Political Shift Rolling On... Alderman Lyle testifies against 'turnaround' of Deneen; Alderman Dowell testifies against closing of Mollison

In a continuing defiance of Mayor Richard M. Daley's major reform effort to privatize the Chicago Public Schools, Alderman Freddrenna Lyle (6th Ward) lashed out once again at the Board's agenda to outsource public education. On February 8, 2010, she sharply criticized the Board for proposing to do a so-called "turnaround" at Deneen Elementary School. Earlier in the hearings, she had criticized the proposed "turnaround" of Gillespie Elementary. Both schools are in her ward.

Chicago's Sixth Ward Alderman Freddrenna Lyle (above at podium) testified against the proposed "turnaround" of Deneen Elementary School during the hearing on the proposal at CPS headquarters on February 8, 2010. Alderman Lyle noted the incoherence of the Board of Education's so-called "Performance Management" policy and said that it was the duty of public schools to educate all children and not the job of Chicago to outsource public education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."It's totally unproductive to continue down the this path to outsource public education when we are mandated by law to do this very work," said Lyle, who told hearing officer Margaret Fitzpartick and a packed audience on February 8 that had has been very emotional over the previous few days. She had spoken out against the proposed "turnaround" of Gilliespie Elementary School on February 4 and was back at the Board to oppose the "turnaround" of Deneen Elementary School on February 8. During those days, Lyle worked with her own staff and the school's staff to debunk every argument CPS officials made against the two schools.

Lyle took aim at two of Daley's key components of his 'Renaissance 2010 Plan' to close as many public schools as possible. The first is CPS Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman's 'performance data management' criteria, which are being used to close schools and subject some to "turnaround." She also criticized the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) management organization, which has been set up to take over public schools after the entire school staff (principal, teachers, even janitors and lunchroom workers) is fired in a so-called "turnaround."

"The next thing I don't understand is how do you get to be on this (closing) list," Lyle said at the hearing to turnaround Deneen at the Board headquarters Monday night, February 8. "Deneen was making progress, maybe not like some of the schools on the northwest side. They have the TAP program to address the problems. And now I hear the magic of AUSL. Our program would be wonderful, too, if we could get the (same) resources."

At the January 19 press conference he called to announced the list of 14 schools to be closed, phased out, or turned around, Huberman told the media (in answer to a question from Substance) that "turnaround" schools get more than a million dollars in extra money during their first year alone.

Lyle said she still cannot understand what performance criteria Huberman is using to close schools like Deneen. Although CPS lists 14 supposed criteria in this year's "Performance" plan, only four are cited in testimony on the need to subject schools like Deneen and Gillespie to "turnaround."

"The Board shows the process of how schools fall into these categories, and it may seem logical to accept these value added metrics," she said. "But there is no data to show this value added metrics system actually works. Even the Board website says this is to be used as a statistic and should not be entirely accepted. So when the Board says it's not proven as well, it's kind of problematic."

Lyle noted that it is impossible for anyone to locate how the Board develops its "Performance Management" listings from available public data. The latest formulae for performance management utilized by the Chicago Board of Education were only approved by the Board on December 16, 2009, then applied retroactively to the schools that are being targeted this school year.

Lyle also asked if the Board is taking into account what low-income schools have — such as homeless children, special education children, English language learners, etc. — as opposed to magnet schools that can take the best students with the fewest problems.

"You have this data to show the school's performance is poor — data metrics — in comparison to across the state, but does this include magnet schools?" Lyle told the hearing. "It's not an apples to apples comparison."

She also questioned how sincere the Board is when it states they worked with the teachers and principals at the schools, but still it was not enough, and thus they needed to close the school. "It's like teaching someone drowning how to swim faster instead of pulling them out of the water," Lyle said. "If you really wanted to help, you would have found another teacher in that classroom with 38 students."

Lyle lashed out at the Board for allowing oversized class rooms to flourish — some with over 38 students - and then state they have to close the school because of a temporary dip in their recent test scores.

"Academic failure is attributed to class size and to say they need to reconstitute is unfair and unjust" Lyle continued. Then the feisty alderwoman took aim at the heart of what many see is the real reason Mayor Daley wants to close the public schools.

"They say Deneen was chosen to close because they just want their building to give to the new folks," Lyle said. "I said, 'No, that's not the way the Board operates.' AUSL is not a charter school. That's what Charter schools do. They fix up the building and then give them all the resources after they close the public school. But this [AUSL] is the closest thing to a charter. It's totally counterproductive to continue down this path — to outsource education to do what we are mandated by law to do. So I'm here to oppose the Deneen closing like I was here earlier to oppose the Gillespie closing."

Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell (above at microphone) testified forcefully against the Chief Executive Officer's proposal to close Mollison Elementary School and put Wells Prep in control of a combined school in the Mollison building. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.After the Deneen hearing, Alderman Pat Dowell came to speak up in defense of Mollison Elementary school which is also slated to close. [Further reports continue in today's].

Opposition to Daley's policies is growing among aldermen in a City Council that so far has been tightly controlled by Daley's allies. The list now includes the following aldermen who have spoken forcefully against the closing of neighborhood schools in their wards: Latasha Thomas, Scot Waguespak, Pat Dowell and Freddrenna Lyle.

Observers of the closing hearings now wonder whether they would be joined at the February 9 hearing by First Ward Alderman Manuel Flores. The hearing, about the Board's plan to "phase out" Schneider Elementary School, comes less than one year after Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott told Flores and parents from Schneider that the Board was not going to take over the entire Scheider building. The Schneider hearing is scheduled for the 5:30 p.m. on February 9, 2010. The final hearing (on the turnaround of Bradwell Elementary School) is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on February 10.

Last year not one alderman spoke out publically against the closings during the school closing hearings, which took place in January and February 2009. 


February 9, 2010 at 10:33 AM

By: Jean Schwab


I'm glad to hear that the Alermen are joining this struggle. The next move is to completely dismantle all of this Charter school business and restore the staff to their original positions. All of this is so unbelieveable. All staff that were pushed out should be restored to their positions or compensated.

February 10, 2010 at 7:26 AM

By: Debra A. Owens

Displaced Teacher

I agree totally with the alderman. Stop turning our Public Schools into a Charter Schools and placed all the displaced teachers back into their original positions.

February 10, 2010 at 12:41 PM

By: Retired Principal

Charter Schools

According to a new report issued by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, there is a wide variance in the quality of the nation's several thousand charter schools with, in the aggregate, students in charter schools not faring as well as students in traditional public schools. While the report recognized a robust national demand for more charter schools from parents and local communities, it found that 17% of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37% of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, 46% of charter schools demonstrating NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE! So much for Renaissance 2010, 2015, 2020, etc!

February 10, 2010 at 1:55 PM

By: jonsie

displaced (?) teachers and staff

Isn't it about time for displaced teachers and staff sue CPS for wrongful firing? or something like that. CPS violated their contracts; these employees did nothing wrong; they followed every program CPS dictated; gave of themselves for years to the children of Chicago; followed the rules, etc. And for that they were libeled and labeled and humiliated and fired.

Marilyn and the CTU won't help; maybe some eager attorney would take on the CPS.

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