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Protests galore during July 28, 2010 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education while Board continues to restrict public participation

Protestors, including brand-new Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) officers and staff, were in front on the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) at 125 South Clark Street Wednesday morning, July 28, 2010, prior to the Board's monthly meeting. Jesse Sharkey, CTU vice-president, could be seen speaking to and being filmed by main-stream news media, before the scheduled meeting of the Board. Some protestors carried posters registering their disagreement with Board policies. Others wore t-shirts with messages on them. At approximately 10 a.m., CTU president Karen Lewis arrived on the scene.

Upstairs, security personnel were asking individuals who wished to enter the Board chambers on the fifth floor for the monthly meeting of the Board of Education to show their passes. Then, the individuals were allowed to pass through the narrow hallway roped off by control posts and cords, like those used by movie theaters to control crowds.

Above: The center section of the Board of Education chambers just prior to the opening of the July 28, 2010 meeting. Note that all of the seats that are directly behind the podium (and hence on TV when a speaker is speaking) are "Reserved" for Board of Education administrators and staff, whose names appear on the seats. This photo also shows copies of the 'Public Participation' list for July 28, 2010. As the article notes, for the first time the Board did not produce enough copies of the Public Participation list for everyone who attended the Board meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Inside the Board chambers, in the section to the far left, facing the Board members, no public participation hand-outs could be seen on the seats in the whole section. They were visible on the seats of the center section where Board employees sit. So members of the press, and others, had to help themselves to the hand-outs available on the empty seats in the center section (seats "reserved" for Board executives) in order to know which individuals were scheduled to speak. Some of those reserved seats remained empty throughout the entire meeting. One individual, sitting behind the press section, said maybe the public participation hand outs were not available in this section because of the budget cuts.

The "good news" portion of the meeting began with the honoring of Curie High School graduate, Jose Gonzales. While working at White Castle, he was joined by Dave Wright, White Castle CEO, who was working undercover while being filmed for the TV program, "Undercover Boss." Gonzales shared his dreams with Dave Wright and his life was changed. The CEO sent him to culinary school. He was awarded three scholarships, a $20,000 scholarship, a $10,000 scholarship from the Illinois Restaurant Association, and a $50,000 scholarship from well-known chef, Rick Bayless. He has been accepted at Kendall College. When CPS BOE President Mary Richardson-Lowry congratulated him, he replied, "Thanks. I'm not going to let anyone down."

Next, the audience was told that the first day at 195 Track E schools (which are year-round schools) will be Monday, August 9, 2010. The first day of regular school will be September 7, 2010. There are now ten high schools on Track E and fifty-three additional elementary schools.The theme this year is "Show up! First day and every day." Those who wish more information can got to www.cps.edu or call 773-553-1000.

Chicago Board of Education President Mary Richardson-Lowry then set the ground rules for public participation. She informed the public that the elevated seats facing the audience were occupied by the the seven Chicago Board of Education members; below them (nside the railing) were members of the CPS executive staff, including Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman and Attorney Patrick Rocks. At 10:55, public participation began.

First up at the mike was Karen Lewis, newly elected CTU president, who was welcomed by Richardson-Lowry and then given the usual two minutes to speak that public participants are given.

Ms. Lewis told the Board that more than ever the BOE needs professionals. She said that sometimes the BOE gives the impression that it doesn't value them (professional teachers). She added, "That makes me want to say, shame on you." The BOE has let go teacher coaches callously, capriciously, with no notice and loss of benefits. CPS didn't measure the effects of raising class sizes. Lewis then insisted that there be no new hires and no new inexperienced teachers because our children can't wait for Teachers for America to get good.

Ron Huberman, CPS Chief Executive Officer (CEO), then congratulated Lewis and welcomed her in her new role. He mentioned the challenges to the district, that state cuts have led to BOE cuts, 20% of coaches are being placed back, benefits have been extended by a month, and Central Office (CO) non-union personnel are facing twenty-one unpaid days. Because of a 370 million dollar budget deficit, another 100 million in salary cuts are needed to save positions. One thing that is being looked at is the 4% cost of living adjustment (COLA). He added this has never been a value statement about what teachers deserve. One thousand teachers' jobs will be saved by way of the proposal. When Ms. Lewis responded to Mr. Huberman, "We're not going to fight," Richardson-Lowry replied, "You're not going to fight because I'm not going to allow it."

When Ms. Lewis told Ms. Richardson-Lowry, "I'd like to talk to you also. We'll have fun," Ms. Richardson-Lowry replied, "I'll have to check my Webster's dictionary for the definition of fun." Mr. Huberman added, "Congratulations, Karen. Thank you."

