July 27, 2011 Chicago Board of Education meeting hears from angry teachers, approves massive overhaul of CPS administrative structure (once again, again)

[Editor's Note: The following article was originally published at on July 28, 2011 and is republished here for our readers who missed it at the end of our July Home Page. An analysis of the changes in the CPS administrative structure is being prepared and will be available before August 5, 2011].

Teachers picketed outside CPS headquarters at 125 S.Clark St. in Chicago prior to the Board's July 27 meeting. Many of those who spoke during the meeting were teachers who had recently been cut by the actions of the new CPS "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claud Brizard. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.The Chicago Board of Education (BOE) held its regular monthly meeting on the fifth floor at 125 S. Clark Street on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. The meeting followed protests on Clark Street by teachers and other concerned individuals.

The meeting began with a Power Point presentation by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jean-Claude Brizard who was joined by Chief Education Officer (CEO) Noemi Donoso. The Power Point was entitled "Reinventing Chicago Public Schools to Better Serve All Students." It laid out plans that have been worked on in the last two to three weeks, to create a new vision for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The first regular Board of Education meeting for Brizard and Donoso was on June 22, 2011.

According to the CPS news release handed out to the media, "At the core of the plan is a Streamlined Leadership Team that will be directly accountable to the CEO. Services and supports will be grouped together under a single chief officer, rather than fragmented across several different departments."

"The Chief Executive Officer will move from 14 to 9 direct reports including: Chief Education Officer, Chief Communications Officer, Intergovernmental Affairs, Chief of Talent, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief of Staff and General Counsel."

(Also listed were "Chief Community & Family Engagement Officer, and Chief Portfolio Officer.")

While Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard delivered his bizarre Power Point description of the objectives and new structure of the Chicago Public Schools, the members of the Board of Education (above), listened attentively, then allowed the "reinvention" to go through without any critical questions. Once again, the Rahm Emanuel Board of Education was a rubber stamp for a large dose of corporate "school reform" fantasy and sheer nonsense. Above, left to right, Henry Beinen, Mahalia Hines, Jess Ruiz, David Vitale, Penny Pritzker, and Rodrigo Sierre. Not shown in the photograph is Andrea Zopp. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.There are no more "Area Offices" or "Chief Area Officers," according to the press release. They are now being called "Networks."

"Area Offices, which report directly to the Chief Education Officer, have been reduced from 24 to 19 — 14 elementary networks and 5 high school networks," the press release stated. "Networks will align to neighborhood boundaries to better service communities and families, as well as allow network leaders to partner more effectively with community organizations across schools."

In addition, "The Chief Education Office has established two new offices, "The new Chief of Instruction will be led by Jennifer Cheatham" and "The new Chief of Leadership Development." ("This position is expected to be hired shortly.")

At one point, the new team was referred to as "the cabinet."

After CEO Brizard's report and reports by Calvin Davis on Chicago (the first city to pass a concussion ordinance) and the new Student Code of Conduct (by James Bebley), the public participation portion of the meeting began at 11:34 a.m.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis (above) spoke at the July 27, 2011 Board meeting. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.First to speak was Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President. She spoke to the Board about the budget decisions, which were not just numbers, but also political decisions. She remarked that the lunch room staff and even the security guards right here will not get the 4 percent raise that was supposed to be included in the final year of the five-year contract for all unions representing CPS workers. [The Board of Education voted at its special June 15, 2011 Board meeting that it didn't have the money for the raises]. She also mentioned the transfer of money to the Chicago Police Department and the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars. She told of school buildings that are not air-conditioned and how air-conditioning has changed life. She also alluded to the cheating in Atlanta and asked why CPS@Google was not going through. She called this decision a waste of taxpayer time and money.

Next was Robert Elchert, representing Alderman Pat Dowell of the 3rd Ward, who said that Bronzeville had been hit hard, adding that there was a lack of community input with fourteen high schools in the area (some under-enrolled) and safety risks for children, with violence a top-rated issue.

Following him, Pastor Chris Harris of the Bronzeville Community Action Council (CAC) spoke about FACE 7 Community Action Councils. He asked for more time to give CACs more results and told of a partnership with CACs. He queried, "Is our work valuable enough?" Our request is "Make us official. We are just now learning how to crawl. Please don't break our legs!"

