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BOARDWATCH: Last meeting of the 'Daley Board' continues business-as-usual with school closings, teacher bashing, and increasing bureaucracy

Perhaps Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel was thinking "a new broom sweeps clean" when he planned the replacement of seven current Chicago Board of Education (BOE) members, the President, the Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Education Officer, and others. Emanuel wasn't there to say, and the CEOs, Board members and others (some of whom have served on the Board for 16 years) attended their last regular Chicago BOE meeting in the Board Chambers on the fifth floor, on Thursday, April 27, 2011, at 125 S. Clark Street.

Nearly and hour and a half of the April 27, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education was taken up with the so-called "good news" section of the Board. One highlight of the meeting was the return of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (by video, not in person) to thank the Board members who had helped create his career as an education executive. All of the seven members of the Board being dumped by mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel were part of the team that initiated Duncan into the mysteries of running the nation's third-largest school system. When Duncan was appointed by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley as Chicago's second CPS "Chief Executive Officer" in July 2001, he was a fatuous unknown whose adult life had been notable mostly for his basketball abilities, which he had played avidly both at Harvard and then in Australia, where he was able to "go pro." Two members of the Board (Norma Bobins and Tarig Butt) had more time at CPS than Duncan, but in January 2009, thanks to Chicago, Duncan became Barack Obama's U.S. Secretary of Education, where be was able to bring together a new group of "Chicago Boys" and push the Chicago Plan (charter schools, turnarounds, unverified corporate school reform claims) on the entire USA via Race to the Top. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.As usual, the meeting began — later than the 10:30 starting time — with "good news." During the "good news" portion of the meeting, which began at 10:50 a.m. (instead of the scheduled starting time of 10:30 a.m.), Chief Executive (CEO) Terry Mazany, who had served only since the resignation of the previous CEO Ron Huberman, stated that this was a first time transition of an appointed school board. (Chicago is the third largest school district in the country with 400,000 + students.)

A proclamation from Mayor Richard J. Daley was read to the assemblage, expressing appreciation and congratulations for the many years of service of the Board members: President Mary Richardson-Lowry - a little more than one year; Board Members Clare Munana - twelve years; Norman Bobins - sixteen years; Tariq Butt, M.D. - sixteen years; Alberto Carrero - nine years, Roxanne Ward - six years; and Peggy Davis - five years. With less than a year were Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany (who was first introduced at the December 2010 meeting) and Chief Education Officer Dr. Charles Payne, who was introduced at the March 2011 meeting. Mr. Mazany and Dr. Payne may have been the two shortest-lived executives in the 170 year history of Chicago's public schools.

United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, by way of a short video, thanked each member of the Board for the service they had given. Duncan's video include at least one sentence for each of the Board members.

In addition to the the expression of appreciation, the shadow student of the month and the Honorary Student, Taylor Brown, from Curie High School, were introduced.

For the first time since Chicago's public schools went under mayoral control in July 1995, a large number of corporate media reporters covered the entire meeting of the Board of Education, including the actual meeting, late in the afternoon, when the Board came out of its executive session to run quickly through its public agenda. Above, some of the press during the meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.With more than 50 people signed up to speak, the Board forged forward with other business that stalled the public participation section of the meeting. Observers have been noting that the Board meeting announcements state that registration for public participation is held between the hours of 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. on the days of the Board meetings. With the Board moving towards a noon or later start to the public participation, many people who get up early to sign in and speak are either forced to leave or forced to hang around for as long as four or five hours to try and bring important items of public business — within a two-minute time period — to the Board that oversees public education for 410,000 children children.

But the "good news" continued. An announcement was made that the Simeon High School Wolverines had won the state basketball championship defeating Warren High School in Gurnee. This was Simeon's fourth state title in the last five years. Students from the team spoke.

Next, two high school students read their winning essays written for Black History Month, touching on the words of Booker T. Washington, "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." Each of the students read the entire essay she had written.

After that, Lisa Tortarello, a teacher at Taylor Elementary School, was honored for publishing a memoir about her grandfather.