The public participation speakers did not follow the order on the list handed to the public. For some reason, speakers were called in what appeared to be a rather random order: 1, 13, 2, 4, 3, 16, 42, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 41, 10, 11, 15, 22, 19, 23 , 24, 29, 30, 40, 37, 36, 38, 39, 30, 32. Many of the listed 43 speakers did not show up, so the public participation portion of the meeting ended approximately a half hour earlier than the usual two-hour limit.

The speaker after Karen Lewis was Jeanne Edmondson, a tenured, highly-rated home-hospital teacher, who said she had three days to make a decision about her future after being let go. She said she is a single, older mother who was forced into retirement. She mentioned that she used to see Mayor Daley every year at the Comer Children's Christmas party. She added, "Thanks for the birthday present to me."

Terry Prewitt, who has been with the BOE for over thirty years, mentioned that at Children's Memorial Hospital, her presence allowed parents to take a break from the constant time spent at their child's bedside. She wants an opportunity to continue to service these children.

Mary Pat Gerard, a spokesperson for fired teachers, handed the BOE secretary a list of the 311 students at alternative schools that the fired teachers were concerned for, because the fired teachers would no longer be there to assist them. She mentioned that we teach students who have a baby or a parole officer, and Special Education students know they can trust us. My job is to motivate them when they feel like giving up. We save them from hanging out on streets, from a life of crime. Our students will be looking for us, but they won't see us because we have been fired and won't be there.

Percy Giles, former alderman of the 37th ward, spoke next. After he finished, Richard Martin of Prosser Career Academy, talked about receiving the highest number of votes for the teacher representative on the Local School Council (LSC). Despite this, he was informed that he was not going to be the teachers representative on the LSC. He handed the Board a blue notebook containing endorsements and added, "I'm upset." Ms. Richardson-Lowry said that follow-up would be done.

Rivanna Jihan, of the School of Entrepreneurship (South Shore High School campus), said that 20,000 students will be impacted by the 1,000 cut teachers. She added that she was concerned about the tone of the Board report and using teachers raises or cuts does nothing to help our students. Ms. Richardson-Lowry said it would be an additional increase of two, not five, in the high schools.

Lisa Levy, of Curie High School, said that 28 scheduled students actually means 35 students, so if the number is 33, I don't know how many I will really get. She added that Curie is now on probation, the boundaries are being changed, and it is overcrowded. What has been done as a cost-saving measure change will lead to failure. Ms. Richardson-Lowry replied "I appreciate your sharing your perspective." Mr. Huberman then said that the school-based budget does not cut special ed. funding at all. Ms. Richardson-Lowry added that there are no special ed-based cuts at the school level.

The next speaker was told Richard Smith, the new head of specialized services, would follow up on his concerns. Mr. Huberman added that layoff procedures can certainly appear complicated. Turnarounds need change. We will make as few cuts as possible to classroom-based positions where the teachers are closest to the students.

Armando Arrieta, of Gage Park High School, said he was going to sing, but instead spoke the words of his song, among them, "where are the coaches and teachers? but we have grass, school closes at four, and we have more gangs."

William Vega, of Curie High School, joined him in saying we are really sorry and upset about the loss of teachers. He added, "Even Jesus wouldn't forget what you've done."

Next, Shawn Gowder, a Barton School LSC member, was concerned that the follow-up to his appearance in February/March, did not occur. He remarked, "I charge you all with genocide. You're destroying my community." He added that we have kids who can't read or do math, and that this Generation X Squared will kill you at the blink of an eye, like they're killing all the police officers. He also requested a meeting with the principal of Barton.

Okema Lewis, a Title I Community Resident, had documents and concerns, following her appearance at the May BOE meeting. She said that nations that invest in higher quality education have better outcomes. She mentioned that August 3, 2010, is the cut-off date for spending the July Title I funds, that they could not be accessed, and would be given back to Central Office. She handed over a binder and told the Board that they could have a copy. Chief Counsel, Patrick Rocks, said we have been calling for documentation for months. He added, we'll make copies of the binder and return it.

Teresa Massie-Peterson was honorably terminated. She did not get a sixty-day placement and wanted to know what provisions there are regarding sixty-day placements or to acquire a 210 position. She said it is hard to look for a new position one day a week. Ms. Richardson-Lowry told her the Human Capital Office will meet with her and discuss options.

