CPS Preparing Hit List for 2010

How many schools will be on Chicago's 2010 Hit List? Why does it seem that "Renaissance 2010" isn't going to end in 2010?

Despite testimony in opposition to the closings (and other changes) proposed to the Chicago Board of Education on February 25, 2009, by hundreds of people and massive protests in January and February, the Board relied on the recommendation of hearing officers (who were far from "independent") and on criteria presented at the end of the Board meeting by David Pickens, then "Internal Communications Chief Officer" at CPS. The criteria were presented at the Board meeting, and the Board shortly thereafter voted to close, turnaround, or otherwise radically changed 16 public schools without discussion or debate. The criteria were never published on the Board's Web site, nor circulated to the public. No one knows that the alleged criteria will be for 2010. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.So far there are rumors, and more rumors, and CPS is keeping its lips sealed. It's possible that hundreds of Chicago schools have been told they might be closed or otherwise radically changed this year, although the final number will be much smaller than that. One year ago, the rumors were widespread, too. But much of December 2008 in the media was taken up with the announcement that newly elected President Barack Obama had appointed Arne Duncan U.S. Secretary of Education.

One year later, CPS is keeping its lips sealed on the fate of public schools they would like to eliminate to further privatization with more charters and turnaround schools.

Last year in late December, someone in the Chicago Board of Education leaked information about which Chicago public schools would be on the Hit List just before the two week winter holiday break.

This year, no such luck, so far. This much is certain, according to Chicago Teacher’s Union President Marilyn Stewart’s report presented at the House of Delegates meeting last week:

Schools will be closed or consolidated for non-academic reasons, but “no school with more than 250 students and under a ratio of 40% utilized will be closed.”

Above, David Pickens explains to the Board the reasons why Fenger High School will be subjected to so-called "turnaround" at the Board's February 25, 2009 meeting at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago. At the time the Board members voted to approve Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman's recommendation to "close" 16 schools, none of the Board members had read the transcripts from the more than 16 tumultuous hearings held during the preceding four weeks, and the massive books prepared by people from the Hit List schools had not even been made available to the Board members. For six years, the Board has routinely rubber stamped closings as part of Mayor Richard M. Daley's "Renaissance 2010" program. The school on the screen above from Pickens's Power Point is Fenger High School. Under "turnaround," the Board fired more than 90 percent of the staff at Fenger and replaced them with new teachers and staff, supposedly trained in special "turnaround" methods. When school opened in September 2009 with its new "turnaround" staff, it quickly fell into chaos. By the end of September, teachers were quitting despite the poor job climate, and on September 24, 2009, Fenger's "turnaround" became world famous when a Fenger student videotaped the beating murder of Fenger student Derrion Albert. By December 2009, former Chicago CEO Arne Duncan, now U.S. Secretary of Education, has proposed "turnaround" for 5,000 public schools across the USA that Duncan claims are "failing" based on test scores. Instead of questioning "turnaround," the Obama administration announced on October 7, 2009, an expensive program to combat "youth violence." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.At the Chicago Board of Education meeting this Wednesday, December 16 at 10:30am, Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman will announce the “criteria for closing.” In February 2009, the first month Huberman was firmly in place as Duncan's successor, the Chicago Board of Education listened to a lengthy report on why the schools targeted in 2009 were appropriately on the Hit List. Data were questioned and massive protests took place, but by the end of the day on February 25, 2009, the Board had voted, without discussion or debate, to destroy another 16 public schools in Chicago.

School visits took place between November 23 and December 4 and Board policy states they need to announce the final list by January 31, 2010. No one has said how many schools were subjected to the "walk through" by administrators that is supposed to be part of the closing process.

On January 8, 2010, CPS has said that it will hold a press conference to announce the names of the schools on the 2010 Hit List (CPS doesn't call it that; everyone else does). While it isn’t clear how many schools will be on the list, the union estimates a similar number to last year’s list. The 2009 list began with a possible 25, which quickly became 22 (following protests by two powerful aldermen). After massive protests and a couple of behind-the-scenes aldermanic complaints, the final number of schools closed, consolidated, turnarounded, or phased out was 16. Over the next couple of months, additional schools were subjected to radical transformations as well.

“We are putting together a plan to address the closings,” Stewart wrote in her report. “(We are) going to do all we can to activate our members behind those schools selected for closure, (but) many questions still remain.”

One of the main questions, Stewart writes, is what is the criterion for turnaround schools and how are they chosen?

There is a list of potential targets that CORE, a caucus of teachers in the Union, put together which listed all the schools on probation in "Level 3" – which is considered the highest level to be considered for closure or turnaround. These schools have been on probation for years and have relatively low test scores. Stewart said teachers should notify the Union if they hear any rumors their school is being looked at, the school is “underutilized,” suddenly repairs are taking place in the school, if their school has been on probation for several years, or if they see people measuring classrooms or facilities.

If you do, Stewart wrote, contact Sandy Schultz, the Education Issues Coordinator at 312-329-6226.

Substance is also asking for the same information: Contact or 773-725-7502. The sooner people know the names of schools on the 2010 Hit List, the better. 


December 15, 2009 at 8:04 AM

By: Al Korach


Having served in the CTU when it had power all I now see is the dismantling of a school system.The only way I see of saving the system is to remove go along Stewart from CTU leadership.If not we will continue to write and write about school closing after closing and teachers left out in the cold. I think that the only important meeting will be the one that tries to consolidate all oposition caucuses into one unified group.

December 16, 2009 at 8:45 AM

By: Retired Principal

South Shore & Bowen

The four small schools on the South Shore campus and the four small schools on the Bowen campus are under consideration to be phased out!

December 16, 2009 at 10:50 PM

By: school closings

more to come

word ont eh street is that there will be about 30 total schools listed to close in January. Ron needs to get as many listed to close before the Soto bill kicks in.

December 16, 2009 at 10:52 PM

By: removal principals

more of this too

there will be removal of principals under the pushing of the CAOs. The Nightengale and Healy principals are already casualtys.

Retired principal--what do you hear?

December 17, 2009 at 9:16 AM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher

I thought principals could only be removed for cause and that there had to be a lot of evidence. I've seen principals win when their contract was not renewed by the LSC so I don't understand how more than a few will be able to be removed under any plan. School closings is the only other way I know to remove a principal.

December 17, 2009 at 8:29 PM

By: teacher with experience


Teachers at schools on probation are being forced to use differentiated instruction even if their class from last year showed a year's growth under traditional methodology. Now these out of control CAOs are threatening to write up teachers for teaching whole group. Aren't we the best determination of what works? Is this legal? Maybe this is a systemic effort on CPS' part to force a type of instruction that does not work with below level students to prove that indeed, these schools should be turned around.

Then the CAOs spend monies to force principals to go to Texas for three days to see schools that work. I guess we have no excellent schools in Chicago or even the state of Illinois. I always thought Texas was known for poor schools.

December 18, 2009 at 9:21 AM

By: Retired Principal

Removing Principals

Dear removing principals I'll check it out. I do know most principals are keeping a very low profile and their mouths shut because of fear on being removed! The Board of Education can remove a principal, with or without a contract, anytime it want's to! Those principals with a contract will win their lawsuits for being removed witout cause. CPS is controlling who can and who cannot become a principal. There are only about 50 people on the principal list for over 650 schools. P.S.- Principal candidates enrolled in the "New Leaders New Schools" program have an inside track to become a principal!

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 2 =