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Board of Education meeting held on April 28, 2010... Board President blows off critics by saying everything will be "taken under advisement"...

Does anyone but Ron Huberman really believe anything Ron Huberman tells the public? That was the question just about everyone was asking as the Chicago Board of Education met for one of its rare monthly meetings behind a phalanx of security at CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. on April 28, 2010. As protests moved up and down Clark St. from the Thompson Center (State of Illinois building) to the Board headquarters four blocks south, the main concern of CPS officials seemed to be to keep the cable TV version of the Board meeting as sedate as possible — even if it took constant threats and more than 20 security people surrounding everyone who tried to speak critically about the increasingly hysterical policies and claims of Ron Huberman and the official leaders of the nation’s third largest school system.

On Wednesday, April 28, 2010, the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) held its monthly meeting in Board Chambers on the fifth floor at 125 S. Clark Street.

The new President of the Chicago Board of Education, attorney Mary Richardson-Lowry, has shocked regular observers by radically increasing security, including Chicago police officers inside the Board meetings, while forcing most people who come downtown for the rare monthly meetings to sit ten floors away, under tight security, in a "holding room" on the 15th floor of CPS headquarters while the Board conducts a meeting packed with cronies and security on the fifth floor. Much of Richardson-Lowry's career in law has been successful as a result of patronage from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who appointed her Board President following the shocking death of her predecessor, Michael Scott. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.By the time the Board meeting began, no protesters were seen in front of the building. No television news trucks were visible either. According to the protesters, many in the media had gone up the street, where some of the protestors were assembled, for reasons that were unclear, four blocks away at the State of Illinois building.

Inside 125 S. Clark St., people were kept behind rope lines at the entrance, stalled at the metal detectors, and then taken by express elevator to the 15th floor “holding room” where more than 100 people were kept ten floors away from the meeting they had come downtown to attend, while the Board meeting was held without their angry presence in the fifth floor Board Chambers. Unless the TV cameras knew the internal procedures of the Chicago Public Schools, at least one objective of the Board was met that day: keep the size and intensity of the protests from becoming public knowledge.

When the meeting finally began, the first half hour was spent in the usual "good news" (now called something else), before a variety of topics were presented by public participants to the Board members. Most complaints and quesstions were met with the same response from the new Board president, attorney Mary Richardson Lowry. Richardson-Lowry seemed to answer every criticism or question with the same words: “Thank you. We’ll take that under advisement.”

Then she would either warn that security was present or nod for security to move in against any of those who showed any spark of disagreement with her, with Ron Huberman, or with the policies of the mayor who had appointed both of them.

The public presentations were followed by Power Point presentations by Ron Huberman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on the budget and nutrition in the schools.

The meeting began with the honoring of students on the decathalon and debate teams at Whitney Young High School for their achievements — the decathalon team in Omaha on April 21 and 24, and the debate team coming in first in New York on April 23-25, 2010. Chicago Board of Education President Mary B. Richardson-Lowry remarked that she first participated in a debate team in sixth grade.

Other pre-public participation remarks were that Pre-K funding had been restored, a less than complete response to the 2010 census would negatively impact school budgets, and parents who wished to seek information about magnet schools could access that information by going to www.cpsmagnet.org on their computers or by calling 773-553-2060.

Public participation began at 11 a.m. with a reminder that participants be respectful or they would be asked to exit and that there be no "clustering" in the aisles. She claimed it was because of fire code regulations, but observers noted that this was the first time anyone at CPS had cited the fire code as an excuse for using security to intimidate the people who took the time to come to Board of Education meetings.

First to speak during public participation was Joseph Pagan on behalf of his eighth grade daughter at St. Helen School who had received an acceptance packet from Jones College Prep for 2010-2011. The first line of the letter in the packet told her she had been accepted. The letter then referred her to another letter which said she was not accepted. Ms. Richardson-Lowry told Mr. Pagan. "You will hear from us within a day or so" in regard to the contradictory letters.

