MEDIA WATCH: Sun-Times winds up with best coverage, Tribune gets it partly right (then kills story in its print edition) other reporters doing some good work... Everyone should call out Becky Carroll and the $3 million CPS Propaganda Department, following huge rally and march to Mayor Emanuel's nort

Reporting is about being on the ground at the scene, whether the reporting is from Syria (where a New York Times reporter recently died trying to get the stories of the violence against protesters there) or on Chicago's North Side when as many as 1,000 people march from LakeView High School to the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on February 20, 2012.

Some reporters were getting it right by being there and paying attention, as the first iteration of the Chicago Tribune's on line coverage of the huge rally and march showed. The Tribune even noted that CPS's attempted to spin the story Rahm's way ("status quo must be challenged..." "the CTU is doing all this...") fall as flat as the Rent A Protesters and Rent A Preachers did the past few months. But for reasons known only among the owners of the bankrupt Tribune (many of whom hail from North Shore places like Tim Cawley's Wilmette and Winnetka), the Tribune killed the story in its print editions.

Even as early as the beginning of the rally at Lakeview High School (background), students, teachers, parents and community leaders were lining up and explaining their reasons for being there to reporters who were ready to listen. Above, the CORE banner is being held by Marquette Elementary teacher Bob Schubreth, who is also holding his sign reading "Save Marquette School." Marquette is one of the ten schools that have been sabotaged by CPS, and which Rahm Emanuel wants to place in "turnaround" under the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a corporate group supported by Chicago's millionaires and billionaires. Behind Schubreth is teacher Ray Wohl, who is currently teaching at Thurgood Marshall Middle School. Four yeas ago, Wohl was a teacher at Irving Park Middle School, which wound up on an Arne Duncan Hit List because at that time Duncan's was "flipping" some regular public schools in gentrifying communities into specialty public schools to serve the affluent homeowners in those communities. Irving Park Middle School became "Disney II" for the people who own the million dollar homes and mansions in the northwest side's "Old Irving Park" neighborhood, excluding the children who had once attended Irving Park Middle. Substance covered the dramatic testimony at the hearing on the closing of Irving Park Middle School, which was supported by CORE (at the time not in power at the Chicago Teachers Union) and other activists. No one at the hearings on the "flipping" of Irving Park and other schools (like Andersen elementary and Carpenter elementary) from the school supported the flip, which they knew would exclude poor and working class children from the "new" schools being created by Arne Duncan and his corporate masters. In the rear in the above photograph, one of the parent signs during the Lakeview rally was in opposition to Rahm Emanuel's proposal to force every child in every Chicago public elementary school to go on his "Longer School Day," despite all of the problems already becoming visible with the 13 schools that took Rahm's bribes to do it against the policies of the Chicago Teachers Union in September 2011. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.The Sun-Times then picked up the ball, although the story didn't get on line until much later than the Tribune's story. But the Sun-Times story was one of two that was the most fun, so here it is before we continue:


School protesters take complaints to Mayor Emanuel’s neighborhood, BY ROSALIND ROSSI Staff Reporter February 20, 2012 5:18PM. Anti-school closing silent march past Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home Monday, February 20, 2012. Updated: February 21, 2012 9:10AM Hundreds of anti-school closing protesters marched past Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house Monday, holding candles and wearing stickers over their mouths saying “silenced.”

Organizers charged the mayor and schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard had ignored their cries to halt school closings and to put resources into schools to prevent their closure — rather than after a shakeup.

A crowd of what appeared to be more than 500 moved from an angry rally at Lakeview High School, west along Irving Park and then down the mayor’s quaint Hermitage block.

The protesters will be asking for a meeting with the mayor to discuss the seven school closings or phase-outs and the record 10 school “turnarounds” scheduled for a school board vote this Wednesday, said Jitu Brown of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization.

“People are fed up,” Brown said. “The hope is that the mayor understands that his constituents are serious, which is why we are doing it the way we are doing it, and that he gives audience to the people who elected him.”

This year’s list of schools proposed for shakeups by new Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has triggered an unusual number of protests, some of them highly organized. Brown said parents are angry that community plans for schools have been ignored while CPS has pushed forward with shakeups that, over the years, have turned some neighborhood schools into charter schools or selective schools where students of color no longer have guarantee of a seat.

