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Two aldermen introduce resolution to freeze closings, turnovers, phase outs, and turnarounds in Chicago just as 'Chicago Model' goes national under 'Race To The Top'

Two of the five Chicago Aldermen who testified during the recent round of hearings on school closings, phase outs, consolidations, and turnarounds have introduced a resolution in Chicago City Council to freeze all of the processes for at least one year.

More than 400 people protested the latest round of proposed school closings, consolidations, phase outs, and turnarounds in a picket line outside the Chicago Board of Education's headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. on February 10, 2010, the day of the final hearing on this year's Hit List. More than 250 people later went upstairs in support of Bradwell Elementary School. Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman has proposed the "turnaround" of Bradwell. One of those who spoke in support of Bradwell was alderman Sandi Jackson. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.The resolution, which was dated February 10, 2010, was introduced by Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) and Freddrenna Lyle (6th Ward).

If passed by the entire City Council, the resolution would stop this year's round of turnarounds and other major changes just at a time when the Obama administration, through U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is pushing the Chicago Plan, including so-called "turnarounds", as a model for school reform across the USA.

The closings, consolidations, phase outs, and turnarounds were instituted during the more than seven years (July 2001 - December 2008) that Arne Duncan served as Chief Executive Officer of Chicago's public schools. Duncan was appointed CEO of CPS in July 2001 despite the fact that he had no teaching or administrative experience in public education and no Illinois credentials to work in any public school in the state. If he had tried to substitute teach in any Chicago suburb, Duncan would have been arrested. But under Chicago's peculiar rules since the institution of mayoral control — in fact, a radical form of deregulation and privatization of the city's public schools — Duncan needed only one vote to become the chief of the third largest public school system in the USA: that of Richard M. Daley.

On February 10, 2010, Alderman Sandi Jackson (7th Ward) told the hearing on the proposed "turnaround" of Bradwell Elementary School that the problems confronting the children, parents, and teachers at Bradwell were heart breaking, and that it was unfair for CPS to penalize Bradwell for conditions outside the schools. Alderman Jackson also noted that Bradwell's new principal had only been in office since September 2009, and that the chance for the school to make things better had not been given to Bradwell. Like many of those who spoke during the two weeks of hearings on the 2010 Hit List, Alderman Jackson became emotional at one point, removing her glasses as Bradwell parents, children, teachers and administrators looked on. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.During the controversial years Duncan served as CEO of CPS, Duncan destroyed more than 60 public schools. Most of those were turned over to charter school operators — most of the time after extensive and expensive rehabilitation, usually costing more than $10 million per building.

Duncan's closing of public schools began in April 2002, less than one year after his appointment by Daley, with the announcement that he was closing Dodge, Terrell and Williams elementary schools in order to promote a so-called "renaissance" that would supposedly save the children of those schools from what Duncan began calling "underperformance."

The list of 14 schools to be subjected to closings in 2010 has caused the greatest outburst of community opposition in history. During a total of 16 public hearings between January 28 and February 10, more than 3,000 people — most of them African American principals, teachers, parents, students and community members — spoke out against the proposals that had been released by Huberman on January 19 (the latest release date ever).

Former UPC member Ted Hajaharis (background, hand showing) eyes CORE's Karen Lewis (King High School, left) and Liz Brown (foreground) during the February 10 march in front of CPS headquarters prior to the last hearing on this year's Hit List. Lewis is CORE's candidate for President of the Chicago Teachers Union; Liz Brown works on CORE's media publicity. Hajiharis has been active with the SEA caucus for the past several months and was recently suspended from his field rep job at CTU by Marilyn Stewart, in Stewart's latest purge of the union's officer and staff. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber. The hearings, which have been taking place for six years, follow a careful quasi-legal script. During the hearings, representatives of the Board of Education presented a narrow version of the reality of each of the schools on the Hit List. The hearings do not allow questions and are limited to two hours in length. Even the qualifications of the Board of Education's witnesses, who often testify about complex and detailed statistical realities resulting from the lives of hundreds of children, are not allowed to be vetted as to their professional qualifications.

Some of the "hearing officers", all of whom claim to be "independent," stall to allow the maximum amount of time for the Board's presentations and run out the clock when the school and community are trying to present their sides of the story. Each person who asked to speak is limited to two minutes. The hearings last only two hours, and have all been adjourned abruptly at the end of two hours, often with half the people who wanted to speak still waiting.

The structure then goes like this: The hearing officer is supposed to present a "report" to the next meeting of the Board of Education, which can act in favor of the recommendation of teh CEO whether or not the report recommends that the school be closed.