Margaret Mosele, Local School Council (LSC) chairperson and an Early Childhood advocate at Stock School at 7507 West Birchwood Avenue, thanked the board for the restored Early Childhood funding. She said the Early Childhood program was over-enrolled and 265 were on the waiting list. She mentioned that Alderman Doherty, who also expressed his thanks, had paid the way for their entire group to come down to the Board. Ms. Mosele invited Ron Huberman (BOE CEO) to be the Grand Marshall at their Family Fun Day on June 4.

At that point, the Board President seemed confused when Alderman Brian Doherty (41st Ward) took the microphone to speak. Generally, the Board allows public officials to jump to the front of the line, but Richardson-Lowry treated the issue as if it were unusual. Doherty spoke briefly, thanking the Board for not cutting the Stock pre-school program.

Sherryl Moore-Ollie, who is in her third year as principal at Penn Pre-K - 8, said Penn is now sharing space with the "KIPP Ascend" charter school, but she spoke about the fact that there is little additional room at Penn. KIPP, which is Pre-K - 5 now "has shared our building for a year." She said, however, that under the "shared space agreement" the deal is not supposed to be a takeover by KIPP. She and parents objected to sharing space with KIPP because of what had happened in similar situations elsewhere. Lately, she said, KIPP has pointed out classrooms that they would like to have as they gradually expand to Pre-K - 8. She said that the rooms KIPP is selecting are now occupied by Penn and that although she offered other rooms, there seems to be significant disagreements. The Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman asked Pat Taylor (the current Chief Operations Officer) to meet with her in the next week and help resolve this problem. Ms. Moore-Ollie added that violence took place during open house at Penn school as KIPP tried to recruit from their community for their school.

The next speaker, LSC member Anthony Patton, who was also from Penn, mentioned five code violations by KIPP, and was also referred to Ms. Taylor.

Marguerite Jacobs, of the community of Safe Passage MOM's at Carver Elementary in Altgeld Gardens, stated the need for a stand-alone library for the school. Asbestos is now being disturbed by construction causing a health hazard, she said. She also said they do not want gates in front of the doors.

Chitunda Tillman, a business man who has spoken before, YBE, displayed a babymat he created to help children to read and a book by him, "Mathematics & Me." He said he has been getting a run-around and raised the issue of patent infringement. Ms. Richardson-Lowry replied, "Let us look into the specific allegations and we will get back to you."

Louvenia Hood, of Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere (MOVE), objected to two schools being in one building, the public school with few resources and the private school with all the resources. She said this causes discrimination and violence.

Neil Seltz, a former teacher at Montefiore School, mentioned that there are fewer than 60 students now at Montefiore, and that the Board is reducing the number of students at the school. However, these students are involved in worthwhile activities, doing Holocaust studies and one student going to London. He added that mainstreaming will not work with Montefiore students.

Kent Longstreet, an LSC parent representative and parent of a son at Montefiore for two years, was pleased that his son now brings home A's and B's instead of his former D's and F's. He felt Montefiore had turned his son around. He objected to the planned loss of ten teachers and five para-professionals next year. He asked that Montefiore not be punished because of the mess at the Board's Office of Specialized Services (OSS). Luchrisha McAllister, whose child attends KIPP inside of Penn, objected to lyrics regarding violence, sex, and drugs distributed by a teacher during a unit on poetry.

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President, Marilyn Stewart, emphasized four points. 1) We are opposed to the Tilton/Marconi consolidation. 2) She said the principals got a power-point presentation about hiring differently next year that doesn't have details. She added, what's a job fair for, to hire cheaper teachers? You need to hire reassigned teachers. 3) Thirty-five students in a classroom is a violation of the fire code. Stewart alluded to the Our Lady of the Angels fire and stated that 20 square feet per student is required in a classroom. 4) Ron Huberman wouldn't sign the AFT grant to evaluate teachers, a grant that would provide 50-60 thousand dollars. The deadline is today. It is free money. Mr. Huberman said there wasn't enough information given to him, he was just given the second sheet. The AFT grant question appeared it would be worked out. Huberman said he would look into the question about the fire code violations and square footage issues.