Brown said protesters want struggling schools supported with resources, rather than starved and “sabotaged.” He referred to a recent comment by CPS Administrative Chief Tim Cawley, who said CPS would not be putting construction dollars and physical repairs into schools that may be closed in five or 10 years.

CPS officials have contended at public hearings that they have poured academic resources into targeted schools over the years but they have remained on probation for at least five years.

One of the best news photographs from the February 20 rally, march, and silent vigil was taken by Linda Lutton — a radio reporter. While covering education stories, Lutton always tries to take photographs, too. The above photograph shows the marchers going north on Hermitage Ave. toward the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, which is located at 4228 N. Hermitage in the Lakeview/Ravensood community. Despite the fact that Rahm's area has some of the best true public schools in Illinois, Chicago's "education mayor" chose to send his own children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School more than 15 miles away. When reporters asked him about the choice and what it said about his commitment to public schools, Rahm went into one of his usual temper tantrums. Photo by Linda Lutton. The protest targeting Emanuel, whose children attend the pricey University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, follows a weekend sit-in of Piccolo Elementary, which finally produced a meeting with School Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz.

Other protests this year included a door-knocking campaign in Cawley’s Winnetka neighborhood, a four-day sit-in outside Emanuel’s fifth-floor City Hall office, and a more than 20-minute take-over of a Chicago School Board meeting, using “mike-check” tactics honed by Occupy Wallstreet protestors. Plus, local school council members have filed a suit to block the closings, charging they constitute a civil rights violation.

On the other side of the issue, “rent-a-protesters” emerged this year, saying they were paid at least $25 a head to carry anti-closing signs or to speak at closing hearings by a non-profit headed by Rev. Roosevelt Watkins III. Watkins, whose non-profit is a CPS contactor, has contended he paid protestors “stipends’‘ that were supposed to go to training on “community organizing,” although several protestors said they received no such training.

The URL for the late morning on line version of the Sun-Times February 21, 2012 story is:


Although Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard constantly repeats the talking point about how CPS is facing "tough [economic] times," and challenging a "failed status quo", every month Brizard is hiring more outsiders at six figure salaries to join what critics are calling "The Mayor's Mercenaries." "Tough economic times" apparently require hiring fewer teachers and more publicity people to push the Party Line from CPS. During December 2011 and January 2012, Brizard added to the staff of the CPS "Office of Communications." The Office of Communications now deploys more publicity stunt specialists out of the well - guarded sixth floor of 125 S. Clark St. than are covering the education beat for the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, and Catalyst combined. (Substance has more reporters, but a different business model). Every day, CPS "Communications Officer" Becky Carroll, who has no CPS teaching experience and came to CPS from the administration of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, pushes the latest CPS talking points out to the media, hoping that no reporter will be available to cover a story, and that the CPS Party Line will enter the news cycle in all its purity. On February 20, 2012, CPS issued a press release claiming that the Lakeview High School rally and march were a Chicago Teachers Union event. While CTU members took part in the event, the event's leaders included more than a dozen leaders of community organization, including Jitu Brown of KOCO (above). Brown, who serves as education organizer for KOCO, has more CPS experience than the ten highest-paid members of the Mayor's Mercenaries, yet is relegated to two-minute presentations at Board meetings and then ignored by Becky Carroll in CPS propaganda press releases. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.While hundreds of the protesters at the Lakeview HS rally and subseuquent mile-long march to Rahm's home on Hermitage included many teachers (most clearly identified with Chicago Teachers Union shirts, hats and hoodies, and some as CORE, the union caucus that helped elect the new union leadership), there were many others. Anyone on the ground at 4:30 p.m. at Lakeview (or a few minutes later down Irving Park Road and up Hermitage) could see that there were at least as many parents (carrying signs opposing Rahm's "Longest School Day" program and opposing the turnarounds and closings coming up tomorrow at the Board meeting) and students. That was evident from the coverage by Rosalind Rossi in the print edition of the Chicago Sun-Times that arrived on our doorstep early on September 21.

Some of the other reporters were having fun as well, as the rally stepped off into the march down the sidewalk on Irving Park Road and then finally took the street (which police closed off) as it turned north for the two blocks to Rahm's famous home at 4228 N. Hermitage. As people were saying around me, "If he can try to destroy our lives and lives' work, we can bring it on and bring it home to him..." Turnarounds are a deadly serious attack on people's lives, as the protesters have been pointing out while Rahm flatlines with a bunch of talking points and vapid clichés.

