Chicago Board of Education Meeting October 26, 2011 hears more about the pros and cons of the 'Longer School Day' and a presentation attacking all existing real CPS public schools as a prelude to more attacks, closings and 'turnarounds'

At the monthly Chicago Board of Education (BOE) meeting held Wednesday, October 26, 2011, at 125 S. Clark Street, many of the speakers during public participation spoke about a longer school. After some brief announcements (the introduction of the new student Board member and an award to a school that had huge attendance on the first day of school), the meeting was called to order at 10:40 a.m., with roll call (all board members were present except Board Member Henry S. Bienen) followed by the the Pledge of Allegiance and a Power-Point presentation by Chief Education Officer (CEdO) Noemi Donoso and Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat.

The presentation on the highly controversial "Portfolio Plan" for the 2011 - 2012 school year was presented by "Chief Education Officer" Noemi Donoso (at microphone) and "Chief Portfolio Officer" Oliver Sicat (right, in suit). Donoso came to CPS in June from Denver. Sicat was hired by the Board in August from the city's charter schools. Neither has ever taught in a real Chicago public school classroom. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Once again before public participation began, the Board did some of its business. The Power Point presentation dealt with the new CPS mission statement that "every student, in every community, will have access to a high quality school." According to the CPS officials, both elementary and high schools are being "rated" according to a new rating system (which they did not describe during their presentation). "Level 1" means "Excellent." Level 2 means "Good Standing" and "Level 3" means probation.

The Power Point, based on the undisclosed formula for rating the city's real public schools (charter schools are not included in the rating system), claimed that most CPS real public schools are currently "failing." According to these new CPS officials and their new formula, of the 409 elementary schools, 207 are rated probationary. Of the 124 high schools, 76 are rated probationary.

Donoso and Sicat asserted that they had a new method of doing "policy ratings" which they claimed proved that the majority of Chicago's real public schools were "failing," but they did not reveal how the ratings were established, nor did any of the members of the Board of Education ask. Nevertheless, Donoso and Sicat made it clear that CPS will be forcing a large number of "failing schools" into turnaround via AUSL this school year. Substance photo from the presentation by George N. Schmidt. After making the claim that such a huge number were "failing," Donoso and Sicat immediately went into an unusual explanation of things. One of the most noteworthy things about the presentation was that they repeatedly referred to "underperforming seats." There was also a great deal of discussion about "choice", with the officials asserting conclusions based on little or no evidence.

"The parents of the '123,000 students in underperforming seats' are "moving their kids to where the good schools are located," they claimed, presenting a map to accompany the narrative. Their report also claimed that there is a "widening" achievement gap — "the widening of the gap in reading and math scores between white and African-American and Latino elementary students was larger than seen nationally," they stated. The latest CPS pie chart of "failing" schools shows almost the same number of probation schools as there were in the late 1990s, when mayoral control began under Richard M. Daley, with Paul Vallas as "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools. But none of the members of the mayorally appointed Chicago Board of Education in 2011 asked if perhaps the "failing" luridly depicted above were the result of the failure of corporate school reform under Richard M. Daley, Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, and Ron Huberman. Instead, the "failure" will be blamed on the teachers and principals of the schools that serve Chicago's poorest children in Chicago's most segregated communities, while millionaires and billionaires on the school board and at City Hall continue to escalate the attack on the city's teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo from TV overhead of the Power Point by George N. Schmidt.At that point, some of the most interesting calculations began, as the two officials asserted that previous reports on gains in Chicago based on the ISAT (the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, for elementary students) and the PSAE (the Prairie State Achievement Examinations, for high school students) didn't mean anything, and that what really is meaningful now are the test scores results as rendered by conversion to "Common Core Standards" in reading and math. According to the CPS officials, when tested on the Common Core Standards in Reading (CCSR), students do no perform as well as on the Illinois State Assessment Tests (ISAT) leading to misleading gains in reading and math. Therefore, according to the CPS officials, the CCSR is now a "true measure of achievement."

