Chicago Board of Education Meeting November 16, 2011

Attendance was light at the Wednesday, November 16, 2011, regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) in the Board chambers on the fifth floor at 125 S. Clark Street. Board Member Mahalia Hines was absent and Board President David Vitale left at 11:15 a.m., before public participation began. Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, who chaired the meeting, wished him safe travels.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey spoke to the Board, warning against promulgating this year's hit list. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The meeting began with a power-point presentation "The Chicago Leadership Collaborative" led by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jean-Claude Brizard and Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat. Their presentation was followed by a presentation of the new "Leadership Cooperative" by Chief Officer, Leadership Development Steve Gehring. Gehring talked about the "four pillars of reinventing CPS with principals as key agents of change: Best Principals and Best Teachers, Best Schools, Best Curriculum, and Engaged Community."

Currently, there are 95 principal vacancies. By 2012-2013, 110 principal vacancies are expected. The majority of principal vacancies are filled by Chicago Public School (CPS) assistant principals who become principals. Currently, only 1% of principal vacancies are filled by experienced principals from outside the system. As evidenced by Illinois State Achievement Tests (ISAT) results, principals who start out strong on one day one, grow stronger faster than principals who do not start out strong. Work is underway to define and create a "pipeline of new high-performing principal candidates" by offering one-year internships to the best candidates.

Chief Education Officer Jean-Claude Brizard said the focus would be on individual schools. He said the principal matters a lot. In good schools, the school takes on the personality of the principal. Such principals attract and retain the best teachers. He commented that Chicago has some of the best principals and some who are not. He added that some principals are never going to get to where they should be. It's about recruiting the best people.

Board Member Penny Pritzker asked, why aren't we having enough people take part in programs to fill our needs. Board Member Henry Bienen wanted to know, how many people actually apply? CEO Jean-Claude Brizard told them that we're looking to "poach" as much as we can. He added that the vast majority of principals come from assistant principals. He mentioned that the Local School Council (LSC) needs to know what to look for and the right questions to ask.

Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winkler agreed that the BOE hoped to poach highly performing talent. She said that in 2009 and before that, there were not many external candidates. Great efforts are being made to change that.

Next, Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks, discussed the revision of the Board Rules, adding that very old policies would be rescinded.

After that, public participation began with a review of the rules for public participation. Only eighteen persons were signed up to speak. Guidelines to public participation were handed out to individuals. These guidelines are also available online.

The first to speak was Jesse Sharkey, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Vice-President, who spoke about the school closings, which he compared to another round rock in a shoe to the Board, and a large rock on the chest to those in the schools.

He said the charter schools have not performed better. He mentioned that closing schools is not the best way to achieve improvement especially when those schools have not been supported to begin with. He told of the seven essential supports used by Principal Scott at Faraday School, adding we'd like to see those kinds of support. He also said we need to put the brakes on destructive processes.

Larry Crost, of Art Color Works, said any extended school day hours could include art. He said that currently classrooms are used to store unused furniture. Students could be involved in creative solutions to such storage, so that the space could be used for more creative purposes.

John Whitfield, a teacher at George Washington High School and head delegate, in response to his termination notice, handed Board Secretary Estela Beltran his "Chicago Teachers Union Letter of No Confidence and Demand for Resignation or Termination of George Washington High School Principal Florence Gonzales." Among many misdeeds Principal Florence Gonzales was charged with in the letter, the letter stated that Principal "Gonzales arrival and unprecedented mass termination immediately led to increased student tension, including increased racial tension resulting in fighting, a school riot and a walkout by students in spring 2008 (documented by local media)" and "Gonzales has made it known that she desires George Washington School to be a school for 'neighborhood kids' only. The underlying meaning for those working in the school being that 'neighborhood kids' are Latino or Caucasian students only," not African-American students. Mr. Whitfield stated that he, as delegate, he had filed 45 grievances, most of which he had no part of. He mentioned that the teacher who stood next to him, Alvaro Rivero, had also had had a termination hearing.

Maria Mikel, of Stand for Children and Hawthorne Scholastic Academy, said extending the school day was vital in the upcoming Board-CTU contract. She mentioned that now there is no recess, the student lunch period is rushed, children feel stressed and rushed, there isn't time for discussions, and unfinished work becomes homework. She said only thirteen schools have moved the teacher lunch period back to the middle of the day from the end of the day (for closed campus schools). She asked that a more holistic day be designed. She added that only 7.9 per cent of students are college ready.

Maurice Gaiter, a concerned West Side parent, said more needs to be done for the students because too many students are struggling to get by. He added that the district must no longer accept failure and bad results for our children.

Jamar Washington, of the Englewood area, said the future doesn't look too bright for Junior High School students. He stated that instead of school closings, we need to open extra schools because we have over-populated classrooms. In addition, he said, we need to do more to help kids work together to identify and implement solutions.

Kathleen Murray, a teacher who also works with the CTU, said closing schools is a big issue now and that what we are doing is foreclosing on schools as well as homes.

Joselynn Nicholson, of Stagg School at 74th and Morgan, told the Board to get up out of your seats and go to the schools. She told the Board, we have to live in these areas everyday. She asked, what's going to happen when you close Stagg? The children will have to pass through three gang areas to get to their new school. She told the Board, it's up to you, you guys are in charge of everything. She concluded, you have nice suits.

Dawn Jackson, spoke against the removal of the Principal Terrance Little from Phillips High School. She said he was placed on the Do Not Hire (DNH) list even though he raised test scores and changed lives.

Debra Blackmon-Parish, of Songhai Learning Institute, a dedicated teacher for 28 1/2 years, was assaulted on September 22, 2010. She was taken to Roseland Hospital, but could not get an assault leave. She submitted police reports, but she didn't even get workman's compensation. She added that I do not feel safe.

Crystal Harris Dunlap, a graduate of Lindblom High School and a concerned parent, moved back to Englewood. Her son is at Morgan Park High School. She wants to advocate for a better school system. She asked the Board, what are you going to do to make our school sysem better? She added that when I return from taking my son to school, I see children sitting on vacant properties.

Pastor Marrion Johnson said parents are frustrated, that longer time in school would allow their children to excel. He said parents are outraged over the deal between the CTU and the Board this year, adding that the CTU should be embarrassed and must work on extending the school day.

Lynne Pieper, a parent of three students at now over-full South Loop Elementary, spoke in support of the South Loop School Regional Gifted Center. Despite the phase-out of the gifted center, she hopes that her current third-grader will graduate from South Loop Gifted Center. She asked that the CPS support keeping the remaining gifted students for an eight year phase-out period.

Queen Sister, said "it takes a village..." She asked for a moment of silence for the late Board President Michael Scott. She said she questions the mental state and stability of the Board. She said students have been reduced to digits, decimals, and dollar signs by CPS. She added that the push-out rate had not been mentioned. She said that the pipeline discussed earlier is from the schoolhouse to the jail house. She talked about transfer of funds and box cars on a money train. She added that her (vendor) program is being pushed out.

The last to speak was Rosita Chatonda, of C.A.U.S.E., who told the Board that C.A.U.S.E. was submitting a FOIA request, because of the disparity in firing and hiring. The information being requested is the numbers of veteran teachers, African-American teachers, and minority teachers who have been terminated since 1995. She added that age and race discrimination were a factor in determining which school is closed. She told the Board that there are things going on out there that you don't know about.

After this, the Board went into closed session.


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