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CORE hosts 'Education Summit' at Macolm X College January 9, 2010... CORE Education Summit introduces CORE candidates for May 21 CTU election

Stop privatization! Stop Renaissance 2010! Support and defend Public Education! These fighting words rang loud and clear at CORE’s second annual Education Summit at Malcolm X College Saturday, January 9 took place in which about 400 teachers, community leaders, students and others interested in defending public education attended.

The CORE candidates for officers in the Chicago Teachers Union were introduced at the January 9, 2010 'Education Summit' at Malcolm X College. Left to right: CORE presidential candidate Karen Lewis (King High School); vice presidential candidate Jackson Potter (Little Village High School of Social Justice); recording secretary candidate Michael Brunson (displace teacher, Aldridge Elementary School); Lois Ashford, who was elected trustee of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund with CORE support on October 31 and introduced the group; and Kristine Mayle (Eberhart Elementary) for financial secretary. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Last year more than 500 people braved a blizzard to attend the event, many from schools that were slated to close for either low test scores or under-enrollment. But this year the Chicago Board of Education decided to not honor its promise to release the list of closing schools to the public on January 8 the day before the CORE event, perhaps to undermine the event. As the meeting began, CORE co-chairman Jackson Potter asked the crowd to consider the fact that CPS Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman had deliberately delayed that announcement of the annual "Hit List" to diminish the impact of CORE's summit. CORE (the Caucus Of Rank and file Educators) — a fighting caucus of teachers in the Chicago Teachers Union — organized in response to Mayor Richard Daley’s attack on public schools. CORE was instrumental in leading massive protests last year that resulted in six schools being taken off the closing list. Calls by Substance requesting either the 2010 Hit List or a list of all schools eligible for closing or turnaround based on current criteria were ignored. Schools CEO Ron Huberman delivered the criteria in a Power Point presentation at the December 16, 2009, Board of Education meeting, but refused to provide the public with a list of all elementary and high schools that could be closed under the latest (or more than a dozen) criteria that have been used in Chicago over the past nine years, said Substance editor George Schmidt. Substance estimates that 200 elementary schools and virtually all of the city's remaining general high schools could be closed or subjected to "turnaround" under the new criteria. The opening panel discussed several aspects of he fight back against Renaissance 2010 and in defense of public schools. Left to right: Kalina Mojica (Julian High School student); Marguerite Jacobs and Cheryl Johnson from the Committee for Safe Passage; Lily Gonzales (Peabody school); Lois Ashford (CORE); Pauline Lipman (Teachers for Social Justice); and Karen Lewis (CORE). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.On January 10, 2009, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Marilyn Stewart and former CTU President Deborah Lynch were among the many who spoke out at the public education forum. This year they did not attend, perhaps because CORE took center stage in formally announcing their slate to compete in the CTU election in May against the UPC’s Stewart and PACT’s Lynch. Members of Lynch's group were present but did not speak. No one from the CTU staff was present, but one of Marilyn Stewart's top aides, Marc Wigler, asked at least one participant to let him know what was said during the event.

A roaring round of applause greeted the recently elected CORE slate which was introduced during the first panel. The slate consists of Karen Lewis (King High School teacher) for President; Jackson Potter (Little Village High School teacher) for Vice President; Michael Brunson (displaced teacher from Aldridge Elementary) for Recording Secretary; and Kristine Mayle (Eberhart Elementary) for Financial Secretary.

The opening panel discussion was chaired by Jitu Brown, of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), one of the founding groups of GEM.

Karen Lewis, CORE's candidate for president of the Chicago Teachers Union (King High School) spoke to the group. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The opening keynote panel included Lily Gonzalez from Peabody School. She thanked CORE and GEM for helping save their school on the near north side. Kellina Mojica, a Julian High School student in Chicago Youth Initiating Change (CYIC) who has been instrumental in fighting Ren 2010, talked about students' roles. Lois Ashford, a recently elected Chicago Teacher’s Pension Fund trustee thanked CORE for helping to channel her anger after her previous school (Copernicus Elementary) was closed by Arne Duncan and placed in "turnaround." Ashford told the crowd that "turnaround" forced her to become a displaced teacher, and that CORE helped her learn how to fight back rather than lose hope.

Pauline Lipman from Teachers for Social Justice noted that former Chicago schools chief and now Education Secretary Arne Duncan is promising federal funds to urban school districts like Detroit, but only if they adopt the Chicago reform model that has resulted in a spike in violence after schools were closed.

Cheryl Johnson and Marguerite Jacobs from the Committee for Safe Passage who have worked with GEM — a coalition of community organizations fighting Ren2010 and helped organize the event — to demand a public school in the Altgeld Gardens community.

CORE co-chairman and CTU presidential candidate Lewis noted in her official acceptance speech to the crowd that the snow last year and the cold this year did not stop the fighting spirit gathered in the room.

Part of the crowd at the opening of the January 9, 2010 'Education Summit' at Malcolm X College in Chicago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.“Teaching is a privilege and learning is a right,” Lewis said, “and these guys [Mayor Daley and Chicago Board of Education which he controls] are taking away our privileges and our rights.”

She then noted that while she was speaking the city sent the “boot truck” to put the infamous "Denver Boot" on cars in the Malcolm X parking lot. When Substance editor George Schmidt and Substance Chief Technology Officer Dan Schmidt went out to take pictures, the truck disappeared. It didn't return when it saw reporters still at the lot entrance.

