No Chicago 'Hit List' yet, but more than 200 schools could be on it because of low test scores ('underperformance'), others for 'underutilization'

This year no deep throats – not yet at least. Unlike last year when someone from the Chicago Board of Education leaked the list of nearly 30 public schools to be closed before the end of the year, this year CPS is keeping mum. The final 2009 'Hit List,' as it has become known in Chicago, contained 22 schools. Of those, 16 were finally destroyed by a vote of the Chicago Board of Education at its February 25, 2009 meeting. The broader list was known by New Year's Day 2009, however, and this year it's still not known. And with protests growing in other cities from New York City (Hit List, more than 20 schools) to Oakland, California, it's not difficult to see why Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman refuses to publish the list until the very last minute.

Nearly two months after activists learned of the schools on the 2009 Hit List, a massive protest greeted the Chicago Board of Education on the day of its February 25, 2009, meeting. Mobilized by CORE, GEM, and the Chicago Teachers Union, the hundreds of protesters marched outside, spoke out inside, and camped out (the night before) at Chicago Public Schools headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago. During the weeks before the Board meeting, thousands had spoken out against the school closings, phase outs, consolidations, and "turnarounds" of public schools on the 2010 Hit List. Nevertheless, when the Board of Education members returned to vote late in the afternoon of February 25, 2009, they voted quickly, unanimously, and without debate to take the action against the 16 schools recommended by the school system's new CEO, Ron Huberman. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. It appears chief Ron Huberman and his spokeswoman Monique Bond want it that way — daring anyone who would send something out to the media before its time. They may also be feeling the heat on orders from the Mayor to continue a controversial policy of closing only public schools for low enrollment or low test scores.

Strangely enough, this plan is replacing those public schools with charter and military schools that are also performing poorly or have low enrollment according to the CPS closing criteria. This closing plan — known otherwise as the Renaissance 2010 Plan — is not only very unpopular with the public (who do not want to see their neighborhood schools closed), but has been called a failure — even in by a University of Chicago report and in a separate report by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, which helped to design the plan to privatize public education as "Left Behind" (2003). It was at the Civic Committee that Mayor Richard M. Daley first announced "Renaissance 2010" in a June 2004 speech, taking his cues from "Left Behind," which had been published a year earlier.

Huberman has said he will announce the list of schools to be closed this Friday, January 8, 2010.

Only this time he is more specific about who will get the axe. This time only schools with less than 250 children enrolled and less than 40 percent "utilized" by students are eligible to be closed. A school can also be closed if it earns less than 33.3 percent of the points on the CPS Performance Policy for two consecutive years, according to Huberman. While there are many schools on the probation list throughout the city, the low-enrollment schools are more specific. Despite a number of requests to Huberman from Substance editor George Schmidt for a list of all schools that qualified for closing under the "Performance Policy," as 2010 began the list had not been made public.

Community activists and teachers slept overnight in tents pitched in front of CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. on February 24, 2009, to be first in line to sign up to speak during the February 25 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. The groups came together with CORE and the newly organized GEM (Grassroots Education Movement, Chicago) in opposition to any further closings, phase outs, consolidations and turnarounds. Above, left to right, representatives from Blocks Together, PURE and KOCO stand outside the Board headquarters while the temperature slowly dropped from above freezing to below freezing (by dawn). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."Underutilization" is a different story. Jim Despensa, who heads the CPS Office of Demographics that computes the numbers to close schools, told Substance that he is still waiting for some school attendance reports according to the 20th day of school for this year.

But according to last year’s attendance data, the following schools are eligible to be closed due to low enrollment: Aldridge (237 students, 30 percent utilized), W. Brown (239 students, 28 percent utilized), Burke (247 students, 26 percent utilized), Cather (237, 22 percent utilized), Kershaw (246, 32 percent utilized), Mitchell (245, 40 percent utilized), Paderewski (237, 32 percent utilized), Parkman (201, 26 percent utilized), Pope (169, 23 percent utilized), Price (227, 20 percent utilized), Schiller (250, 28 percent utilized) and Schneider (175, 35 percent utilized). The Board of Education faces continued community pressure when it lists its "underutilized" schools for a number of reasons. All of the schools listed above (with the exception of Schneider) are 100 percent African American and serve a population that is almost 100 percent in poverty.

Other public schools this year in danger of becoming extinct depending on Despensa’s numbers include two schools that were slated to be closed last year but taken off the hook - Peabody (264 students, 35%) and Hamilton (259, 39%), as well as Chalmers (266, 29%), Chopin (275, 28%), Faraday (256, 24%), Fermi (257, 21%), McClellan (250, 42%), Mitchell (245, 40%), Pershing West (273, 22%), Prescott (245, 41%) and Robinson (227, 20%).