But you had to be there in order to see and count the who, what, when and where of the massive February 20 event.

And clearly the CPS Propaganda Department under "Chief Communications Officer" Becky Carroll, which issued another press release repeating the same talking points as ever, wasn't. That's a huge irony. because the CPS Propaganda Department had about a half dozen people distributing Carroll's notions of what was going on (surreptitiously for the most part, and they wouldn't tell reporters whether they were from CPS Propaganda or from Rahm's City Hall Propaganda Department -- or maybe from some outside consultant, although we didn't see Greg Goldner there trying to spin reality Rahm's way...).

Although both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune had reporters at the February 20 rally, march and vigil against the school closings and turnarounds, the Tribune's editors censored the story, which didn't appear in the print edition of the newspaper. The Sun-Times story above appeared on Page Three of the Chicago edition.(Full disclosure: this reporter, along with a half dozen other Substance reporters, was there, but I didn't march with the march or count in an orderly way — that would have been as people marched past at the corner of Irving Park and Ashland, all heading west to Rahm's street silently and carrying candles — because I've been getting treated for serious knew problems and can't do marches right now... So the Substance story will be reported mainly by others in the next 24 hours. The one thing I counted was that Chicago Police Department — and apparently other city agencies — deployed more than 20 vehicles from squad cars to unmarked SUVs literally blocking the street on the east side of Hermitage as the march turned north toward the mayoral home. That I saw and counted from the northwest corner of Hermitage and Irving Park, where I was sitting in the car — clearly marked as a press vehicle — or standing outside marveling at how safe the rest of Chicago must have been ad more than 50 cops deployed up the street to keep the mayor's home safe and secure...).


With the Mayor's Mercenaries trying out every talking point they've been fed (but since they don't know much about CPS or CPS history, they flub a lot), it's fun when they wind up slamming former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who instituted "school reform" Chicago style and mayoral control in 1995 and who began "turnarounds" under Arne Duncan in 2002 (Williams, Dodge, and Terrell) as he slowly rolled out the program that became "Renaissance 2010" on behalf of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club (which wrote it).

By February 20, 2012, however, Chicago's new mayor was having a serious bout of historical amnesia, as his propaganda chieftan at CPS blamed Daley and Duncan for the current problems and promised that the Reign of Rahm would solve them with all this nifty new stuff. WBEZ's Linda Lutton got that part of the story straight from Carroll's mouth:

School protesters pray, sing at Emanuel’s home Linda Lutton February 21, 2012. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)

Hundreds of teachers, community activists, and parents held a demonstration outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home late Monday to protest proposals to close or completely restaff 17 schools.

A board vote on the proposals is scheduled for Wednesday.

The crowd walked silently up North Hermitage, then prayed and sang outside the mayor’s home.

“Send a message to the mayor tonight, Lord God,” intoned one woman through a microphone. “Send a message to the CEO tonight, Lord God. Send a message to every member of the board tonight, Lord God.”

Organizers of the vigil led the crowd in song as they continued up the street.

Many wore stickers over their mouths that read “silenced” or “excluded.”

“[Emanuel] made all of these decisions without coming into our neighborhoods and asking the parents, and we’re the ones that’s going to be affected more than anybody,” said parent Lisa Russell, who has a child at Crane Technical High School, which is slated to be phased out.

Some in the crowd were from Occupy Chicago; many were teachers from schools not on the closings list.

“I think that we should keep public education public, and I am concerned about handing over power over to private organizations like AUSL,” said a first-grade teacher on the North Side. She did not want to give her name for fear she could be putting her job at risk. AUSL, or the Academy for Urban School Leadership, is a private nonprofit slated to take over management of six of the schools.

A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman said for the first time in many years, the district is putting the academic needs of students first.

“What has been tried in the past has not worked, and going back to the same failed policies is not in the best interest of our students,” said spokeswoman Becky Carroll.

If the Chicago Board of Education approves the proposals, CPS will have shut down or completely restaffed more than 100 schools in the last decade, most in African-American neighborhoods.

