Daley, Emmanuel and Rangal seated together at head table… UNO hosts major event for more than 800 people to celebrate 25th Anniversary

More than 800 people, most of them from corporate Chicago and Chicago's political class (which often overlap), filled the main waiting room of Chicago’s historic Union Station on the night of November 16 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of UNO, the United Neighborhood Organization. They were there to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for UNO, circulate among some of Chicago’s most powerful people, and hear a keynote speech from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Daley again praised UNO and its charter schools and again undermined the city's public schools.

Corporate banners towered over the main room at Chicago's Union Station celebrating corporations that had given $20,000 or more to UNO on its 25th anniversary. UNO officials told Substance that the room could be rented "at a discount" by not-for-profit organizations such as UNO. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The event, which began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at 6:00, filed into the main waiting room of Union Station at 7:00 for speeches and then dinner. Early in the evening, UNO officials told Substance that the crowd was expected to be between 700 and 900. By the time Substance did a final count on the number of tables at 8:00 p.m., there were 80, each holding ten people. The last three had been added after the 7:00 p.m. starting time. There were very few empty seats, even though a seat for the event cost $450, and more than three dozen corporations had become “Platinum” ($20,000), “Gold” ($10,000) or “Silver” ($5,000) supporters of the event.

Seated with UNO’s Chief Executive Officer Juan Rangal at the head table were Mayor Richard M. Daley and mayoral candidate Rahm Emmanuel. Other political and economic leaders were stretched along two head tables under the enormous columns that flank the sides of the classical waiting room.

Mayor Richard M. Daley (center) was seated adjacent to mayoral candidate Rahm Emmanuel (right) at the head table for the UNO 25th anniversary celebration at Chicago's Union Station on the evening of November 16, 2010. None of the announced candidates from the African American community (Carol Mosely Braun, Danny Davis, or James Meeks) was present, and Latino candidate Miguel Del Valle was seated at the far end of the table. Although candidate Gery Chico (a former Chief of Staff and School Board President for Daley) was a sponsor of the event and had a reserved place at the end of the head table, he was not present during the speeches or dinner. Above, left to right, Daley poses just before the speakers began. Left to right: UNO Chief Executive Officer Juan Rangal, 10th Ward Alderman John Pope, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Veronica Alanis (UNO Board of Directors), and candidate Rahm Emmanuel. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The only other announced mayoral candidate who was present was City Clerk Miguel Del Valle. Before the speeches began, a place setting was at the head table for Gery Chico, but it disappeared when the ceremonies began. There was no evidence of the other announced mayoral candidates. None of the African American candidates for mayor had a place setting, and none was present.

The main speakers were introduced by Veronica Alanis, who is Chairperson of the UNO Board of Directors. Alanis introduced the main theme that ran through the evening: the expansion of UNO’s charter school network, building on what UNO claims to be the success of the charter schools themselves. Alanis told the crowd that the UNO charter schools presently have 4,000 students (in eight schools), and that the group plans to expand to 11,000 students (in 20 schools) by the year 2014.

Current Chicago Board of Education President Mary Richardson Lowry (left above) spoke with Juan Rangal before the event and took part in the cocktail hour, but did not stay for the dinner and awards. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Given the support of the current mayor and the already announced support of the favorite of corporate Chicago (Emmanuel has already received support from more corporate executives than all the other candidates combined, according to Crain’s Chicago Business), charter schools will continue to expand under an Emmanuel administration just as they have expanded under the Daley administration. (In a recent Op Ed piece in Crain’s, Emmanuel praised Arne Duncan’s national “Race To The Top” program and said Chicago should have a local “Race To The Top”).

If the evening was “All UNO all the time,” the focus from UNO was the UNO charter schools. From the opening remarks of Veronica Alanis to the closing remarks of UNO CEO Juan Rangal, every speaker pushed the charter schools and repeated UNO’s talking points in favor of UNO’s charter schools. Nobody mentioned that during the previous sixty days, an event like the ones UNO promoted in its early days have exposed the fact that after 15 years of mayoral control of Chicago's public schools, the city had 160 public schools (including many charter schools) without school libraries. Most of those schools were in poor and working class communities.

But it wasn't UNO organizing that brought out the shocking fact to the city and the nation, despite the fact that Juan Rangal depicts himself in one of UNO's publicity photos carrying a book by community organizing guru Saul Alinsky. In fact, the story had unfolded despite UNO, in UNO's own community, at a public school that had in one way been sabotaged by UNO's charter schools' expansion.

