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LETTER: Since when does a retired Army Colonel qualify to be a district superintendent running a bunch of Chicago high schools?

April 13, 2010. We Need to Beat Back New Attacks on the Schools, and here is one example of what I mean. The Chicago Public School System (CPS), with orders coming down from the top commander, CEO Ron Huberman, is once again targeting Chicago’s general community high schools for further militarization, and possible closure, charterization, and privatization. This means we need to get even better organized to beat back these new attacks.

These attacks include the following —

Retired Army Colonel Rick Mills (above, center) was part of the group that dedicated the "Marine Military Academy" at the old Grant Elementary School on October 15, 2008, when the above photo was taken. Left to right, above: Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Rick Mills (who at the time was chief officer for military and ROTC programs in CPS), and Alderman Latasha Thomas, who chairs the City Council Committee on Education. Since the above photo was taken, Daley's school board has promoted Mills to the post of "Chief Area Officer" for high school "Area 26," where he is now working to impose a command model on the general high schools in the district. Mills's career was spent in the U.S. Army prior to 1979, when former Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas hired him to expand the JROTC and military programs. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Several high schools have been placed in a department that has had only military programs in it, under the command of Lt. Col. Rick Mills. This department was renamed Area 26 a few years ago. General community high schools that have just recently been placed in Area 26 include Farragut, Foreman, Kelly, Kelvyn Park, Prosser, Senn, Steinmetz, and Taft.

Overseeing Area 26 is Lt. Col. Rick Mills, from the Army and still in charge of military programs in CPS, which includes JROTC (Junior Reserve Office Training Corps) and the military academies.

One of the criticisms of Lt. Col. Rick Mills is that he uses the military command model that has been adapted as the model for administration in CPS since 1995. So, for example, he has come to the Local School Council (LSC) at Senn High School to try to undercut the democratic power that it has been exercising.

The Senn LSC has been developing the Senn Strategic Plan to improve Senn High School programs, with input from literally thousands of teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the community.

Lt. Col. Mills announced to the Senn LSC this own strategic plan is to be used.

The Mills plan, for all of the schools now in Area 26, would arbitrarily decide the “success” or “failure” of the schools based on bogus high-stakes standardized testing and guidelines which would ensure that the schools could be shut down any time and replaced by selective privatized charter schools. So, for example, the Mills plan mandates that “70% will graduate” and “80% of graduates will enroll in Post Secondary.” (Rick Mills, Performance Management Template. Doc x.) This in a school system that has a 50% drop out rate in its high schools.

In addition to this undercutting of LSC democracy, Lt. Col. Mills is attempting to remove the democratic power of the Senn High School LSC to decide on who the next principal should be.

Not that the issue of imposing a military command structure and otherwise militarizing the public schools is just an issue of Lt. Col. Mills. There is an overall plan for the Chicago Public Schools, known as Renaissance 2010 written by the corporate interests of the U.S. (the Business Roundtable nationally and by the Chicago Commercial Club locally). The plan has been for the school system to have more military academies and more selective privatized charter schools. The school system has been run like a corporation, with CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) who have no background in education or teaching. Thus we have seen CEOs such as Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, and now Ron Huberman, who comes from the Police Department and the CTA. Those who CEO Huberman recently appointed as Chief Administrative Officers, such as Lt. Col. Rick Mills, also have no background in teaching or education.

Not having school authority in the hands of educators and the general public and, instead, in the hands of military officers, corporate CEOs, and political appointees is the path to further wrecking public education. We already see that teaching to the standardized tests and the military programs that 1 out of 10 Chicago high school students are in does not encourage the teaching of critical thinking about public issues in the schools or other cultural matters. We already know the path to improving public education, which includes democratic governance, increased funding, smaller class sizes, teaching critical thinking and having a rich arts curriculum, and dealing with issues such as poverty that undermine student abilities to achieve in school.

And so, our need to unify ourselves against these latest attacks is cut out for us.

Neal Resnikoff, Albany Park Neighbors for Peace and Justice, Chicago. 



Comments:

April 15, 2010 at 10:08 AM

By: Albert Korach

Retired Teacher & Lt. Col.