One teacher complained that when they closed Irving Park Middle School two years ago because of low enrollment, they based their calculations on a 1920s model where every classroom in the building including science labs, computer labs, special education or ELL resource rooms, etc. – had to be filled with 30 kids for most of the day. Rooms crowded with kids throughout the building is the game the public schools have to play, while schools like Carver Military Academy have an entire wing with empty classrooms that could hold another 1,000 students. Some charter schools like Aspira are so desperate to increase their enrollment (remember when charters were claiming waiting lists of students?) that they have to offer free lap tops and other goodies.

Hundreds of people marched outside the January 28, 2009 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education against the 2009 closings. Despite the protests and all the evidence about the destructive impact of the school closings of the previous seven years on children and communities, the Board of Education moved forward with the hearings and subsequently voted to close (phase out, consolidate, or turnaround) 16 schools at its meeting the following month. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. In addition, a school can be closed if the facility is structurally unsound or future repairs are "cost prohibitive," the Board said in a press release. In several cases in the past eight years, the Board has made such claims about a school building, only to spend several million dollars upgrading it (once the public school has been kicked out of the building) in preparation for turning the building over to a charter school.

When De La Cruz Middle School was closed last year for that very reason, the Board then quickly gave the building to the UNO Charter Schools. The Board claimed the transfer of the building to UNO (at a cost of only $1 per year) it is only temporary. Massive community opposition took place in 2008 (when the De La Cruz closing was first announced) and 2009 (when De La Cruz was finally closed).

The protests have not been completely in vain. After a couple behind-the-scenes complaints (usually from powerful aldermen), last year’s original closing list dwindled to 22 schools. After the official release of the list of 22 schools, overwhelming opposition at public hearings and protests in the streets led to six schools being removed from the Hit List.

But 16 public schools still bit the dust despite the overwhelming testimony and community support. Some of those are now housing charter schools (De La Cruz; South Chicago) while others (Carpenter; Andersen from the 2008 Hit List) are learning that promises the Board makes in one year will be broken as soon as the protests abate. 


January 5, 2010 at 8:23 AM

By: Retired Principal

New Turnaround High Schools

Jim, do you know the names of the 34 high schools that could be turnaround for the 2010-2011 school year?

January 5, 2010 at 9:52 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

All general high schools on Hit List

Despite Ron Huberman's refusal to provide Substance with a complete list of the city schools that qualify for closing (or "turnaround"), the criteria he outlined in his Power Point to the December 16, 2009 Board meeting indicate that every remaining general high school in Chicago could be subjected to "turnaround" this school year. CPS has reorganized and charterized the high schools in such a way that all of the lowest scoring (and almost all of the special education) students are now concentrated in roughly 40 general high schools. As you know, charter schools are not being held accountable for anything like the stringent rules that govern (and scapegoat) the general high schools, and the academic magnet high schools cream the highest scoring students, leaving the remaining students for the general high schools.

January 5, 2010 at 12:58 PM

By: kugler

state law?

isn't there a new state law where any schools to be closed have to go through a committee set up by the new law? Or does CPS plan to violate the law as it usually does.

January 6, 2010 at 1:48 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

'Soto Law', federal statutes being ignored

Althugh the 'Soto Bill' that was widely supported by teachers and community organizations was passed by the Illinois General Assembly (overriding a veto by Governor Quinn -- for those who think Quinn is some kind of "progressive" we should support) during its last session, Chicago is simply ignoring the Illinois law as this year's Hit List is developed. The Soto Law didn't include the promised "moratorium" stopping last year's closings (a promise some made to get many people, including some Substance staff, to lobby for the legislation) despite the initial claims of the legislation's supporters.

All the law wound up with was a "committee" that is supposed to oversee all "Facilities" decisions made by the Chicago Board of Education. To which Chicago's mayor and school board said, basically, "F___ you."

Ron Huberman and the Chicago Board of Education are ignoring the capital oversight committee provision this week as the Hit List is finalized. Additionally, the Chicago Board of Education has just completed the sale of more than $1 billion in construction and other "capital" bonds -- one of the largest in Illinois history -- without having held promised hearings and with no coherent current facilities plan. Who knew, for example, that Chicago needed a new, $60 million, Ogden Elementary School to serve the children of the Gold Coast? Who knew, for example, that Illinois needed a four block square "campus" (funded by the Illinois Facilities Fund) for the Phoenix (Army) Military Academy High School and the Marine Military Academy High School (both of which can be found in the middle of that massive construction side that begins on Western Ave. and Jackson and continues west to Campbell)?

