BOARDWATCH: After massive public outcry at February 22, 2012 meeting, Chicago Board of Education members vote unanimously and without debate to turnaround ten schools and close, phase out or 'co-share' seven others

A multitude of protesters gathered in front of the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) at 125 S. Clark Street on Wednesday, February 22, 2012, to object to the threatened closings and turnarounds of elementary and high schools. During the public participation portion of the regularly scheduled meeting (which began at 11:12 a.m, and ended about four hours later) parents, teachers, community members, and others spoke forcefully and emotionally against the closings and turnarounds in the two minutes allotted to each speaker.

By the time Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union was able to speak to the February 22, 2012 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, the Board chambers (5th floor at 125 S. Clark St.) was overflowing, the "Holding Room" (15th floor) was overflowing, and more than 500 people were still being denied entrance to the building and were effectively barred from one of the most important public meetings of a public body in recent Chicago history. The Chicago Board of Education is the largest landowner in the city, with schools from 135th St. to Howard St., and from O'Hare to Hegewisch, but instead of meeting in the schools, the Board members "hunker in their bunker" like a group of frightened fascists once a month, denying the public the right to participate in decisions about their schools. The last meeting of the Chicago Board of Education held in a real public school took place in April 2002 at Herzl Elementary School. At that time, 1,000 teachers and others filled the Herzl auditorium to protest the first wave of "renaissance" (then with a small "r") under Arne Duncan and Michael Scott. For more than ten years, Board meetings had been alternated in the schools and then at CPS headquarters. But the Board grew more and more frightened of the people, so every trick was done to keep as many people away from the Board's meetings as possible. The Board hunkered into the Clark St. bunker after that and never emerged again.The axe fell after the Board went into closed session and returned with the decision that the schools would still be closed or turned around, despite the many protests at this meeting and the many hearings held before this meeting. The Board remained in executive session until a few minutes before six o’clock. It took less than 20 minutes for the seven Board members to cover every item on their agenda, including the closings and turnaround.

At 10:37 a.m., the public participation rules were reviewed. All seven Board members were present. An announcement was made that 83 individuals had registered to speak. Following this, a color guard presented the colors and the pledge to the flag was recited. As usual, the Board began its meeting with the “good news section.” A fundraiser for Chicago Public Schools homeless was reported, conducted by ROTC students. Then Xian Barrett, instructor of ninth grade at Gage Park High School, and another speaker, reported on the VIVA project. After this, the public was told that Local School Council (LSC) elections would take place during Report Card Pick-Up Days on April 18 and 19.

Nearly 200 people were forced to wait in the 15th floor "holding room" as the Board of Education began its meeting on the 5th floor of 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago when this photograph was taken at 10:45 a.m. Substance counted 194 people, but there were still people arriving. The Board allows dozens of its bureaucrats to fill "reserved" seats on the fifth floor, effectively barring the public from a public meeting. The above photograph shows one-half of the room (see photo below). The Board claims that the rest of the room cannot be utilized because of "code rules." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Finally, public participation began at 11:12 a.m. after remarks by David Vitale, Chicago Board of Education President, about the processes and hearings that came priot to this meeting of decision. Although there were dozens of items on the agenda, the most controversial were 17 that dealt with the date of public schools. Seven were to be subjected to closing, phase out or co-location. Ten were slated to be subjected to “turnaround.”

The first speaker was Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). She said that “Chicago is the epicenter of the Justice Fight in America.” She said there have been 17 years of neglect and, despite the claims of the current administration that they have to “shake up the status quo” — that CPS policies are the status quo. She called such neglect “apartheid” — not the type of world class education our children deserve. She added that parents who cry out the loudest have their voices drowned out. She observed that students, teachers, and care givers have been labeled as failures. She asked the Board to have the courage to do the right thing. She said the Board's actions have led to destabilization of Black, Brown, and poor neighborhoods, and that many have been excluded from decision making. She spoke of the $25 and $50 payments paid to those who provided false testimony in favor of what the Board was about to do, the so-called “Rent A Protesters”. In an emotional voice, she named what every student deserves and quoted from President John F. Kennedy, who said: "It is not the critic who counts...the credit belongs to the man who is in the arena..." She pleaded on behalf of the students. Do not continue the status quo and disrupt our communities;, she pleaded, on the verge of tears. “Do the courageous thing,” she added, “you have that power; use it.

