Bronzeville CAC rejects Brizard plans to close or 'turnaround' four Bronzeville schools, challenges illegal CPS closing activities and paid protesters who disrupted Bronzeville hearings on January 6

In a dramatic move, the "Community Action Council" (CAC) for Chicago's Bronzeville community has rejected CPS proposals for changes in four schools located in the community, and additionally challenged the manner in which the current CPS plans for schools changes are being done. The CAC also reminded CPS officials that protesters supposedly in support of the plan proposed by Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard and announced on November 29, 2011, were paid $25 to come from outside the community to support Brizard's proposals against the schools of Bronzeville. The objections of the community were outlined in a January 17, 2012 letter to Brizard which was provided to Substance and verified by a member of the CAC.

Some of the $25 per person "Rent A Protesters" at the January 6, 2012 CPS hearing on the proposal by Jean-Claude Brizard to phase out Dyett High School. Paid protesters showed up at the majority of the hearings held on January 8 (Substance did not have reporters at all of them). When questioned by Substance reporters and community activists, many of the protesters explained that they had been paid at least $25 to get on buses and hold up the signs provided them. (Some said they were to be paid more if they read prepared speeches that were given to them by organizers). After discussing the matter with local activists and Substance reporters, many of the protesters said they disagreed with the proposed policies that they had been paid to support. None knew where the money had come from. Substance photo by David Vance. Anyone who believe the 2012 CACs (Community Action Councils) — when Jean-Claude Brizard is CEO of CPS — were going to serve as the rubber stamps for CPS policy like the 2005, 2006, 2007 (etc.) TACs (Transition Advisory Councils) had been when Arne Duncan was CEO of CPS is having to take a second look. Across the city, activists are becoming involves in the CACs and rejecting both the frameworks developed by Brizard on behalf of the programs of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the proposed closings and turnarounds themselves. A recent example is the "Bronzeville CAC", which sent the following letter to Brizard on January 17. Brizard has had no public comment.


Bronzeville Community Action Council

4131 South Drexel Boulevard

Chicago, IL. 60653

“Nothing About Us Without Us”

January 17, 2012

To: Jean-Claude Brizard


Chicago Public Schools

125 S. Clark Street, 5th Floor

Chicago, IL 60603

Dear Mr. Brizard:

As you know, the Bronzeville Community Action Council (CAC) has been working diligently towards developing school improvement strategies that are parent driven and synonymous with the needs of the students and the community-at-large. Nothing is more important to us than making sure our children have a world class education. However, our community has not been properly engaged by CPS regarding school actions in Bronzeville and consequently, we feel strongly the proposals do not reflect the best interests of our children. After months of research and collaboration with parents, community leaders, elected officials, and education experts, the Bronzeville CAC has been developing a plan that we firmly believe will make the schools in Bronzeville “schools of choice”. We also have ideas for some of the vacant CPS buildings that will benefit the parents and children of Bronzeville. It is truly in everybody’s best interest that our plan is given a chance to be implemented before actions are taken that are disruptive to children, parents, and the community.

We have received no formal responses to the presentation we made to you last October, nor have we received any answers to the questions raised at the December 10th meeting at the Chicago Urban League attended by your staff. For example, we were promised projected enrollment figures for Bronzeville schools and a strategy for handling the high number of special needs students at Woodson South. Instead, we find ourselves again scrambling at the last hour in order to ensure our children are not negatively impacted by CPS’ proposed school actions.

In the spirit of the Department of Family and Community Engagement, the CACs, and SB 630, we are recommending a moratorium on actions affecting Bronzeville schools. This will allow more time for a meaningful dialogue between CPS and the Bronzeville CAC to review our comprehensive plan in greater detail. Otherwise, we are forced to take opposition to all of the proposals.

Attached to this cover letter, you will find our specific concerns with each of the proposed school actions and the ways in which the process violates recently passed state legislation. We expect to have another meeting with you and other CPS administrators within the coming weeks to address the concerns outlined in this letter. Please contact us to make this arrangement as soon as possible. Sincerely,

The Bronzeville CAC

Cc: Rahm Emanuel, Rep. Cynthia Soto, Sen. Iris Martinez David Vitale, Tim Cawley, Oliver Sicat, Alderman Latasha Thomas

Concerns with Proposed School Actions

General Concerns

• The value-added metrics CPS uses should not apply to the schools in Bronzeville because the principals at the targeted schools have been in their leadership position for less than two years. • The proposed actions ignore the Bronzeville CAC’s plan that was presented to Jean-Claude Brizard on October 12th, 2011.

• Hundreds of residential units are coming to Bronzeville and the proposed actions will leave the community with even fewer neighborhood seats that will be needed.

Phase-Out of Dyett High School

• Will generate some very serious safety issues by forcing students who are affiliated with rival gangs to attend the same school, which in the past, has resulted in tragedy.

• Will undermine the turnaround effort at Phillips.

• Although Phillips is making improvements, it is still a level 3 school. Sending students from one level 3 school to another is not even in line with CPS’ own policy, especially considering there are higher performing schools that are much closer (i.e. Kenwood High School).

• As each grade is phased out, Dyett will receive less per-pupil funding, which is unfair to the students who will remain there.

• The dedication of the Dyett staff has fostered important community partnerships that have resulted in millions of dollars in resources from community partnerships that have contributed to increased test scores and attendance rates. Additionally, Dyett produced Gates Millennium and Posse Scholars last year. • Dyett was awarded with ESPN’s Rise Up Grant, which made long overdue improvements to the school’s athletic facilities.

• Although the above-mentioned resources are making a positive difference, they have not had enough time to make the improvements we all want to see. These resources simply cannot go to waste.

• Dyett has a nationally recognized restorative justice program.

• This leaves Bronzeville with one neighborhood high school, which is a community that has lost 80% of its neighborhood schools within the last decade. Considering the hundreds of residential units that will be built and rehabbed in the coming years, Bronzeville cannot afford to lose anymore neighborhood seats.

• The inconvenience of traveling longer distances to get to and from school will likely encourage many students to simply drop out.

Chi-Arts/Doolittle Co-Location

• Doolittle is under new leadership, is improving academically, and will undoubtedly be the school incoming families will send their children, especially if CPS makes the investments into that school it should have made a long time ago.

• Doolittle’s third floor is where their computer and science labs are located along with several supplemental education services.

• This supposedly temporary co-location until Chi-Arts has a permanent facility is disruptive and will continue to be disruptive to the students from both schools because we have been told Chi-Arts will be moved again.

• Although we welcome Chi-Arts to the Bronzeville community, Chi-Arts would rather be in a more sustainable long-term location without infringing on an already occupied school. A Chi-Arts parent at one of the community meetings put it best when she said “stop using Chi-Arts as an excuse to make investments into Doolittle that should have been made a long time ago.” It is truly mind-boggling that CPS would push forward a proposal that is not supported by any of the affected stakeholders.

• When Chi-Arts was relocated to Doolittle West, Bronzeville CAC leaders we were left with the impression that there were no plans for them to move into the Doolittle East building. However, Mr. Cawley explained at a recent community meeting that they knew this was going to happen. What reason do we have to believe that Chi-Arts will be relocated and that any of the plans to make Doolittle a community school will actually be honored?

• The millions of dollars spent on the multiple re-locations of Chi-Arts could have been used towards building them a permanent location or could have been invested in Bronzeville schools.

• Like the situation at Dyett, this action will ultimately reduce the amount of per-pupil funding Doolittle could receive, thereby making it even more difficult for them to succeed in the future.

Price Closure and Sending Students to the National Teachers Academy

• Price is under new leadership that has placed a strong focus on math and science and is demonstrating improvement. In fact, the percentage of performance policy points under his first year has gone up by over 7%.

• It is wrong to assume that even with NTA’s academic status and the provision of bus services, every parent will be willing to send their children 4 miles away.

• The bus ride will be longer than the twelve minutes described in the proposal fact sheet when you consider the bus will be making multiple drop-offs and pick-ups meaning the students will be away from home for at least 10 hours.

• Factoring in the longer school day and the reality that many students will participate in after-school programs, students could be away from home for 12 hours. In the notice sent to parents, there was no guarantee that bus services will be provided to students who do participate in after-school programs.

• Parents, especially those with a limited income, will not easily be able to pick up their children in the event of an illness or emergency.

• In the letter sent home to parents, the National Teacher’s Academy (NTA) was the only school mentioned as a receiving school for former Price students, which totally ignores and disrespects the fact that there are perfectly strong and viable options within the Bronzeville community. • It is not clear what the assignment for Robinson students will be who normally would attend Price after the third grade.

• The Bronzeville CAC was informed at the December 10th meeting that resources will only follow students who attend NTA and not to those attending other schools, which is completely unfair.

• Price was recently wired for Wi-Fi. If the school is closed, neither the children or the community will benefit from this resource.

AUSL Turnaround of Fuller

• Fuller is under new leadership and is demonstrating improvement. In fact, the percentage of performance policy points under her first year has gone up by roughly 5%.

• We have been informed that AUSL schools do not offer foreign language classes, whereas Fuller offers Spanish classes. Knowledge of a foreign language is critical to quality global education.

• Considering the above-mentioned bullet points along with the fact that Fuller has recently received significant capital renovations, we see no benefit to this school becoming a turnaround.

• AUSL has used a zero-tolerance discipline policy at some of its schools, which is contrary to the plan developed by the Bronzeville CAC and supported by research.

• Research conducted by organizations like the American Psychological Association, the American Association of School Psychologists, the ACLU, and Chicago’s own Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) have led them all to conclude that restorative justice models like the one being used at Dyett are far more effective than discipline policies that do not engage the most troubled students.

• Restorative justice models are advocated for in CPS’ own Student Code of Conduct.

Woodson South Turnaround

• Principal Littlejohn has made some significant improvements, specifically around the safety and security of the students. However, like most of the principals of the targeted schools in Bronzeville, she has not been there long enough to have her efforts reflected in the value-added metrics CPS uses to evaluate schools.

• It is the position of the Bronzeville CAC, the Woodson LSC, and our local and state elected officials that Ms. Littlejohn remain as the principal of Woodson and that she have significant input on the rehiring process.

• A mere fraction of the School Improvement Grants (SIG) the school will be eligible for will actually be invested into the school. Adding up $200,000 for a playground, $390,000 for academic needs, and $190,000 in other improvements does not equal the $1.37 million the Institute of Education Sciences reports is the average 1st year SIG for elementary schools.

Ways in which the Proposed School Actions for Bronzeville Violate Public Act 97-0474

• After the period of community input, CPS made no changes to the Proposed School Actions Guidelines, meaning at least a third of our schools in Bronzeville will be subject to arbitrary school actions.

• The community meetings for the affected schools in Bronzeville were intentionally scheduled at the same time at very different sites, impeding our ability as a community to “include the input of the school community to the greatest extent possible” and have “significant involvement of local school councils, parents, educators, and the community in decision-making.”

• CPS did not act to protect the community engagement process as people from outside the community were brought in by buses and paid to disrupt the community meetings. In fact, one of the rent-a-protesters acknowledged being bused in from a different community and that he was paid $25.


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