The presentation then asked "How are we addressing the challenges?" According to the Brizard administration, the "challenges" are: improving school performance, providing choices, establishing a time line, and simplifying the enrollment process for parents. Both presenters indicated that CPS will be called upon to close a large number of "failing" schools within the next couple of months. Under a new state law, CPS has to announce schools slated for closing by December 1 and hold hearings.

With the Power Point completed, the Board members took their turn. Board members asked many questions at this point. The Board had been told that a decision had to be made "to close consistently low performing schools" and to help Level 3 (probationary) students move into Level 2 (better) schools. One of the many unsubstantiated claims made by Sicat and Donoso is that the shifting of children among schools represents a "choice" by families to leave behind what CPS is scapegoating as "failing schools." The "Choice" mantra was first introduced in August 2001 by then Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan, who told the City Club that he wanted to make "every public school a school of choice." During the next seven years, Duncan starved the real public schools of Chicago of resources, radically expanded the charter schools, and, during the "Renaissance 2010" years, scapegoated the teachers and principals of schools that had low tests scores, eventually subjecting them to the public humiliation of show trials and then corporate style "turnaround." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Board member Rodrigo Sierra said that he felt that this might have the unintended negative impact of overcrowding in the "better" schools. Board member Mahalia Hines noted that sometimes there is a lack of student success after a move because of what she refers to as "cultural change". She did not elaborate on her understanding of the nine years of school closings that have preceded her appointment to the Board by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May 2011.

Each of the other Board members weighed in as well. Penny Pritzker said she was "shocked" to learn so many schools were doing so badly. Jesse Ruiz said roughty the same thing.

Board member Penny Pritzker looked away from Karen Lewis during the entire time Lewis was speaking to the Board against the vicious attacks from the previous Power Point. Lewis also reminded the Board that Chicago has among the highest class sizes in Illinois, and that the Board is making them even higher by ignoring the problems at the beginning of each school year. Substance photo taken during Lewis's remarks by George N. Schmidt.And then it was over and public participation began. Next public participation began with speakers presenting opposing viewpoints on the longer school day.

First came speakers in support of the "Longer School Day." Jill Bousson of United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Omar E. Torres School (a charter school) spoke in support of extending the school day. She said that the Torres School has 636 students — and 250 students in the after-school program. Ms. Bousson said the parents want an extended day. The additional time allows teachers to work individually in small groups, she said.

The next speaker was Kelly Warner, whose daughter is in kindergarten at Skinner North School. Warner said the school has gone on what she called "closed campus." Where once the day was 5.7 to 6 1/2 hours long, it is now 7 1/2 hours long, and she thinks it's great. She said she was concerned about the effect of the longer day on younger children like her daughter, but said her child was happy because there was an a.m. recess, more time for lunch, and more enrichment time.

Sonia Del Rio told the Board that her own children were at Lindblom High School, then went on to urge the Board to adopt the "Longer School Day" for the city's elementary schools. Del Rio cited the widely discredited talking points that were used in April, May and June by Mayor Rahm Emanuel during his early attacks on the city's public schools and the Chicago Teachers Union. Two days earlier, Del Rio, an UNO protege, had helped organize the "Rent A Protest" picketers who showed up at the Chicago Teachers Union offices to protest on behalf of the Rahm Emanuel version of the longer school day. Most of those Del Rio organized (and someone paid) were surprised to learn that they had been ferried across town by Del Rio to protest against the union, when they thought they were protesting against the Board. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Sonia Del Rio, who identified herself as the parent of two students at Lindblom High School, said that she supports the longer school day. She then repeated the statistics that had been used for months by Rahm Emanuel (and refuted by CTU researchers) that because of the longer day, Houston (Texas) students end up spending "four more years in school" than Chicago students. She added that "six out of ten students" (in Chicago) "failed" in math and reading. She expressed concern about the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) ruling. She stated that "children who spend more time in the classroom are more likely to graduate."