After each panelist spoke for about two minutes, several people from the audience came to the microphone, some to thank CORE, state they were a displaced teacher or a victim of corruption and that they were ready to help and fight to defend public education. A contingent of community education leaders from Milwaukee attended to learn more on how to fight the current battle for mayoral control of the public schools.

The conference then broke up into five working groups. They were: Amplifying Student Voice in Schools; Taking Back Our Schools: Building a Fighting Teachers Union with the Community; Democratic Alternatives to Renaissance 2010: Lessons in Fighting Closures and Turnarounds with a Positive School Plan; Tests: The New Bully on the Block: How to Put Testing in its Place; and Strengthening and Empowering LSCs … Important Steps to Protect Public Education.

In the Democratic Alternatives to Renaissance 2010 workshop, three groups made presentations about their current community struggles to defend or demand a neighborhood public school accountable to the community. Brian Roa, a CORE teacher and member of the Save Senn High School Coalition, and a Senn student spoke briefly about their fight to save their commuity high school after the Rickover Naval Academy was set up inside against the wishes of the community. The next group, the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (or KOCO) made a presentation about how they organized to save Dyett High School. Dyett was originally a middle school that was forced to become a high school overnight as a result of the Renaissance Plan. The former neighborhood high school King was turned into a magnet selective school in a rapidly gentrifying area in the mid-south region, so the students who could not attend would go to Dyett, as well as students from Englewood High School that was also closed under the privatization plan that replaced Englewood with a charter school.

KOCO said a one-year process was then started by bringing together the community of parents, students, administrators and teachers together to work and deal with a difficult situation. They focused on overcoming the problems of students coming to school unprepared and dealing with discipline issues. They met regularly with late Board President Michael Scott and their alderman Toni Preckwinkle to make sure this was a community led process and not a set-up for failure. When Dyett began, they had a library with no books and lacked many other resources. Since then they have slowly acquired the necessary resources and work strongly with the feeder schools.

The last presentation at this workshop was the Altgeld Gardens Community who are demanding that a public neighborhood school that focuses on environmental justice be opened after its community school Carver was closed, forcing the students to travel five miles away into the volatile Fenger High School which was named a turnaround school last year and fired all its staff.

This resulted in the beating death of an honor student recorded on a student’s cell phone that was broadcast around the world.

“We started working with 20 kids in the community and asked what their wishes were for and some said they didn’t expect to live past 20,” said Jacobs. "So we have set up tutoring programs and poetry night so children can vent their anger in a positive way."

Jacobs said the community also wants a local neighborhood public school that will be open to all students in the community, a unionized teaching staff and local school council — three things the recently approved Chicago International Charter School high school cannot provide. “We want a democratic process,” Cheryl Jackson said. “You should always have a neighborhood school in your community. We’re saying, give us back our public school.”

When the "Denver Boot" van arrived at the Malcolm X parking lot, some in the crowd noted that it was "like a scene out of 'The Wire'. The boot was placed on several cars in the parking lot before two Substance reporters began taking pictures of the City of Chicago Department of Revenue in action. The van above then left and circled the block. When it returned, it was photographed again, then left, not to return. Substance photo by Dan Schmidt.In the workshop to build a fighting teachers union, several teachers spoke out about the challenges teachers face and what needs to be done to address them.

Jose Morales, an advisor in the Aspira Charter Schools, said unlike when he was growing up and teachers were revered, today teachers get no respect.

“Every time you turn on the news there’s a story slamming teachers,” Morales said. “Our voices have gotten lost in the whole political process. You have to fight back.”

A former Fenger teacher noted that before Fenger became a “turnaround” the school had over 30% special education students, but no extra resources to deal with it.

A teacher at Chicago Discovery, one of Bowen High School's four schools, said the small schools concept is not working there because they all have to fight over use of the cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium. The school was not designed to be a small school and are suffering as a result.

Perhaps Nate Goldbaum, a CORE teacher at Whittier Elementary, summed up the spirit of the workshop and the overall conference in general with the following observation.

“This is a new time and we need a new union,” he said. “Teachers are the last of a major labor movement under attack and this is what we need to fight back.”

At the end of the conference, Jenn Johnson, a Lincoln Park High School teacher and member of the CORE steering committee, told Substance that approximately 400 people had signed in for the conference.

[Full disclosure: The reporter on this story is a member of CORE].



Comments:

January 11, 2010 at 12:34 AM

By: jonesie

Disclaimer?

shouldn't you have a disclaimer that the reporter and editor are member of CORE?

January 11, 2010 at 9:56 AM

By: Jiminy Cricket

Did someone steal CORE's flag?

Comparing the photo(s) from last year's Malcolm X event to this year's event, it was difficult to tell that the thing Saturday was a CORE event. Did someone lose that CORE banner that seems to have appeared on the Substance site here a hundred times since last year, or was it there somewhere but not in any of your photographs? One person I know who went said that a big sign saying "GEM" (which doesn't have an address, far as anyone can tell) was behind the speakers' table. So should someone now contact "GEM" to find out what CORE is doing? Also, who does one contact to do this anti-Daley work that seems to be advocated in the sign behind CORE's candidates? For CTU members, one question is how many voting CTU members were at that 'Education Summit' Saturday?

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