Parent promotes plan that fired teachers after CPS security was the main problem...Harvard Elementary School Mom praises CPS 'turnaround', admits poor security hurt old school

Madeleine Maraldi, the Director of New Schools Development for elementary schools, walked parent and local school council member Catonya Withers to the podium to be one of the first speakers at the February 27 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, practically hand in hand.

Catonya Withers than gave a gushing appraisal of the new leadership at Harvard Elementary School, which was taken over this school year as the second “turnaround” school. [It is now called “Harvard School of Excellence”]. As the second presenter in the public speaking session, Withers turned to all of the irate people in the audience to say that “Change is good.” She admonished them to accept school ‘reform’ efforts blanketing the city. Although initially opposed the reconstitution that sent all of Harvards’s teachers and administrators packing, somewhere along the way she changed her mind. Maybe it happened when she became chummy with Maraldi, the Academy of Urban School Leadership’s primary booster and former principal at Washington Irving elementary school. Or perhaps it was when drastic improvements in the security inside and around the building that allowed the children to feel safe at school. When Arne Duncan eagerly asked Catonya to describe some of the concrete changes that have impacted the school, she talked about how the augmented security program was the central reason for the improvement. After her talk, I asked Catonya if security lapses were something that teachers should be fired for, or whether it was more of a problem with management. She replied: “Teachers still needed to be let go because different security guards coming in and out it really wouldn’t matter, you really need to have some type of classroom management as well as security outside. The teachers there last year and years before then they didn’t know how to control the students who were there.” After a few more questions, Catonya acknowledged that additional resources in the building have been a big help and that more money for security and teacher assistants, who walk students to school, helped spark a sea change in the building’s atmosphere. Withers may be perfectly correct in her contention that parents prefer the new school over the old one, and it is clear that she desperately wants the best for her own children. However, if the board is stacking the deck to improve its experimental schools, then the results are far from tamper-proof.

Even Withers’ new found faith in AUSL is conditional. If she sees them falter, she said, “Then they won’t have my kudos, I told you my children are my investment my future, so if those scores don’t go up or I don’t see an improvement in my children then there will be a problem.”

I asked her what she would do if AUSL replaced her children with ones with higher stanines, just like they did at Sherman elementary. Withers shook her head nervously, the veneer of confidence wearing thin, her voice cracked, “then we’ll have a problem.” 


September 15, 2009 at 3:14 PM

By: gokrtmozart


"The teachers there last year and years before then they didn’t know how to control the students who were there.”

The parents of these kids can't control those children either. When the #1 disciplinarian in the child's life is unable, how can the board reasonably expect more from the teacher.

Now days, when parents come in for conferences about their child's conduct, they behave worse than the children. Yelling, screaming, throwing tantrums, etc. Do you know how rediculous we sound telling a child to avoid gangs and gang activity, when the parent is a gangster themself?

Get serious.

September 15, 2009 at 4:05 PM

By: zeta

Parent of Four/Teacher too!

I am a parent of 4 CPS graduates. I never had any problems with teachers, security or administration as a parent. However, I knew that my children were my responsibility not the teacher's. Since I am a teacher also, I know the difference between the role of a parent and the role of teachers. From my observation, even the worst teacher is 10x better behaved than your average parent. Many of them are confused about who is responsible for their children. They are constantly looking for someone to blame because they have poor parenting skills and their children are messed up. Now CPS has hooked up with these awful parents to make them attack and insult teachers. The teachers have become the scapegoat for the mess parents are creating. If you notice, most of the teachers don't have problems with their own children when they are in school. I Guess that's because they are not only good teachers but good parents and basically good people. I wish I could say the same for all of our parents.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 1 =