After briefly noting that the previous speaker's claims about Houston are inaccurate, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis said that Chicago has the highest class size of any major district in the country and proceeded to present the Board with the results of a recent CTU research study. She said it's really bad when parents call for Union help on class size issues, mentioning that Casals elementary school had recently done that because the Board had overcrowded its classes. She added that the last ten years of reform have proven no improvement. She asked that we look at what really works — a better school day. She said that closing down what the Board calls "failing schools" is not really an answer. It is failed reform that is the problem, she told the Board members.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis (above at microphone) tried to introduce a level of reality and the lives of teachers and children into the discussion of the next phase of corporate "school reform" and its teacher bashing agenda, by pointing out that lower class sizes usually help children learn more and enjoy school more thoroughly. Lewis was ignored by the Board members, some of whom deliberately turned away from her as she spoke. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In addition to the example of Casals, she cited a Board policy the disrupts the high schools. She noted that the "20th day rule" means closing positions, which leads to raising class sizes. She said that Morgan Park High School had to be completely reprogrammed because of the 20th day closing. President Lewis then warned the Board not to go forward with what sounded like a plan during the Power Point presentation to send letters to all parents about their "failing schools." You're going to terrify parents, she said. Schools need to be supported with appropriate resources.

Elizabeth Gonzales, a parent of three, spoke in Spanish about the Albany Park Neighborhood Council. When her speech was translated, she had invited all Board members to a meeting Wednesday night at the Albany Park Multicultural Center and provided CTA passes for the Brown Line. She then asked, "Who can come?" Board President David Vitale thanked her and added he was not sure what everyone's schedule was. He added that the Board Members couldn't accept bus passes.

Wendy Katten, of Raise Your Hand, said that she and her organization support some form of a longer day. She feels that culture and leadership are important and that Art, Languages, Music, and Technology need to be Level 1 (excellent). She said that her school (Coonley) will do fund-raising and listen to the community and parents. President Vitale replied, "We know your group." Ms Katten then asked the Board to attend an open forum.

Wendy Katten of the Raise Your Hand Coalition pointed out that most parents do not want the 7.5 hour longer school day being promoted by CPS and Rahm Emanuel. Many of the parents were wearing buttons in support of "6.5", the length that Raise Your Hand's survey shows most parents support. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Austin's Carol Johnson, handed the Board a survey, asked for a better day — not a longer day. She asked that the day be 6 1/2 hours long instead of 7 1/2 hours long. She wants Music, Art, Social Studies, Physical Education and Recess. She wants to be included in the planning process for a longer day. She said the parents want to know the role of the Local School Council (LSC) in the SIPPA (school improvement plan) and the budget.

Kate Brandt, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) parent said she is against a longer day as being presented by the Board. She said students need a 6 1/2 hour day in order to thrive. She said parents don't want a 7 1/2 hour day; they want a 6 1/2 hour day. She said CPS schools with a 6 1/2 hour day have scores higher than charters. She asked what would a longer day cost and what do the children have to give up? She stated that children need a balance and they would get less sleep with a longer day. She added, "Don't fix what isn't broken."

Lewandra Erwin, a mother of a teacher at Edison Longwood Charter School, is not for the extended day. She told the Board about the life of one charter school teacher. She said that her teacher daughter now leaves at 6 a.m. and returns home after 6 p.m. She pays for supplies out of her own pocket, has an inordinate amount of work, has to attend Saturday programs for which there is no option regarding participation. Ms. Erwin said her daughter is already doing ninety extra minutes a day; the $800 stipend (for charter schools to have a longer day) adds insult to injury.

Maureen Cullinan, a CPS parent, also opposed a longer school day. She said that the high school day is already 11/2 hours longer than the elementary school day. She stated that a twelve hour day is typical for high school students.