Jose Lopez, of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in the Humboldt Park area, said he wanted to echo everything just said.

Alderman Deborah Graham of the 29th Ward referred to the Austin Community Action Center. She said the biggest fears were going through all this work and not being heard. She thanked Bob Runcie and requested, "Keep us intact. Let us remain in place, please."

After Alderman Deborah Graham, a representative for Alderman Bob Fioretti of the 2nd Ward spoke.

Next, Reverend Robin Hood, a member of the Montefiore Local School Council (LSC), said he was told Montefiore High School was not opening the first week of August. He wants to get together with CPS and discuss Montefiore's needs. He said a 2009 report showed that students did not receive special education services. He told of what Montefiore has done for students, one of whom was reintegated into Walt Disney Magnet School.

Bessie Alcantara said the Mentorship and Advocacy Program (MAP) has had such a positive impact on our students. Students then made statements about MAP.

Craig Fitzgerald, a program manager at Kelly High School, remarked that some think such social services (MAP) should not be supported. He told success stories of mentors helping students. They want the program expanded. He added that every dollar spent today will save many thousand tomorrow.

Teachers spoke angrily about how the Brizard administration is continuing the policies of Ron Huberma and Terry Mazany by expanding the "Do Not Hire" list. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.Martin Ritter, a Social Studies teacher at Marshall High School, opposes the Do Not Hire (DNH) protocol. He was observed ten times at a previous school and received positive ratings. He was observed only two times at Marshall High School and received an unsatisfactory rating. He has been with CPS seven and a half years.

President David Vitale told him, "We will talk to you about your situation."

Cynthia Rodriguez, a Special Education teacher at Austin Poly-Tech High School, said a 35 percent turnover was expected in September. She mentioned that Mr. Gerstein, the [former] principal, hired her and created a program where teachers evaluate each other. Her experience with the new principal, Mr. Rabi Williams, is not the same. She said the school is losing great teachers who are now on the DNH list.

Martha Paltzer, who teaches reading to special education students told everyone, "I love to teach." She wants to be at Austin Poly-Tech because it gives you the feeling that you belong. She uses the Wilson program and has had successful students. She has been teaching ten years, but no longer has excellent evaluations and was released from the classroom. She is concerned about her students.

President Vitale told her the district was looking into the situation at Austin and mentioned that Mr. Gerstein is still with us.

Stephanie Mayo, of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), wanted to make proposals about budget issues, more money for social justice support, security guards, and video cameras.

President Vitale allowed two unregistered students to speak. One student said students had been treated like criminals in our school and added that more money is spent on security than teaching and learning. He was kicked out of school and spent a month at home. Another student, from Roosevelt High School, wants limits on harsh punishments, for example, taking away cell phones. The first student asked for a meeting.

President Vitale told him, "We'll find a way for the system to engage with you. Not sure I can."

Jean Klasovsky, of Farragut Career Academy, spoke of the changes in the Student Code of Conduct (COC). She expressed belief that a peer jury is just as good as in-school suspension. She thanked the Board for revising the Student Code of Conduct, in which suspensions would only be used as a last resort for lower level offenses.

Rosazilia Grillier, a parent of two high school students in Englewood and member of the city-wide council of Power PAC, wants schools that are not like prisons. The former code was a zero-tolerance code. The new one has restorative justice. Now suspensions and expulsions are a last resort. She is thankful for the changes and asked for a meeting with CEO Brizard. (The revised Code of Conduct) is to be revised today.)

Keith Clough, of Accurate Environmental, was a consultant for CPS for twenty years. His contract is coming to an end this month. He said his company had been put out of the plan and there was no response from CPS why this was so. He mentioned that the MBE goals have changed and CPS should take a looked at MBE policy. He asked the Board to take a look at this in fairness.

Angela Williams, a representative of Parents for an Educated Nation, supports a longer school day. She thought the Board should have selected a CEO from Chicago. Referring to time after the school day, she said that an idle mind is the devil's workshop. She added that we need an answer and asked, "Will you address these issues?"

