Board members get an earful at Hit List hearings... New Board President listens to some of those under attack by this year's closing policies

Although there were never more than two of them in attendance at the time, for the first time in history, all the members of the Chicago Board of Education attended at least one of the annual 'Hit List' hearings on school closings, consolidations, phase outs, and turnarounds between January 28, 2010 and February 9, 2010. Newly appointed Chicago Board of Education President Mary Richardson Lowry (above third from right, with glasses) attended the hearings on the proposed turnaround of Deneen Elementary School and the proposed closing of Mollison Elementary on February 8, 2010. Richardson Lowry was appointed President of the Board on January 28 and becomes the fourth Board President since Daley took over the city's schools following the passage of the Amendatory Act in 1995. Richardson Lowry is the third Board President in the past 12 months. Daley removed Rufus Williams in early February 2009 after Williams disagreed with some of the proposed closings. Michael Scott, who was appointed to replace Williams, served nine months before his death in November 2009. The Board went without a President between November 2009 and February 2010, with Board meetings being chaired by Board Vice President Clare Munana (above left). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The only Board member who had not attended one of the hearings as of the 13th (out of 14) held at the Board's Clark St. headquarters has been Norman Bobins, the retired President of Chicago's LaSalle Bank. According to one of Bobins's aides, Bobins had heart surgery and was unable to make any of the hearings, so he sent an aide.

Board of Education members Clare Muñana (left) and Richardson-Lowery (second left) with "Chief Administrative Officer" Robert Runcie and "Chief of Staff" David Pickens during the February 8, 2010 hearings on the Board's proposal to close Mollison Elementary School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Unlike her predecessor Michael Scott (but like her predecessor Rufus Williams), the latest President of the Chicago Board of Education, attorney Mary Richardson Lowry, was present at the hearings.

Richardson-Lowry was appointed President of the Chicago Board of Education by Mayor Richard M. Daley and becomes the third Board President in less than a year. One year ago, during the time of the 2009 Hit List hearings, Rufus Williams was President of the Chicago Board of Education. Mayor Daley recommends new Board president Richardson-Lowry is a partner in the law firm of Mayer Brown.

According to the City Hall press release dated January 28, 2010, "Mayor Richard M. Daley announced today that he has appointed Mary Richardson-Lowry as a member of the Chicago Board of Education and recommended to the Board that she be named President. Richardson-Lowry would succeed Michael Scott, who died last November."

As usual, at the time of his appointment of Richardson-Lowry, Daley claimed the schools were still in trouble, as he has been proclaiming during the 14 years since he became the first big city mayor to do "mayoral control.

“Our schools are at a turning point. Either we accept the challenge to take them to a new level of achievement or we risk falling behind,” Daley said at a City Hall news conference, according to the City Hall press release.

According to Daley, the school system needs to be taken to what he calls "The next level" and Richardson Lowry is the person for the job. "She is a solid manager," Daley stated. "I know her to be a person who will fight for people. Most importantly, I know that she will always put children first."

Richardson-Lowry is a partner in the law firm of Mayer Brown. She is a former commissioner of the City’s Buildings Department and a former City assistant corporation counsel.

Board member Roxanne Ward (above left) attended the Prescott closing hearing on February 2, 2010 with Clare Munana (looking up beside Ward). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Like Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman, Richardson-Lowry has City Hall experience but no experience in public education. Daley's public relations people are trying to focus her qualifications on the fact that she is a lawyer, not that she comes from City Hall. "Daley said the CPS leadership team of Richardson-Lowry, Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman and Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins must remain focused on the fundamentals of learning and of education," Daley said.

Whenever Daley talks about the schools, he simply repeats the same cliches he's been using for more than a decade, and all those who owe their school jobs and other favors to him are required to repeat the salvation myth that now surrounds the Daley 'Mayoral Control' story. With each twist and turn of Daley's policies, they have to twist and turn with him. Ten years ago, Daley's favored "reform" was "small schools." Three years ago, he abruptly abandoned "small schools" and adopted "turnaround" (now the supposed national model being promoted by the Obama administration).

“They must stay on course with our efforts to teach the basics — reading, math and science," Daley continued. "They need to do even more to turn around our underachieving schools,” he said.

Chicago Board of Education members Peggy Davis (above, second from right) and Alberto Carrero (right, beside Chicago flag) attended more of the annual hearings than any other members of the Board. Above, they listen to testimony during the hearings on the proposed turnaround of Gillespie Elementary School on February 4, 2010. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.According to the press release, "Daley said all Chicagoans are concerned about the accusations of spending impropriety at the Board and he asked Richardson-Lowry to immediately get on top of the issue so the taxpayers see they are protected. 'They must have confidence in Board and CPS spending policies, proposals and priorities. This includes managers, Board Members and executives. I won't settle for anything less,'" he said. At every point during the school closing hearings in January and February 2010, Board members have been reminded of the enormous expense of the policies CPS is undertaking as it claims to be doing "turnaround" at additional schools.

During a January 19 media event to announce this year's list, CEO Ron Huberman told the press (in answer to a question posed by Substance) that each "turnaround" school gets at least $1 million additional dollars when "turnaround" is approved. In addition to public funds, turnaround schools are often given additional funds from targeted philanthropy.

The mayor's power to appoint the members of the Chicago Board of Education and the "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools were given to Mayor Richard M. Daley by a Republican administration in Springfield in 1995 when the Illinois General Assembly passed the "Amendatory Act of 1995" (so called because it amended the school reform act of 1988). Since that time, Chicago, Chicago media, and Chicago Public Schools officials have dated all histories of the school system from the day the mayor was placed in control, as if marking the times between "BC" and "AD" in the old calendar.

As time has gone on and Daley has been treated to more and more claims about the contributions he made to corporate "school reform", first in Chicago and now through the Obama administration's appointment of Arne Duncan as U.S. Secretary of Education, the mythologizing of recent Chicago education history has increased, with Daley himself regularly adding footnotes to the routine burnishing of the story by the city's corporate media. Within the past two years, Daley has stated that before he took over — during the years when black people were in charge of the school system — the public schools were a "cesspool." A few weeks ago, he told reporters that when he took over the public schools in 1995, Chicago only had one "good" public high school.

Mayor Richard M. Daley's alma mater. Daley's hostility towards public schools was longstanding, and has grown since he was given dictatorial power over Chicago's huge school system in 1995. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Daley himself attended Catholic schools and graduated high school from De La Salle High School, run by the Irish Christian Brothers, where he wielded political clout because he was son of the mayor (the late Mayor Richard J. Daley), but was a poor student. 


February 10, 2010 at 9:17 AM

By: Security Paranoid

February 24 major confrontation

The math question for the performance experts at CPS for this morning is how they are going to fit an extra 2,000 or 3,000 people into 125 S. Clark St. when they hold their February 24 Board of Education meeting. If CPS tries to play the same game they've played the past couple of years by keeping people lined up forever waiting for the metal detectors, there is bound to be trouble. Thousands of people have turned out for the hearings so far, and they have promised to bring more back to the Board meeting when the Board votes on the Hit List.

CPS should hold the meeting at a school with a large auditorium and an equally large parking lot. Whitney Young, Lane Tech, Lindblom, and dozens of others come to mind.

But Ron Huberman's probably too paranoid to allow all the people who want to speak the truth about his "performance" to get to a Board meeting.

Or could it be he wants to create a security crisis at Clark St. so he can play "tough cop" again?

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