Among the thing that west side organizer and community leaders Dwayne Truss brought before the Board of Education was the fact that the real public schools in his west side Austin community have been doing better by the usual measures than the charter schools and turnarounds that the Board is still pushing as the magic solution to the problems of underfunded segregated urban schools serving the poor. During the week the Board met, Truss had helped organize two community forums at which Board policies were criticized, the push for the "Longer School Day" refuted, and the community organized. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Dwayne Truss, Vice President of the Austin Community Action Council, said Austin school test scores are trending up; Austin schools now perform better than charter schools. He stated that there is a quality inequity. We have challenges that Disney II Magnet School doesn't have, but we don't have the resources of Disney II Magnet School. He added that we need to get our TIF moneys back.

Frank Johnson, who taught French at Fenger High School before it was put into "turnaround" (as a "failing" school), said that he was a victim of turnaround and was eventually placed on the Do Not Hire (DNH) list. He said he worked as a substitute the first year after CPS put Fenger into "turnaround" and he was not hired to return to Fenger. He spent the year looking for another job teaching French. He wanted a French teaching position. This year, he said, he again expected to work as a day-to-day sub, but he couldn't be a substitute because, after the summer, he is now on the DNH list. He said no explanation was given. Cheryl Coulson was supposed to get back to him, but didn't. President Vitale then asked Cheryl Coulson to meet with him.

Latricia Booker, of Wendell Phillips High School, said there was great improvement now that Terrence Little is the principal. She mentioned statements of support from students. She was speaking in support of a principal of a turnaround high school who has been dumped. Lisa Angonese, a parent of two children at Whittier Elementary who is on the Youth Committee, talked about the library in the field house (LaCasita) at Whittier. She asked for a meeting date because it needs renovation.

EvAngel YHWHnewBN reminded everyone to "kick the k word" habit because a kid is a beast, but a child is a human being. (In the earlier October Board Meeting report this Wednesday, we heard that "Parents are moving their kids to where the good schools are located.") She spoke of her feelings that the DREAM act, which is supposed to help the children of immigrants, does not include assistance that should go to African-American students. She said our citizens need the resources given to DREAM act students She added that the Board had fought the consent decree.

Christopher Swanson and Mary Jane Bunzol of the Steinmetz High School Local School Council stood up again to criticize the Board for not having a full-time nurse assigned to the school, which has 2,000 students. Bunzol spoke in September about the problem, but had to return with Swanson when the problem persisted through October. In September (Bunzol) and October (Swanson) both spoke of the danger to students with disabilities caused by the fact that CPS doesn't have a nurse full-time at their school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Christopher Swanson LSC at Steinmetz High School said their school has a school nurse only two days a week. He said his daughter has seizures and will be weaned off meds this year. He asked for the services of a school nurse for more than two days a week or for ESP support. President Vitale asked him to speak to Ms. McCune.

George Blakemore told the Board that he advocated for African-Americans. He said the teaching of Black History was never enforced. He felt the BOE had discriminated against African-Americans and encouraged immigrants and advocated for more Hispanic teachers. He also asked that a clock be placed in front (where the seal of Board of Education now is) so that everyone could see who gets their alloted time, who doesn't, and who exceeds it.

Soraya Samora, a parent of two at Waters Elementary School, returned to the Board to say that she feels that the principal doesn't follow procedures and policies. She thanked the Board for the investigation which had begun after her previous remarks to the Board. She spoke of a lack of LSC approval, financial mismanagement and that non-elementary certified teachers were allowed to teach primary children. She appealed to the Board, "Please clean house!"

Daniel Prusaitis, who was a CPS High School teacher for nine years, was terminated. He was at Crane High School for a month. He gave the students grades, but his grades were replaced when a substitute teacher took his place. He said the students played cards for a year, accumulated many absences but still received As, and were given identical grades for both the third and fourth marking periods. He said he had failed to file a grievance. Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks said we want to look into the grade changing.

Ernestine Standberry, a substitute teacher, said substitutes have to be tested to be subs. She was confused about the testing of subs compared to looking at the degrees of subs. She was told Debbie Gray would speak with her.

