Galapagos gets five more years... CPS Renews Another Questionable Charter School

The Chicago Board of Education decided to renew a five-year contract with the Galapagos Charter School at 3815 W. Iowa earlier this year, despite the fact that problems persist. The Board approved Board Report 10-0526-EX8 at its May 26, 2010 meeting without discussion or debate, extending the Galapagos charter until 2015, even though the Board's own data in the Board report showed that the school's performance was below many of the Board's secret charter school benchmarks. Subsequently, in the Proposed Budget for 2010 - 2011, the Board reported, at page 292 in the printed edition, that Galapagos was below the "District Average" in all tested areas (Science, Math, Reading, and Overall).

Chicago's Galapagos Charter School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The teachers who suffered while employed at the school did not show up to the public hearing where people could voice their opposition or support for Galapagos and other charter schools. The hearing was held on May 10, 2010, according to the Board Report.

The problem is fear, according to teachers at the school. The teacher Substancenews interviewed two years ago listed many problems with the school — special education students who did not get services, no library and out-of-date books, a strict military regime in which children were expected to stay in their seats from 8 til 4:30 in the afternoon, overwhelming conditions on the teachers who were expected to work exhausting 11-hour days (including lesson planning), and a dysfunctional administration.

The teacher who Substance interviewed about these problems in 2008 just recently requested that his name not be used in reference to this charter school because he is trying to find a job today.

Before his interview was removed from the Substance website, one comment was posted under his story which noted the conditions at the charter school had improved and it is now a good place to educate children.

Then a letter was sent to Substance this spring that attested to more problems at Galapagos. The letter was sent by a former reading specialist who requested that the name not be used.

"During my tenure at Galapagos I witnessed qualified employees being fired without cause and verbal abuse directed at employees of the school as well as liaisons sent in from CPS. An atmosphere of fear and intimidation was fully entrenched which has resulted in an almost 100% staff turnover year after year. The voices of parents were also silenced as the administration felt free to take advantage of the fact that impoverished, busy parents were unlikely to complain.

"I worked with many wonderful educators during my time at Galapagos. It saddens me to know that the children who attend the school are unable to benefit from this talented staff because of the managment style in place. In my eyes, the point of a charter school is to offer students a better education, not something inferior to what they would recieve at a regular public school."

Galapagos features a $2,500 bonus plan at the end of the year. Staff were rewarded points, the former teacher said, according to one's professionalism, not taking sick days, handing lesson plans in early, and students making adequate progress on standardized testing.

According to the former reading specialist, Galapagos Charter School recruits staff with the promise of this end-of-the-year bonus. But this teacher and other employees had only been paid a fraction of what they were owed.

Since then, the teacher hired a lawyer and was able to finally collect her bonus. It is not known if the other teachers were able to do the same.

Reports of charter schools not honoring salaries have popped up in other parts of the country. Charter schools are less regulated than regular public schools.

Money seems to be a driving force with charter schools and the privatization of education. The income gap that has been widening over the years due to skyrocketing CEO and Wall Street executive compensation while cutting workers' salaries is now entering the educational field. Charter school directors such as Juan Rangel, the CEO of UNO Charter Schools, makes more than the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, while paying his teachers less than regular public school teachers.

President Barack Obama's Race to the Top is forcing the public school system to adopt corporate America standards with more standardized testing and more charter schools, and less regulation. At a time when this country has suffered an economic meltdown due to lax business and banking regulations, one would think the opposite would be true.

The renewal of the Galapagos Charter school points to business as usual from those at the top.


September 7, 2010 at 11:43 PM

By: Neighborhood Watch

Corrupt CEOs are Charter School Norms

When will the Hispanic community come to realize that corrupt people are getting rich at the expense of our children. Our son's teacher says teacher conditions are no better at UNO.

November 17, 2010 at 8:28 PM

By: Maggie

Galapagos Charter Schools

This school, like many other charters, is running our kids to the ground. It seems that the focus of many charter schools is on a militaristic, disciplinary approach, and not on one that promotes individuality and learning. As a current, full-time educator in Illinois' public school system, I know the frustration that goes into trying to make a difference in every child's life, each day. We need to spend less time focusing on creating lemmings or robots, and more time on fostering creativity and independent thinking. Further, we need to work on increasing the funding for education and seeing to it that our children's futures are being taken care of. After all, they are the only thing that we have left.

November 17, 2010 at 8:57 PM

By: Tired of Charter Schools

Charter Schools

Today there was a protest at 125 South Clark consisting of parents,local leaders, and some charter school children demanding more charter school creations. Although these people have the right to protest, I believe more people are against charter school expansions. This is because these schools in general do not perform better than the traditional schools, despite denying problem students and special education students services according to studies.