I just returned to the Chicago area for medical reasons to discover that Mr. Neal Resnikoff is still at it. With all the corruption in our city, state and federal government, he has this fixation that a retired Lt. Colonel will cause a disaster within the Chicago School System.

The Colonel's credentials are no better nor worst than other administrators. I have to wonder — as also a retired Lt. Colonel — where was Mr. Resnikoff when I was elected to the Teachers Pension Board, elected its VP, elected to the CTU Executive Board as an Elementary Functional Vice President on the Chicago Teachers Union Executive Board. My military training did not cause any harm. I also served as the elected vice president of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund for several years and was the CTU delegate from Rogers Elementary School for more than two decades. Qualifications? I had many, and those who voted recognized them. Finally, as many reading this know, I have been the Retiree Editor of Substance for more than 15 years.

It should be obvious by now that with my background I am slightly left of center, having grown up in a labor oriented family. In defence of the so called "Military High Schools" I have yet to see students walking around with their jeans 1/2 Inch above their pubic areas and bedlam in the halls.

I think it's time for Neal to get a new issue as he has beaten this one to death with overkill. I shall continue to be observant on the sidelines while I get a new set OK knees paid for by Medicare and the military — if that is okay with Mr, Resnikoff.

April 17, 2010 at 4:12 PM

By: John Whitfield

Neil is right AL

It seems that you are avoiding the point AL.

That is, the militarization of our schools, and with two wars that are still booming, pouring billions of dollars into these wars, while little money seems available for education.

Also, this is a class issue, needless to say with the extraordinary high percentage of ROTC programs in our Chicago schools. Do we find the same high percentage of ROTC programs in the North suburbs, and have the Navy taking over parts of a school building.

Even Newsweek magazine did a piece on ROTC programs in our schools being a class issue

years ago.

While I have great respect for your experience in the military AL,being an ally of the VVAW, you always seem to soft soap these kind of things when they come up.

furthermore, what right has the Navy to take over parts of the most diverse, multicultural,and beautiful old school buildings in the city, flexing their muscle at the community in a show of force?

April 18, 2010 at 10:42 AM

By: Al Korach

Retired teacher & military

With a 50% dropout rate, lack of discipline, violence permeating our educational institutions possibly it's time to try something or someone else. Can Colonel Mills be an answer? I don't know.So far the communities answers to all this violence, murder has been a succession of parades, prayer vigils and flowery memorials.

I have to again remind readers that no one forces students to enroll in a military type high school. Many do so just to escape the violence in their regular schools.

I recall one of the most importaant things I was taught at Crane Technical High school ROTC. If you show up for a job with your jeans an inch above your penis and your rear underwear exposed you will not be employed. We will not attain any classroom educational goals unless we have a safe educational enviroment that includes to, from and at school. So far in a large part of the city we have yet to attain these goals.

The previous individual pointed out that the northern suburbs do not have large numbers of "military high schools." I point out that for the most part the students are not busy shooting at each other and the classrooms are relatively safe for both teachers as well as students.

I do not have an all encompassing solution for these problems and neither does the previous writers other than bitching against anything connected with the military. The military does not take over anything unless civilian authorities in charge first allow them. If you are not happy with Colonel Mills write your congressmsn or ship in another blog.

April 18, 2010 at 3:42 PM

By: Danny

He seems okay

Taft's experience with the Naval JROTC programs has been quite different than Senn's.

Before putting in the program, the faculty was polled (could it be 15 years ago?) and gave its support.

It's now the oldest "special" program at Taft, and I think one of the best things that has happened to the school. The staff is excellent, and it's certainly changed the lives of those students who have participated in it over the years. (It's a selective program. No one has to take it.)

Some years back, Mills tried to turn it into a Naval Academy with a separate unit number, but the principal was successful in keeping it as a program in the school under his purview. Depending on who you talk to, there may have been some enmity between Mills and Taft for a few years because of that.

Last year, however, Taft was placed in Area 26 (even though the the Area 19 office is just a half-mile from us) under Col. Mills. I haven't seen him since the opening week of school, and I believe that the absent CAO is the best kind.