There is room for an additional 200 people in the south side of the 15th floor "holding room" at 125 S. Clark St. (above), but the Board of Education's security chief ordered that chairs which had been in that part of the room be removed and that members of the public be kept bottled up in the lobby of the building and on the street, despite the Illinois Open Meetings Act, which says that the public should be accommodated to be able to attend and participate in public meetings. The above photograph was taken at 10:45 a.m. in the "holding room" at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke next. He asked that the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. be continued. He said there has been an uneven distribution of resources. He told everyone that students deserve resources so that they can go down the street in safety. He mentioned that West and South Side school are in a different tier than North Side Schools; calling the result “apartheid.” He said that many South and West Side schools have no libraries, while they have many free and reduced-price lunch students and homeless students. “Chicago has 160 public schools without libraries,” Rev. Jackson stated. “Of those, 140 are south of North Ave.”

Rev. Jackson continued. He added that turnaround schools in these poor neighborhoods do not perform better than other schools in the same communities. He continued discussing inequities, not only within the city, but between city and suburbs. He said that there were different options for schools such as New Trier High School in suburban Winnetka. He cited are the result of inequality in funding. Rev. Jackson said that CPS currently has a 29 percent Black teacher population, the lowest in decades, and that 50 percent of Black teachers who have been targeted for layoff. While all of the turnaround schools have teachers who are not African American, every school on the Hit List is majority minority children, and staff. He said that jail becomes "a hotel for some of the homeless," remarking that our Board does not compare with a democratically elected Board and called for an elected school board. He asked for a moratorium on all school actions to correct things, not to slow them down, and to even the playing field.

A student, standing with Reverend Jesse Jackson, who was not registered, attempted to speak but was stopped until members of the audience called out, "Let him speak." He was allowed to speak and told everyone, "Nobody knows what we need like we do. Many lives will be affected by the closings/turnarounds (decided) by people who never set a foot in the classroom."

Another speaker said the system is failing us, not our schools. He added that it sounds like decisions have already been made that effect our schools, our city, and the system. He spoke of unintended consequences that take place when students have to have two to three bus stops to get to school.

Teachers, parents, and students from all of the schools on the 2012 Hit List either testified at the February 22, 2012 meeting of the Board of Education or at the hearings. Above, Herzl special education teacher Barbara Schwartz, who had been in line to sign up to speak since before dawn, stood with parents and students against the proposed turnaround of Herzl. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Barbara Schwartz, a Special Education teacher at Theodore Herzl Elementary School, spoke of her love for the students. She asked why CPS is jettisoning experienced teachers for novices. She wanted to know why education resources that were previously lacking are now available. She asked if the goal was the privatizing of all CPS schools. She said that Board members associated with the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) should recuse themselves from awarding anything to AUSL because they cannot be objective. She also spoke of the bills in the Illinois House and Senate regarding a moratorium on school closings.

Another speaker asked the Board to come down to see what we are facing: a lack of technology and a lack of resources. She added that despite this, scores have gone up 100 percent at her school in one year. Teachers and administration are working very hard, and parents stand behind the teachers.

Speaking against the closing of Dyett High School, Marilyn Foster told the Board how her remarks had been deliberately distorted in the report from the hearing officer that the Board had received. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Marilyn Foster, of Dyett High School, mentioned the discrepancies between what CPS says and what it promises, remarking that AUSL does not have proven success in high schools. She observed that Dyett received no consideration for being part of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jean-Claude Brizard's listening tour, and that Board members haven't been visiting the schools on the list. She added that the racial gap in achievement is increasing. She challenged the accuracy of the hearing officer reports that were the basis for CEO Brizard’s recommendations that the Board approve the turnarounds. She said that her 300 words of testimony were condensed into twelve words (in the record) and that those were not an accurate reflection of what she had said. She added that paid protesters, who did not know of Dyett and did not even know where Dyett was, had given input. She requested that the Board itself call a moratorium.

Adourthus McDowell, of Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), addressed his remarks to Board Member Dr. Mahalia Hines regarding the Bronzeville Achievement Plan. He asked her if she had any concerns about that plan. She replied that she went to two meetings and was on the phone once and expressed her concerns there. Another individual then addressed remarks to her, asking where's the accountability for our students. He requested that the Board President take these proposed schools off the action list and visit now.

Kelly Fair, of the Bronzeville Community Action Council (CAC), spoke of the Bronzeville CAC Resolution. The Bronzeville CAC opposed the proposed changes of the Bronzeville public schools. “We feel like we've been left at the altar; we got the ring, we got the dress, we have yet to receive a response,” she said. She added, “Honor your commitment.”

