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CPS Public Hearing on New and Modifications to Charter Schools

Following the 5:00-7:00 p.m. Community Forum held in CPS Board Chambers, on Tuesday, January 19, 2011, CPS held a Public Hearing “regarding new charter schools/campuses and modifications to existing charter schools” from 7:00-9:00 p.m. There were no Board of Education members present.

The room was filled to a little more than capacity, with chairs brought out from behind the short wall that regularly serves to separate the Board from the public to accommodate a few more people instead of having them sit in the overflow room.

The agenda was as follows:

I. Hearing Officer Statement

II. CPS Representative Statement

III. School Operator Representative Statements

IV. Public Comment

Part I. Felix Gonzalez continued presiding from the Community Forum after a short break, remaining in a seat situated in front of the empty Board of Education members’ elevated chairs. He had an assistant next to him to help with the time-keeping. He stated that he was an attorney in private practice, functioning as a CPS independent hearing officer. He explained that this hearing was taking place after a process involving extensive interviews, etc. He stated that all of the proposals being considered were approved by Terry Mazany in December of 2010.

The following are the “Schools under Consideration for the January 26 Board Meeting,” with a note that the Montessori School of Englewood will not be considered at the January meeting but “it is under consideration for potential approval at a future Board meeting.”

This information was available on a handout:

1. Kwame Nkrumah Academy (KNA) submitted an application to convert from a K-3 contract school to a K-8 charter school.

2. Youth Connections Charter School (YCCS) submitted an application to increase their enrollment by 254 students in their various locations serving grades 9-12. Their “at capacity enrollment” is 4,004.

3. Noble Network of Charter Schools submitted four applications. All four are for enrollment increases and expansion of grades levels in their schools. The application for their Bulls campus is to increase enrollment by 400 for an at capacity level of 1,000 students, “growing to” 9-12 from grades 9-10. Their Muchin campus application is to increase in enrollment (by 250 for a capacity of 850 students) by growing to 9-12 from grades 9-10. The application for their UIC campus is to increase enrollment by 300 for a capacity of 900 students, growing to 9-12 from their present 9-11 grades. And their Comer campus application is to add grades 6-8 to the present 9-11. The Board handout states that with this change they will be “growing to 6-12.”

4. Erie Charter School’s application is to add grades 7-8 to their present K-6 school. Their at capacity enrollment is 415 students.

5. UNO Charter School Network submitted four applications. The first is to modify the name, start year, grades, and enrollment for their proposed Gage Park campus (51st and St. Louis), growing to 9-12 from 6-9 grades; proposed to open in 2012, the at capacity enrollment is 720 students. Their other three proposals were for new campuses, locations “TBD,” for grades K-8, each with a capacity of 630 students. (Note: The handout does not state what TBD exactly stands for, but it appears to mean To Be Determined.)

Alderman Walter Burnett of the 27th Ward has supported virtually every school closing, charter opening, and anti-union effort in his 27th Ward since Arne Duncan was Chief Executive Officer of CPS. On January 18, 2011, he spoke in favor of more charter schools at the community forum. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.6. CICS ChicagoQuest North’s application is for a new campus located at 1443 N. Ogden (Near North). They have an at capacity enrollment listing of 801 students, with grades 6-7 growing to 6-12.

7. Legal Preparatory Academy submitted an application for a new charter school to be located at 1901 W. Carroll (West Town), beginning with grade 9 growing to 9-12 with an at capacity enrollment of 850 students.

8. Montessori School of Englewood submitted an application for a new charter school campus to be located at 7033 S. Honore (Englewood), beginning with K-1 growing to K-8 with an at capacity enrollment of 540 students.

PART II. Whitney Spalding, Office of New Schools (ONS), introduced herself as a representative of Terry Mazany. She reiterated the above proposals and spoke mostly from the handout, and in particular from the section entitled, “2010-2011 Request for Qualifications/Request for Proposals Timeline.”

