CPS janitor sees schools as safe haven

Maxine Gladney’s seen violence affect schoolchildren, her community and her own family

August 2, 2013

by Katie Mingle

(Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)
Izabela Miltko and Maxine Gladney

Maxine Gladney has seen violence hit her schools, her community and her own family. As a janitor at a Chicago Public School, she worries that closing schools will make that violence even worse, leaving children without a safe haven. For Gladney, public schools are a place where many kids come to get what they might not be getting at home - food, love and stability.

Gladney visited the Chicago StoryCorps booth with Izabela Miltko, the spokeswoman for the janitors’ union, to talk about her fears for the city’s children and herself.

Izabela: … Were you affected by the huge school closings in Chicago?

Maxine:  I was not affected per se, but a lot of my friends were, and my grandchildren were because two of their schools closed. You know, they have to be bused to other schools and I’m afraid that they’re going to get hurt, out of their area, out of their comfort zone. A lot of our children are going to drop out of school because they’re afraid.....

StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. This excerpt was edited by WBEZ's Katie Mingle.

Maxine said she isn’t just afraid for the kids in her neighborhood and her family: There’s so much gun violence, she’s also afraid for herself.

Maxine: April the 14th, I heard a gunshot -- I was laying in my bed after surgery, and I heard a young man say, “Mama, they shot me.” All I could think about was, I have a son, all I could hear was my son’s voice saying, “Mama, they shot me.” I get up out of my bed, and I go to the back door. This young man is laying at my back door bleeding to death.

Izabela: So what did you do next, I mean, did you call the police, how did you respond to that?

Maxine: I really panicked. Like I said, I had just had surgery. He said, “Help me, I’m dying.”  I said, “No, you’re not.” I began to pray with him...

To find out what happened next and to hear more about Maxine’s personal experiences with violence, listen to the audio above.

Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival.