Rahm's 'Rent-A-Protest' fails to disrupt Crane closing hearing... Fraynd and CPS turnaround hacks run away escorted by CPS security at precisely 8 p.m. following their attempt to slander Crane High School
One of the most impressive points during the hearings on the proposed closing of Crane High School, held at Malcolm X College on the evening of January 6, 2012, was that Crane's supporters were able to expose what critics have been calling "Rahm's Rent-A-Protest" and "Rahm's Rent-A-Preacher" during the event. The more than 100 people who were bused in to support CPS officials for the closing of Crane all came from the South Side, a large number (if not all) of them brought together by one preacher from one church: Rev Roosevelt Watkins, whose church is in Chatham.
As they exited the buses, many of those who had been bused in for the hearing were holding signs that proclaimed "Close failing schools!" Most couldn't even explain what the signs meant, and many barely knew where they were, according to Crane supporters who tried to talk with them. The event was the latest in a series of supposedly "spontaneous" publlicity stunts organized by preachers who have financial links with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and contracts and favors provided either directly by city government or through Rahm's millionaire and billionaire supporters. The Rent-A-Protest events, which began with a prayer breakfast at White Sox Park last summer, have included marches on the Board of Education, a march on City Hall the day the City Council was scheduled to vote on a motion in favor of Rahm's version of the "Longer School Day", and one march on the Merchandise Mart offices of the Chicago Teachers Union. Those involved in the events have also been observed distributing anonymous leaflets on behalf of "parents" supporting Emanuel's attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union.
"It was an unreal event tonight at the Malcolm X Crane hearing," said Marty Ritter, an organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union. "Donald Fraynd was the MC of the event, and [Chicago Board of Education Vice President] Jesse Ruiz of the Board was present. Around 200 rental protesters were bused in to support the CPS position, but were exposed before the evening was over." Fraynd's current title at CPS is "Acting Officer, Turnaround, Office of School Improvement" (at a an annual salary of $149,000 per year) in the CPS central office. Since being driven out of his principalship at Jones College Prep High School, Fraynd has been serving as the CPS internal "turnaround" chief, while most CPS "turnaround" work is given to the private Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).
Fraynd was in charge of narrating the CPS Power Point, a regular feature of these school closing events, and the "hearings" that are required to rubber stamp the decisions of Chicago's ruling class to attack inner city public schools like Crane. (Like most of those who were delivering the Power Point narratives on the evening of January 6, 2012 across Chicago, Fraynd has never taught in a Chicago public school; he began his Chicago career "at the top" when selected principal of Jones College Prep following the destruction of Jones Commercial by former Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2000).
According to several teachers and Crane supporters present, many of those supporting the CPS position looked like crack heads and drunks mostly. "The sad thing was, all of them really needed whatever money they were paid to be there to support the mayor's policies," on observer who asked to remain anonymous told Substance.
"They didn't know why they were there, but all said they got paid," Ritter continued. "Around 200 Crane supporters: community allies, students, alums, staff were there to oppose the Crane changes. The 'Crane Coalition' had prepared a Power Point presentation, but we were told by Fraynd we could not present it..." Ritter said. The hearing was supervised by CPS Chief Turnaround Officer Donald Fraynd, even though Crane is not slated for "turnaround", but only to be host to a second school, the "Talent Development Charter High School." Fraynd's office is currently running a couple of CPS "turnaround" schools, including Marshall High School, which was humiliated and subjected to turnaround beginning in 2010 despite massive protests.
As happens at most of these hearings, the Board presented its Power Point first. After the
initial Board presentation, between ten and fifteen Crane presenters engaged in civil disobedience and stood at the mike, made a statement about presenting the Power Point, and then stood silently. "This was extremely effective, as our crew and the rental protesters began to shout together: "Show the Power Point!", Ritter continued. "This went speaker after speaker for 20-30 minutes. Jesse Ruiz and CPS didn't know what to do. Finally they relented and let us show our stuff that refuted tons of the CPS data. The place erupted as we began to win the hearts and minds, even of the bused in folks. CPS looked confused and worried."
"But it got better," Ritter continued. "At that point, the West Side public officials walked in together â€” State Senator Annazette Collins, Alderman Walter Burnett, Congressman Danny Davis, former Alderman Ed Smith, and Alderman Bob Fioretti. Fioretti was wearing a Crane Varsity Letterman's Jacket â€” the place goes nuts for this. They spoke one by one stating their position supporting Crane staying open and opposed to phase out! They told CPS â€” listen to the people. Congressman Davis seemed more on the neutral side, but he said his job was to listen to the people and he said the people were demanding Crane to stay open. The bussed in people by that time were either silent or on our side. A good number of current and former students, parents and community reps then spoke."
"Then it got even better, if such were possible," Ritter continued. "Mark Clark who had been a thorn in everyone's side came up to me and said "We are on the same side", and said he wanted expose the bused in people. His turn on the mike came, and he turned to the crowd and asked "What neighborhood are you from? People respond "...the hundreds, Englewood, Roseland", etc. â€” all from the far South Side. Clark started saying, "The mayor paid off your pastor big bucks and what did you get?" His talking points remain true to exposing the bused in people and their leaders. They started shouting and fighting among themselves, security ask some to leave, and then many more leave on their own. The rent a protest had departed, leaving just the Crane people in the auditorium.
CPS's Donald Fraynd tried to call on the Rent A Protest folks who or were leaving, asking if they want to speak and they all say "NO!" After that person after person told CPS - "Donâ€™t phase out Crane!" Then 8 p.m. arrived and CPS "high tailed it outta there." The Crane people counted "Round 1 victory."
At least one orchestrator of the Rent-A-Protest was Rev. Roosevelt Watkins, who was asked by a Substance reporter what he was doing there and where he was from. Watkins is pastor of the Bethlehem Star M.B. Church, which is 9231 South Cottage Grove on Chicago's far south side. Bethlehem Star is more than ten miles from Crane, and not one of the protesters bused in by Rev. Watkins was from the West Side or the Crane community. Most could not explain what they were doing there, or why they wanted Crane to be closed, despite the fact that many were holding signs demanding that â€œfailing schoolsâ€ be closed.
Rev. Watkins failed to return a phone call from Substance asking for a comment or response to this article.