Nona M. Burney, also of the Bronzeville Community Action Council, said the council does not approve of the proposed actions. She said that Board Member Dr. Hines told them in a meeting that she and other Board members were “not a rubber stamp.” Ms. Burney asked why they should be displaced because of the actions of others. She said there has been an erosion of the neighborhood schools and they want to be an umbrella for the community. She added that we have the most to lose and the most to gain.

Jonathan Goldman, a parent, a member of the Drummond Montessori Magnet School LSC, and a member of the Raise Your Hand Coalition, spoke regarding the proposed longer school day. Told the Board members that he and his fellow LSC members had written about their concerns regarding the 7.5 hour school day mandated by the Board. He told the Board that he and his fellow parents had received no reply to their letter — and this was typical. He remarked that it was arrogant of the Board to think that one policy fits the needs of all the students, saying this was really a "one size fits all" policy. He observed that the parents have many different opinions on this matter. He said he was told this longer day policy will be implemented no matter what. He added that the dollars won't be there to make this work. He told the Board to stop saying this is a done deal. He concluded, "Let's get this done right."

Allen Van Note was one of those brought in and supported by the group called "Stand for Children." He said he supports the "Longer Schools Day" and wants to see more time for Art, Music, Enrichment, and Recess.

Maria Elena Ruiz of Pasteur Elementary School, a parent who said that she is a member of Stand for Children, said that she supports the longer school day. Like the others supported by Stand for Children, she said the longer school day will benefit our community. She said wants Art, Music, Sports, College Prep, and time for teacher preparation.

Tonya Thomas, of Sutherland Elementary School, spoke against the longer school day. She said there would be a strain on the time for homework, extra curricular activities, time for families and friends, and just for “being children time”. She remarked that the longer day proposal was nothing more than a "willy-nilly effort to achieve a magic bullet for success." She added that children are not products, they are people who thrive in a creative constructive environment.

Rico Gutstein, of the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), told the Board that he and Pauline Lipman, also a professor, had done a study. He reported on the findings of the study about turnarounds and closings: 1) The neighborhoods are mostly low-income that have been hit by gentrification; (2) Disinvestment and destabilization have been taking place in those communities; (3) Efficacy of proposed school actions. How will assessment of failure take place?

The real story is AUSL, he said: 4) The community has not been consulted. 5) Alternatives have been proposed to CPS actions, 6) Time out is needed. A moratorium is needed, he said.

Surrounded by parents and teachers from Marquette Elementary School, veteran teacher Marcy Hardaloupas laid out in detail how Marquette had been sabotaged by CPS during the past five years. Other Marquette speakers noted that as soon as Rahm Emanuel had been inaugurated in May 2011, officials were dispatched to Marquette to measure rooms and do other things that indicated that Marquette would face "turnaround" five months before CPS even announced its 2012 Hit List. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Marcy Hardalooupas, a Marquette Elementary School teacher, spoke against the turnaround. She said the public hearings were a sham and that the outcomes were already decided. She said that public schools are being turned over to business interests and banks. She said there was a huge divide between the rich and the poor. She added that CPS has a conflict of interest in the decision making, citing the fact that David Vitale and Tim Cawley both had ties to AUSL before the new Board was appointed by Rahm Emanuel. She charged that there was a "two-tiered system of education" in Chicago — one type of schools for haves and another for the have-nots. When reminded that her two minutes for speaking were almost up, she replied, "I can count to two."

Sharon Bryar, a community member of Marquette Elementary School, spoke against the turnaround of Marquette. She said single test scores are being used for decisions, and that was wrong. She said, according the Illinois Reading Association (IRA), in order to improve instruction and benefit students, decisions should be based on multiple assessments. She that if Marquette had been given the resources that are being given to AUSL, imagine what Marquette could achieve. She said changes were being planned by architects and such when they began casing the building since May of last year, leaving the teachers and parents at the school to believe that CPS was planning to attack on Marquette as early as the month Rahm Emanuel was inaugurated as mayor.

Randy S. Aguilar, a concerned teacher of Physical Education at Marquette Elementary School, also spoke against the turnaround of Marquette. Calling himself the "New Kid" (he's in his first year of teaching), he said that the veteran teachers had helped him greatly. He asked if the strategic learning proposal for Marquette had been evaluated and what inputs do you have on the proposal? He requested that the Board give the community the best resources and stop assessments that set up children to fail. He said that we need to teach the children the basics. He asked the Board not to take away all the experience that you see here today. He offered the motto "TEAM" — "Together Everyone Achieves More."