The URL for the WBEZ story, for those who can't get a hotlink, is:’s-home-96581


There were, in fact, three events on February 20, 2012. There was a rally at Lakeview High School at Irving and Ashland at 4:00 p.m. That rally was followed by a march down the sidewalk on the north side of Irving Park Road between 4:30 p.m. and roughly 5:30 p.m. At roughly 5:30 p.m. the march turned north on Hermitage Ave, which had been blocked off by the police, and marched silently until a silent vigil was held in from of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home at 4228 N. Hermitage. Each event saw a different number of people taking part, so each will be reported separately in this series in Substance.

There were many CPS teachers at the rally (Lakeview High School), march (Irving Park Road), and silent vigil (in front of Rahm Emanuel's home at 4228 N. Hermitage Ave.), but the events were organized and chaired by members of community organizations and school councils from Chicago's West Side through the South Side (with a couple from farther north, although no white schools are on Rahm Emanuel's 2012 Hit List). Above, CORE members Jeff Blackwell, Xian Barrett, and Sarah Chambers carry the famous CORE banner up Hermitage Ave towards the mayor's home on February 20, 2012. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.CPS Disinformation campaigns deserve some reporting, however, so they will be included in these reports as they are issued. At press time for this article, WBEZ radio is reporting that CPS officials are stating, on the record, that this year, under Rahm Emanuel and Jean-Claude Brizard, CPS is finally "putting the children first." As of yet, no reporter except Substance reporters are trying to get interviews with Richard M. Daley (who served as Mayor before Rahm from 1995 through 2010), and "Chief Executive Officers" Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, Ron Huberman, and Terry Mazany (interim) — all of whom, according to the latest from Rahm's Mayoral Mercenaries, spent 17 years doing nothing for Chicago's public school children.

Since August 2011, this reporter has asked for an on the record interview with Jean Claude Brizard, using the same format that Substance used for interviews with others about CPS, going back to school board presidents and Superintendents (e.g., Angeline Caruso and Manford Byrd) and mayoral candidates (including Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley). Substance even published an interview with Paul Vallas when he first took over Chicago's schools in 1995!

But unlike his predecessors, Jean-Claude Brizard does not allow interviews where he can't screen the questions and rehearse his talking points beforehand, so we are still waiting for his media handlers to let us know when that interview will take place. Brizard is also prone to talking with the press only when under the watchful eye of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Anyway, Becky Carroll was not not in evidence earning here $160,000 per year as the CPS "Chief Communications Officer" on February 20, either at Lakeview or on Irving Park or up Hermitage. She might have been, but we'll check to see whether she was recycling her "shake up the status quo" and anti-union talking points from the rather chilly streets or from back at 125 S. Clark St.

Others from CPS officialdom were, including a bunch of FNGs from the newly organized office of "Family and Faith Relations" under the former community organizer Jamiko Rose. But that's another story for another time.

Here is the Tribune story we found at 1:00 on February 21, 2012. As of yet, there is no story posted to the Chicago Sun-Times, which has been acting more and more as Rahm's cheerleader since a group of Rahm's millionaire buddies bought it a few months ago.


Protestors blast CPS plans to close, restructure schools. By Noreen Ahmed-Ullah. Tribune reporter

6:45 p.m. CST, February 20, 2012

With two days left before the Chicago Board of Education votes to close or restructure failing schools, several community groups staged a candlelight vigil protesting the dramatic measures reserved for chronically under-performing schools and marched to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home on the city's North Side.

The several hundred protesters who gathered at Lakeview High School, 4015 N. Ashland Ave., targeted the mayor's home to make the point that Emanuel decided to close and replace staff at schools without visiting the schools first or talking to parents.

CPS is planning 10 restructurings, known as "turnarounds," and seven closings this year. Officials with the Chicago Teachers Union were at the protest, as were members of Action Now, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, Blocks Together, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

Their signs read "Brizard needs a time out," refering to CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, and "CPS needs to be turned around." Some wore stickers saying "excluded" and "silenced."

"CPS school closings is the status quo," said Jitu Brown, education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. He added that of all the schools closed over the years and replaced with new schools, today only 18 percent are high-performing and half of those have competitive admissions requirements.

Another community organizer said the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), a turnaround operator expected to be given control of six schools this year, does not have bilingual programs while Casals Elementary, one of the schools proposed for takeover by AUSL, has a high percentage of Hispanic students.

Parents against Emanuel's proposal for a 7.5-hour school day participated in the protest.

CPS officials were at the protest handing out press releases that responded to the complaints.

