Agenda full at March 24, 2010 Chicago Board of Education meeting

At the March 24, 2010 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, chaired by Mary B. Richardson-Lowry, President, public participation generally proceeded in the same order as the list of public participants given to the public and others. Before the meeting began, she warned speakers to keep within the two-minute limit for speaking, and stated that because of security reasons the number of people standing with any particular speaker would be limited to fifteen.

Despite the novelty of having the third Chicago Board of Education President in two years, most of what the Board has been doing to manipulate public opinion continued. Above, fifteen minutes before the Board meeting was to begin, there were more than 30 seats where the public could have sat taken up with "Reserved" signs or signs designating certain central officer staff to sit there, blocking the public from the range of the Board's TV cameras. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Prior to the beginning of public participation, there was "good news" as usual. A group of students from Tilden High School received recognition for culinary arts work, and a teacher from Whitney Young was recognized because she had published a novel.

Participants for the public participation gave their names and spelled their last names for the record before speaking, a first. Topics covered ranged from cuts in early childhood education to unhealthy food service in the schools.

The first speaker (not on the list) was Matt O'Shea, representative for Alderman Ginger Rugai of the 19th Ward. He spoke in sympathy with the public participants from the Barbara Vick Early Childhood Center and against the cuts being threatened: no funding next year and pre-school will be removed. It was stated that most in this community go to the parochial schools, but can no longer afford to do so in the present economy. Therefore, they depend on the services provided by the neighborhood public schools of Mount Greenwood, Casals, and Sutherland. The Board was asked to reconsider the casualties laid out for Barbara Vick.

Ron Huberman, Chief Executive Officer, responded that we know it's a special school. The state has made 50 percent cuts to Early Childhood and added that the Board of Education (BEO) will fight in Springfield.

Next to speak was a group from Dineen Elementary School, a 'turnaround' school. Demeron Compton Smith and Patricia Washington stated that parents were not considered and haven't seen the TAP scores yet. They want the BOE to keep their hands off Dineen. They said that the latest principal has a vision and a mission. They added that the turnaround was announced by Mr. Huberman before the hearings for turning around Dineen were concluded. They finished by strongly insisting that "We do not want Dineen to be turned around."

Okema Lewis, who introduces herself as "a Title I community resident", began her remarks stating: " I speak under Biblical conviction to be of good courage." She then told the BOE that she was not getting paid for her services as a a result of work she had done at the behest, she said, of former Board President Michael Scott.

Shawn Gowder of Barton School complained about safety concerns and spoke against the cell phone tower that will be put on top of the school.

Jauntaunne Byrd, Curtis School, thanked the BOE for the turnaround. She then went on to say she had been denied a copy of an incident report involving her daughter whose hands had been scalded at school. Her daughter had been treated poorly after the incident. She was kicked, removed from class, and left to wander the school halls for three days. A false 911 call about the parent was also made after the incident.

Not on the participation list, Marilyn Stewart, President of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), spoke next. First she commented about the Healthy Schools Campaign. She then went on to say we don't have adequate funding in the state and there really isn't money for turnarounds. She remarked that Curtis School is being rehabbed now but being closed and then turned around. She also said the Dineen is being turned over to AUSL and the Dineen budget is being increased. She concluded by saying that you don't have the money to turn around schools.

Daniel Froman, from Montefiore Special School, told the Board that he took a personal business day to give testimony. He stated that he is dismayed at the twelve staff cuts. He said Montefiore is underenrolled rather than overstaffed. He added that Michael Scott, previous President of the BOE, had stopped the cuts to Montefiore. An April 7th Board visit to Montefiore is scheduled.

Daniel O"Donnell, who served Montefiore as a 40-year teacher and LSC and PTA member, remarked that Montefiore students are most vulnerable and that we, the teachers and staff, will give them support until they need no more support. He asked the BOE to stop refusing to send students to Montefiore. Mr. Huberman replied that when we visited recently, we gave Montefiore a list of 15 things we would like to see happen. He said Montefiore needs to provide the same level of service as private providers.

Nalleli Luna and Karen Smothers, students at Social Justice High School (Little Village High School), spoke next about the need for Healthy Life Style Options and the need for a mandatory two year sex education program to prevent the consequence of girls having STDs at 13 years of age.

Other Social Justice High School students, Brian Damacio and Teresa Onstott, who referred to the school as SOJO, spoke next about the food service at the school. Their complaints were that greasy food is being served, a variety of food choices is needed and provision is not being made for lactose intolerant and vegetarian individuals. Brian Damacio commented that if we could get used to nasty food, why couldn't we get used to healthy food, too. Teresa Onstott concluded with an original song which she sang to the assembly.

