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Board 'Withdrew' Huberman proposals to purchase $80 million in computers, hire Arne Duncan's sister (through the University of Chicago) to train principals... Spending could sneak back at a future Board meeting

While it was not unprecedented, it was unusual. When the members of the Chicago Board of Education resumed their recessed meeting on June 23, 2010, they noted that several items had been "withdrawn" from the agenda and would not be approved (at least that day). Since four of the items were highly controversial, the withdrawals were a partial victory for the Board's growing number of critics, dozens of whom had just been elected to leadership positions in the Chicago Teachers Union.

Among the CORE members who challenged the Board of Education's priorities at the June 23 2010 meeting were (left to right) Katie Hogan (at microphone), Jackson Potter, Carol Caref, and Jennifer Johnson. Hogan and Potter teach at the School of Social Justice, a small school at Little Village High School. Carole Caref teaches math at Chicago Vocational, and Jennifer Johnson teaches history at Lincoln Park High School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."We will be tracking every item on the Board agenda from now on," said Carol Caref, referring to the so-called "long" agenda that becomes public 48 hours before each Board meeting. The long agenda is only made available to the public for people who travel to the Board's downtown headquarters, know where the Offices of the Board are (sixth floor), and know what to request when they get there. The Board of Education complies with the letter of the law each month by posting a PDF of its so-called "agenda" on the Board website. The majority of the agenda is kept secret from the public — and is only available in paper form for those who know about it and travel downtown to request it. Since Ron Huberman became CEO of CPS in January 2009, he has also taken the unprecedented step of revising the items of the long agenda following the legal Board votes on each item. Because Chicago's major media fail to cover such matters, Huberman and his staff, with the support of the mayor who appointed them (and the Board members) continues as if Illinois law regarding open meetings and freedom of information do not exist.

For the June 23, 2010 meeting of the Board, the "official" agenda that was posted on the Board website was eight pages long. The actual agenda was 348 pages long! In included proposed expenditures, most of them for privatized services that were once performed by CPS staff, at a cost of more than a quarter million dollars. Few members of the public had copies of the "long" agenda prior to the meeting, and no copies were available to the public in the lobby of CPS headquarters while people were lining up as early at 7:00 a.m. to testify at the Board meeting (which began hearing public testimony at 11:00 a.m. following the usual "good news" time wasters the Board members coo and swoon over).

The item that drew the most comment from members of the public, thanks to CORE, was to purchase computers from Dell Computer Company and other companies. It read:

"Amend Board Report 08-0625-PO4. Approve entering into agreements with various vendors and leasing agents for purchase and lease of desktop and laptop computers and associated services." The Board Report signed by Ron Huberman proposed to increase to $80 million (from a previously approved $60 million) contracts with Apple Computer, Dell Marketing, Lenovo, IBM Global Finance, and Dell Financial Services. For reasons which were not explained, IBM Global Finance was listed twice as a vendor. Like most major contracts entered into with private vendors, the computer contract was allowing a cost overrun of more than 30 percent to a contract which had previously been bid (the difference between the original $60 million approved in August 2008 and the proposed $80 million in the June 23, 2010 Board Report).

When the public participation portion of the meeting took place, several speakers — including teachers, parents, and students — denounced the proposal, charging that the Board was trying to replace teachers with computer screens. When they came out from executive session late in the afternoon, the Board members noted that the Board Report had been withdrawn. No one was willing to comment on why.

Another expensive proposal withdrawn, at least for the time being, was contained in Board Report 10-0428-PR33 (which returned to the agenda on June 23 at Board Report 10-0623-PR32). Blandly titled "Approve Entering into an Agreement with the University of Chicago", the Board Report originally proposed contracting with the University of Chicago's "Network for College Success" in what appears to be a program to train principals and others in schools to do a better job preparing so-called "at risk" students for college. The original Board Report called for CPS to spend $2,325,000 on the program. By June, the cost had dropped to $1,089,000 (although later it stated "not to exceed $1,300,000") with the same scope of services — viz. to train school principals and other "leaders" in some new method that the University of Chicago had discovered and was entitled to the contract, under a no-bid deal.

No mention was made of the fact that CPS principals are trained and certified by other means, nor was there any explanation of why "leadership training" had to be provided in addition to already existing leadership training by the University of Chicago.

Some observers speculated that the University of Chicago proposal had become too hot even for a Board used to patronage, professorial patronage, preacher patronage, and pinstripe patronage was that a month earlier, the speaker who spoke on behalf of the University of Chicago proposal was Arne Duncan's sister. Duncan is now U.S. Secretary of Education, having served as "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools following his appointment by Mayor Richard M. Daley from July 1, 2001 through January 1, 2009, shortly after which he became U.S. Secretary of Education and Daley appointed bus executive (CTA President) Rob Huberman to replace him.



Comments:

June 27, 2010 at 1:35 PM

By: Y

Social Justice people fighting against the organization that hired one if their own?

The U of Chicago hired Rito Martinez and his own people are against him... Interesting.

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