After "good news", it was business. By that time, the Board chambers were filled with people (half of them bureaucrats, who always fill the seats marked "reserved" to force the public into an "overflow [holding] room" ten floors above the meeting. The business portion of the meeting began with an announcement from CEO Terry Mazany regarding Summer Session Upgrade 2011, presented by Paige Ponder. According to Ponder, this program is a significant departure from the typical summer program (which had been going on for 15 years under the Daley Board), which, she said, tends to appear "remedial and punitive." The new summer program of diverse options for over 75,000 students from K-12 would offer programs such as "Freshman Connection" to help eighth grade graduates get ready for high school, provide a Lawndale Summer Camp for grades 5 to 7, set up a program for grades 5 to 7 in Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Woodlawn, and introduce Next Grade Prep with the help of Dr. Barbara Radner, of DePaul University. (Radner is the local expert the media always quote on stories about changes in CPS, while ignoring more than 20,000 classroom teachers and Chicago Teachers Union staff and officials). Parents who wish to know more about the various programs can go to www. cps.edu and teachers who would like to apply for positions can go to cps@work.

Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks spoke of the legal issues of replacing non-teacher Local School Council (LSC) members and the sharing of authority between the law department and the real estate department, for example, when leasing hotel space for a prom.

First Deputy Counsel, James Bebley, mentioned that currently charter school leases are of no more than five years duration and spoke of a policy change regarding third-party funding of leases. The Board is thus changing the terms under which charter leases are arranged.

At 11:45 p.m., public participation began with public officials and the Chicago Teachers Union. Two aldermen spoke first, one praising the Board, the other eloquently condemning it. Aldermen John Pope (Tenth Ward) and Joe Moreno (First Ward) were the first speakers. For a time, the Board President would say something about how the aldermen and other elected officials got to speak before parents, teachers and principals who had been waiting for five or six hours because they were on the "people's business" and the Board didn't want to take them away from their official duties. Nothing of the sort was said as Pope and Moreno lined up for their time to speak. Alderman Pope spoke in favor of the consolidation of the small schools at the Bowen High School "campus" into one Bowen High School. First Ward alderman Joe Moreno (above) angrily asked the Board to wait a year before closing Andersen and Schneider elementary schools. He told the Board that they hadn't even bothered to inform him in a timely manner, and that the families of the two schools had missed all of the deadlines (which were in December 2010) to apply for other schools. The Board ignored his request and voted anyway to close the schools, consolidating them into LaSalle II (for Andersen) and Jahn (for Schneider). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.An angry Alderman Joe Moreno (First Ward) told the Board that it was making a mistake in its treatment of two schools in his ward. He spoke against the consolidation of Andersen School into LaSalle II and Schneider School into Jahn School. Moreno noted that the deadline for parents to try and get their children into selective enrollment and other schools had been in December, but his constituents didn't learn of the Board's consolidation plans until April. He asked that Andersen School and Schneider School remain open for one more year so students have a chance to apply to enter another school, since it is now past the deadline for applying to other schools. [At the end of the afternoon, the Board voted, with one dissenting vote, to consolidate the schools anyway, ignoring the alderman's plea on behalf of the parents and children].

Michael Brunson, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Recording Secretary, spoke of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programs planned at the new South Shore High School (a replacement school that students want to attend) and Bouchet Academy, a feeder school for the new South Shore High School. Brunson requested that teachers be offered a chance to take IB prep courses so they would be qualified to teach the IB classes at South Shore and the pre-IB classes at Bouchet. He queried, "When were these teachers found unfit to teach?" CEO Terry Mazany responded that a fall opening is planned and concerns about teacher training for IB will be conveyed to Chief Academic Officer (CAO) John Thomas. Board President Mary Richardson Lowry spoke, too, making it sound like teaching IB classes was one of the most challenging things in Chicago, requiring extensive specialized training (it isn't), and that her view on the subject was good enough reason for getting rid of the incumbent South Shore and Bouchet teachers.

The first public participation speaker was Lisa Angonese, a mother of two at Whittier Elementary, who said that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) wants to remove special education in order to put in a new library in the main building, despite the fact that money had been allocated to LaCasita, the library in the field house, planned by parents. Angonese pointed out that because the Board had closed nearby De La Cruz Middle Schools (a highly successful school, where current Chicago Teachers Union Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle was union delegate), Whittier no longer has space inside the building. Accordingly, La Casita is the best place for the library — not the special education room inside the overcrowded building.

The Board was asked what do you plan to do with (the allocated money)?