King High School teachers Karen Lewis, above at microphone, was one of the few people who was able to challenge the Board's police state presence at the April 28 meeting. Surrounded by parents, students, teachers, and community activists, Lewis demanded an explanation of the Board's finances, while Board President Mary Richardson-Lowry tried her usual mantra: "We will take that under advisement." Lewis, a candidate for President of the Chicago Teachers Union on the CORE slate in the upcoming May 21 election, was followed by more than a dozen teachers, students, and community activists who demanded that the Board open its books to the public before continuing the threat of massive cuts in teachers and radical increases in class size. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Karen Lewis, candidate for CTU president from the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), asked the Board, why should we believe your deficit? She asked that the Board name the names of public contracts, that other contracts, such as Teach for America, need to be canceled, that we need to be given back the $250 million in TIF funds, and that class size should be lowered because lower class size works.

Michael Brunson, CORE candidate for CTU Recording Secretary, referenced the quotation "A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or ..." ± basically, drink not at all. In regard to the budget scaring everyone, he stated, "I'm not going to sit up and argue with you about how many elves can dance on a mushroom when I don't know if elves exist." He charged that the CPS budget was not available to the public and that claims of the deficit cited repeatedly by Mr. Huberman had not been verified.

Ms. Richardson-Lowry said "Thank you." Mr. Brunson replied, "I like you already."

Marquita Steele, Al Raby Education Council, advocated for a greater student voice. She thanked Mr. Huberman for incorporating SPCs into your work. Jenelle Perez, on the Educational Council from twelve high schools, also thanked Mr. Huberman for his support. James Alford, of the Teen Health Council, mentioned that obesity is a problem today and thanked the Board for listening.

Haian Nguyen, also of the Teen Health Council, asked that the Board educate students, organize Teen Health Action Teams in every high school by creating surveys about lunch regarding what's being tossed out and about vendors, and establish a Health Commissioner. Ms. Richardson-Lowry responded "Brava!" for the clear articulation and the perfect way of presenting thoughts and setting goals.

Jay Rehak, CORE member and Pension Fund Teacher Trustee, twenty-year veteran teacher and father of a CPS student, said Mr. Huberman had been brought in to create a two-tier system and requested that the $1.2 billion windfall from the teacher's pension fund be used to lower class size and restore sports programs. Ms. Richardson-Lowry remarked that Mr. Huberman needs to look at all aspects of the school budget before a decision can be made. Mr. Rehak replied that all this has happened since the business community came in. I think it's time to bring back the educators.

Elizabeth Blinderman, Whitney Young High School, requested that the Board reverse the decision to lock out Spring sports programs.

Guillermo Perez, Whitney Young High School, plays on the baseball team. He stated, "I think I am who I am because of baseball." He asked that the Board reconsider its decision about the sports program. Mr. Huberman replied that we want to hear ideas about how to fund the program. Eight hundred Central Office employees are being laid off, he said, and soon it will reach one thousand.

Elanna Smith, Uplift Community High School, made suggestions about the budget cuts, added that Illinois is 49th among states in educational funding and asked that we make it among the top ten.

Daniel Velazquez, of Uplift Community High School, also spoke about the budget cuts.

Michael DeWhite, Disney Magnet School, spoke of a no-cost solution to the principal selection of students for magnet schools.

Debra Berth-Malek, a parent at Disney Magnet School, asked that principal selection of students be reinstated because it adds to the diversity component. Ms. Richardson-Lowry asked Mr. Huberman to take this under advisement.

Dave Vance, J. N. Thorp School, talked about the health and safety nightmare at Thorp. He mentioned that there is only one staircase down from the third floor. He added that the Board wants to force us out of our school and into the old Thorp. He stated that he has photos, a fact sheet and signed petitions. Ms. Richardson-Lowry asked the CEO to follow up.

Amy Lux, a parent, advocated for a return to recess, mentioning Play Works and the advantages to the health of the students.

Matthew Johnson, of the Chicago Parents Union (CPU), spoke of these issues: the John Hope furnace should have been fixed, some classrooms have thirty students so class size should be reconsidered, and the sports program cuts need to be eliminated. Ms. Richardson-Lowry referred this to Mr. Huberman. He said they would continue to lobby in Springfield. She asked "Can you make a cut, too?"