The timeline began on March 12, 2010 with requests for qualifications released, followed by five other dates listed for various steps in the process, ending with the last box for “Public Hearings” dated December 7, 13; January 18, 2011.

She spoke at length about RFQs and RFAs and the CETs (requests for qualifications, requests for applications, and Comprehensive Evaluation Teams) in a monotone voice, and as if everyone else in the world spoke the same language. On the handout and with her words, it was noted that “all proposals were reviewed by a CET of 8-10 local and national experts using rigorous rubric criteria.” When I later asked her who this was, she did not respond. I asked her if she could please give me just one name. Continuing to look down without making eye contact, her reply was, “I would prefer not to name any.”

The handout notes that the CETs “conducted at least one 1.5 hour interview after reviewing each proposal.”

PART III. Each of the eight existing or new charter school operators listed above was given two minutes to speak to their applications. Basically, each operator had various speakers reiterate and expand upon their mission statements from the handout. This would be the second time for the audience to hear such, following Ms. Spalding’s review of this part of the handout in her presentation.

Kwame Nkrumah Academy was “an innovative African-centered school model that focuses on the whole child” giving the students “an ethical mooring in preparation for a global society.”

Youth Connections Charter School’s mission is “to advocate, develop, and provide world-class education for at-risk students and high school dropouts in partnership with the alternative high school community.”

Noble Network of Charter Schools are instilling in students “the scholarship, discipline and honor necessary to succeed in college and beyond.”

Erie Charter School “is outperforming its neighborhood comparison average.” The mission statement is “to nurture and empower students to successfully and productively engage in the local community and broader society.” The speaker then told the hearing officer of how difficult it would be for their 6th grade students to transition to another school and have to “adapt to a new culture.”

UNO Charter School Network’s mission statement is: “To fulfill the promise of public education by providing that all children can achieve academic success, regardless of their income level or ethnicity.” Theirs was a no-nonsense approach. (The man they had dressed as Superman at the Saturday hearing was dressed in regular clothes for this presentation.)

CICS ChicagoQuest North’s speaker spoke of educating tomorrow’s leaders who would have to solve complex problems.

Their students would work on project-based learning, with multiple media. It was difficult to follow along with the speaker, because she was too close to the microphone and every couple of syllables had that fuzzy-loud buzz/blast to it.

Legal Preparatory Academy’s president and founder stated that they would do “whatever it takes!” At their forum they had “not a single protester,” except if one counted parents who were protesting, “Why do we have to wait for your school?” The handout had this as one of two highlights: “School would combine best practices in culture, discipline, and rigor learned from the Noble Network with the addition of legal-themed curricula.”

And last, the representative for Montessori School of Englewood (Englewood being described as a “priority community in need of high performing seats”) spoke of the proven track record of their approach to education.

PART IV. The Public Comment portion of the hearing began with Hearing Officer Gonzalez noting that many of the sign-in speakers already spoken during the School Operator Representative Statements portion of the hearing. Because 60 people had sign-up to speak, he admonished them to “try not to double dip” to ensure that everyone might be heard by 9:00. They did not follow his directions. However, to his credit, Mr. Gonzalez did not end the hearing until 9:08, after the last speaker was able to speak.

By my count, there were 51 speakers; 44 were from and in favor of the charter schools, while 7 were opposed.

There were no speakers from/for Kwame Nkrumah Academy or Youth Connections Charter School.

I counted 7 ½ speakers for Noble (1/2 because one person spoke for Noble and UNO); 3 speakers for Erie; 5 ½ for UNO; 7 for CICS; 16 for Legal Prep; 4 for Montessori; and 1 for Perspectives.

As an audience member, because so many spoke in such a rapid-fire manner, I was not able to record most of the speaker’s names, especially the many from Legal Prep identifying themselves as attorneys from law firms. Unlike the Board of Education meetings, the Board does not provide a listing of the people who sign up for these hearings, and many don't say their names clearly.

Many of the speakers from Legal Prep also identified themselves as being in various board positions or as founders. Later, when I asked the two women present from ONS if I could have a copy (readily available in their hands) of the list of speakers, I was told, “No.”

When I asked if it would be made available on the website, I was told, “No.”

From the charter school proponents, the audience heard the usual, great-sounding rhetoric and platitudes accompanied by the usual insults and trashing of neighborhood public schools. I have placed *** in front the 7 speakers against the charters for easier identification below.

Legal Prep: “You just need commitment for student success.” Many supporters from Legal Prep wore white t-shirts with red lettering proclaiming “Legal Prep 2012.” Legal Prep: “Everyone in this room knows there are too many failing schools.”

One student from Noble told of their “heavy workload,” but also the teaching of manners and what they needed to make it in life – “being on time, strong handshakes, and making eye contact” - unlike her brother, she told us, “the CPS sophomore who thinks it’s okay to get D’s.”

Legal Prep: A person from a commercial real estate firm spoke of “50 years of data” on charter schools, and not all were good but most were better that the public schools (he apparently never saw the most recent CREDO study). Legal Prep: This person, a founder, spoke remarkably like the undercurrent warnings on pharmaceutical commercials for the full 2-minutes about all the national organizations, businesses, and civic organizations (McDonalds and the Chicago Bar Association among them) supporting their charter.

Montessori: Herbert Morgan, a resident of the South Side, presented a letter from someone on the LSC at Stagg School in support of the charter. Montessori: The principal of a Montessori school breathlessly read a list of famous people, including Prince Andrew and Prince Henry; then she asked the audience if we knew that they had had a Montessori education. She acknowledged that this type of education had a reputation for catering to those with higher incomes, but they wanted that to change.

When the Hearing Officer’s helper said, “10 seconds,” she paused with an expression of incredulity, but then she said, “Okay,” and concluded.

The president of the Board of Montessori spoke about the original invitation they received from Ruth Miller, the principal of Stagg School.

Legal Prep: Theirs was “a response to an urgent need” regarding safety and discipline issues. “We will remove the distractions that keep them from learning.” Then he emphatically slammed Marshall and Crane high schools, where only “6.4% meet expectations.”

The next 4 speakers were from UNO: Please approve more charters. Please stop these battles with politicians and unions. Allow parents to make choices. “Four more schools are not nearly enough.” “We got $98,000,000 in Springfield but we will fight for more.” “CPS failed my children.” “Every single parent understands life-threatening previous CPS incidents.”

It was difficult to hear the next two speakers, because the audience members (perhaps 50-75?) with circular UNO stickers over their hearts were exiting after the previous speakers finished speaking.

Noble: Let there be more stories like the success story of my daughter.

CICS: Our stats are better than others. CICS: A speaker was excited about their school located in Altgeld Gardens (Southeast Side). CICS: A proud parent spoke in favor of Perspectives charter schools and CICS and “choice”; she also spoke of the need for equitable and fair funding. Another parent spoke on behalf of Perspectives and charter schools built on “choice.”

***Ronald Jackson, parent of a special education student and LSC member, stated, “The lies need to stop!” Charter schools said they would not meet his child’s needs. “The bottom line is moneycation not education.” He said he was not for the teachers union, but to get the politicians out of the schools, and stop these charter schools. He warned the audience members, “Down the line, you will see.” Quit the lies!

CICS: A speaker who identified himself as a member of the Chicago community, spoke in support of CISC and choice. Legal Prep: After sharing his own extensive resume with the audience, this speaker stated, “We are at a moral and ethical crossroad.” He spoke of “urban decay,” “discord,” “the misperception of law as a financial as opposed to service” career, and he included Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name in his statement. Legal Prep: This speaker, from a national law firm, stated that he “speaks for the entire legal community” to welcome additions to our legal community.” It was a “natural fit in CPS” for the larger community to now be able to “diversify its profession.”

Erie: The speaker supplied statistics, said they were “open to all students in the city of Chicago,” and their 6th graders deserved the option to stay and continue learning at Erie.

Legal Prep: This speaker spoke of how West Town needs more and better education. He knew this from being a mentor for 8 years, working with students who had obstacles but wanted to succeed. They need “schools that expect greatness.”

Legal Prep: Another Board member spoke of his own life trajectory, from being a CPS high school English teacher for 5 years to a lawyer for 26 years, and how the two now merged. Another founding Board member of Legal Prep, an Associate Dean at John Marshall Law School, stated, “We want an educational pipeline,” referring to their own goal for the future diversification of the legal profession. This was followed by an attorney from the Legal Assistance Foundation spoke in favor of Legal Prep, because so many legal needs in the communities were not met. Legal Prep would have Saturday legal clinics and would educate students and families of their rights. Another speaker from John Marshall Law School shared a personal story of his host family in Shanghai; in his head he carries the image of the 13 year old son working on math homework in a corner of the small room. The speaker was worried about our students in the United States not being able to compete in global competition.

Legal Prep: A young resident of the West Side stated that her parents refused to send her to a neighborhood school. She wanted “me and my brother to get a quality education.” Her friends were 4-5 years behind her. Her cousin had no books, no homework, and his “gym” was playing checkers, UNO, and board games. Her cousin attended Prosser Academy but didn’t graduate because there was “no motivation of the administration.”

The next speaker for Legal Prep spoke “for all parents across Chicago.” “The current public schools do not prepare students to compete.” “The community was powerless in the public schools.”

***Norine Gutekanst, a former teacher from Whittier Elementary School now working with the Chicago Teachers Union, spoke of the needs of the already existing neighborhood schools. They needed art, music, history, technology, and to reduce class size too! CPS had scores of money for charter schools but underfunds neighborhood schools. At Whittier they traditionally have 4 split grade-level classrooms. She also pointed out how this ONS process was deeply flawed; CTU had been told it was not a right for anyone to know the addresses of the new CICS (1) and UNO (3) charter schools and to FOIA it (submit a Freedom of Information Act request). The CICS location was listed only very recently. School communities could not come out in opposition to these proposals when they have no knowledge that a charter school is planned for their neighborhood. Without this information, the process “is undemocratic and appears to be rigged.”

Nobel: An extremely ecstatic parent told how she was forced to send her child to a private school in order to get a great education. Another speaker stated that he could not imagine how anyone could be against Noble charters, and they needed to just listen to the hundreds of devastated families that did not win the “lottery.” Another speaker then also spoke in favor of the Noble charter, as an employee and a resident. This was followed by a parent for Noble who wanted “a quality education” for her daughter.

A speaker for Montessori spoke of 30 years of research supporting their approach to education. “Black children drop out in high school, but they check-out in third grade.” A speaker for Erie said that their charter school “was advancing what the public schools were supposed to do.” Again, the 6th graders, educated for the global economy, “needed to remain in their supportive environment.”

***David Stone, a public school teacher, said, “No more” to charters, schools that were only for students with motivated parents. They expelled the neediest students. He wanted everyone to know that his school, Hirsch Metropolitan High School, already has a successful law academy. He challenged the statistics of Urban Prep’s 100% graduation rate. He asked that the Board stop these charter schools that force neighborhood students to cross gang lines, as was the case with Derrion Albert.

Noble: The speaker supported Noble in order to “ensure our young people will succeed.” A health care professional then spoke in favor of UNO; as they continually care for their patients, so does UNO with their students. This was followed by a parent in favor of both Noble and UNO and their “safe and structured learning environments.” She has “seen the difference between the regular CPS schools and the charter schools.”

