January 27, 2010 Chicago Board of Education meeting... More Demanding an End to Renaissance Closings

The heat was turned up at the Chicago Board of Education meeting Wednesday, January 27, 2010, as parents, students, teachers and other community members spoke out against Mayor Richard Daley’s plan to continue closing public schools. The latest list of schools facing closings, consolidations, phase outs and "turnaround" — 14 schools in all — was announced by CEO Ron Huberman, Daley's latest appointee, on January 19, and people began mobilizing in opposition to the actions immediately. The January 27 meeting was the first indication of how widespread the opposition was going to be.

Since the death of Michael Scott in November 2009, Clare Muñana (above center) has chaired the meetings of the Chicago Board of Education. At the January 27, 2010 meeting (above), she cut off CTU President Marilyn Stewart, refusing to allow Mary McGhire, from the CTU, speak in opposition to school closings at the TAP (merit pay) schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The assault on the Renaissance Plan to privatize public education was punctuated by a group of articulate students from Roberto Clemente, Julian and Social Justice high schools who took aim at Schools chief Ron Humberman’s "Bill of Rights" for students at the 14 schools that will be either closed, consolidated, phased out or turned around.

On January 19, 2010, when he announced the 2010 'Hit List' of schools to be closed, phased out, consolidated, and subjected to "turnaround", CEO Ron Huberman presented a Power Point outlining what he called a "Student Bill of Rights" that only applied to the 14 schools on the 2010 Hit List. At the Janaury 27, 2010 Chicago Board of Education meeting, students from five high schools demanded to know why Huberman didn't think students in the city's other 652 public schools deserved a 'Bill of Right' too (CPS has told the public for six months that it has precisely '666' schools, without being able to list them on any of the directories and lists it has published this year). Huberman had no answer to the students. Substance photo from the January 19 press conference by George N. Schmidt. “The thing is we get rights after our schools are closed down,” said Asucena Lopez, a student at Social Justice High School in Little Village. “We need a Bill of Rights for the whole city all the time.”

Jennifer Kush, a student at Clemente High School, said the Board of Education should come to the students and ask them what is working before they decide to close the school.

“Closing schools doesn’t work,” Kush told Huberman directly. “Students have to cross gang territories when they close a school. Look what happened at Fenger. Replacing the teachers we know with new teachers we hardly know doesn’t work. Why don’t you train the staff on handling violence? You, Board members, don’t know what we experience every day.”

Huberman and Board of Education member Clare Muñana, who again chaired the meeting (as she has been doing since the late Board president Michael Scott died two months ago), said they were impressed with what the students had to say and promised to visit their schools.

[img=1274]The tone was different this time as speaker after speaker made passionate, calm and well-reasoned arguments why the Renaissance plan should end and the plans aimed at the schools targeted for closing should be rescinded. The Board increased its security, perhaps in response to the heated arguments that arose from the last Board meeting. A later check with the Board brought the acknowdlegment that the security had indeed been increased. According to CPS spokesman Malon Edwards, the Board brought in additional security in order to protect the rights of all speakers to make themselves heard. Some advocates, who felt they were blocked from standing with those they supported, disagreed.

Phyllis Killins from Guggenheim school was the first to speak against the proposed closings. She said the teachers come early, stay late and do everything that is asked of them. “We feel it’s very sad to close Guggenheim and then reopen the school for kids outside the community while some of us in the community can no longer attend our school,” Killins said.

This has happened at many Renaissance schools where charter and other selective schools have replaced the neighborhood schools and can avoid educating kids who live in the community. Charter schools, which require an extensive application process and also have students and families sign performance "contracts," first cream the students from nearby public schools, then kick out students who return to nearby public schools from the charters.

A Guggenheim teacher who spoke next noted that their school is the only stable place for many of the impoverished children who attend.

Juliana Nichols, from McCorkle Elementary School, spoke next against their school’s proposed closing and consolidation into another school. She noted that it is unfair to spend money to renovate the school and then throw the children and staff out. “They are facing displacement in their own school home,” Nichols said.

The anger against closing schools took a brief detour into Whittier Elementary School, where an LSC member and teacher demanded that they have a say in the capital improvements in the school where they say lead is in the building. They also demanded to know when the UNO Charter School, which temporarily moved into the De La Cruz School building after it was closed last year because the school was beyond repair, will leave.

Virginia Guevara, who chairs the Whittier LSC, spoke to the Board in Spanish, then insisted that her own translator, not the Board's, translate accurately what she said. She reminded the Board members that they had not consulted the school or community before coming in with plans for renovations. For example, she said, the field house behind the school should be renovated for use by the school and community, not torn down as the Board plans to do. Board member Clare Munana said she would visit the school again and continue listening.