On October 5, above, in the middle of the 43-day struggle for a library for the children of Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen, children helped log in books that had been donated from all over the USA during the sit-in that Whittier parents and families were holding. UNO ignored the event, which was taking action such as that taken by UNO in its earlier days, and city officials tried on several occasions to evict and arrest the people who organized the sit in. No mention of Whittier was made during the UNO anniversary event at Union Station.Although UNO’s history as a community organization and community organizers was mentioned in passing, it was notable for its lack in the actual content of the message of the night. Even more notable (see below) was the glaring fact that the most poignant and significant example of community organizing in the community that gave birth to UNO had been accomplished without UNO support (and in fact in the face of some opposition from people praising UNO that night) during the 60 days prior to the UNO anniversary event.

That event, the dramatic 53-day sit-in at Whittier Elementary School where parents and children defied police and city authorities demanding a school library, was not mentioned during the orgy of adulation for UNO’s charter schools on November 16 under the pillars at Union Station. Perhaps that was because the UNO charter schools are one of the reasons for the disruption of the remaining real public schools in the parts of Chicago that gave rise to UNO and its power.

The focus on the UNO charter schools took off with the Pledge of Allegiance which was led by Alexis Ayala, a 6th grade student from one of the UNO charter schools.

The $450 per seat price of the event was beyond the reach of most school teachers, but UNO featured five of its charter school music teachers (above) who led the night in the singing of the National Anthem. Like most charter schools, the UNO charters have non-union teachers who are young, single, and usually white. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The pledge was immediately followed by a singing of the National Anthem, which was led by six teachers from the UNO charter schools.

After a prayer, that was followed by praise for UNO by Richard Rodriguez, who followed Ron Huberman into power at the Chicago Transit Authority, appointed by Mayor Daley after having been trained in leadership at the UNO Metropolitan Leadership Initiative (“Class of 2005”). The current CTA President introduced on the of main events of the evening, the UNO charter schools promotional video. The dramatic video featured UNO and its success in what it calls building community through the expansion of its charter schools. Repeated over and over was the theme that UNO charter schools were the center of their communities, and the claim that the nearby public schools have failed the children of the communty. Elaborate architectural renditions of planned UNO charter schools were part of the video. The video also included testimony from political leaders and others, including the most senior alderman on Chicago’s City Council — Alderman Edward Burke (14th Ward) — and the newest mayoral appointee to the City Council (the alderman of the First Ward).

The video received a partial standing ovation.

The video was supplemented by remarks from Sylvia Garcia, who appeared to be one of the few rank-and-file community people at the entire event. Garcia was seated at the head table amid corporate executives, UNO leaders, and politicians who supposedly supported UNO and its charter school privatization attacks on public schools and public school workers’ unions. Sylvia Garcia told the audience that she was a Chicago Police Officer, and that she had set out to find the best education for her daughter, and that she had the UNO charter schools in the process.

After brief remarks from UNO CEO Juan Rangal, the crowd gave a standing ovation to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley who gave the keynote speech. In the speech, Daley praised UNO for its work in education and for its charter schools, drumming on the theme that UNO’s schools “worked” and that the regular public schools did not “work”. In his speech, Daley praised the UNO charter schools for doing better than the public schools.

After receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 800 people, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (above, at microphone and on big screen) delivered a speech praising UNO's charter schools, which UNO has promised to increase from 4,000 students today to 11,000 by the year 2014. Daley's speech also implied a condemnation of the city's remaining public schools, which his appointed Board of Education has been privatizing at a record rate. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.“They came to me and said they could do a better job,” Daley said to thunderous cheers, “and they did it.” Daley never mentions the fact that he has had dictatorial control over the city’s public schools since 1995, and that UNO’s charter schools (like all the charter schools that have proliferated across Chicago under the Daley regime) have benefited from the policies imposed on the regular public schools by the Chief Executive Officers of the public schools (all four of whom have been Daley appointees since 1995) and the policies of the Chicago Board of Education (all of whose members have been appointed by Daley since 1995).

At the end of his speech, Daley received another standing ovation. Mayoral politics was a silent theme throughout the night, although it was mentioned in passing by two of the speakers. But the message of the seating was as clear as the lineup atop Lenin’s tomb during the ritual May Day parades in the days of the old Soviet Union.

While Rahm Emmanuel was seated prominently next to Mayor Daley and Juan Rangal, mayoral candidate Miguel Del Valle was at the far end of the head table (above). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel was seated beside Daley between UNO CEO Juan Rangal and UNO President Veronic Alanis. Emmanuel’s smiling face was featured longer than anyone else when Alanis introduced the three dozen people at the head tables (there were two). The only other mayoral candidate at the first head table was City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, who was seated as far from Daley and Rangal as anyone could be and still be in the front. Although a place had been reserved for Gery Chico, another candidate, Chico was nowhere to be seen during the main events of the evening. The other three candidates, all African Americans, were not even in the vast room.

Most of the members of the City Council who were present were the city’s Latino alderman, including Del Valle supporter Ricardo Munoz, but even some prominent Latino political leaders, including aldermen Roberto Maldonado and Ariel Reboyras, were not present, as far as this reporter could see.

The place setting for attorney Gery Chico was at the head table, albeit far from the mayor and Rahm Emmanuel, before the event began, but was gone by the time the program began. Chico was a sponsor of the event but was not present during the speeches. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Although a place had been set at the head table for mayoral candidate Gery Chico, he did not show up and the card was removed, as were the cards marking the place for several African American Aldermen, including Ed Smith and Emma Mitts. Many of the African American Aldermen who have been most critical of Daley’s school policies over the past few years, including Pat Dowell, Sandi Jackson, Frederrina Lyle and others, were not there, nor had there been a place set for them.

Among the dignitaries who came early but did not stay were attorney general Lisa Madigan and Board of Education President Mary Richardson Lowry. Former School Board President Rufus Williams was also there.

The scarcity of community people from UNO's base community was evident at the event, as was the fact that the greatest and best-known community struggle in the Pilsen-Little Village community from this year was not even mentioned on November 16.

The size of the hall is partly seen from the photograph above, taken of the two head tables from the Union Station balcony during Daley's keynote speech. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The ticket price for the UNO anniversary dinner was $450 per person. Corporate sponsorships labeled "Silver," "Gold," and "Platinum" in ascending order of cost could be as much as $20,000 (for the Platinum), according to UNO officials. Substance was told that "Gold" were $10,000 and "Silver" were $5,000. The people in the audience had each paid $450 for the dinner and cocktails.

From September 15 through October 29, the community that gave birth to UNO, Chicago's Pilsen - Little Village community, was the scene of a community confrontation over resources for public schools that eventually drew national attention (in the pages of The Wall Street Journal and through various other media) and resulted in a significant victory for community organizing of the type that UNO began by doing a quarter century earlier. By 3:15 p.m. on September 17, 2010, the police had retreated from the Whittier field house and the threat of arrests had ended for the sit-in. The arrests, which were about to take place when a crowd of supporters surged down 23rd St., never took place because of the arrival of the throng of cheering people (above). Substance photo by George Schmidt.

But in 2010, at the UNO anniversary, no one even mentioned the heroic mothers, fathers, and children who sat in for 43 days at "La Casita", the little house on the grounds of Chicago's Whittier Elementary School. The protest at Whittier, which ultimately involved hundreds of working class men, women, and children from the area that birthed UNO, was because Whittier (with, it turned out, 159 other Chicago public schools) did not have a school library for the children.

No one from UNO joined the Whittier parents when they spoke at the October 27, 2010, meeting of the Chicago Board of Education as the time drew near to end their victorious sit-in. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.UNO ignored the Whittier struggle as it unfolded, and UNO founder Danny Solis (currently serving as Alderman of the 25th Ward) devoted most of his time during the early weeks of the Whittier struggle avoiding and evading the protesters from Whittier. Solis was seated prominently at the head table during the UNO anniversary event. One of the reasons that true public schools such as Whittier are overcrowded today is that the Chicago Board of Education closed nearby De La Cruz Middle School, despite the fact that the middle school was highly successful, and sent the children from De La Cruz to Whittier. Two months after the June 2009 closing of De La Cruz, UNO was given the De La Cruz building for one year use as one of its charter schools by then Board of Education president Michael Scott.

Another perspective on the crowd can be seen above while CTA President Richard Rodriguez, an UNO protege, speaks. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The November 16 event was carefully scripted to inspire people, and inspire awe. The room at Union Station where it was held towers over the people inside it, and banners honoring the event's major corporate sponsors draped four stories from the ceiling to floor over those who arrived early for cocktails. UNO did not ignore its charter schools throughout the night. In some ways, the 25th anniversary was to promote the UNO charters, which had indirectly helped cause the problems at Whittier and other public schools in the community supposedly served by UNO.

UNO's website outlines the current state of the UNO charters:

"UNO is the largest direct service charter school management firm in Illinois. Reaching from Gage Park to Avondale, UNO currently serves nearly 3,500 students enrolled at eight schools in Chicago. UNO’s autonomous, publicly-funded elementary and secondary charter schools operate with the results-driven philosophy that innovative teaching methods for underserved children produce better-educated students. "As a result of this demonstrated success, UNO was invited to create and ultimately open Esperanza Charter School in New Orleans to respond directly to the urgent needs facing the Hispanic community of that region, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. UNO is currently responding to similar requests to replicate its educational philosophies in communities across North America."