Legal Prep: A first year law school student from Loyola spoke of his own experience and that of his former classmates in attendance in neighborhood schools that were a “pipeline to prison.” He was a drop out, until he got involved in mentoring programs and met the president and founder of Legal Prep. His life is a testament. I asked him later for the name of his high school. He replied, “I went to school in Rockford.”

The next speaker who was talking about a film festival appeared to support the Montessori proposal.

Another Legal Prep supporter spoke of “hope,” and to “flourish in an environment free from gangs and violence.” This speaker at least spoke about understanding that people were wary of opening new charters schools, and about inequitable funding, but she said there were very few quality high schools outside of magnet schools.

***Diana Molina said she was here again, seeing familiar faces. She was here as a parent to speak the truth. Charter schools sound good, but who can afford the uniform fees or other fees on less than $18,000 a year? She was a proud CPS parent of two thriving students. She was involved with the LSC and as a parent in the school. She asked about all these parents and foundations that wanted to help. Where were they helping before all these schools were designated for closure? She presented a letter signed by many members of neighborhood NCLB committees and LSCs asking for a definitive answer to the questions concerning what is going on for the rest of the CPS students. It was not a just situation. The hearing officer had to stop the small, remaining audience from clapping as she spoke. Ms. Molina was followed by a speaker for CICS who spoke of “state of the art based solutions.”

***John Kuijper, a former Teach For America teacher who taught at a Noble charter school for a year, said he rose in opposition to all the proposals here tonight. The charters siphon away money and resources, leaving neighborhood schools with less and less. He told of his experience of having zero professional development at Noble, zero motivation to be reflective. It was only when he entered an underserved, neighborhood CPS school that he received excellent professional development, and went on to became a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT). He admonished the audience, “Get involved with the neighborhood schools!” and “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid!”

***John Kugler, CTU and former teacher from “free and open Hyde Park H.S. where they take everyone who walks in the door without a lottery” spoke. He addressed “Mr. Hearing Officer,” and stated, “Notice how they all left?” as he pointed to the nearly empty Board chambers behind and around him. He said that for all the hype, when the money is gone, “That’s what will happen. They will close and LEAVE, and leave our kids behind.”

He said the attorneys here today should be ashamed of themselves. They should be aware of Public Act 096-0803. He was willing to bet all the money in his wallet that this meeting was illegal because no LSC in any effected community was notified of this hearing. He handed someone beyond the wall a copy. (His words appeared to attract the attention of a few of the Legal Prep people who remained in the chambers.)

A mother of three spoke in favor of Erie and how they “prepare students for real world problems,” but grade 7-8 was a precarious stage and the 6th graders needed to remain at Erie. Another speaker rose in favor of CICS; she recognized the late hour and simply said she was an enthusiastic supporter. The next speaker for CICS said his own daughters attended traditional CPS schools, but he was for “choice.”

***The last speaker was Rosita Chatonda, CTU, who said that she spoke for the 90% of students who didn’t have someone in their lives able to come here and speak for them tonight. She recalled her own children’s quality education in CPS neighborhood schools back when they actually funded the schools. She recently visited one of the Noble schools and wondered why that was so well-funded by CPS and private sponsors compared to the rest of the neighborhoods schools. She asked, “How can you justify only quality educational spending for a small amount of students?” She told them to “Do the right thing.”

The hearing concluded at 9:08.

[Full Disclosure: As a Chicago Public School teacher and resident of Chicago, I submitted written comments to the Office of New Schools against all of the charter school proposals in question.]



Comments:

January 23, 2011 at 4:17 AM

By: kugler

Nice Job

Good job, Susan. This report will probably be better that the hearing officer's!

January 24, 2011 at 10:26 AM

By: Displaced Teacher

board hearning

As USUAL, the members of the Chicago Board of Education were NOT present. As usual, the ones that pull the strings at CPS will let the charters more forward and continue to DESTROY neighborhoods and communities for the almighty $.

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