In every year since Duncan began these show trials, the report of the hearing officer was incomplete at the time the Board actually voted to affirm the recommendation of the Chief Executive Officer. The transcripts of the hearings, which often include impassioned descriptions of terrible poverty faced by the children served by the schools under attack, have never been provided to the seven members of the Board of Education by the time they vote.

Nor have the Board members had the enormous number of exhibits and documents which the people have turned in to the hearing officer, despite the narrowest of time lines. The materials are simply not prepared in time for the vote. In one instance three years ago, parents, community supporters, students, and faculty presented the Board with more than 1,000 pages of materials in opposition to the Board's plan to move Edison Regional Gifted Center from a location in Edison Park into the overcrowded corner where two schools were already in operation. At the time the Board members voted to approve the recommendation by Arne Duncan to move Edison, the only materials the Board members had in front of them was a brief five-page report from the hearing officer. Hundreds of pages of letters and petitions from children, teachers and parents were simply ignored, as we more than 30 videos of people testifying at the hearings on the proposal. Typically in that year, not one member of the Board of Education was at the hearing.

When CPS was asked by Substance for an interview with each of the seven members of the Board who voted in favor of the Edison move, the Board's reply, from a spokesman in the Office of Communications, was that members of the Board were too busy to discuss such things.

At every hearing in January and February 2010, representatives of the Huberman administration have presented a quasi-legal "case" against the school in question, only to be immediately corrected by members of the schools' staffs, or by the aldermen who spoke against the plans. In most cases, the shallowness of the Board's "case" against the school was refuted within a half hour of its having been presented at the hearing. But if history is any guide, the Board members will simply read the report of the hearing officer and vote to approve the recommendation of the Chief Executive Officer. The compete "record" of the hearing (with exhibits provided by many people) will finally be assembled a month or longer following the decision of the Board of Education. Over several years, Substance has obtained these records under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Not once has the complete record of the hearing been provided to the Board members before they voted.

Like the Chief Executive Officer, the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education are appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley. Not one of them is an educator, and most are financiers or attorneys with ties to Chicago's largest banks and other corporations. As in most things Chicago, the Board has "diversity" in terms of racial and ethnic makeup, but is homogeneous in terms of social class. All of the Board members are wealthy, while the people pleading for the survival of the schools represent the most impoverished children in the largest ghetto in North America, Chicago's African American community, which stretches from the city's western border through the far South Side in a contiguous black community that constitutes the greatest example of racial segregation in the Northern Hemisphere.

Although there was major opposition to every move taken by Duncan beginning in 2002, the Chicago Board of Education approved all of the recommendations of Duncan's administration until 2009. Part of this was because the Chicago news media was in a radical transformation that resulted in the bankruptcy of both of the city's daily newspapers (the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times) after years of ruthless cutbacks in news coverage of essential city government activities. During most of the years of the closing hearings, Substance has been the only news service to report on all of the hearings. In 2010, the Chicago Tribune boycotted all 18 of the hearings held between January 28 and February 10, while the Chicago Sun-Times sent a reporter to only one day of the hearings (two schools). Neither paper has mentioned the vast outpouring of discontent with the Huberman proposals, although both newspapers provided fatuous coverage of Huberman's January 19 announcement of the supposed "Performance Management" criteria for the compilation of this year's Hit List.

The opposition has been building across the city, but mainly in Chicago's black and Latino communities, since each year only one school that is somewhat white is included, almost as a token afterthough, on the Hit List.

In January 2009, in the face of growing political and community pressure, newly installed CEO Ron Huberman (as qualified for the job of running a major school system as Arne Duncan had been) published a list of 22 school he recommended for closing, consolidation, phase out, or turnaround, but ended up removing six schools from the list. The Chicago Board of Education unanimously approved Huberman's 'Hit List' of the remaining 16 schools at its meeting of February 25, 2009.

One of the school turned over to so-called "turnaround" (actually, legally the process called "reconstitution" under Illinois law; "turnaround" is a corporate term that is not legally in practice in Illinois, although it is now being pushed by the Obama administration's Education Department under "Race To The Top") was Chicago's Christian Fenger High School, located at 113th and Wallace on Chicago's South side. When Huberman's turnaround team replaced virtually all the teachers and other staff and Fenger and replace them in August and September 2009, chaos quickly followed. The dramatic murder of Fenger High School junior Derrion Albert on September 24, 2009, brought international attention to the problems caused by the "turnaround" at Chicago's Fenger High School. Duncan has proposed that Fenger be subjected to "turnaround" prior to his departure for Washington, D.C. The turnaround of Fenger was implemented by Duncan's successor, Ron Huberman.