Angela Dillon, a teacher at Lane Tech who has a daughter teaching at Marquette, remarked that when AUSL takes over, discipline problems will be gotten rid of and students with discipline problems will be expelled, as has been the pattern at all AUSL turnaround schools. She said that all the students need to stay at Marquette. She added that you have set us up for failure. She warned AUSL, be careful of what you wish for.

Marquette teacher Robert Schuberth, who is also a parent with children at Kellogg Elementary School in the Mount Greenwood-Beverly neighborhood, spoke against the longer day and against the turnarounds. Speaking about his own children, he said another one-and-a-half hours will make it very difficult to do extra curricular activities. He said students are involved in Dance, Theater, Choir Practice, Karate, and Soccer Leagues, and the proposed longer school day will savage them. He observed that one half hour would be really good for us. He also talked about the turmoil last year at Marquette, when the "Chief Area Officer" was virtually attacking all the schools in what was then "Area 11." Now, with Marquette facing "turnaround," Janie Ortega (the former CAO) is gone, the area has been replaced by a "Network," and Marquette no longer has a "Chief Area Officer," but a "Chief of Schools."

Norma Luna, of Casals Elementary School, spoke against the turnaround. She asked that the Board keep the teachers who have seen our children grow. She said Casals is working, but needs more economic support. She added that her son had improved and asked the Board not to hurt her son. She remarked that he's sad, knowing that he's going to lose his teachers.

Maria Dominguez, also of Casals, was against the turnaround. She asked CEO Brizard if he had checked the records when he claimed Casals was low performing. She said Casals was not low performing academically and was doing better than charter schools. She asked why Casals was on the turnaround list. She said the teachers are not the problem, the problem is CPS.

Tilden High School parent and LSC member Ronald Jackson, above, detailed the programs that had been removed from Tilden by the Board of Education, as part of the detailed cataloguing of sabotage by CPS of the schools facing "turnaround." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Ronald Jackson, LSC Chair at Tilden Career High School, was angry at the Board and showed it. He said he is opposed to turnarounds. Then he listed a litany of all the programs that were taken away from Tilden or promised and not delivered to Tilden. He asked Board Member Dr. Hines if she was made aware that career programs were taken out in 2010. He asked President Vitale if he knew of the loss of Automotive, Computer Technology, Carpenter Programs, Business, and Nursing.

Continuing his description of the disruption of Tilden, Jackson said that although Technology and Nursing had come back, there were no programs to help students prepare for the future because CPS took the career programs out of the school. Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks advised him that you have to follow protocol. Mr. Jackson replied that you're messing with the academics in the building. He requested a copy of the new SIPPA and asked where was the money now that had been allocated. He also remarked that he had heard that the CTU was funding our lawsuit against the Board. He warned the Board, "I'm going to be like Freddy Krueger. When you wake up, I'm going to still be there."

Sharon Lee-Vavel, a parent at Wendell Smith Elementary School, said that the school had "donated and outdated computers and outdated textbooks." She said that there were over 57 students in Kindergarten (in September) and 34 in a 4/5th grade split classroom. She described the disruption during the school year, ranging from the overloaded classes to the "splits." She asked the Board to VOTE NO for turnaround.

Dr. Carmen Palmer, also of Wendell Smith, said she had attended the February 2, Smith hearing. She said that the alternative plan presented includes six partners. Under the plan, the administration, the teachers, and the students would remain the same. She spoke of the gains at Langford Elementary School, Fulton, Faraday, and Cather. She added that the Wendell Smith Plan is a win-win option and will protect stability for the administration, teachers, parents, and students. She asked the Board to VOTE NO.

Raymond Wohl, of Thurgood Marshall Middle School, spoke of a mural on Thurgood Marshall. He asked that the whole child, every child, all children be educated, He said he represents theater and dance teachers throughout the city. He observed that many turnarounds do not have Art or Music. He added that he is now a trustee of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund and said that the state is not funding the pension fund. As he sang, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around," others joined in the song.

Edward Hershey, a Physics teacher at Lindblom Academy High School, the CTU, and Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), wants lower class sizes. He remarked that instead there will be a longer school day, adding that students say they will sleep more in class and have to go home after dark, etc. He informed the Board that good teachers are being thrown out the door. He said that one of the best science teachers he ever saw had to go every two weeks to a different school. He added that many have left the profession or CPS. He said that a teacher at Lindblom said that at a previous school, the teacher was labeled a "bad" teacher, but now at a better school, is labeled a "good" teacher.