With the headline "CPS statement on CTU rally" implying the rally had been staged by the teachers union, spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in the statement: "CPS is breaking away from a status quo that has failed our students year after year. What has been tried in the past has not worked and going back to the same failed policies is not in the best interest of our students."


CPS parents take concerns to mayor's doorstep. Monday, February 20, 2012, Reported by Evelyn Holmes February 20, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A group of parents marched past the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday night, protesting Chicago Public Schools' plans to turn around or close 16 underperforming schools.

About 200 protesters marched from Lakeview High School where several groups held a rally before walking about a half dozen blocks over to Emanuel's home. They held a candlelight silent vigil just feet from the mayor's front door.

Activists say the turnaround plan destabilizes schools and communities while displacing good teachers who just lack resources.

Wendell Smith Elementary School is on the list, once again leaving some parents shut out.

"This is outcry to have everybody all over the world pay attention," said Sharisa Lee Vaval, parent. "It's not just happening here, it's happening everywhere."

"We have been pushed to the last step," said Darcell Ezell, Wendell Smith school aide.

District officials say Smith is not meeting educational standards and has been chronically underperforming for years.

In a statement CPS spokesperson Becky Carroll writes, "with almost one out of two students not graduating high school, and only 7.9 percent of our 11th graders testing college ready, we can no longer accept schools that fail."

Officials also created the new Office of Community and Family Engagement last July. The purpose of the little-known office is to focus on solely on parents and school communities.

Still, the turnaround program angers those at Smith who blame a lack of funding for the problems at the South Side grade school.

"I ended up with 57 kindergarten children that I couldn't share with anybody because I was the only one left," said Sandra Triche, Smith kindergarten teacher.

"I don't see CPS making that available to schools like Wendell Smith, and many of the others that they decided to, in my humble opinion, sabotage," said Dr. Carmen Palmer, Educational Village Keepers.

Not everyone is against the plan. Some say maybe it should get a chance.

"I don't know exactly what the answer is going to be. What I do know is what's working right now is not actually working," said Rev. David Pope, Brotherly Love Baptist Church.

Smith isn't the only school in an uproar.

About 100 people aided by Occupy Chicago staged a sit-in at Brian Piccolo specialty school over the weekend after it too was slated for a proposed teacher and staff shakeup.

While many of the concerned at Wendell Smith hope to save their school, Jerry Ward vows to keep fighting for his voice and his children.

"Our school, our students and our children are our future," said Ward.

The Board of Education will finalize the fate of the 16 Chicago Public Schools that are on the closure or turnaround list on Wednesday.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. February 20, 2012. CPS Statement On CTU Rally. [Sent to Chicago media afternoon of February 20, 2012].

“CPS is breaking away from a status quo that has failed our students year after year. What has been tried in the past has not worked and going back to the same failed policies is not in the best interest of our students. For the first time in many years, we are putting the academic needs of our students first. Next school year, we will add 90 minutes of instructional time during the day for students and their teachers to focus on core subjects like math, reading and science to help boost achievement. Chicago’s school children will no longer have the shortest school day in the country, and will instead be on par with their peers across the nation in the amount of time they have in front of a teacher. We will need to make difficult financial decisions in order to ensure that our children have the time they need with their teachers to learn and grow, but we won’t pay for this by first asking taxpayers to give more out of their pockets during these difficult economic times. We must first ask tough questions about our own budget priorities, put everything on the table and ask ourselves if current programs and services are best meeting the needs of our students and avoid placing even greater fiscal constraints on our district.”

Becky Carroll, Chief Communications Officer, Chicago Public School


February 21, 2012 at 5:13 PM

By: Maureen Cullnan

Parent gives facts on length of the school day

I marched but didn't get a copy of the press release, so for the record --

The average length of the school day in Illinois is 6.5 hours. The average in the U.S is 6.6 hours. NO state or district has a 7.5 hour mandatory school day. Not one.

Emanuel is not putting Chicago "on par" with the rest of the country. He is pushing an extremely long day that is unfunded. No funding for any real enrichment and remediation programs.

As State Rep. Monique D. Davis has said to us, "A 7.5 hour day is a working man's day." And after school programs help parents who need childcare.

As Diane Ravitch has written to us, "All of this is nuts. There is no evidence that longer school days produce better education, unless children are engaged in wonderful after school activities that give them a chance to sing, dance, inquire, play, and just be children."

19th Ward Parents

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