Six Board of Education security guards (in white coats, right) surrounded the speakers from Whittier Elementary Schools and took the microphone away from Evelin Santos on signal from Board President Mary Richardson Lowry (above, left on TV screen and right under the seal of the Board) after Richardson-Lowry screamed "She's done!" Many observers at the Board consider Richardson Lowry's treatment of critics of CPS policies — especially critics who are Hispanic women — to be racist. Richardson Lowry has been overtly hostile to Whittier at every opportunity. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Evelyn Santos, also of Whittier, said the field house ("La Casita") could be rented for one year for one dollar and CPS has money ($564 thousand) allocated to the creation of the library inside the building — or for the renovation of the field house. President Richardson-Lowry referred the question to CEO Mazany who thanked them for their continued advocacy regarding the agreement that was reached with previous CEO Ron Huberman. He said State of Illinois funds are to pay for improvements of the field house. Pat Taylor, Chief Officer for Operations (COO) , was asked to follow up. Ms. Santos replied that we never agreed to a library within the main building. President Richardson-Lowry responded, "She's done!" and ordered CPS security to surround the Whittier speakers (again) and force them away from the podium.

Clara Ortiz-Johnson, a parent of two children at Prussing Elementary had issues with the principal. She said she and her husband were barred from entering the school. President Richardson-Lowry asked the General Counsel to refer this to the proper person. Miguel Rodriguez will handle this.

LaDisa Stamps, the vice-chairperson of the Dewey School LSC, a Track E school, said that .5 employees cannot work Track E, SIPPA amendments were made without LSC approval, and there was a plan to close the parent center. COO Pat Taylor was directed to work with Ms. Stamps.

Kristen Schnoor-Lambert of Waters Elementary, pointed out the Breakfast in the Classroom, despite the fact that CPS will remove nuts and peanuts and offer egg-free options, still presents a problem for those with celiac disease and that the program cuts into the five hours of instructional time mandated by state law.

Eve Becker (above at microphone) joined other parents who were continuing their opposition to the "Breakfast in the classroom" program which began during the week the Board met. Ms. Becker told the Board that having the breakfasts in the classroom disrupted recycling efforts at schools like Waters Elementary, and that the program should be in the lunchroom. Board President Mary Richardson Lowry glared at the dissidents and spoke, suggesting that they didn't want to see that hungry children were fed, when the issue has been whether the breakfasts are in the school lunchrooms where trained lunchroom workers can handle the work, or in classrooms where the job is added to the jobs teachers are already doing. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Eve Becker, of Bell School, also spoke for Waters School and against the Breakfast in the Classroom Program. She said eating in the lunchroom was critical to recycling and composting practices. She felt that the Breakfast in the Classroom Program would result in more, not less, waste and that because the children cannot eat in ten minutes, they generally dispose of the uneaten portions. Ms. Becker tied all this in with Earth Week.

President Richardson-Lowry asked what percentage of students in Waters School are hungry. Ms. Schnoor-Lamber replied "twenty percent." President Richardson-Lowry asked that they talk about implementation issues regarding particular schools, appointed a follow-up staff person, and said "Let's look at this as an opportunity, not an obstacle." CEO Mazany mentioned that the adults in the program were won over since the program was introduced.

Maria Silva, a parent of a Kelly High School student, said she was ready to throw in the towel when her son had become involved with gangs and acquired only three credits after three years in high school. She expressed gratitude for the MAP Mentoring Program. Her son has a role model, is going for his GED, and now has a good relationship with his siblings.

Rocio Gomez de Garcia, a parent at Kelly High School, also said the MAP Program had helped. The son was involved in drugs and other bad influences but is now improving and plans to go to college.

Reverend Autry Phillips, who represents Westside Safe Passage Pastors, asked for the continuation of the CPS Safe Passage Program. A survey of parents showed a great percentage felt the program was effective and are in full support of the continuation of the program.

Deborah Kennedy, of Bogan High School, spoke of a number of issues, low test scores, use of Title I funds for the salary of an LSC relative, and funds for a Black Star Conference. She was referred to a staff person.

Jauntaunne Byrd, parent of a Curtis Elementary School student, said the current non-contract principal doesn't communicate, the CAO is responsible regarding the non-contract principal, and a solution is needed for the current situation. She was told "Human Capital" Chief Officer Alicia Winckler will assign someone. Curtis was taken over by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) in a 2010 "turnaround."

Maria Guice, a parent who said she was not feeling well and asked that someone else speak regarding her issues, was told the rules did not allow for anyone who had not signed up to speak. She then spoke forcefully about the closing of a parent center and handed over a copy of her requests. She was told Pat Taylor would assist her.

At the one hour mark, Claudia Solano, a Dual-Language Coordinator, expressed thanks for help with the Dual-Language Program. She stated that because of this program, students will become bi-lingual, cultural, and literate. She said a commitment of funds is needed.