Arlene McMahon, of CAVE (Nobel Street), wants a longer school day. She was a teacher and talked of trying to cram learning into a shorter day.

Adrian Morales, a teacher who is on the DNH list, had her program closed because of a program reduction and now she cannot reapply. She is not tenured. She now receives no salary or benefits. She was put on the DNH because of not having her contract renewed twice. She asked, "Am I on such a list? I was not told. You do not talk about the DNH." She added that DNH is an unfair policy.

Jonah Bondurant, of Teachers for Social Justice, said his partner was high-achieving, but was not renewed twice at Chase because of budget cuts and reductions. That teacher went on line to apply but could not, called the BOE, and discovered being on the DNH list. Mr. Bondurant said, "This creates instability. He asked that the DNH list be abolished and the teacher be taken off the list.

Leslie Strauss, a student, a parent, and a very involved teacher, is now on the DNH list. She mentioned the mottoes that are displayed in the elevator, "Educated Me. Inspire Me. Transform Me." She said that in CEO Brizard's presentation, teachers are recruited, developed, and supported. She asked, "Are we being punitive? The DNH list is full of people who have many skills and have much to give to CPS."

Jennifer Johnson, of Lincoln Park High School, said she loves teaching. She said teachers are the most important predictor of student success. She asked why there is always a budget crisis. Students come first is not the message coming from the BOE. Teachers are being dismissed rather than being supported. The atmosphere is not good. The BOE trips up teachers and plays "gotcha." She added, "Each year, I get better because of experience, but I still need support." She told the Board that CPS was an incredibly demoralizing place to work and that members of the Board should have teaching experience.

At this, Dr. Mahalia A. Hines said "I am qualified to teach. Give this adminisration and the new Board a chance." She added that President Vitale already said we will look into the DNH list.

Misha Drummond, of Curtis School, received an unsatisfactory rating for the first time in her final rating. She said the principal did not follow procedure.

Karen Gustafson, was not renewed. She said her principal would not have given this rating if the new rules had not been in effect. She searched for a Spanish position, but that principal could not hire her due to her DNH status. She received no notice of her DNH status and wants the policy reconsidered.

Norma Brown, a teacher, said she was attackd by three children who got two weeks suspension. She said, "I got fired after thirty-three years," and the case was ignored by the previous Board and mayor. She said she wants to retire with dignity. She added that she was at the Board Wednesday morning at 5 a.m. Others who came later were called on first for public participation. She said, "Revise this policy!"

President Vitale replied, "All we can do is look into the facts."

Marie Hurtado spoke in Spanish. Her remarks were translated. She said she was an assistant teacher at Avondale School who was fired. She has completed sixty hours of college. She was fired in the hallway by the new principal while talking to a parent the day before the new principal took over, while Ms. Martinez-Estka , the previous principal, was still in charge.

Yvonne McGinnis asked "Does CPS employ unfair and unethical business procurement procedures?"

President Vitale responded, "No."

She referred to a landscaping invoice that had been submitted, which she was asked to revise. She wanted to know, "What does my contract have to do with the budget?" She added, "I've done the work. I need to be paid."

President Vitale said Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks will look into it in the next day of two, after this meeting.

Joann Williams, of the Hearst Community Organization, around Hearst School and the LeClaire Courts, has not received a response regarding a lease. The Academy for Global Citizenship (ACG), is now adding fourth grade. Formerly, it went only to third grade. She said there are 900 mixed-income apartments at LeClaire. She asked for a commitment to a public school for Hearst and public housing. She requested that her letter of May 19th be answered and she wants CPS to come to the neighborhood.

Sarah Ippel, the founder and director of ACG at Hearst/LeClaire is excited about the meeting tomorrow. She invited everyone to visit this fall.

Della Leavitt is a CPS parent and a community member. Her child attended K-12 and is now in college. She referred to English Language (EL) learners and stated that she expects a new paradigm from this administration. She told them they must take a different approach.

Raquel Garcia said she is on the DNH list because she ws not renewed twice because of budget cuts, not because of performance. She said her principal could not hire her after two attempts, regarding budget cuts. She said the DNH list should be eliminated, it is punitive. She mentioned that she is on the same list as those with more serious offenses. She said she called five numbers to find out she was on the list. She asked the Board to please rethink the DNH list.