Sylvester "June Bug" Hendricks, a candidate for Illinois state representative, asked for a moment of silence in regard to the assassinations of Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Michael Scott (emphasis ours). He mentioned that there were irregularities and fraud at Paul Revere School in regard to the LSC elections. Ms. Richardson-Lowry referred this to Patrick Rocks, BOE Counsel.

Carolina Gaete-Tapia, of Blocks Together, said TIF funds should be utilized to eliminate and alleviate CPS budget cuts. Ms. Richardson-Lowry replied that we will take it under advisement. Ms. Gaite-Tapia expected an answer about her request from the Board, but Richardson-Lowry just stared at her as the question was repeated, then returned to her "taken under advisement" statement.

Torrence Shorter, also of Blocks Together, said the community deserves to know how much money came in and how it is being spent. He asked for a community hearing on the above, before June 30th, in fact, in two weeks time. Ms. Richardson-Lowry asked Mr. Huberman to take this under advisement.

Pamela Lara and Gabriel Garcia, Social Justice High School students, spoke of nutrition affecting the health of students. They mentioned protein substitutes for meat, too much sodium, canned foods containing preservatives, processed foods, the need for whole fruit, the empty food value in iceberg lettuce, and the food vendors that run fast food businesses. Mr. Huberman asked that they stay after and we will present the future guidelines.

Kris Kania and Gonzalo Chavez, John Hancock High School students, also spoke on nutrition and mentioned the unhealthy food choices, such as chips. They also asked that students be surveyed because 50% throw away food or skip lunch. Mr. Huberman said he would respond after the public participation ended.

Danielle Ciesielski, Roberson High School teacher, spoke of the budget cuts, the 45-60-80 student class sizes and the cut in pension contributions. She advocated for a transparent budget. Ms. Richardson-Lowry said Mr. Huberman would do a presentation on the Budget. Ms. Ciesielski asked to see the books. Mr. Huberman replied that she should send him an email at huberman@cps.edu and added that the budget book is not produced at this time because we do not know what Springfield will fund, the appropriation from Springfield is not in yet.

Nicholas Cook, who has children at Barbara Vick Early Childhood, thanked the Board for realizing Barbara Vick is a necessity in your budget - "Barbara Vick works." Kerry Esselman, Chairperson of the LSC at Barbara Vick, also thanked the Board that funding has been restored at all schools and voiced the hope that "this will not happen every year."

The following public participants were Idalia Flores, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Melissa Trumbell Mitchell, Federation for community schools who thanked the Board for its support, and Neil Bosanko, Executive Director of the South Suburban Chamber of Commerce for twenty-three years, who asked that the four small schools in Bowen High School be converted back to one school unit and that vocational education be brought back.

Shanea K. Brown, Brooks College Prep, advocated for a unit of study regarding the prevention of being a victim and avoiding abusive relationships Jacqueline Johnson, spoke of unresolved issues. She had previously discussed these issues with Michael Scott and David Pickens.

Xian Barret, Julian High School Teacher of Japanese and a CORE candidate, asked but received no response to three questions he directed at the public. He mentioned that the buy-in process doesn't work, a collaborative process is needed, and August is too late for hearings. Ms. Richardson-Lowry told him an email contact would be provided and wanted more information about his teaching of Japanese.

Camille Hamilton-Doyle, Kenwood Academy Community Representative, asked that classroom teachers not be eliminated, that schools remain in session five days a week instead of four, and that class size not be increased to thirty-five. She also thanked Mr. Huberman for turning down a raise.

Ron Manderschied, Rowe Elementary, spoke in support of the Board and added that "We want to be working partners in finding the ultimate solution.

Wanda Hopkins, of the parents group PURE, congratulated Barbara Eason-Watkins on her new assignment as superintendent of schools in Michigan City, Indiana. She said Ms. Watkins should have been the Chicago superintendent.

Board President Richardson-Lowry told the audience that at the May 2010 Board meeting there will be a tribute to Barbara Eason-Watkins, and invited people who wished to join it to contact the Board. A standing ovation for Ms. Watkins followed.

After the public participation, the official Board meeting began.

Mr. Huberman did Power-Point presentations on the budget and planned improved nutrition in the schools.

