Most Rent-A-Protesters avoid January 23 Crane closing hearing at CPS headquarters

On January 23, the Chicago Board of Education chamber was almost filled to capacity with students, parents, staff and community members from Crane High School for the hearing on whether Crane should be "phased out". The majority of those who signed up to speak opposed the closing of Crane, a venerable school with a reputation almost a century long.

The crowd almost swelled to fill the Board chambers by the time the Crane hearing opened on January 23, 2012. Unlike the two community hearings on the Crane closing, most of the Rent A Protesters had disappeared (although a couple of opponents of Crane showed up, but admitted to Substance they had no knowledge of Crane and were not parents of Crane students). Substance photo by Jean Schwab.But before anyone could speak to the "Board," everyone had to listen to CPS officials read from scripts presenting their "case" against Crane. The audience listened for an hour and fifteen minutes while officials of the Chicago Public Schools explained why Crane had to be phased out, discontinue their achievement program that help students "catch up," and share its building with a charter school (Talent Development High School).

According to the Chicago Public Schools, the boundaries have been adjusted to decrease Crane one grade per year. This year the freshman students will be sent to these receiving schools: William Wells, Manley High School, John Marshall and David Farragut High School. Crane would then be shared with Talent Development Achievement Academy. Talent Development Achievement Academy would have 35 rooms and Crane would have 41 rooms. Some parts of the building such as the library would be shared. CPS would spend $7 million on improvements such as painting, flooring and lighting.

While most of the participants in the public participation were asked to state and spell their names, presenters for the Board often mumbled and were not asked to spell their names. The first presenter for the board was Adam Anderson, who read from a script on the table in front of him. Anderson stated that Crane had the lowest performance rating — a "Level 3" — for two years. He also stated that it had a low graduation rate, low "student growth rate", low academic level and low attendance rate. Anderson stated that Crane was compared with the other schools in the geographic "Network" — the west side network. This comparison included other schools in the community including neighborhood schools and charter schools. Anderson was asked by the hearing officer how Crane compares to the schools that would be receiving the students, and he did not know.

Although the CPS officials who read from their scripts during the Crane hearing didn't provide their names to the public (the signs in front of them above listed their departments), most of them could be identified by Substance. Left to right, front row about, Adam Anderson (Office of Portfolio Management), unidentified person, Rayn Crosby, Office of Accountability and other things, and Jadine Chou, Chief Officer, Security and Safety. Because those defending Crane were not allowed to cross examine the witnesses for CPS trashing Crane while reading from their prepared scripts, it was not possible for Crane to debunk the words of those above. Two of them (Anderson and Chou) have been with CPS less than three months and know almost nothing about the city's public schools. Chou was made chief of security and safety after managing the "Portfolio" at the Chicago Housing Authority, where her chief security duty was to spend tens of millions of dollars on ineffective security cameras at the dwindling number of CHA buildings. She holds a MBA from the University of Chicago but has no law enforcement experience. Crosby presents CPS data from the script but has been unable to answer even the simplest statistical questions about, for example, the supposed "value added" "metric" CPS is using against schools like Crane. Anderson was hired by CPS in November 2011 to work in the "Office of Portfolio" and is currently being paid double the salary of a beginning teacher. Substance photo by Jean Schwab.In reading from his portion of the CSP script, the "Chief Officer" of the West Side Network Schools mentioned the programs that were utilized to help students: Sophomore Pass, Morning Glory, after school tutoring and Writers are Leaders. The last two were never were implemented according to teachers.

Michael Brunson, CTU Recording Secretary, asked when the Hearing Officer was going to listen to the people of Crane High School. State Senator Annazette Collins, Mark Battaglia , Alderman Walter Burnett, and Crane staff also stated that the Hearing Officer should hear from the people of the Crane neighborhood first.

Finally, after more than an hour of a two-hour hearing, the public and Crane supporters were able to speak. Rod Estvan from Access Living said he objects to the plan because he sees no difference in the 25% special needs students at Crane and the 25% special needs students at Wells High School. In fact, he saw no significant differences between any of the schools in terms of serving students with disabilities.

Speaker after speaker voiced concerns about students being taken out of their neighborhood school and going to a school out of the neighborhood. One speaker pointed out that prior to 2006, when closing schools became popular, only one gun was found in the schools but after 2006, 20 guns were found. His reasoning was that students felt they needed the guns to protect themselves when sent to a school out of the neighborhood.

One Crane supporter, Marlene Edwards, said that she had sent three daughters to Crane. They have gone to college and done well. They have tested high in college, and she credits the education they received from Crane High School.