Frederick Kendricks, of Ida B. Wells Prep and LSC Vice Chair, said that the nature and culture of the school building will be disrupted. He remarked that the students now feel safe, but will they be with new students? He added that although we're not in Dyett, it does affect our school.

Denise Murphy, of the Mount Greenwood area, spoke against the proposed 7.5 hour longer school day.

Latrice Watkins, of Piccolo Elementary School and LSC Chair, told the Board "Don't turn our school around. Our principal listens to us as parents." Watkins had been one of the leaders of the sit-in the previous weekend, which was ended when Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz agreed to "meet with" the Piccolo parents. Watkins asked the Board if they followed up with them on a conference call. President Vitale answered that we do not have this year's Scantron results. She replied that AUSL is not making gains like they are supposed to and that other schools are making better gains. She asked the Board to approve their plan and not turnaround Piccolo.

Claudia Moreno-Nunez, also of Piccolo, said there were three principals in the last three years. Prior to this new Board, if a school had not had a constant principal for two years, it was not allowed to be on the possible list for "turnaround." This year, despite warnings about the Board's new "Performance Criteria", the disruptions caused by rotating principals was ignored when Turnaround was proposed. Moreno-Nunez said that the constant change at Piccolo had created an environment where it was difficult to learn. She asked the Board to vote no to turning over Piccolo School to AUSL, saying that AUSL's record in Humboldt Park was not good and adding that at Orr, the graduating student population went from 300 to less than 120 due to expulsions. She remarked that at AUSL schools, the teachers don't deal with discipline, they expel instead.

Wendy Katten, of the Raise Your Hand (which she said has 5500 members), brought a letter signed by eleven groups throughout the city in opposition to the seven-and-a-half hour school day. She said that the parents feel they have been left out of the process in the entire Longer School Day process. She said that parents want a "well-rounded day" — not just more time in seats. She also noted that CPS has been cutting and claiming it has no money. She added that if you cannot provide Physical Education for two grades in high school, how can you fund a longer day. She remarked, "To us, it feels like snake oil."

Reverend Paul Jakes, of the Christian Council on Urban Affairs, told the Board that there has been a violation of our equal rights. He said that we have been deprived of equal education protection under the law. He wants CPS to convene a city-wide LSC meeting. He remarked that he has attended many funerals for students. He wants CPS to pay for the many funerals that families will have to go through.

Stephen Guy, of Fuller Elementary School and KOCO, spoke against turnarounds. He said that CPS is more like a dictatorship. He told the Board, "You created the failed policies of these schools. You call us incompetent. YOU are. YOU failed." and you want to blame educators. He asked for a publicly elected school board. He added that Board members have positions in AUSL.

Kitesha Reggs, of Dyett, who spoke last month according to the Public Participation List, asked why Dyett, which is a level three school, is sending students to Phillips, which is also a level three school. She remarked that business is taking over CPS like a stock market. She told the Board that policies are made by you, we did not make the policies. She added that with all the degrees you have, why are we failing? She went on that she supports the Bronzeville Plan. She asked, why is your salary going up, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard? "Our schools are failing. You guys are failing us." She then said,"If you can't face the children, you are pure evil and if they suffer and die, it's because of you."

Patricia Breckenridge — who said she was of the CTU, CPS, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), and CORE — asked the Board to stop the colonization of the 99% by the 1%. She spoke of Reading clinics at the University of Chicago (U of C). She proposed a resolution to return integrity to CPS. She said Albert Shanker, former head of the AFT, had a vision for charters that teachers would head.

Dr. Tina Hollingsworth, a retired active educator, spoke in favor of the Charlotte Danielson Model of Teacher Evaluation. She said the teacher evaluation checkllst used since the 70s was not fair. She told the Board that principals must be trained on the (Danielson) framework. She said she herself was laughed at by the principal when she requested a pre-conference before her observation.

Katie Osgood described the psychological impact on the students who were kicked out of the AUSL turnaround schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Katie Osgood works with a child-adolescent unit for ages four to seventeen at a local hospital. She said that she doesn't like what she sees here in Chicago. She said she cringes at the CPS investment in charter schools and turnarounds. She added that students with behavior problems are sent out of charters and turnarounds and are seen as behavior problems. Citing the recent report that criticized the Noble Street charter schools for fining and driving out students with behavior problems, she remarked "Where I work, we don't charge them $5, we don't kick them out..." She observed that social workers and nurses are needed in the schools. Citing some of the approaches to creating new teachers (like Teach for America), she said "these kids are tough and you can't have a college grad with five weeks of training (teaching these students)."