Huberman's Power Point made it clear that he had again been duplicitous when he told speakers repeatedly that CPS would "hold hearings" on the budget changes he has been presenting since January. The Power Point clearly showed that the "hearings" he was referring to will come in August 2010, while the cuts he has been making will continue in May and June 2010. Throughout the Board meeting, Huberman said repeatedly in answer to speakers' questions that there would be "hearings" but never said when.

The Power Point on nutrition outlined how the Board was going to issue contracts to provide better meals for students. No discussion was held over whether the Board's decision (since Mayor Daley took over CPS) to privatize food services had been one of the reasons why CPS was delayed in responding to the complaints that had been raised repeatedly by students and others. Prior to the mayor's takeover of the schools in 1995, all CPS schools were provided meals by Board employees, which could changes menus and even vendors much more rapidly.

The Board then went into Executive Session, coming out later to approve virtually all of the agenda (minus the consolidation of Tilton and Marconi elementary schools, which had again been withdrawn from the agenda). 



Comments:

May 2, 2010 at 10:38 PM

By: Jim Vail

Great Job!

Great Job Marybeth! I feel like I was there. This makes Substance an invaluable source on CPS news.

May 3, 2010 at 1:59 AM

By: Dave Vance

JN Thorp LSC Community Rep

Yes, the report was very well written by Mary Beth. But, Wanda Hopkins put the nail in the coffin on CPS as the last speaker. Ms. Hopkins wanted to know where the money is going now before she asks Springfield for more money. She wanted an accounting of the current expenses before she asks Springfield for "one more dime." I think she said also that CPS must open the books and change its priorities.

May 4, 2010 at 1:02 AM

By: 2HP

teacher

Great summary! It was also interesting to note that She-Who-Will-Take-That-Under-Advisement let Marilyn Stewart CUT IN right before Karen Lewis was signed-up to speak... And, just curious, is it me or has anyone else noticed a transformation of one once-proud rooster into something more akin to Chicken Little (with his sky-is-falling powerpoint cluckings)?

May 4, 2010 at 4:10 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

That Power Point fetishist and executive mansions during an age of austerity

You're right, 2HP, about MRL allowing Marilyn Stewart to arrive and butt the line, breathlessly, just prior to Karen Lewis speaking. But, as you can see if you watch the Cable TV version of the Board's reality (or listen to the WBEZ audio tape), Stewart did not fare well. Off script, she is dismal or worse. So the stunt actually served the next several speakers (beginning with Karen Lewis and Michael Brunson) well. Marilyn really looked stupid, especially when Huberman noted on the record that the only reason he had not signed off on her "AFT offer" was that she had only presented him with the last page of the proposal -- the signature sheet. So Marilyn had basically made a big deal about the fact that Huberman had refused to sign a blank check. She should have ignored that "issue," but...

As to Huberman's silencing, you're partially right. His using Power Point as both a fig leaf and a fetish. It's almost getting Freudian. Since he can't handle any specific questions about reality, except when he's being mindlessly adulated by the ruling class's scribes, he spend more and more time in situations where he and his minions have total control.

In any half hour interview about his two biggest fetishes ("Performance Management" and "The Deficit") with someone who knew what they were talking about, and his schtick would be finished. That's why, ultimately, he's refused to do an interview with me since September 2009 (on Data Driven Drivel) and January 19, 2010 (on the crazy Power Point "deficit" claims).

One other possible reasons they've gagged him is that he went out and bought himself a million dollar "home" right at the time he's firing the last competent people in the central office and threatening a half million parents and kids with massive destruction (class sizes jumping; teacher layoffs; end of extra-curricular; etc.).

Stupid is a word he doesn't like having associated with the name Ron Huberman, but in those big two political activities (Data Drivel and Deficit), stupid he is. In purchasing that mansion, stupider.

Arne was smart enough not to do greedy at the same time he was doing cuts and privatizations. Huberman, from the day he started bringing in his posse at enormous salaries right through today, has missed the fact that all the dollars he's playing with at CPS are in the public eye, unlike his supposed great work at CTA and Emergency Management, to name two.

Have a nice day...

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