South Chicago community activist Robert Garcia warned that consolidating the four "small schools" at Bowen High School would lead to increased gang violence. For generations, South Chicago has had one of the city's largest gang problems, a fact that the city's globalization propagandists constantly ignore. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Robert Garcia asked to relay this message on behalf of South Chicago. He spoke against the closing of the small schools on the Bowen Campus School. He said that combining four schools with 200 students each with different gang memberships was a problem. Earlier in the week, activists had noted that during the small schools years, the four smalls schools had differentiated themselves by different gangs. Garcia alluded to the new high school campus on the USX site planned for the new development there. He repeated the words of an earlier speaker — take it slow, this consolidation does not have to happen in one year. Later the Board voted to end the small schools at Bowen and return the school to its status as a singular school.

Daniel Estrada, an LSC chairperson at Discovery/Bowen (one of the small schools slated to be closed), is against the consolidation of CDA Bowen. He said there had been no response from the Board to information provided to the Board. Contradicting the claims of Board members and Alderman Pope, Estrada said that one thousand signatures from the community against consolidation had been obtained on a petition. He said there had been no response from Alderman Pope either and asked, "Is consolidation already a done deal?" He concluded by saying, "You fired Ms. Farr, our principal, who's been working with us for five years."

Schneider Elementary School Principal Vivian Edwards warned the Board that the destruction of her school would jeopardize the education of the school's large homeless population, destroy a number of successful programs, and undermine the careers of the teachers. The Board voted to close the school anyway. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Vivian Edwards, current contract principal at Schneider School (who has 40 years with CPS) spoke against the closing of Schneider School. She said now that a high school has come in and Schneider is being closed, students will have to travel farther. She reminded the Board that Schneider has been serving the highest percentage of homeless children of any Chicago public school, and also noted that CPS has consistently ignored the various successful programs the teachers and staff of Schneider had created. An 8 p.m. Friday meeting will deal with the transition plan with Jahn School. Later, the Board voted to terminate Schneider.

Glenda Cabrera spoke against the consolidation of Avondale School into Logandale School. She said the two schools, on the same lot, will remain open, but will become Logandale. She added that Logandale now has a lower enrollment, there are failing grades at Logandale, and the principal of Logandale has been there only two months.

Ana Martinez-Estka, principal of Avondale School, also spoke against consolidation, mentioning that parents have marched and have been on Telemundo. She said that Logandale is under-populated. She asked that Avondale fifth-graders be sent to Logandale instead of what is planned. She asked "What is the rush for you?" and added, "We ask for your respect. We cannot forgive the lack of respect you've shown us."

Felipe Hernandez, of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, said that the BOE was showing a lack of respect for parents who felt excluded from any decision and don't trust the CPS. He asked that the Board stop the lies affecting so many families.

Josefina Rojas spoke forcefully about test scores and said that Senate Bill (SB) 620 introduced by State Senator Iris Martinez will hold CPS accountable.

Jennifer Meade-Magruder and Michael Hein of the Barbara Vick Early Childhood Learning Center (ELC) were concerned about funding. They mentioned that Barbara Vick ELC has blended special ed classes which are in compliance with the Corey H court decision. They remarked that separate is not equal, that access should not be denied on the basis of disability. President Richardson-Lowry thanked them for their passionate statement. Ms. Meade-Magruder went on to say their her uncommunicative son, Joshua, needed special ed. She and her husband were thrilled with his progress, but were concerned that programs may be pulled.

At this point, thirty minutes and eighteen speakers were left.

Nancy Paulette, of Barry Elementary School, wants seventh and eighth grades added to Barry because achievement declined when Barry students were transferred to a middle school. She gave each board member a folder. President Richardson-Lowry said CAO Mims would follow up. CEO Mazany mentioned that lack of capacity at Barry School is a problem.

Cynthia Lloyd, parent of a special ed son and Andersen School LSC chairperson, said that when the phase-out began in 2008, Andersen was to remain open till 2010. Instead, parents found out in the media that Andersen was closing. She said that your plan is rushed. We need one more year to work with LaSalle II. She asked, "When will we know the answer?" President Richardson-Lowry replied that Dick Smith and Pat Taylor will work with them and they will know the decision by the end of the day.

Kenyatta Jenkins, of Blocks Together, spoke against the closing of Andersen School. She said that you (CPS) lied to us when you told us that all of us would be given an opportunity to graduate before the school is closed. A transition team at my place of work spent over a year helping things to work out well. "We need one more year - give us one more year - we were not given proper notice of closing." President Richardson-Lowry replied that your concerns are noted.

