, it says that the Principal said “Mr. Leki is happy to be a CPS employee”. This is not correct and improper. We had a 2 minute conversation in which he informed me about what he intended to do. I was given no details about this position or its salary. The Principal should have met with me, not had private discussions with the LSC.

The CPS employment graphic: If there was no way to pay me under a proper CPS category, then we should have gone back to a Vendor position: Director of Ecology Programs, even if the upper limit was $75,000, that is a lot closer than $56,000 to my regular wage.  The demand that I be shoe horned into the Misc. Employee category created an unnecessary crisis. And, at any rate it is not for the LSC  to decide or explain my job status. It is the Principal’s job to decide that with me. Rather than have that discussion, he acted without my consent to reduce the salary and scope of my work.

The Graphic looking at the funding for the ecology program is misleading for a  number of reasons. Regarding the composting income:  The composting income stopped because by 2015 the Central Office partner necessary to make the program possible was no longer there. The position was open for more than two years.  I can only provide this service if I have a Central Office partner.  In the year before the pandemic a new leader was hired and we had a very good relationship and were making plans to resume the Composting Cohort Program.  This is why the composting income stopped.

To correct another question about the CPS Compost Program, I was paid by CPS to do workshops, at Waters,  2-3 times a year, to be able to model our school and program. It built our reputation as an environmental school. If there were questions about my work (composting at other schools) they should have been directed to the Principal or to me. It is improper for the LSC to create data sets and charts without complete information and understanding. 

This same grant shows that the ecology program stopped receiving grants in 2015, and the insinuation is that I stopped writing grants to fund the ecology program. In fact,  I never wrote a single grant. Sometimes I was asked to write a paragraph describing some aspect of the program.  Waters Today had a group of skillful and willing parents who wrote all the grants. The most prominent was Julie Moore, who recently wrote a beautiful letter of support for my position and the ecology program.  Many others also wrote grants in past years. My gratitude to them all.   I have been asking WT to please resume looking for grants to take the fund raising pressure off families.  Writing grants takes a specific skill set and the ecology program is/was a full time job. And again, it is improper for the LSC to make a presentation with incomplete or misunderstood data. I should have been consulted by the Principal.

So the whole purpose of this graphic is misleading. Suggesting that I should have or could have raised the money for my own salary. The grant writing, the grant money, the composting money all were handled by Waters Today, which had as its Mission, until June 2022, to raise funds, primarily to support the ecology program.

Outrage at my huge pay rate. It is improper for the LSC to be discussing my salary in a public meeting. It is the Principal’s job to discuss and negotiate with me and make a recommendation to the LSC.  The Principal acted improperly in analyzing my work without my knowledge or participation, resulting in a gross distortion of my work time. He then improperly shared his analyses with the LSC without my knowledge to lay the groundwork to cut my salary.  The Principal improperly discussed my salary with the LSC and public using flawed and incomplete information.  He told the LSC that I was being offered an hourly pay rate of $125, the highest CPS rate possible. Since he arbitrarily reduced the number of hours I allegedly worked to 56% of a full time job, the net pay was a 30% reduction. The effect of this presentation is to pit me against my CPS colleagues when in fact I was being offered a wage way below that of a new teacher. Some members of the LSC sadly amplified this distortion of reality. You need only check the website    


  to see staff salaries, that of any new or veteran teacher, and  compare them to mine. I work all summer and on weekends. This public spectacle of discussing my work and its value is improper and divisive.

When I first got a hold of the Principal’s pie chart analyzing my time,  I attempted to correct it by providing a more detailed and realistic depiction of my work, crediting essential prep work for our very unique, complicated,  and renowned ecology program. It showed that I  actually worked about 150% of a full time job. He took this information, reduced it to a pittance, assigning it a very low pay rate (112 hours per year in garden maintenance), raising the salary by $2,000 a year.  The reduction in salary  amounts to a reduction of garden maintenance, and is therefore a threat to the garden. That is fact, not hyperbole.

The Interim Principal  told me that she heard “that students aren’t allowed in the garden”. Where, from whom, did she hear this?  She said she heard that “only community members are allowed in the garden” From whom did she hear this? She said, “Do you actually teach children??”  From where did she hear this??? And, when our current Principal picks up this thread and says that I don’t spend enough time with our students, an outside person might wonder: who is orchestrating this attack on the ecology program, the garden, and me? It was improper for LSC members to pass on incorrect and defamatory information to the Interim or present Principal. Questions about my work and garden organization should have been addressed to me, by the Principal. This was improper.

The Principal’s  statement that only 17 of 56 garden beds were dedicated to students is wrong and misleading. Students’ engagement in the garden is not limited to “planting” or the number of beds. The Principal is sadly ignorant about what agricultural gardens and their planting and care looks like.  Gardens need care.  A lot of care, every day.  I would like to remind the LSC that I met with every teacher, at every grade level, to welcome them into the garden: that I would provide space, tools, seeds, compost, and CARE for any garden initiative that they had. The third grade team stepped up and said they wanted to do a whole unit, with all three classes doing multiple lessons on seed germination, learning about different plant varieties and their needs and life cycle. I found time to do this. But I had to make time, before and after school to care for 90 pots with living seedlings. The plants survived and thrived. Every tomato, pepper, eggplant and marigold in the garden today come from the initiative of these three teachers, assisted by me. That’s how  teachers act when they want to access our incredible garden. They make a proposal and we talk and plan.  