Louvenia Hood, of the Penn School Local School Council, offered thanks to Pat Taylor for the donated air-conditioners that will be installed. She added that we need an electrician to install them in the next week.

Phyllis Palmer, a representative of the LSC at Aldridge School on the city limits, stated that they have been overlooked for community improvements. She added that schools have been burglarized and this would not have happened if the schools had security cameras. She mentioned thanks for the new Student Code Of Conduct and invited President Vitale and CEO Brizard to come to the school.

Robert Douglas of the S.O.N. Foundation spoke of thirty-seven years of community engagement in the Roseland community.

Mary Bunzel spoke of her son who will be a senior this year at Steinmetz High School and began school in Rochester, New York. She said the school pool could not be open because of a drain problem, but more than the drain needed to be repaired. Last year they shared a pool with a suburban school system. This year they are back in their own pool. She mentioned another son who is in a therapeutic day school. Last year was horrible; her husband ended up driving this son. She added that the Board needs to watch transportation contracts.

Edward Washington, a janitor for CPS, was laid off due to budget cuts. He mentioned that Breakfast in the Classroom is causing cleaning problems and that outdoor footage was not figured when calculating how much footage a janitor is responsible for. He added that they were understaffed, overworked, and students are in danger of illness and deserve more. He said the City of Chicago is not broke and TIF money could be used. He concluded by saying, "Don't cut janitors."

Manual Ferreira, a science teacher at Hirsch School, spoke of the layoff of teachers. He said students reading at a fifth-grade level were going to ninth grade. He said that the layoff of teachers denies students and is a new form of segregation. It takes from the teachers who sacrifice so much and sacrifice with pay cuts. Yet, he told them, you do not sacrifice yourself with your six-figure incomes. He added, maybe some day my children will have some good opportunities, such as the quality education Mayor Emanuel has for his children and he will stop insulting teachers.

Nicole Gierstikas, a teacher who retired in June of 2010, said she worked at one time for the Pritzker family. She said most people would say 70% should be the minimum passing level, yet we are graduating students who are unprepared and finish at the 24% level on the ISAT.

Marcella Holmes, a parent at Hayt School, has an issue with the principal, supposedly because of the student's behavior and attendance, and said she has suffered retaliation. Her daughter was to serve detention and was transferred out. The family did not move and yet the child was transferred out. She added that the child was not a problem child.

She was told that this would be looked into.

Christopher Didato said he was speaking as a private citizen. He, too, said that DNH was punitive; teachers don't even know they are on the DNH list and principals can't get these teachers. He added that the TIF funds should be freed for the schools. He spoke of parental involvement at Whittier and said, "Hopefully, CPS will be a partner in their efforts."

Doney Maxey came to discuss a solution. She said differentiated instruction was needed and para-professionals need to work with eight children in grades four, five, and six, to close the gap in math and reading. She said the West Pullman Pilot was a success there. She added that schools should be allowed to educate parents after hours.

Eliza Cabarrus was a teacher at Beidler School for two years. She was told not to come back. Her background was in the military and this background helped in the classroom. She got her master's degree, but now she is unemployed. She added that she loves to teach, but is thinking of going into business.

Diondai Brown-Whitfield, of the Austin High School Alumni Association, spoke of the 120th anniversary of Austin High School. She said the Austin community was established by Henry D. Austin. In the 1800s, the first African-American family resided there. She spoke of the Austin Town Hall, LaFollette Park, and Columbus Park. She ranked tenth in her graduating class at Austin and was a cheerleader. She said a reunion is coming up and she wants support of the activities.

The last speaker was Mildred Chaffin, a nineteen-year science teacher with a master's in biology who wants to restore her employment with the Board. She stated that in 1994, the principal attacked her at Morgan Park High School; in 1999, students attacked her at Harlan High, School, and while the students were returned to school, she had to take a fitness-for-duty exam in order to return. She quit, but came back in 2002. On May 13, she was attacked by a student who had been out for two months. Now five principals have tried to hire her, but can't because DNH is on her file. She wants to be reinstated.

Dr. Hines then listed the items that would be covered in closed session and the Board went into closed session.


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