There haven't been any "walk-throughs" this year, nor have teachers been ordered to put up special "walls" in their rooms. (Granted, we have a data wall in the hall near our entrance.)

My principal says that Mills is very good at cutting through the Bureaucracy at Central Office to get things done when we request it.

So as long as he stays out of my classroom and helps the school get what it needs from CO, I think he's an okay guy.

April 23, 2010 at 8:09 PM

By: posted by John Whitfield

Pacified (by Kathy Kelly)

[The following was originally published by VCNV (Voices for Creative Noinviolence) Apri 2010l Newsletter, 1249 W. Argyle St., Chicago, Illinois 60640 info@vcnv.org 773-878-3815 (www.vcnv.org)]

PACIFIED, by Kathy Kelly

If the US public looked long and hard into a mirror reflecting the civilian atrocities that have occurred in Afghanistan, over the past ten months, we would see ourselves as people who have collaborated with and paid for war crimes committed against innocent civilians who meant us no harm.

Two reporters, Jerome Starkey, (the Times UK), and David Lindorff, (Counterpunch), along with Prof. Marc W. Harold, have persistently drawn attention to U.S. war crimes committed in Afghanistan. Makers of the film "Rethink Afghanistan" have steadily provided updates about the suffering endured by Afghan civilians. Here is a short list of atrocities that have occurred in the months since General McChrystal assumed his post in Afghanistan.

December 26th, 20098: U.S. led forces, (whether soldiers or "security contractors" (mercenaries)is still uncertain), raided a home in Kunar Province and pulled eight young men out of their beds, handcuffed them, and gunned them down execution -style. The Pentagon initially reported that the victims had been running a bomb factory, although distraught villagers were willing to sear that the victims, youngsters, aged 11-18, were seven normal school boys and one shepherd boy. Following courageous reporting by Jerome Sharkey, the U.S. military carried out its own investigation and on February 24th, 2010, issued an apology, attesting the boys' innocence.

February 12th, 2010: U.S. and Afghan forces raided a home during a party and killed five people, including a local district attorney, a local police commander, two pregnant mothers and a teenaged girl engaged to be married. Neither commander Dawood, shot in the doorway of the home while pleading for calm, waving his badge, nor the teenaged Gulalai, died immediately, but the gunmen refused to allow relatives to take them to the hospital. Instead, they forced them to wait for hours barefoot in the winter cold outside.

Despite crowds of witnesses on the scene, the NATO report insisted that the two pregnant women at the party had been found bound and gagged, murdered in an honor killing. A March 16, 2010 U.N. report, following on further reporting by Starkey, exposed the deception, and an April 5, 2010 New York Times article clarifies that the U.S. troops engaged in a deliberate cover-up.

February 21rst, 2010: A three-car convoy of Afghans was traveling to the market in Kandahar with plans to proceed from thereto a hospital in Kabul where some of the party could be taken for much-needed medical treatment. U.S. forces saw Afghans traveling together and launched an air-to-ground attack on the first car. Women in the 2nd car immediately jumped out waving their scarves, trying to desperately communicate that they were civilians.

The U.S. helicopter gunships continued firing on the now unshielded women. 21 people were killed and 13 were wounded.

there was press attention for this atrocity and U.S. General Stanley McCrystal issued a videotaped apology for his soldiers tragic mistake.

Whether having that gun ship in the country was a mistake--or a crime--was never raised as a question.

And who would want it raised? Set amidst the horrors of an ongoing eight year war, how many Americans think twice about these atrocities, hearing them on the news.

In Germany, a western, relatively comfortable country, citizens raised a sustained protest when their leaders misled them regarding an atrocity that cost many dozens of civilians lives in Afghanistan.

The air strike was conducted by U.S. planes but called in by German forces. On September 4th 2009, Taliban fighters in Kunduz province had hijacked two trucks filled with petrol, but then gotten stuck in a quagmire where the trucks had sunk. Locals, realizing that the trucks carried valuable fuel, had arrived in large numbers to siphon it off, but when a German officer at the nearest NATO station learned that over 100 people had assembled in an area under his supervision, he decided they must be insurgents and a threat to Germans under his command. At his call, a U.S. jet fighter jet bombed the tankers, incinerating 142 people, dozens of them confirmable as civilians.