After the speeches, students and teachers from the UNO charter schools circulated among the tables while the guests ate dinner, solicting donations for UNO’s charter schools. UNO's Juan Rangal and Mayor Daley share a laugh on November 16 at the UNO anniversary, where Daley was the keynote speaker. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

The program also included awards, which this reporter did not remain to report. 


November 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM

By: I know CTU is busy, but there has to be a way

UNO fundraiser on our dime

that the membership and other know these companies that support UNO so we, as consumers, do not support them!

$20,000 each, while we scrimp to pay our utilities and harris bank fees.

November 17, 2010 at 4:13 PM

By: We need funding for traditional schools not charters

It is difficult to fight against power and greed, but we must continue the fight!

Was that Pat Quinn sitting about the eighth person from Rangel in the same side. It looks a little like him in your photos. If it is did he speak about the charters and funding to create more charters? Where are the fundraisers for the traditional schools?

November 17, 2010 at 6:54 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Quinn was not at the UNO anniversary

Pat Quinn was not at the UNO event.

In fact, most of the important Illinois Democratic political leaders, except for some local ones, were not there. The only state office holder I saw was was Lisa Madigan, and she left before the food, shaking hands and talking to people during the reception. There were a couple of others, but not many.

I doubt that any of them showed up after I left (at a little after eight), but someone may have slipped in late (I doubt it).

Pat Quinn was not there.

And I circulated widely during the reception, during the dinner, and during the speeches. I took more than 300 photographs. There were more suburban politicians (Cicero, Aurora, Berwyn) than Illinois senators, reps, and governors. Fact.

And, as noted, it was as if the Black Caucus in both City Council and Springfield didn't exist. Also FACT.

Finally, there were only a few aldermen from the far north and far south sides (Pope was conspicuous; Levar, Allen -- now a judge -- Laurino et al were not there). Fact.

To put it in recent perspective, the CTU LEAD dinner on October 29 had double or triple the number of political leaders (city, state) than UNO. UNO was filled with corporate types, both large scale (the corporate "Platinum" and other donors) and less so (local businesses). I told one CTU friend that I bet there were at least 200 lawyers there, and none of them looked like they were working out a storefront on Milwaukee Ave. or Cermak Road.

To repeat again:

Pat Quinn was not there.

November 17, 2010 at 7:27 PM

By: Larry Duncan

Nice report!

This article on the UNO dinner was the best piece of fast-turnaround journalism I've seen in a long time, not only for the craftsmanship but the picking of an event which reveals the political situation in a new, "entertaining" way. It was like watching Kremlin politics and figuring out who is standing how far away from Brezhnev at the May Day parade.

November 23, 2010 at 9:40 AM

By: Too Much Clout

UNO 25th Anniversity

It seemed as if most of the same powerful and wealthy people that follow mayor Daley around attended the UNO Anniversity. It was interesting to read that the president of UNO, Veronic Alanis mentioned that by 2014 UNO wants to increase its student population from 4,000 to 11,000. I was wondering were are those students going to be taught. Also, I am hoping more schools don't have to be turned around just to give up the facilities to UNO. Would the money to fund UNO Charters come from tax payers or fund raisers?

Most of the people at the head table were familiar faces. I did recognize mayor Daley, Miguel Del Valle, Veronic Alanis, Rahm Emmanuel, Richard Rodriguez, and Danny Solis. Who were the last four people sitting to the right of Danny Solis? There is a Hispanic man, a thin man with white hair, a young Hispanic lady, and another young Hispanic man. These people look familiar ,and I thought they were educators, but I am not sure. Do you know their names?

I am interested in what UNO is doing and the people that attended because the expansion of these Charter Schools and their backers are going to immensely effect the future of the traditional public schools. Probably in a very negative fashion. Was the presentation Video Taped?

November 23, 2010 at 1:07 PM

By: Ann


Clout! Clout! Enough of the Clout for charter schools.

Vote OUT, OUT, OUT those people. None of them should hold office when it deals with public funding for the children in Chicago.

Remember, Daley got Rahm elected to Congress so now it will be the same skillful tactics to get another Daley cronie elected to continue Daley's ideas to destroy "Free and Public education" in Chicago.

December 11, 2010 at 6:51 PM

By: Simone

Corral Case

Did anyone bother to mention the abuse cover-ups at all of the UNO schools? The Corral case and teachers throwing desks, kicking and restraining students, covering it all up to make Rangel look like he amounts to something?

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