For the second time in a week, Alderman Freddrenna Lyle (6th Ward), on February 8, 2010, testified in opposition to the proposal by COE Ron Huberman that a school in heard ward be subjected to "Turnaround" under the Academy for Urban School Leadership. On February 8, she defended Deneen Elementary School from Huberman's "data driven" charges. Earlier, on February 4, Lyle had challenged the data used to claim that Gillespie Elementary School was in need of an AUSL "Turnaround." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The other aldermen who have spoken against this year’s round of closings, turnarounds, phase outs and consolidations have been Scott Waugespauk, Sandi Jackson, and Thomas. Parents from Marshall High School (which is scheduled for turnaround) told Substance on February 10 that Alderman Ed Smith has also joined the effort, but Substance has not been able to reach Smith for comment. The text of the resolution follows:

A Resolution to be Adopted by the City of Chicago

WHEREAS, School closings, consolidations, phase-outs, and turnarounds have a profound impact on entire communities, and

WHEREAS, Community members have an acute knowledge of where the resources and dangers are in the neighborhoods where their children attend school and can provide valuable insight into the potential issues that may result from these decisions, specifically regarding safe passage, and

WHEREAS, Chicago Public Schools has made these decisions without sufficient amounts of input from the affected communities, and

On February 8, 2010, Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell (above) testified forcefully in opposition to a proposal by Chicago School Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman that Mollison Elementary School be closed and then consolidated into Wells Prep, which is supposed to be moved into the Mollison building. Behind the plan proposed by Huberman, according to critics, was the plan to subject Phillips High School to "turnaround" and give the historical Phillips High School building to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Large scale community opposition to the proposals to radically change the schools in Dowell's ward. The proposals by Huberman would result in the loss of teaching and other jobs to the current staffs at both Mollison and Phillips. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. WHEREAS, the decisions made by CPS are often based on outdated or inaccurate data that does not fully consider recent improvements, and

WHEREAS, Many of the schools that are slated for reconstitution or closing have experienced years of significant academic and capital disinvestment; and

WHEREAS, Chicago Public Schools needs to examine its own policies regarding the distribution of resources for academic and capital needs before making drastic decisions such as replacing the school’s staff or closing the school altogether, and

Pickets on February 10, 2010 outside Chicago Board of Education headquarters included CTU Treasurer Linda Porter (above left) and signs reflected the tumult within the union itself. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.WHEREAS, Chicago Public Schools has demonstrated they do not have a comprehensive long-term plan by not fully considering development and the consequential need for accessible neighborhood schools; and

WHEREAS, In recognizing the need for greater community involvement and the inequalities that have resulted from CPS’s facility planning, Illinois House Bill 363 calls for “Establishing an equitable and effective school facility development process” via the creation of the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, which will release its findings in March 2010; and

WHEREAS, Through school reconstitutions, many good teachers and principals who had positive relationships with their students are being forced to seek employment in a difficult economy and job market; and

WHEREAS, Studies and reports have shown the negative academic and safety-related impact of student mobility, some of which have made national headlines; and

WHEREAS, Due to the lack of transparency and community involvement, there is a growing distrust regarding CPS’s decisions; and

WHEREAS, Many of the new schools that have been created or schools that have been reconstituted are not performing better or are performing worse than the schools that were closed; now therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, That we the members of the City Council of Chicago gathered here this tenth day of February, 2010, A.D. do hereby requite that a moratorium of at least one year be place on current and future school closings, consolidations, turnaround, and phase outs until a comprehensive strategy of transparency, community involvement, and public accountability can be developed, which will include the recommendations from the Chicago Educatonal Facilities Task Force.

Alderman Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward

Alderman Freddrenna Lyle, 6th Ward

Final version of this article posted at www.substancenews.net at 3:00 a.m. on February 13, 2010. EDITOR'S NOTE ON REPUBLICATION USE. This is copyrighted content, news and analysis prepared and published by the staff and supporters of Substance (the print monthly) and Substance News Service (www.substancenews.net). Both are publications of Substance, Inc. Chicago, Illinois. The final edited version of this article and the accompanying graphics were posted at www.substance news.net February 13, 2010, 3:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2010 Substance, Inc., www.substancenews.net. Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms. Alternatively, please make a donation or take out a subscription to the print edition of Substance (see red button to the right). We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502. Collegial groups and teachers using this material for class use should simply inform us of the extent of your usage. Anyone utilizing this material for commercial purposes is in violation of U.S. and other international copyright laws. Copyright 2010 Substance, Inc. all rights reserved. 