It was odd that one of the speakers spoke on the news suggesting people need more charters because we need more choices, we need young teachers, and we need to put our children first. First of all, it does not seem as charters are given children choices when special needs students and behavior students are being denied education from charters. Next, there are no studies that prove that just because you are a young teacher you are better. But, there are studies that do conclude that experienced teachers, qualified teachers perform better than inexperienced teachers. Finally, if the education system in Chicago is going to improve, investments should be made in the traditional public schools. I don't want my tax dollars going towards Charter school developments, and I think all voices need to be heard.

November 17, 2010 at 11:34 PM

By: Jonathan

The "protest" at Clark Street

1) Apparently the "protest" today was sponsored by "members of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, the Renaissance Schools Fund, and" DoneWaiting is a front group for charter school operators and their lackey fake civil rights front groups.

2) What was Rev. Flager there for. Why is he allowing himself to be a pawn of corporate America. Does he even realize that the "protest" was a ginned up event which like the Tea Party protests was not in fact a grass-roots event but a corporate sponsored event.

November 18, 2010 at 7:54 PM

By: the moderate


When is having "almost 100% turnover year after year" ever a good thing? Clearly management is asking too much of the teachers, not providing a stable work environment, or not compensation commensurate with the work load (like the example sited of withholding bonuses). Probably a combination of all three.

High turnover is not only a symptom of those three issues but it can also be a cause for disrespect among students and stress among teachers. If the children know that there is a strong likely hood they will never see a teacher again after they have them, you can bet they are less likely to respect them. And without long term teachers in the same location, mentoring and classroom management instruction for new teachers is much less effective if it is available at all.

It sounds like management at this school could use some lessons of their own.

December 22, 2010 at 1:47 AM

By: Corral Supporter

Why UNO is a Failure

UNO is a revolving door for teachers. UNO treats them like dirt, hires Teach For America people, who are not qualified teachers, and makes a mockery of education while extorting property from the railroad to open UNO run strip malls. The Hispanic community is lost if it continues to support Juan Rangel, Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Democratic party. It has sold out the people for votes.

January 7, 2011 at 7:23 AM

By: William Gant

Charter Schools

We are just now entering the start up phase in changing public schools into charter schools here in Nashville/Davidson County.

I am appalled by the direction our public schools are taking. Anyone with any sense can see what our kids REALLY need and this is not a new way to test, or to teach but a way to TREAT our kids. Our at risk kids feel removed from society because they ARE removed from the norms that society hols up in practice and within our legal system. If our kids do not gain an understanding of what is expected of them from us, their teachers, then where do they receive this much needed part of their education?

I'm sorry if I sound disappointed and a tad angry but enough is enough and I do not want to wait until they come after my job to get involved. WE are the people.

What says you?

January 7, 2011 at 8:39 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Organize now or mourn forever

What says us -- we? -- at Substance about the virus of charter schools infecting your city? There is an old organizer's saying from the days of the IWW leader Joe Hill. When he was about to be executed by the State of Utah for union work (and on a phony trumped up hysterical "terrorism" charge concocted by the then ruling class, which was a ruthless and Plutocratic as it is today, only with fewer media with which to spread its lies) Mr. Hill, who had written many songs, said:

"Don't mourn. Organize!"

When the first charter school comes to your town, the motto should be "Organize now or mourn forever!"

There is no excuse for letting charter schools and the plutocrats who fund their propaganda get a toe hold against public schools anywhere.

The best way to tell a charter school shill is lying is to watch the person's face.

If his mouth is opening and words are coming out, he's lying.

Go to every hearing. Lobby every political leader. Stop every charter as a traitor to democracy and the dream of equity through true public education. That's what Chicago and New York failed to do when the infection was just being put into place here and there, and now...

It's spreading everywhere courtesy of the same liars Remember, Ed. Secretary Arne Duncan was spawned, lie for lie, in Chicago. Duncan even claims now he was once "teaching" when in fact he was part of a sort of after school tutoring program for a handful of poor kids run by a person described as a bag lady by teachers at the school who didn't have the heart to say "No"...

The first time a charter school opens its mouth in your town, the lies are beginning -- and the struggle to save your public schools has turned into an epic battle.

At least Nashville knows the sound of battle. Last time I was through there, I stopped by Franklin. And it's not the only place where you can still hear the echoes of the struggle for freedom...

February 23, 2013 at 5:12 PM

By: Dangela McDade

How I feel about things

When the kids tell and say that someone did something to them y don't you all believe them and when we say it was not me y do we still get in trouble and not the one that did it that upsets me because half the time it don\'t be me that\'s makes me feel like you don\'t like me and u like the other kid better than me that hurts and if I say that I am I don\'t like someone and I don\'t feel good around than why do I have to stay in the room that upsets me because I many not feel like that\'s a good pot for me that upsets me

February 23, 2013 at 8:44 PM

By: Kimberly Bowsky

A new way needs be tried

Father Michael Pfleger realizes that the charter schools have killed off the inner-city Catholic schools, but he just can't bring himself to defend public schools in Chicago. I would like him to make a public statement as to why.

In response to a comment above, what needs to be tried that hasn't is for the teachers to set policy and curricula, and for the district to support those actions, rather than to dictate and distort them.

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