The group of people fondly known as "Rahm's Rent-A-Protest" showed up at the October 26, 2011, meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, once again refusing to identify themselves or their schools for Substance reporters. Earlier in the week, some of them had joined a picket line outside the Chicago Teachers Union offices on behalf of the mayor's version of reality, but were also unwilling to talk about how they got to the protest, how much they were paid, and why they were there. The signs that are handed out to the protesters on the bus have evolved as the mayor's talking points against the CTU have evolved. In August and September, the signs read "90 more minutes and two more weeks." After the defeat of the mayor's "Pioneer Program" (where only 13 schools waived the union contract, and the IELRB ruled that the mayor's push for the "Pioneers" was illegal), the signs changed, and as of late October they read: "Longer School Days NOW!" Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Ronald Jackson, of Tilden High School, returned to the Board and again spoke of parent rights. He said his daughter was a Special Education student and her Individual Education Plan (IEP) was disrespected. His daughter was told she did not have to listen to her father and information was sent to the Social Security Board that the father was not good. He said Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks was given information about all this but the father received no response. He said he would pursue legal action, that his daughter should not have to attend night school because she is a minor, and he wants certain individuals removed. He added that during the time he had custody of his seven children, a court order stated that the mother was not supposed to be there. Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks directed him to speak to a Board member in the hall and asked for a copy of the court order.

Helene Dubin, who said she is now retired, told the Board that she was a literacy coach at Gunsaulus Elementary School under Principal Amy Kotz. Dubin spoke of LSC member Fanelli trying to derail Ms. Kotz. She added that two previous administrations had left because of pressures from Mr. Fanelli, who she felt was a petty, controlling individual. Ms. Dubin listed what she said were Ms. Kotz's achievements, said teachers who needed to be removed were removed and these removals led to needed changes at the school. She claimed that Ms. Kotz, who has one year to go on her current contract, would be loved by her new school.

Hector Nunez, of C.A.U.S.E., told of Carmen Nunez, his sister. Her termination by E3 happened at the same time as their mother was on her death bed. Her rating went from superior to unsatisfactory. She was terminated and then given a glowing recommendation letter. He maintained that this wrong must be made right. He has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Board Member Rodrigo Sierra said they would respond.

Carissa Parker, of Morgan Park High School, said her principal will be leaving Morgan Park and that the school is still without a principal. She said the LSC was doing lots of work on principal selection. Fifty resumes have been examined. The resumes show a lack of writing skills. At public forums, candidates show a lack of speaking skills. She mentioned that two individuals who were not on the principal eligibility lists became finalists pending testing. They did not pass. They were not given the rubrics of the test. They wanted concrete information and the OPPD was not able to give answers. Board Member Mahalia Hines said the Board is well aware of your concerns and will be looking into this and getting back to you.

LaShonda Snowden, a parent of a child at Noble Charter School in Englewood said her school has an eight hour school day. She expressed thanks to the BOE members who attended the Charter School Day of Action at the University of Illinois (UIC) Forum. She asked for support for school choice. She had postcards for every alderman at City Hall.

Substance reporter (and former editor) George N. Schmidt presented the Board with two examples of how the Board was lying on June 15 when it claimed it was facing a huge "deficit" and a "fiscal crisis" that required that it renege on the obligation to pay the raises to unionized CPS workers under the fifth year of the contract signed in 2007 by the Chicago Teachers Union and seven other workers. Schmidt demanded to know why CPS was paying one outside lawyer (Franczek Radelet) more than $1 million this year and $1 million (even) last year if CPS were "broke" and also had an in house Law Department of 74 people. Schmidt also told the Board that it had paid an additioal subsidy of $94 million to the City of Chicago for the "Cop Costs" because Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the seven Board members to do so, even thought the additional money was not owed to the city. Substance photo by David Vance.George Schmidt, who reports and analyzes for Substance News ( had two documents he wanted to share with the Board: "The Million Dollar Men at CPS: James Franczek, outside lawyer" and "Testimony at the Chicago Board of Education, October 2, 2011: CPS broke its own contracts with the City of Chicago, eventually agreed to pay $94 million more for Chicago police services in some schools this school year, and has refused to explain why it has done so." He shared an old copy of a 1999 newspaper telling of smaller class size in Oak Park. He also referred to the information on the yellow sheets, regarding the outsourcing of money to the firm of outside lawyer James Franczek for $1 million dollars last year and again this year. Mr. Schmidt also spoke of the excessive amounts paid to the Police Department for services. He added that the FOIA office is now taking its duties more seriously - a good sign.