Stacy McAuliffe of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools was looking forward to the new CPS team. She informed the gathering that Charter Schools have a 7.5 hour day. She added that we should focus on what works for students, not what doesn't work.

Harlan Wallach, a parent representative on the LSC at Edison Regional Gifted Center, wants CPS Academic Olympic competitions reinstated. He was told this was not on the agenda, but Barbara Lumpkin may be able to help.

Deborah Cummings, curriculum coordinator at Field School for three years, said that before Spring Break, with seven to eight weeks of school left, first the principal was removed, then she, herself, was removed, then teachers were removed, and then the Assistant Principal was removed. She asked how is this Children First, a cost-effective move, a student-centered decision? She requested an independent investigation. President Richardson-Lowry said she would refer this to appropriate parties.

Alice Stacker, a teacher at Field School, was also dismissed over Spring Break.

Marixsa Lopez of the Gage Park Community and Talman Elementary mentioned that fifty people in the overflow room had wanted to participate, but they had to leave. She wants Talman to be considered for a new building that is being constructed. She mentioned Talman accomplishments.

Maria Diaz, a mother of two students at Talman School, said more time is needed. She agreed that a new building for Talman is needed. President Richardson-Lowry said her request was noted for the record and directed Pat Taylor to work with her.

Jonathan Wharton provided the information that he is a probationary appointed teacher at Dineen School of Excellence and is currently on suspension based on a hearing held a month ago. He said the first year principal at Dineen, who was absent a lot, told him he would be terminated and that the school was not a good fit for him. President Richardson -Lowry said Human Capital would follow up.

Geri Jones, of Burnham-Anthony School, said her son was a employee who was a victim of unfair labor practices. His work day began at 8 a.m. but he was not paid for any time that he was forced to work beyond the end of his work day. She said he was not given time sheets, he wants unedited swipes, he is due two years of back pay, and others employees are affected as well. Alicia Winkler or a designee was directed to follow up.

At the two hour mark, Robert Lewis, of All 4 Kidz Enterprises, who spent 37.5 years with CPS as a principal and in other positions, was saddened at the decision to replace all the BOE members. He wished them Godspeed with the rest of their lives. He told them "Thank you for the spark of hope you have given us." He added that Bouchet Academy was named for the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in the United States, in 1876.

Angela Martinez, of Unite Here, attired in her gray uniform, who has worked as a housekeeper at the Hyatt Hotel for years, was surrounded by similarly-clad fellow housekeepers. Through a translator, Nat Kippert, she said she was here as the representative of housekeepers at Hyatt. She mentioned that one of the new BOE members is Penny Pritzker, a billionaire and owner of the Hyatt, who has given large sums to Stand for Children. She said we don't want the same billionaires to have control over our schools, our community, and our children. President Richardson-Lowry said your concerns are noted for the record.

Keith Griffin, who has a son at Harper High School who is having problems, told how the Youth Advocate Program had helped his son and how his son has experienced a big turnaround.

Ronald Jackson, of Tilden Career Academy High School, directed the BOE to stop the LIES. He said a ghost payroll exists with 10 and 11 years olds on the staff sheet and added that the Inspector General, however, found no problem. He said the parents were also being lied to about the special ed funds from the state and that a teacher went to Vegas. He wanted to know "Where is the money coming from? Where is the money at?" He stated that there had been a mismanagement of funds. President Richardson-Lowry said that the allegations have been referred to the Inspector General who will have to complete the investigation. Ronald Jackson replied that he was told it was completed - it was in the newspaper, and added that the principal can't find where the missing money went to.

Tracy Johnson, a Title I parent at Buckingham School, a school with 32 emotionally-disturbed students, asked for funds for six parents to go to the Black Star Project conference. President Richardson-Lowry referred this to CAO Cindy Fields who will provide contact information.

Catherine Jones, a representative on the LSC at Douglass High School, wanted to know what the future of the school was, what are the plans. She had received no answer from Rick Mills and felt disrespected. For the students, she asked for mentoring, resources, the MAP Program, and a meeting with the community. She was told a representative from the LSC, probably Mr. Deane, would assist her. She then asked for another person to talk with, but said she would try Mr. Deane.

At this point, public participation ended and the Board went into closed session for approximately an hour.



Comments:

May 3, 2011 at 11:21 AM

By: Jonathan Wharton

Discrepancy in report.

Miss Foley,

Thank you for bringing attention to my current issue, but I have been misquoted. I did say my principal was absent, but not in the corporeal sense. She has been absent in providing support and opportunities for improvement - instead simply stating that I am unfit.

Jonathan Wharton

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