SUBSCRIPT: Why would an area instructional office plan an expensive Lake Geneva 'retreat' when teachers are being fired?

Next time you run into Ron Huberman and he's telling you about how we all have to share in the sacrifices — like the characters in "Animal Farm"? — ask him about the Grand Geneva Hotel and the aspirations of his higher-level non-educator executives, visioning PMs and RDs and all that cool bright guy stuff they rattle on and on about at Data Driven Management Central. Here's the August 2010 end-of-the-month story. Regarding the Lake Geneva Hotel gig: We've got the famous "Who? What? When? and Where" (from the traditional journalism rules) on the story about how one Chicago "Instructional Area" is planning an expensive retreat at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin the last week of August. The lede currently goes like this: One of Chicago's 26 "Instructional Area Offices" is planning a three-day retreat at the expensive Grand Geneva Hotel in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, from August 25 through August 27 to do some strategic planning and vision setting, according to CPS insiders and documents being prepared for the event. Etc. [The rest of the story will come later as Substance reporters check it all out].

The only two questions we still have are

"Why?" and

Above, the entrance to the Grand Geneva Hotel in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, site of the planned retreat from August 25 through August 27 for one of Chicago's 'Area Instructional Offices'. Substance is working on getting photographs of the other amenities that will be available to Chicago's hard-working area people — and their school-based agents — as they study Data Driven Management, do their Curriculum Mapping and Reverse Mapping and all that cool stuff. We wonder if they will be utilizing utilizing the Climbing Wall and the WELL spa while sleeping each night in rooms that rent from roughly $250 to $400 or more per night. "How much will it cost?"

As we work to get those answers, we'll let our readers know what we did up.

For now, we thank attentive readers of Substance and for alerting us to various examples, large, larger and largest, of the hypocrisy of the Daley administration and their minions at 125 S. Clark St. Your tips help us find and vet stories, but remember: We rarely go very far with anonymous tips (we have to be able to contact you) and we never run stories in full until we've checked them out. Checking them out even involves finally giving the perpetrators a chance to give us a "react quote" (i.e., a "reaction quote" to the fact that we're going to run the story).

A satirist couldn't make this stuff up. According to the leaders' leading agenda, they'll be doing some "Setting the Vision" and "Curriculum Mapping" on the 25th, followed by PM and PD scheduling (honest) with "Teambuilding" beginning at 8:00 p.m. (Don't get us started; we've checked out those King beds in the suites, and have some generous ideas of how some of these teams are going to be built).

We know that some people know important stuff and need to share. This particular tidbit came from someone who wrote: "It is my duty to share this information with you..." We also know (from very expensive personal experience — how do you spell CASE?) that anyone who believes Chicago protects so-called "whistle blowers" is living in Madison, Wisconsin or Berkeley, California or some other place where governance isn't governed by hypocrisy, greed, and worse (some of our staff visit the site of Michael Scott's untimely demise regularly).

Strategic planning agenda for the Lake Geneva retreat of one Chicago "Area Instructional Office." Back to journalistic reality, as the new school year looms in Chicago and that fictional $375 million "deficit" that Ron Huberman is still prattling about governs civic discourse...

The Substance policy on anonymous tips is that we must have documents that we can authenticate and that the tip must be relevant to CPS operations and budget.

In other words, don't bother with personal schtumpfing rumors — unless they have some relevance to the 'performance' of our executive class and its minions and denizens. We've covered stories like this when they involved retaliation against teachers for questioning the sinner. For example, the big story 30 years ago about a high school principal who was using the computer room for his trysts with a teacher assistant was relevant because it was on school grounds and interfered with the instructional program and resulted in an "unsatisfactory" against the teacher who complained. The infamous Moffat case (which resulted in one of Chicago's most powerful guys going to prison for half a decade for raping kids) is another example.

Simply put, we take these things seriously, but not every tip results in a story (or, as in the two cited above, dozens of stories).

Tips can be shared with Substance by fax, phone, e-mail, or in person. The old City News Bureau motto will be applied: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." All tips will be verified, and impressive ones will be pursued as best we can utilizing our strained resources.

Personal stuff that is purely personal is always going to be off limits here.

And we oppose bothering people — even powerful ones — at the homes of their families. Tacky that is, in our opinion. But stuff that reveals the relationship between power and its perks is fair game, as we decided when one of our intrepid correspondents hit us with this particular bit of budgetary information just after the Board's lawyers dug in their heels, once again, about how the Chicago Teachers Union take either a pay freeze or the loss of a thousand or two thousand teaching jobs.

Please don't ask us why the Sun-Times and Tribune ignore these stories (while writing prissy editorials advising the unions to join in our common sacrifice or else). Ask them. 


August 2, 2010 at 2:56 AM

By: Sarah Loftus

Another waste

I have this on good authority:

Area 11 AIO came to CPS from Boston by way of Texas. She flew all Area 11 principals to Texas for some extremely important seminar/tour. Then the teachers had to attend PD given by two of the AIO's old staff from Boston.