On the other hand, one second grade teacher said, during our meeting, that she wouldn’t take her students to the garden because she didn’t feel safe there.  I cannot explain why a teacher would feel unsafe. If I did, I would  do everything I could to address any concerns. That said,  Kindergarten comes to the garden multiple times a week. So do many other grade levels. The garden is a place where families, students and neighbors go to feel safe and calm. The garden has open doors, but we have had almost no problems over the past 20 years. Teacher engagement with the garden, with me or on their own, is guided by their own interest and initiative.  The garden is a blessing to teachers who take that initiative.

Finally, the Principal states that he has been “in conversation with me” for the last month and a half”. This is simply not true. I had no idea what the Principal and the LSC were planning and doing about my job, the ecology and garden program, until the middle  of June. This was improper and unprofessional behavior by the Principal and the LSC.

Waters School is famous for its prize winning ecology and garden program. This program has already been damaged and may be beyond rescue because of improper and unethical action on the part of the Principal and the LSC.   The fate of the garden is uncertain, and it is without a doubt, under threat. Please read the comments of the 900 people who signed petitions and the scores who wrote impassioned notes on the watersecology.org web site. Please listen to our community and change course.

Pete Leki

Former Director of Ecology Programs

Waters School

Garden Stewardship Tomorrow Morning

Apologies for the late email. 

I was busy today. My entire summer has been spent trying to protect the ecology program, my job, stewardship of the garden, and to strive for permanent protection of the garden. We’re still getting emails from people who just found out what’s happened. The story isn’t over yet. 

Tonight’s Wednesday night garden night is still on, but I will not be there. 
I hope to be there Saturday. 

additional message and invitation: 

from a gardener: 
Think how you would feel if you were a school mom or dad who was a gardener, who made friends there, who enjoyed Wednesday nights with children playing, music, food, and the beauty of nature.  Think how it would feel to read some of the comments on facebook.  It is deeply hurtful. This issue needs to be addressed.  

An invitation: Please send us letters of thanks to the school families and neighbors, the gardeners who created and tended the garden over the last 20+ years. This would be healing. The gardeners deserve thanks, respect, and kindness. It would be good to get many many letters of thanks to the gardeners, past, and present. Please make extra time and write or record yourself sending thanks to the gardeners.  If you helped with the garden, then please thank those you witnessed. Tell the beautiful stories.  We’d like to share your stories, with your name, or just initials, or anonymously, if you prefer.  

Video of past garden night below. We hope you watch to the end when you have time.. about 7 minutes of a lovely typical garden night from years ago. 


Sweat, Soil, Water, Joy, StruggleSaturday Garden morning 9-12

Dear Waters Gardener Friends, 
Join us tomorrow for a Garden Solidarity Gathering and Stewardship day, 9-12:00 noon. We’ll be weeding and watering, tying and harvesting, chipping and chopping. We’ll end with ice cream cones and cold, sparkling water. We will spend some time looking at the latest blooming native wildflowers, and take some moments to update everyone about the threats to the garden and its stewardship. 
If you would like, I would invite you to take a bag of frozen tomatoes for your enjoyment.
Many thanks to school families that are organizing and communicating to protect the garden and restore the ecology program. Tho things look bleak, don’t lose hope, and don’t leave. We need you and we love and appreciate you. I still am at a loss to know for sure why the ecology program and garden were attacked so ruthlessly, without thought about the thousands that worked so hard to create them.  It could be retaliation for years of activism, it could be a new more privileged group wanting to take over the beauty and wealth created by others, and re-cast it in their own image. There is a long history of that happening. But, I don’t know because I have not been told. Have you??  
I have asked the Alderman to make another attempt to mediate some kind of plan for going forward that doesn’t poison the community with division.  We will know in the next few days if this is something worth pursuing.
I realized, as I was biking to the Lake today, to try to rid my mind of anxiety and my heart of pain, that I was looking at each tree that I passed. I was looking for seeds to share with the 1st graders that I would be doing tree study with: locust pods, and ash seed clusters, and new bur oak acorns, and fresh catalpa pods. I have done this every one of the past 20 years. And I realized that I didn’t have to do it anymore. That I no longer worked for Waters School, and would not teach the songs, and leaves and bark and flowers to these little ones. 
I got to the Lake and the prairie there was abloom with compass plant and monarda, and yellow coneflower and big blue stem, and I remembered that I would not be showing these plants to our 7th graders. We won’t comb the beaches for signs of what lives in the depths, won’t share lunch on the harbor and songs about water.
I stopped by Uptown Bikes on Broadway and Wilson to get a part, and the owner asked me if I was ready to go back to school. I said, “Did you know I was a teacher?” She said “everyone knows you, and knows about Waters School. It’s famous.” I told her I had been fired and she cried. She went in and asked her staff to sign the petition. 
I went to the Library and ran into a Waters Teacher that greeted me with joy, until I told her I had been fired. And she cried and asked what she could do. She came to Waters because of Ecology and the Garden, She said she would talk to all her teacher friends to act.
Please sign the petition at watersecology.org, and ask friends to sign and comment. These next few weeks will be critical.
With much Love, 
Pete Leki