A representative who works for Alderman Will Burns (4th Ward) spoke against the school actions and submitted a letter of behalf of the alderman.

Robert Elchert, representing 3rd Ward alderman Pat Dowell, read a statement opposing the turnarounds. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Robert Elchert, a representative for Alderman Pat Dowell of the Third Ward, said sending Dyett students to Phillips would result in problems. He said the principal at Woodson South had not been there long enough to make an impact. He asked why the Board was targeting improving a school with a new principal.

Adele Barksdale, who refused to say which school she was representing, spoke in favor of a longer school day. She said we don't want to waste another year and we need to get behind positive changes like turnarounds. Audience members repeatedly called out, "What school are you from?" as she spoke and after she finished, but she did not name the school. (AFPSC was listed as her organization on the public participation list.) She said that she had been an LSC member for a year and she said we do want 7.5 hours for all.

The day before the Board of Education meeting, on February 21, 2012, Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard, above, had ignored a meeting of the Chicago City Council Education Committee, sending instead "Chief Education Officer" Noemi Donsoo. At it becomes more and more clear to the members of the City Council and the State Legislature that all of the members of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's "team" at CPS are from outside Chicago and know nothing about Chicago or its schools, elected public officials become more and more angry at the arrogance of power at CPS. Above, Brizard could barely hold back his dislike for Alderman Pat Dowell during the presentation by Dowell's represenative, while Board member Andrea Zopp, of the Chicago Urban League, waited for her chance to rubber stamp the mayor's turnaround wish list. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.A man who identified himself in the sign-in sheet as "F. Jones" (no organization was listed on the public participation list for him either) stood with Barksdale and then spoke in support of longer days. He then went into a history lesson that left most people shaking their heads. He said that in 1973, when Wendell Smith was opened, it was a state of the art building with approximately 800 pupils at that time, with higher academic studies in Science and Math. He asked the Board to please give an answer to what happened to this great academic idea that parents marched for in 1973. No one could or tried to answer (there is no one on the Board or in the current CPS administration who has been around that long). F. Jones also said that he wanted to know, how did we arrive at this point? He seemed to say that it was because of prayer. He said that we took prayer out of the schools and we forgot our commitment as human beings to look after and protect the future - our children. He repeated that the children are our future.

Amie Stachniak, of Peterson Elementary School on the far north side, apologized for speaking on her topic of revitalization of the campus park when so many were here to speak about the closings and turnarounds of their schools. But she pointed to another problem CPS is facing as it ignores the facilities planning mandated under the new school facilities law. She said that $35 thousand was raised by a committee to improve a Peterson's field, which has not been improved and is now worse. After describing the muddy results of the failure of the Board to do the improvements this winter, she asked for some consideration for her school. She said the field is needed for appropriate recess space. She said drainage would help, but she has been told it will not be completed this summer. She presented the board with pictures.

Andrew Broy, of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), observed that the solution has to be more than closing schools, the focus should be on how we create better schools.

Rebecca Nieves-Huffman (above) brought the Astro-Turf group called "Democrats for Education Reform" (DFER) to the Chicago scene with her remarks in support of turnaround at the February 22, 2012 Board meeting. Five days later, the new owners of the Chicago Sun-Times gave her debut a boost by publishing her attack on the Chicago Teachers Union's "The Schools Chicago's Children Deserve" as an Op Ed (Sunday, February 26, 2012). DFER is funded by hedge fund multi-millionaires and billionaires who want to develop investment strategies for tapping the untold millions of dollars in profit to be made by privatizing the "Education Market" with anti-union schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Rebecca Nieves-Huffman, who said she was from something called "Education Reform," spoke in support of the longer school day and turnarounds. She asked if anyone had visited AUSL schools and had seen what she called the "culture of high achievement". She said that she was a member of the CTU and had been born and raised in Humboldt Park. She observed that the ZIP code determines the quality of the school. She remarked that alumni of charter schools who are now in college gave responses of gratitude (for their charter school education).