Ms. Russell, a parent, talked about safety and how it was dangerous for students to cross gang lines. Russell stated that, according to relatives who send students elsewhere, violence has tripled since students have had to travel to other schools out of their neighborhoods.

Jason Cooper told the board that a petition with over 1,190 signatures was collected in the school community objecting to the closing of Crane. He also pointed out that students entering Crane have low scores. Students in the freshman class entered with low scores but raised their scores while at Crane. Cooper said that freshman on track numbers were 59% while the District was 49%. Several people read percentage numbers that varied from the numbers presented by CPS.

Cheryl Bolden, who said she is chair person of the cluster and a foster parent of 23 children, stated that all of her children except one graduated from Crane. She also stated that Title One monies given to Crane were used and supplementary funds were abused because the parents were not allowed to participate in making the decisions about the money. Bolden, like other staff and parents, questioned the accuracy of the data that was presented at the meeting.

Ms. Griffin, a seven year teacher at Crane, spoke about the skewed graduating figures.

Dwayne Truss, a community leader on the West Side, stated that an important part of the decision about closing the school, according to the state rules, was feedback from the community. That did not happen. Truss also stated that Whitney Young’s graduation rate was factored into the graduation rates for Crane.

Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary Michael Brunson told the Hearing Officer that Crane should not be phased out. Substance photo by Jean Schwab.Griffin stated that in several years the graduation rate was as much as 91%. Griffin also reminded the audience that Crane High School accepts all students, some with stanines as low as 5 or 6. Some of the students even come right out of jail. Crane is an open enrollment school and students can come from all over the city.

Erika Kennedy has taught nine years at Crane. Kennedy disputed attacks on the gains of the school and stated that the receiving schools had fewer gains than Crane last year.

One of the most dynamic speakers was State Senator Annazette Collins. Collins was upset that CPS bused in protesters to the neighborhood meeting Jan. 20th. She stated that Crane is located in the middle of the city and is accessible to people all over the city. Collins stated that Crane can become one of the better schools and draw students from all over the city. Collins said she was upset that so many improvements $7 million improvements were being done at Crane and the people in the community who had been asking for these improvements for years will not get to enjoy them. Collins declared ; “We are going to fight this to the end.”

Alderman Walter Burnett encouraged the Hearing Officer to look over the plan that Crane has put together. Burnett stated that it was a good plan and that CPS needed to give Crane an opportunity to make it work. Burnett stated that if he had to vote on the $7 million, he would ask CPS to give the community a chance to make this school work. “I support neighborhood schools.” He added ,” You don’t consider how setting charter schools down influences a neighborhood school. If you don’t give Crane a chance, I will take that into consideration when I decide where those TIF funds will go.”

Martin Ritter of the CTU encouraged CPS not to close Crane. Ritter stated that “all of the West Side officials want to keep the school open.”

John Simmons of Strategic Learning Initiatives stated that they have been asked by Crane to implement their program at the school. Strategic Learning has been successful in improving schools while retaining the staff and principal.

Although the members of the Chicago Board of Education were truant from the January 23 Crane hearing, the Board's two top attorneys were there to greet retired U.S. District Judge David H. Coar, who served as the hearing officer. Above, David H. Coar, James Bebely, Jadine Chou, and Patrick Rocks. Substance photo by Jean Schwab.Karen Lewis explained that the neighborhood is becoming gentrified and that she and other home owners were never notified that the school would be phased out. Lewis is opposed to phasing out Crane High School.

Mark Battaglia , who lives in the neighborhood stated that he is in support of the keeping Crane School open.

At least three people spoke out supporting the closing of Crane. None was African American.

Lizsett Gonsalez spoke in support of closing Best Practice High School because it “has the lowest scores in the city.” Two other speakers spoke in support of closing Crane. After the meeting I asked several of the people, mostly Hispanic, who came with the speakers against Crane whether they lived in the neighborhood and they answered “No.” I asked them if they had a student at Crane and they said, "No.”

The audience started to disperse when the speakers supporting closing Crane began to speak. The meeting was very productive because everyone got a chance to speak and present their case.


February 13, 2012 at 3:14 AM

By: Cierra Johnson

Don't Close Crane

I personally think there are some great teachers and staff in Crane, and they do the best they can to teach students. It's up to the students if they want to take in the learning to further their education and life. Crane does take anyone, but if that comes to a stop it will be a big improvement in the school if they set a standard. People are making it seem as If Crane is a bad school and it's not. And YES, I attended Crane for 2 years it broke my heart that I had to leave the city.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 5 =