Comments:

February 12, 2010 at 9:31 AM

By: Retired Principal

School Closings

Good job Pat Dowell and Freddrenna Lyle! Now we will see who will oppose Mayor Daley and Ron Huberman for their destruction of the Chicago Public Schools!

February 12, 2010 at 9:50 AM

By: Al Korach

retired teacher

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALDERMAN PAT DOWELL 3RD WARD & FEDDERENNA LYLE 6TH WARD ON THE INTRODUCING A NO CLOSE RESELUTION REGARDING SCHOOL CLOSINGS. IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS BY NOW WHERE THE POWER LIES. IT IS NOT WITH THE BOARD OF EDUCATION. THE POWER LIES WITH THE MAYOR AND HIS SUPPORTIVE CRONIES AT CITY HALL. PICKETING THE BOARD IS NOT THE ANSWER ALONE. YOU HAVE TO GET CITY HALL ON BOARD. I SUGGEST THAT FUTURE PICKETING AND DEMONSTRATIONS SHOULD INCLUDE CITY HALL AND THE LOCAL WARD OFFICES OF NON-SUPPORTIVE ALDERMAN.THE ALDERMAN LOVE THAT JOB WITH ALL THE BENEFITS. IF THEY FEEL THAT THEIR JOB WITH ALL THE BENEFITS IS IN JE0PARDY THEY WILL BECOME MORE SUPPORTIVE. BOTH THE SCHOOLS AND THEIR JOBS ARE IN THE WARDS.

February 12, 2010 at 1:10 PM

By: John Moran

Thanks to CSDU Supporters

Thanks to all the CSDU supporters who joined us at Buddy Guy's last night. We had a great time and enjoyed a superior performance. Now is when we kick it into high gear. 14 weeks to the big day. Now is when we need to work the hardest and explain to the other CTU members how the CSDU is the best group for representing and protecting them in the future. Now is the time to show them true Leadership. Let's work together and make the CTU the proud, strong union that we all want and deserve. The future begins now.

February 12, 2010 at 11:21 PM

By: aretha

what nerve

The previous writer is totally oblivious to the monumental resolution that is being moved forward. Instead he uses this forum to promote himself and his own agenda. He does not even acknowledge the resolution.Who would vote for a group whose candidate wears a mink to a picket line. No one.

Let's all support the passage of this resolution in the city council. Any Idea when it could be voted?

February 13, 2010 at 2:59 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Schedule of fast-moving Chicago news

Substance will be trying to keep up with these fast moving events and will publish stories as they are brought to our attention and we can get reporters and photographers to the stories.

For example, we know about the Thursday community meeting for Phillips High School, but we've only heard rumors about a community "hearing" for Schneider Elementary School.

We've also heard that some members of Chicago's City Council want to hold hearings before the February 24 Board of Education meeting (when the Hit List will be voted on).

The best we can do is hope that people will e-mail us (Csubstance@aol.com) about upcoming news events, and that we can find people here to cover them. Our staff is small, and woefully underfinanced, but so far, we're kind of proud to have beaten out and bested the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times on these important stories.

You can watch the fifth season of "The Wire" after the present struggles are over to see how Chicago has come to this silly state of affairs (both politically and media-wise).

Meanwhile, there is too much going on to rest for long.

February 13, 2010 at 9:14 AM

By: Jay Rehak

Let's do an email campaign to aldermen and alderwomen

While my skeptiscm for local politics is extremely high, I do think everyone concerned with public education in Chicago should email their alderperson and encourage them to support this resolution PRIOR to February 24th. The CTU should spearhead this, but we can't wait for them to wake up and do it, so the rank and file shouldn't wait.

Here's a link to everyone's alderperson's email address.

http://egov.cityofchicago.org/city/webportal/portalProgramAction.do?programId=536879154&channelId=-536879035&topChannelName=Government

Copy and paste into your browser or you can type in Chicago City Council Email addresses to find your alderperson's email address.

If you know your ward, click on it and you will get your alderperson's email. Then, write them a letter asking them to support Alderman Dowell and Lyle's resolution on freezing turnaround schools for a year.

Here is a sample letter for those who want to use it. Simply copy and paste this letter and send it on to your alderperson, or, write your own note. This should be done sooner rather than later, as we need to put political pressure on PRIOR to February 24th. Again, copy and paste the following note or send your own:

Dear Alderman,

I am writing to ask you to support Alderman Dowell(3rd) and Alderman Lyle's (6th) Resolution urging the City Council to freeze all school closings, phase outs, consolidations, and turnarounds of the processes for at least one year.