Both projects were ordered by Mayor Richard M. Daley, and so they are underway now -- without any "facilities" review as required by state law (and, many would say, common civic decency).

There is no indication that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will ever enforce am Illinois law that the Chicago Public Schools or Mayor Richard M. Daley have broken. And unless state or federal authorities force Chicago to stop its illegal activities, Chicago's version of corporate "school reform" will probably go on in the face of thousands more protesting this year's Hit List.

January 7, 2010 at 11:12 AM

By: Retired Principal

High Schools To Be Turnarounded

According to Catalyst here are the non-charter CPS high schools that are eligible to be "turnarounded" or "turned upside down" for the 2010-2011 school year: Robeson, Clemente, Roosevelt, CVCA (CVS), Hope, Richards, Washington, Gage Park, Phillips, School of Entreprenurship (South Shore Campus), Crane, Schurz, Senn, Tilden, Hyde Park, Harlan, School of Leadership (South Shore Campus), School of Technology (South Shore Campus), Dyett, Foreman, Hirsch, Dunbar, New Millennium (Bowen Campus), Chicago Discovery (Bowen Campus), Farragut and Sullivan. P.S.- Teachers, if CPS doesn't like your principal or your principal doesn't have a "guardian angel" and you are at one of these schools, update your resume now! Remember, it's not what you know, but who you know!

January 7, 2010 at 12:03 PM

By: kugler

Is this Happening?

Public Act 096-0803

(5) School openings, school closings, school consolidations, school turnarounds, school phase-outs, school construction, school repairs, school modernizations, school boundary changes, and other related school facility decisions often have a profound impact on education in a community. In order to minimize the negative impact of school facility decisions on the community, these decisions should be implemented according to a clear system-wide criteria and with the significant involvement of local school councils, parents, educators, and the community in decision-making.

(6) The General Assembly has previously stated that it intended to make the individual school in the City of Chicago the essential unit for educational governance and improvement and to place the primary responsibility for school governance and improvement in the hands of parents,teachers, and community resi dents at each school. A school facility policy must be consistent with these principles.

January 14, 2010 at 7:44 PM

By: Retired Principal

School Closings

When CPS finally announces the school closing for the 2010-2011 school year, it will include 2 high schools to be turnarounded and 18 elementary schools to be turnarounded, closed, phased out or consolidated.

January 14, 2010 at 7:51 PM

By: Retired Principal

Anti-Violence Intiative

Here are 5 of the 38 high schools that will receive extra funds and services in Ron Huberman's anti-violence intiative; Fenger, Robeson, Corliss, Julian and Harlan.

January 15, 2010 at 1:17 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Fairy tales about "violence" and the Daley myths

Retired principal (and others) know that "violence" is not like Swine Flu, something a kid catches and then can be "cured" of. So the entire model from UIC to The New York Times magazine about "youth violence" being a "public health problem" is pure bullshit. Everyone who worked as a principal, assistant principal, dean of students, disciplinarian, or cop at any inner city school knows that almost all the "violence" in the inner city is gang violence -- not some disease.

But in order for Arne Ducnan, Eric Holder, and Barack Obama to cover up for Mayor Daley (and their own games with reality), they have to come forth with some "framing" of the narrative so that nobody notices that in Daley's Chicago, the gangs are major Powers (not just players) in at least half the city's wards, forming a good piece of Daley's own base. Chicago is the most gang infested place north of the Rio Grande, and the bigger scandal than that is that Daley and whatever Illinois governor is in power pre-indictment allows the gangs to run a number of the schools (the deal is to divide the schools, People or Folks) and all of the jails and prisons.

Any 14 year old out on the streets serving up from Chicago and Pulaski out to "South C" (87th and Colfax a mile from Bowen HS) can tell you the geopolitics of the gang. But the banger will laugh when you tell him to say "Ahhh" and examine him for that "violence" disease that hundreds of preachers and professors will soon be getting wealthier off of.

If there were any street reporters left in this town, they'd be talking to cops and kids to learn which gang is controlling which school (elementary and high schools both) and reporting that.

Instead, they sit blandly at Robeson Tuesday taking dictation from Ron Huberman and Rich Daley, and then missing the huge gang fight at that "Culture of Calm" school the very next day!

As they said in Ghostbusters. What a town!

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