Huberman – who insisted that UNO had paid for the current renovation but did not mention that they are renting the building for $1 for the year – said the building will be closed and should be demolished after the one year ends.

Andrea Lee from the Grand Boulevard Federation, said the decision to close Mollison School is not about academics – she noted test scores increased 20% since 2003 – but about dismantling all public schools. She noted they needed to close Wells School as they turnaround Phillips High School (when Orr High School became a turnaround, 300 students were purged from the new Renaissance school.) The last school to speak out against their proposed turnaround in which the entire staff is to be fired was Bradwell. Delores Walker, a member of Bradwell’s Local School Council, asked Huberman what is a “turnaround.”

Huberman explained the performance policy in which schools that score below the 33% are eligible to be closed, and stated, “We did not have confidence in Bradwell.”

Walker said they have a principal and a chief area officer who have both only served five months on the job. The closing policy Huberman released to the press last month stated any building with an administration that has served less than two years is not eligible to be closed.

The Chicago Teachers Union was out in full force to criticize Renaissance and support the closing schools.

CTU President Marilyn Stewart spoke out strongly against the plan to close Curtis Elementary as well as the others.

“It’s Déjà vu again and again and again,” Stewart said. “Renaissance 2010 has not lived up to its hype.”

She noted that Curtis which is being closed due to its poor performance, had 200 students transfer in and out in one month at the school. Many live in a homeless shelters, she said. Research shows that mobility hurts children’s academic performance, sometimes losing up to six months of school.

Stewart also noted that the Board invested $1 million to rehab the school, but now they’re closing it.

“Are you closing it to give it away?” Stewart said.

In an unprecedented decision that perhaps demonstrates the growing friction between the current CTU leadership and the Board, Munana did not allow the CTU’s Mary McGuire to speak after Stewart. Stewart's spokesperson, Rosemaria Genova, later told Substance that Board Communications Director Monique Bond knew that McGuire was going to talk to the Board explaining the TAP schools. Members of CORE — a caucus of teachers who will be challenging Stewart in the next Chicago Teachers Union election in May — were again out in full force. Jesse Sharkey spoke out against using standardized testing as a key determinant to close schools, Kristine Mayle, who is running on the CORE slate as financial secretary, mentioned the University of Chicago and Stanford reports that said Renaissance is not working, Norine Gutekanst spoke about Whittier and UNO problems, and Xian Barrett, who advises the Chicago Youth Initiative, said the way to reform education is to fully support the neighborhood public schools, which has been happening at Julian High School.

“Mr. Huberman you said I’m more interested in supporting neighborhood schools,” Barrett said. “Turnarounds don’t improve learning, charters don’t improve learning. What works is when you give us the support and the community comes together. We’re very happy to see the central office come down to help us out.”

Pam Touras, a teacher and union delegate from McPherson Elementary School, spoke from the SEA Caucus, who will also contend in the next CTU election. Touras asked the Board to consider all future schools to be performance in which the teachers are fully certified and members of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Marcia Williams who is running as president of the Independent Caucus in May’s election was listed to speak but was not present when her name was called.

The biggest show of force in terms of numbers connected to one issue was the contingent of more than 30 community members who came to denounce the possibility of moving the Keller Regional Gifted School on the southwest side of the city to make room for the overcroweded schools, many of whom have seen an influx of students from parochial schools due to the current economic downturn.

“Please do not solve one problem and create another,” parent Sherry Swan told the Board. She also asked Huberman if it was true that they would move the school in two years.

When Huberman replied that there is “nothing on the table,” one speaker quickly retorted that that was what he told the Edison community before the Board went ahead and moved the gifted school despite massive protests from the parents.

Substance editor George Schmidt noted that there were also Edison parents in the Board chambers to support the Keller people, who probably warned them about how the Board will promise one thing, but deliver another. 


January 28, 2010 at 10:12 PM

By: Washington HS

Warning Resolutions yesterday

Washington HS--why so many warning resolutions against tenured teachers there?

March 20, 2011 at 11:37 PM

By: Dolores Bradwell

Why Didn't you allow Dolores Bradwell-Walker's school more time?



It seems my Dolores Bradwell-Walker was treated unfairly. Since she stated her employees has not been on the job no more

than a few months, I feel she should have been given more time to get her act together.

Think about it, ok. Dolores Bradwell of

New York City.

P.S. I am a teacher, too, it runs in

the family as well as Dolore's

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