As has been noted in the media, thousands of Chicago residents have turned out to oppose these processes, each of which is disruptive to the learning environment and ultimately harmful to the children of Chicago.

In the interest of a more studied view of the implications of school closings to Chicago neighborhoods and its residents, I urge you to support Alderman Dowell and Alderman Lyle's Resolution. I also urge the City Council to begin hearings on the long term implications of closing public schools or transferring them to private entitities.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this vital City matter.

Sincerely,

February 13, 2010 at 9:34 AM

By: Margaret Wilson

retired teacher/case manager/parent

I've tried to use the link to contact my Alderman twice but got a message that there is something wrong. I double checked to make sure I copied it right so I just wanted to let you know.

February 13, 2010 at 11:27 AM

By: kugler

CONTACT YOUR ALDERMAN

i could not call or email my alderman but i got a fax thru. good letter jay.[entities]

here is another place to get info on your alderman and you can use your address.

__________________________________________

Find Your Alderman

http://www.chicityclerk.com/citycouncil/alderman/find.html

__________________________________________

Dear Alderman,

I am writing to ask you to support Alderman Dowell(3rd) and Alderman Lyle's (6th) Resolution urging the City Council to freeze all school closings, phase outs, consolidations, and turnarounds of the processes for at least one year.

As has been noted in the media, thousands of Chicago residents have turned out to oppose these processes, each of which is disruptive to the learning environment and ultimately harmful to the children of Chicago.

In the interest of a more studied view of the implications of school closings to Chicago neighborhoods and its residents, I urge you to support Alderman Dowell and Alderman Lyle's Resolution. I also urge the City Council to begin hearings on the long term implications of closing public schools or transferring them to private entities.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this vital City matter.

Sincerely,

February 13, 2010 at 2:32 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

retired teacher/case manager/parent

Kugler:

Thank you for your information. I was able to quickly get the needed information and your sample letter was very helpful. I hope everyone reading this site takes the time to contact their alderman.

February 13, 2010 at 11:52 PM

By: Jim Vail

Hearing Reports

Can we get the hearing officer's recommendations? Will they be part of the record at the next Board of Education meeting? How about last year's hearing officer reports? There reports are very important after these hearings.

February 14, 2010 at 1:11 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Hearing Officer Reports

The hearing officer reports are supposed to be in front of the Board of Education members by the time they vote on the CEO's proposals at the monthly meeting on February 24, 2010. Last year, the hearing officer reports had been completed, although it's not clear that any of the seven members of the Board of Education bothered to read them prior to their unanimous vote to approve the Hit List (16 schools) actions proposed by Ron Huberman.

As important, given how much time and effort people put into preparing for the hearings, are the transcripts of the testimony given during the hearings (the hearing officer reports, at best, summarize the testimony, often in the briefest possible way) and the "complete record." The complete record includes the enormous amounts of materials people from the schools have painstakingly assembled as part of their preparation for the hearings.

The members of the Chicago Board of Education did not have the transcripts in front of them when they voted last year on February 25, 2009, to destroy 16 schools. The transcripts, for the most part, had not even been completed by the time the Board voted.

The members of the Chicago Board of Education did not have the "complete record" in front of them when they voted last year (on February 25, 2009) to destroy 16 schools based on the Hit List Ron Huberman inherited from Arne Duncan. Nor did they the "records" in front of them the year before, when they voted in favor of Arne Duncan's 2008 Hit List. The complete records, for the most part, had not even been completed by the time the Board voted.

When I asked to interview the members of the Board of Education about their votes on the Hit List in each of those last two years (2008, 2009), the Board's Office of Communications told me that they were too busy to talk about that.

The agenda for the Board's February 24 meeting is supposed to become public by noon on February 22 (the Open Meetings Act requires that the agenda be available to the public 48 hours before the meeting). The agenda that the Board will put on line at that time only includes the numbers of the Board Reports. Only the longer agenda (often more than an inch thick) will provide the public with the details. And that agenda requires that members of the public go to 125 S. Clark St.

Anyone who wishes to get copies of the documents from the hearings going back to 2002 (Dodge, Terrell, Williams) and continuing through 2010 should be able to get all of those materials under the Freedom of Information Act. The materials are in "document" form and are in the possession of the Board. However, in order to do that, members of the public will have to find the Board of Education's Freedom of Information Office. The smallest counties in Illinois made public information more public than does the third largest school district in the USA.

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