Asia Snyder, of Social Justice High School, next spoke emotionally about students who live in abandoned buildings with no lights and no gas and inadequate food, who go to school hungry, expecting a healthy meal, but instead face greasy, unhealthy choices. She added that students use sports to deal with emotions and to get scholarships. She concluded by remarking that you're running our lives now; 10 years from now we'll be running yours.

Damani Bolden, Honorary Student Member of the Board of Education, responded.

Another speaker on the topic of food was Noah Swinney Stein, who told the BOE about urban farming in Humboldt Park and Logan Square and asked that the BOE stop feeding these children food that we will not eat.

He was followed by Brian Galaviz, a teacher at Senn High School, who had applied for and been denied a field trip for his students to come and speak to the BOE. Mr. Galaviz said that he had taken a personal business day to speak with the Board, but indicated that his students should have been there, too. Mr.Galaviz concluded that food is a political issue and that what is cheap at first leads to higher medical costs.

Mr. Huberman responded that food service will be restructured next year and that there will be focus groups for today's speakers. Tariq Butt, M.D., member of the BOE, also responded that he was pleased at what the students spoke about.

The next speaker was Larry Gates of Tilden High School, who spoke about parent involvement concerns for parent room where parents can meet, which apparently has to have the okay of the Local School Council (LSC). After Mr. Gates, Ronald Jackson, also of Tilden High School, asked how long does a school stay on probation and why students have gone from As and Bs to Fs in three weeks. He commented on legislation sponsored by Illinois Senator James Meeks and remarked that parents may not be sophisticated enough to understand the bill, but at least when police stop us, we are sophisticated enough not to get out of the car.

Matthew Ditto, of Jackson Learning Academy, commented on seventh grade transcrips and wants the BOE to review the grading scale. Estelle Seals added comments to Mr. Ditto's.

Glennese Ray, founding principal of Perspective Charters Calumet High School presented many statistics on the achievements at the high school.

Dwayne Truss, of Westinghouse High School, wants the history of the sports at Westinghouse restored. His son had wanted to be a security guard and photographer there, but had faced character assassination.

Michael Haywood, of Brooks High School, asked that sports not be cut in the Chicago Public Schools CPS). He remarked that we bailed out the banks and we can bail out our schools and our children.

Robert Garcia and Marta Perea, spoke next about what's happening at J. N. Thorp school. He stated that children are being put into an old run-down building, so that a charter school (LEARN) can use the rest. She added that the principal cannot make the decision as to which building goes to LEARN charter school. Numerous defects at Thorp were enumerated. In addition, LEARN charter wants to begin construction, so teachers and children are being forced out of classrooms now.

William McDade, a professor at the University of Chicago (UC) and immediate past president of the Medical Society joined Michael Washington in asking that the principal selection at Daniel Hale Williams Prep be approved.

These speakers were followed by Ana Karina Maurera, a parent at Boone Elementary School, who wants the border extended.

Bert Murrell from Brownell, a feeder school to Dineen, then spoke.

Ray Thompson, who read a statement from a parent, Keisha Yates, regarding the need for more space for Chicago Talent School in the old Tilton School.

He was followed by more speakers for Barbara Vick Early Childhood Center, Kerry Sloyan and Maria Belmontez.

After them, Jaime Munguia, Richard Henry Lee School, asked for an investigation. He felt the principal operates in an environment of fear and needs cultural sensitivity training.

Phillip Dunham and John Champion spoke about Disney Magnet School. Mr. Dunham's daughter, Isabella, who has attended Disney tuition-based pre-school for two years and has special needs, will not be able to attend Disney Kindergarten next year because of the lottery selection system. Mr. Champion said principal selection is not available for students who attended Disney, move away from Chicago and then return to Disney.

Tonya Dickens, Grand Boulevard Federation, and Diondai Brown-Whitfield, of the Austin community, also made comments about situations at their respective communities.

They were followed by Andrea Parker, parent of a third-grade son at McCorkle School which she said is scheduled for closing. She wants the decision to close McCorkle reversed. She stated that her son is now in his 2nd school and with the closing of McCorkle, he will be in his third school. She added that the school was built in the 60s (1962) and is in disrepair. Three years of repair requests have been denied because repairs exceed 50% of replacement cost. She claimed that the same rules are not being applied to other schools in need of repairs. She added that McCorkle has had seven years of growth. Ms. Parker was told a staff member will follow up.

Following the public participation, President Mary B. Richardson-Lowry, stated that Chief Education Officer (CEO), Barbara Eason-Watkins, had not been present because she was on school business. Before going into Executive Session, a presentation on amending BOE Report 07-0623-PO3, Grade Change Policy, regarding proper record keeping and grade changing, and a presentation on amending Board Report 09-0722-PO4, Adopt a New Procurement Card Policy, was also given . Decisions regarding the above two policies should be online within a week on the BOE website. 


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