Cost of air and hotels to send principals to Texas and air and hotels for Boston 'experts' to come to Chicago. $$$$$$$$

CPS would probably say that it's a very small inconsequential amount. However, it was probably enough to save one or two positions.

Many many years ago, a principal told us about a CPS Board member who was visiting a school in another district and noticed that sandwiches and hamburgers were wrapped in foil with that school's logo printed on the wrappers. This Board member thought this was really classy and suggested that CPS do this as it would bring pride and ... to all who .... and it only cost pennies for each wrapper. The BOE agreed and ordered these beautiful wrappers for all the schools. The lunchroom staff had the added job of wrapping every thing individually.

Some of you may remember seeing these really impressive sandwich wrappers as students ripped them off their burgers, balled them up and threw them away.

A few weeks later the BOARD got the bill for the first month's supply - nearly $500,000.00! The BOE did cancel the contract.

CPS has alway and continues to spend money like water.

August 2, 2010 at 10:56 AM

By: Kathy Jacobs

A satirist couldn't make this stuff up.

As soon as I saw the headline, my comment was going to be YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP, but good reporter that he is, George included the opinion of all sane people in the body of his article.

Let me add that if a Hollywood writer submitted this script idea, it would be immediately rejected as sophomoric and predictable (Management cries poor and is then caught with their party hats on at a resort! Whoa! Watch the high jinx that follow as they try to explain!)

God save us all.

August 7, 2010 at 1:58 PM



This is the text of my response to a comment about firing of pregnant charter school teacher that I posted on another blog - RESPONSE TO ANONYMOUS. However, I felt it was appropriate to George's report on the Lake Geneva retreat and to Sarah Loftus's comment:

The educational system is also designed to drive out competent principals — to be replaced by political favorites and/or lower paid staff.

According to “budget” Huberman disclosed to principals (to be shared with their teachers and staff last spring), the newly created area CAO positions cost $100 million. I bet this figure does not include their staff and seemingly unlimited expense accounts.

Remember reports of trips to Texas (where Area 11 CAO is from and worked for many years) and elsewhere? Are we supposed to believe that there were no examples of good instructional practices to be observed in CPS schools? Same thing for flying in professional development providers from Boston (location of new AREA 11 CAO’s last position). There was no talent within CPS to provide professional development on the teaching methods required by the new Area 11 CAO? True cost of these area CAOs has to be is much higher than $100 million.

Before school ended in June, I read postings on blogs indicating that AREA 11’s ISAT scores had decreased overall. The bloggers voiced opinions that decrease was due to interference and harrassment of Area 11 principals and staff by the AREA 11 CAO and her team.

All last year, there were SO many reports on the visits/walk-throughs of the Area 11 CAO and her staff — no workbooks/worksheets allowed, you must be doing ALL group work ALL the time, Area 11 staff searching teacher and students desks and classrooms for forbidden worksheets, MUCH later clarification??? that math workbooks accompanying math series were allowed because they were “activity sheets” and not worksheets, etc.

However, practice books accompanying reading series were still forbidden. I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

Yesterday, I was informed by a knowledgeable person that Area 11 is now ranked 3rd from the bottom out of all the CPS areas for ISAT performance. In the years prior to the new AREA 11 CAO’s leadership (test years 2009 and before), Area 11 consistently ranked 3rd from the top among all the CPS areas.

SO UNDER THE NEW AREA 11 CAO’s LEADERSHIP, AREA 11 WENT FROM 3rd FROM THE TOP TO THIRD FROM THE BOTTOM. Where is the accountability here? Will Huberman do a PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT analysis on these results? How is it that this kind of money is still being spent when teachers and staff are being let go supposedly due to budget cuts?

I don’t know what has gone on in other areas. But if Area 11 is not unique, then CPS is paying $100 million plus to get reduced ISAT scores.

August 8, 2010 at 8:23 PM

By: more threats from CAO in 11

CAO 11 --accountability please

Nightengale teachers wre threatened last week, if they do not get scores up, they will be fired and the school will be a UIC charter. Yet, this CAO kicked out the principal and picked the new principal and APs at her schools. Well Ron--where is the accountability now that you have the data?\r

August 18, 2010 at 12:11 AM

By: Susan Zupan

Please include Area 18 as well...

This summer from July 19-22, over 60 teachers from eleven Area 18 schools attended a conference at St. Xavier University sponsored by CPS. They brought in 5 (outstanding) professors from Connecticut, fed us an impressive breakfast and lunch, and gave us each a reusable bag with the following lines printed on them: "Area 18 - Chicago Public Schools/ Summer Enrichment Workshop/ Lynda Williams, CAO/ "Growing for the Green." I do not to this day know what that phrase means.

I also do not understand (and do not wish to understand) the CPS decision-making process that led to the "graphic" chosen for below the words on the bags - - what looks (from a back view) to be a silhouette of a naked child who is running and holding a tape measure up to the bottom of a bar graph.

Did I mention that the teachers received a per-hour stipend? I calculate a total of $43,000 for that alone.

Did someone say, "Budget Crisis"?

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