Esteban Burgoa, of Lloyd Elementary School, said that the principal was a world class educator. He said that since Reading had increased by 300%, it was expected that the increase would pull the school out of probation. He mentioned that there is no public library in the area for the 1,200 plus students at Lloyd. He mentioned that Principal King had provided parents with bags of food every Friday. He asked the Board to grant the school Mr. King for another four years; he has the support of the parents and the community and even has letters of support written by first graders.

Sigfredo Gonzalez, who told the Board he was from "MCT Inc.", spoke in support of turnarounds and CPS reform. He said that we need "bold and dramatic changes" in our schools and that it was a time for honest conversation and time to shake up the status quo. He also said that he had been taught wrongfully when he was a CPS student, and it affects his performance.

Alejandra Jimenez, of Saucedo Magnet School, asked in Spanish for assistance with the Pre-K at Saucedo. She said she represents thirty parents in Room 116. She told the Board an assistant teacher has been needed at the school since November because on November 18, an assistant teacher left. She mentioned that some qualified persons have applied, but have not been called back for interviews. She remarked that the situation is disrupting the daily routine. She said she has already talked to the principal. President Vitale directed her to speak to a staff member.

Yesenia Yaver, also of Saucedo, said there are five Kindergartens, all bi-lingual, none English-speaking, so that all students are put into bi-lingual, even if they speak English. Because she speaks English, she was told to put her daughter in another school and to bring her back next year. President Vitale directed her to speak to a staff member.

Lizvette Gonzalez spoke in favor of the turnarounds and closings. She said we need to "invest in the future." She mentioned that in her childhood, she attended multiple schools and experienced hostility because of cultural differences. She added that she has been at the Board today for eight hours. She remarked that testing causes anxiety, but we all have to undergo testing. She advised the Board that we need to implement a new system. She added that we should not provide mediocrity, but should provide excellence for our youth.

Ernesto Betancourt, of LEAP, a member of a Latino organization, asked what should you do when a school has been on probation for five years; will you sit back and do nothing when the children's achievement is unacceptable? He added that CPS needs to be held accountable.

Erica Clark, of Parents 4 Teachers, from the Northside, and a fourteen-year veteran teacher, mentioned that her own children's schools were not at risk. She said she supports those who are against closing and turnarounds. She questioned how would a child feel if everyone was gone; what if a student was beaten or shot? She queried, would you put up with this? She remarked that we have a two-tiered inequitable system. She asked the Board to change course today and not to close or turnaround those schools.

Once again, Steinmetz High School English and journalism teacher Sharon Schmidt, chairman of the CTU testing committee, told the Board members that the construction of standardized tests forces the tests to rank and sort children, picking "winners" and "losers" in an anti-democratic and perverse way. She also noted that the Board members had ignored an invitation to attend a forum the previous week at the University of Illinois at Chicago featuring Monty Neil of Fair Test and hosted by a group of professors who opposed the Board's abuse of standardized tests and other inappropriate "matrices." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Sharon Schmidt, parent, teacher, and reporter, said she was overwhelmed at the appalling actions the Board was going to take today. She asked all Board members if they knew enough about these high stakes tests to make these decisions. She mentioned that not everyone can do well on these tests, and told the Board that the tests are designed so that they rank and sort children, not to measure leaning but to measure everyone on a sliding scale. She added that poverty is the problem and is the main correlation with standardized test scores, reminding the Board members that they had been invited to a forum at the University of Illinois the previous week featuring Monty Neill of Fair Test (and Sharon Schmidt). She remarked that she was moved by the students at Dyett School speaking. She told the Board "test scores are not who our children are", and repeated, our children are not test scores. She said, "I don't think you know enough about standardized testing to make these decisions today."

Chicago Attorney Matt Farmer (above at podium) reminded the Board of Education of its hypocrisy. The Board claimed during lobbying in Springfield on the legislation regarding closings, phase outs, and co-locations that the "hearings officers" would be a whole new generation, retired judges who would provide fair and impartial hearings. Farmer told the Board on February 22 that the actual hearing officers for the ten turnaround hearings were well-worn hacks — Fredrick Bates, Fitzpatrick, and Marty Castro — who have been rubber stamping CPS wishes for years (and in the case of Bates, more than 20 years) lucratively for their own bottom lines. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Matt Farmer, a CPS parent and trial lawyer, asked what was CPS so afraid of last year in Springfield in regard to a Senate bill. He said the hearing officers were not independent: at Fenger, the hearing officer was a partner from Franczak's firm, and at Casals, where Board Vice President Ruiz was at the hearing, no questions were asked of CPS.