Gertrude Williams, who became a National Board Certified teacher after three years, has a Type 10 and a Type 03 Certificate. She was displaced and needs a job.

Patricia Breckinridge, a fifteen-year veteran teacher with a master's degree asked why there are no reading clinics in the CPS schools. She mentioned Alfred Tatum, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, and his work. She requested a meeting with him and the BOE. Mr. Huberman said that some schools have reading clinics and a meeting with Christian Plummer (a policy research and community relations employee at CPS) would be arranged. He added that he would give the information to Monique Bond.

Jacqueline Johnson said a terminated teacher has the right to return to her position. On June 8, 2010, she was injured, filed an accident report, called the BOE to report this, and filed a doctor's report. She was laid off. She said she didn't know what kind of leave she has been placed on and she seeks to have her rights protected. Ms. Richardson-Lowry referred this to Mr. Rocks who said he would have his staff follow up.

LaDisa Stamps, a Tilden parent who said she was speaking on behalf of Matthew Johnson, wanted to know when incompetent CAOs will be held accountable. She said that in regard to the School Improvement Plan (SIPPA), the CAO refused to meet, but gave the acting principal authority to make changes - a violation. Ms. Richardson-Lowry inquired about the academic status of Tilden and was told by Mr. Huberman that it is under academic probation and that we want to see the school succeed and follow-up will be done.

Ronald Jackson claimed manipulation of position numbers has been going on for a year and asked why Physical Education (PE) was cut without approval of the LSC. PE is mandated by the state. Why non-certified teachers? he asked. He mentioned that kids are in positions numbers on a ghost payroll that has been going on for years at Tilden. Mr. Huberman said that they will follow up. Mr. Jackson suggested Patrick Fitzgerald needs to get behind this.

Next, Robert Lewis, of All 4 Kidz Enterprises, a women's minority book publishing business, said they currently have nineteen titles and want CPS contacts. Fourteen CPS schools have purchased the books. He said he met with Ms. Walls earlier today. Ms. Richardson-Lowry told him we want to help small businesses to flourish.

Przemek Bogdanowicz, whose wife ,Jamie, and children Alex and Virginia, stood beside him at the mike, taught nine years at CPS and Catholic schools. He said he has been lied about, his life was threatened, he was discharged from his job. Subsequently, after arbitration, he was found innocent. He would like to be reinstated and receive back pay. He was told the General Counsel (Patrick Rocks) would follow up.

Margaret Aguilar, a parent, said she is appalled at the budget cuts and the loss of teachers. She said the city is sitting on millions in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money taken from schools by legislative sleight of hand. She told the Board, many of you are not teachers, you have no background in education, adding, if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Rhonda McLoud, of Gresham School, a National Board certified teacher whose students cannot speak, spoke of the brand-new school at 55th and St. Louis being given to AUSL and becoming a charter school. She mentioned that charter schools exclude special needs students. Mr. Huberman said Solorio is not a charter school, but a traditional neighborhood school, and that there is no proposal for it to be a charter. Ms. McLoud replied that my students are not in the neighborhood.

Anthony Lopez, spoke of his cousin, Eric Solorio, a fallen Chicago Police Department (CPD) police officer, after whom Eric Solorio school will be named. Ms. Richardson-Lowry asked that all give Eric Solorio a hand to acknowledge his sacrifice. She then asked Mr. Rocks if there could be a resolution to acknowledge this. Armelia Solorio, mother of Eric Solorio, said thank you for honoring my son and his service as a police officer.

Angelenna Young, who attends Prologue High School and can talk to staff about anything, wants the Board to vote in favor of the business application for a new school that Prologue is opening.

Hamza Muhammad, of Prologue, also spoke in support of Prologue. He is the lead instructor for Joshua Johnson Academy of the Arts. He said Little Black Pearl has taught me, as an artist and a student, what leads me to treasure Little Black Pearl. Ms. Richardson-Lowry asked him what his medium was. Alexander Davis, also of Little Black Pearl, Joshua Johnson Academy of the Arts, a visual artist who graduated in April 2008 and is now an intern, said education is good and everything...but art. Ms. Richardson remarked, "You're clear in your passion."

Last to speak was Dr. Mark Thompson, of Harlan High, who spoke of the firing of highly qualified tenured teachers. He spoke of others who had obtained teacher certificates through falsification of student teaching. He asked why coaches have been allowed to have practice all year round, in violation of the state athletic association. Ms. Richardson-Lowry said Mr. Rocks would follow up.

After the pledge to the flag by all, a power point presentation by Mr. Huberman followed. 



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