On September 6, 2009, Germany's defense minister at the time, Franz Joseph Jung, held a press conference in which he defended the attack, playing down the presence of civilians. He wasn't aware the video footage from a US F15 fighter jet showed that most of the people present were unarmed civilians gathering to fill containers with fuel.

On November 27th, 2009, after a steady outcry on the part of the German public, the defense minister was withdrawn from his post(he is now a labor minister) and two German military officials were forced to resign.

I felt uneasy and sad when I realized that my first response to this story was a feeling of curiosity as to how the public of another country could manage to raise such a furor over deaths of people in faraway Afghanistan.

Worse yet is our general inattention to the suffering endured by Afghanistan's children.

According to a March 3rd, 2010 Save the Children report, "The World is ignoring the daily deaths of more than 850 Afghan children from treatable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia, focusing on fighting the insurgency rather than providing humanitarian aid."

The report notes that a quarter of all children born in the country die before the age of five, while nearly 60% of children are malnourished and suffer physical or mental problems. The UN Human Development index in 2009 says that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, second only to Niger in Sub Saharan Africa.

The proposed U.S. defense budget will cost the U.S. public two billion dollars per day. And president Obama's administration is seeking a 33 billion dollar supplemental to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most people are aware of Taliban atrocities and many may believe the U.S. troops are in Afghanistan to protect Afghan villagers from Taliban human rights abuses. At least the mainstream news media in Germany and the UK air stories of atrocities. The U.S. people are disadvantaged inasmuch as the media and the Pentagon attempt to pacify us, winning our heats and minds to bankroll ongoing warfare and troop escalation in Afghanistan. Yet, it isn't very difficult to pacify U.S. people. We're easily distracted from the war, and when we do take note that an atrocity has happened, we seem more likely to respond with a shrug of dismay than with a sustained protest.

It's worthwhile to ponder, how did we become this pacified?

But far more important is our collective effort to approach the mirror, to stay in front of it, unflinching, and see the consequences of our mistaken acquiescence to the tragic horrors of war, and then work hard, to nonviolently resist collaboration with war crimes.

Kathy is a former Chicago school teacher, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.



April 24, 2010 at 8:36 AM

By: bob

War is still hell

War is still hell. General Sherman never said “War is Hell” but it has been attributed to him for over a century. My question is which war are we talking about? The war in Afghanistan or the wars in Englewood and Roseland? I don’t think people should be bombed for stealing gas from a broken down truck. Nor should they be killed for walking down 69th street. Either way you are just as dead. The root causes of both are drugs. Poppies from the Asian war zone pay for a lot of our enemies' equipment. The processed heroin from that fuel the Chicago, and Mexican drug wars. In Afghanistan, we fight the Taliban. In Chicago we fight the Drug Gangs. Both are a government in the classical since. Both tax, have armed forces, and order executions, one in the name of God ,the other in the name of greed. Nobody has ever conquered the Afghan people — including their next-door neighbor, The Soviet Union . Personally, I think we should win our own war first. Just the idea of a Battalion of soldiers forced by the Gang Wars, and poverty, into the armed forces returning to Englewood for some pay-back brings shivers to my spine.

November 11, 2012 at 10:48 AM

By: Denise Castle

Rick Mills and the assigned principal during his reign

As we took a look and reevaluated whether Mr. Mills was qualified to effectively assist our students in CPS as the superintendent. We should now evaluate the principals he placed in schools during this time. More specifically, the principal at the new military high school, Air Force Academy. This school has a retired Army Captain, without any teaching experience nor certification in the role as the principal. Although she is certified as a principal, this is questionable when Illinois requires those with this certifications to possess 3 yrs of teaching experience, which this principal does not possess. Are we lowering the standards at the cost of our youth? Are expections being made that compromise all staff being highly qualified? Is CPS continuing to operate in a design outside of federal and state guidelines? We have to make a change for our students, for our community.

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