Aureliano Vazquez, identified himself as being from Hibbard Elementary School and said he was the father of three CPS students> Then he said he felt the changes would be good, would benefit all students, and that change is difficult.

Michael Stinson of "Community Advocates" spoke of the failure and overall state of education at Crane High School. He said that we are not getting our fair share. He mentioned that he lives two blocks from Crane and saw two girls jumping on a student after school one day and blamed that on Crane's teachers. He also talked to teachers and saw teachers "cussing like kids." He remarked that something needs to be turned around and changed. He is concerned about his daughter. He said that we need to change what's not working at Crane because 30 percent are failing.

James Morgan, of Trumbell Elemenary in Andersonville, spoke of his ancestry, then came out in support of the closings and turnarounds and the longer school day. He said the new principal at Trumbell was wonderful. He remarked that since some children were not achieving, an additional ninety minutes would help. He mentioned that there is an after-school program from 2:45 to 4:15 that the children like so much that they don't want to leave at 4:15.

The final speaker, Joyce Chapman, said that she was from the Pullman Elementary School LSC and the "Community Development Corporation." She said she stood one hundred per cent with the turnaround at Wendell Smith School. Mentioning previous meetings, she said the community asked for a change and added that we want quality education, we want change.

After this, CEO Brizard said that our process is the most respectful of the community that he had ever seen. "All stakeholders in Chicago have been given an opportunity to present their views. Your views have been heard. Your feelings have been respected. I have tremendous respect for our teachers who have worked so hard for our communities," Brizard said.

Next, Chief Portfolio Officer (CPO) Oliver Sicat gave a Power Point presentation on what the "Portfolio Plan Strategy" for 2011-2012 had been. Sicat's narrative supported Brizard's claim that the process had taken into account community and other input.

Then there was a presentation by "Chief Talent Officer" Alicia Winckler outlining the Proposed Benefit Policy Changes that will take away the right to accumulate sick days and vacation days from non-union workers in the system. She presented the new proposed policy as a good change covering a Short-term Disability (STD) Plan, Sick Day policy changes, and Vacation Day policy changes.

Finally, the Board went into closed session. When it came out, the Board members voted to approve all of the changes and other actions on the agenda before them. By 6:30 p.m. they had all left the building.


February 24, 2012 at 2:21 PM

By: Bob busch

Orr high school

Over at Dist 299 blog they had an indirect link to this story.

AUSL Teachers speak out " Its Gotten so bad"

this link should work

This should be a primer on the turnaround movement.

February 25, 2012 at 10:35 AM

By: Daniel Williams

This whole situation

So now not only do corporate interests have control over our food supply and elections but now our public education system. After attending hearings on Crane and Tilden and the final Board hearing this week, I can only say what a sham of a democratic country we live in.

I was reading that the Chicago Teacher's Union had several strikes in the 1930's and a walk out of high school students and the city finally listened to their demands.

How problematic is it that the CTU endorses Obama this year, when it is his Secretary of Education that is shoving this down Chicago's throat? In contrast to the first Great Depression, the CTU is now firmly in the pockets of the Democrats and its Wall Street benefactors.

Even in Substance News, there are regular descriptions of Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel, but not a whole lot about the man at the top of this administration, forcing the country to adopt a system of education based on laws passed by the Bush administration and an expansion of standardized testing.

What will it take the CTU and Chicago's teachers to say no to all of this? Student walkouts? School occupations that don't end with a visit by Jesse Ruiz? A teacher strike? Everyone's pockets are being lined and stretched thin, all at the same time.

February 26, 2012 at 8:58 AM

By: Kati Gilson


I attended and spoke at the January hearing for Nash School. They day of the bad snowstorm where CPS closed the school early yet continued to have the hearing. As a result many people were unable to attend due to weather. Those of us who spoke against the Charter School were repetedly interrupted at the warning notice. Those who spoke in favor of the Charter School were not interrupted. Also, my remarks and those of others were condensed to one sentence in the boards records. Not only did that not accurately reflect what was said, they also spelled my name wrong.

February 27, 2012 at 11:26 AM

By: J. Johnson

School closings not best for students

All the reasons CPS is talking about they say are for the kids, then the money they're putting into AUSL should be put into the existing schools. But it's not about the kids it's about getting rid of higher paid teachers and getting rid of them before they qualify for pension. The more older teachers they get rid of, the less they have to put into the pension fund they have coming due in 2014 after the three year break the General Assembly gave them. And so they make money for themselves and AUSL at the same time what a joke

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