After this, the Board went into closed session.

[Substance reporters George N. Schmidt, Jean Schwab, and David Vance contributed to this story].


October 28, 2011 at 12:46 PM

By: John Smith

Equal Pay for Equal Work

More work for teachers means that teachers should get paid accordingly.

November 8, 2011 at 2:14 AM

By: Ernestine Standberry

STEDI - Internet Organization linked with Chicago Board of Education, Substitute Teaching

I was told by Substitute Teachers Center that I would have to take the internet requirement testing with STEDI to be qualified to Substitute as a Teacher. I purchased the program, a Booklet and a video course which cost approximately $65.00. When taking the video course, I noticed how the program was not relative to situations within the Chicago Public School System. When answering many of the questions, I made additional comments and recommendations to the testing. (This program did not cover the many problems and situations confronted by Chicago Public School Teachers.) Prior to this requirement, I have worked as a Substitute Teacher in places like at the Hamilton School for Detention Boys incarcerated and for a school for disable children.) These experience taught me a lot about how to deal with students considered a danger to society and how to deal with children with special physical needs. The STEDI PROGRAM WHICH WAS CONNECTED TO CPS WAS TOTALLY UNREALISTIC AND INSUFFICIENT TO QUALIFY SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS! I know a few other ladies who have organizations and who are in business who said they were told they had to qualify with STEDI. However, I know of a few who are now teaching who says they never heard of this program. How did this happen! I feel that Substitute Teachers should be included as members of the Teacher's Union. Substitute Teachers are important in the Educational process and should not be "outside" the boundaries of what is or is not required! How did STEDI get incorporated with Sub Center? Why? I feel this could have been some type of money making scheme...especially since STEDI was pushing more course requirements which would cost an additional amount after a certain period of time! Many Substitute Teachers are very successful in business and active in civic organizations and feel their knowledge and expertise in the fields they are in would benefit students and want to help with educating our children!!! Did Karen Lewis know about STEDI? Who made the decision to link STEDI with CPD? Why are some teaching and getting paid who know nothing about STEDI? These are questions I would like appreciate answers to and will contact the Board of Education. At the Board Hearing in October, 2011, I was told STEDI was no longer with the Board of Education and was directed to Debbie Graye. I submitted my cover letter and Resume. I received a call from her which sounded like she did not feel I was a Licensed Substitute Teacher. The next Day I hand-delivered a copy of my Certificate! Because, I have always been interested in what is happening with CPS and have been at many public hearing,I assumed she had a record of my Certificate. Excuse this assumption! I'm still waiting to hear from Ms. Graye, hopefully in the near future! I was encouraged to sign up to Substitute by an old friend and x-Assistant Principal, Bernadine Jones. Found out that I like teaching and motivating children...seems that most of them like me and know that I mean business in and out of the school environment. I'm truly committed to help in making a difference with educating children in whatever why I can...and the best way, I feel, would be within the Public School System. Sincerely, Miss Ernestine Gwendolyn Standberry, Dir. of the International Prolife, Member of The Deborah Movement, Concerned Citizens of Burnside, Occupy Chicago; Occupy (Filmmakers Group) and Occupy Prolife America...100% For the Born and Unborn, CAN-TV Producer

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