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March 28, 2012 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education continues massive protests against mayoral dictatorship

The proposed longer school day, increased attendance days in the school year calendar, the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget, and what was termed increased accountability for charter schools as well as regular public schools were among the major items on the agenda for the regular Chicago Board of Education meeting held on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 125 S. Clark Street in the fifth floor Board chambers. For more than four hours before the meeting, the streets outside the Board and the lobby of the building were filled with protesters, some of whom later objected to the preferential treatment being given to those who favored the Board's proposals over those opposed.

Flanked by parents from his ward, 19th Ward alderman Matt O'Shea (above at microphone) told the Board of Education that "one size does not fit all" and noted that parents from the schools in his ward opposed the 7.5 hour school day (which was voted on by the Board that meeting) and wanted a 6.5 hour day. The parents in the green tee shirts (which read "6.5 to thrive") have been organizing in favor of the 6.5 hour school day and against the Board's plan, which is now in the calendar for the 2012 - 2013 school year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The Board also held a second meeting, earlier than the regular meeting, to hear about the proposal to eliminate the Columbus Day and Pulaski Day holidays.

By the time the regular meeting was called to order by Board President David Vitale shortly after 10:30 a.m., all seven Board members were present. As usual, the Board chambers on the fifth floor of 125 S. Clark St. were packed, as was the "holding room" on the 15th floor where most people who came for the meeting got to watch it on closed circuit TV.

The "good news" portion of the meeting (which is now called "excellence") began with recognition of the "National Profession of Social Workers Month" honoring about 160 social workers in the school system. Brought up front were Carolyn Franklin, Perla DeLaToura, and other colleagues. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jean Claude Brizard mentioned that his sister was a social worker in New York. There was cheering and then the social workers left.

Board President David Vitale then said he had visited Steinmetz High School two to three weeks ago. Today Dr. Eunice Madden, principal of Steinmetz High School (who is retiring this after a lifetime in in the system, was honored. She has been the principal of Steinmetz nearly ten years, but before that, Vitale noted, she had been a Steinmetz student, then a Steinmetz teacher. Dominic Mashapinto, a student at Steinmetz High School, who is on the honor roll and involved in football and basketball, was honored for saving people in a building in the neighborhood threatened by fire.

Next, President Vitale announced the rules for public participation.

First to speak was Alderman Matt O'Shea of the 19th ward serving Morgan Park, Beverly and Mount Greenwood on the far South Side. He expressed concerns regarding the proposed longer school day. He said he wants the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to host a public meeting. He also said he met with representatives of schools who want surveys before the public meeting. He noted that different schools have different needs and told the board pointedly "one size does not fit all." He added that support for the longer day varies from school to school. He asked, can we look into which plan, 7.5 or 6.5, parents support?

President Vitale replied that management was looking into the issues and the process and is open to hearing from people.

Michael Brunson, Recording Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), spoke of the vote on the 2012-2013 school year calendar which proposes one of the longest school days and years in the U.S. He called the proposal a faux proposal. It would mean the elimination of two holidays and no professional development days between the beginning of the school year and the end. He added that it would lead to burn-out of students and a decrease in staff morale. He also told of the tight three-hour window for report card pick-up which would lead to concerns not being addressed. He said the 240 Track E schools would lose one week of Spring Break and spend days in hot classrooms. He remarked about the difference between being heard and being had.

The first public participation speaker, Larry Ligas of Logan Square Concerned Citizens, spoke of the unsafe conditions at Aspira Charter Schools proposed school at the corner of Milwaukee Ave. and Central Park in his community. He said a special-use building permit had been obtained from City Council, but Aspira was "bastardizing" the process. He asked the Board not to allow this project to move forward. He said they are creating an accident waiting to happen at the busy intersection, and that the public trust should not be violated with public dollars. He added that parking lots and public alleys have been made a part of the plan and that this would result in intolerable congestion at that part of the community.

Okema Lewis, who identified herself as "a Family Legislative Literacy Educator," pleaded for what she called compliance concerns regarding federal funding and LSC elections. She said that money had been given to schools for twelve years, 2004 was the last update of the policy, and the practice needs review before public funds are lost. She asked the Board not to approve the transfer of funds taken out of the office of LSC relations by a former director, reading from the agenda regarding several transfers of money she said would hurt the upcoming LSC elections.

Mark Sheridan parent Jennifer Biggs spoke against the Longest School Day and told the Board she might have to reconsider having her child in one of Chicago's best neighborhood public schools if the 7.5 hour school day were in place. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Jennifer Biggs, a teacher at Mark Sheridan School, said she and her husband grew up the the suburbs and were deciding whether to stay in the suburbs where schools are in session for 6.5 hours. She remarked that CPS does not have the funds for a 7.5 hour day (plus homework). She said balance is needed in their lives and if 7.5 is enacted, they will move to the suburbs. She explained that she was a parent who knows her child, her school, and her community, and added, "I could have been so valuable."

Kate Brandt, of the group 6.5 to Thrive, presented a petition of 1800 signatures from all over Chicago asking for a 6.5 hour day. She asked, "What is the best use of CPS resources in a year when there's a budget shortfall? and, "Why rush to something so extreme?"

Wan Cooper, a parent and a taxpayer, spoke against the 7.5 hour day. He asked, "Where does the money come from?" He remarked that suggestions that a longer day is a better day are contradicted by the University of Chicago (Lab School) schedule which has a shorter day that varies by age. He said that a top down, one-size fits all day will not help our children and "teachers are not babysitters."

Nellie Cotton, a Grimes Fleming Child Advocate, also spoke against the longer day. She said that our children are our priority and that the community and the Local School Council (LSC) should have a voice. She added that every school should be evaluated on an individual basis. She remarked that we have no trust in CPS and it is a done deal. She also offered the information that places were held in line for public participation by people who arrived later than the people who had arrived earlier.

Anna Klocek, of Farnsworth, supports a longer day. She said the present day is five hours and 50 minutes long, including recess and a student lunch period.

Juanita Torres spoke in Spanish in support of a longer day. She said the longer day will help children in reading and math and add to their self-esteem, socialization, and getting to know each other. She added that the longer day will address fights, drugs, and problems.

Wah Go, of North Grand High School, also supports a longer day. He said the budget issue can be resolved, that the days of business as usual in our society are over, and asked that the new CEO be given a chance. He claimed that in the past, resources were mishandled.

Dolores Fischinger, of Skinner North, said her child's school is already on the longer day, her child is exhausted, and that the longer day doesn't mean better. She added that CPS doesn't have the funds.

Dr. Garland Thomas, of the Noble-Johnson College Prep Campus, asked that the program be modified and expanded so that more students can be served.

Miles Quigley, of the Peace and Education Coalition (PEC), spoke of anomalies and the misappropriation of funds, $20 thousand per pupil in one regular CPS school. He said PEC received excessive funds and an investigations are going on. He added that PEC is run by politically-connected people in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Sarah Slavin, of Teach Plus Chicago, thanked the BOE members. She said that it's about time to empower teachers to effectively collaborate. She remarked that there are two priorities: the calendar and professional development time.

Gin Hooks, a network coordinator for Teach Plus Chicago, left a teaching position in order to elevate the teacher voice. He said he is associated with the VIVA project. He said 75% of teachers say there is not enough time in the school day for professional development and effective collaborations and that they need protection from administrative tasks.

Rene Avila, of Everett School, runs an after-school bilingual program and wants to keep her position and asked for a meeting with Human Capital.

Jennifer Gladfelter, of Skinner North, conducted a survey about how the longer school day was implemented. Results show most parents want less than 7.5 hours: 3% want 6 hours, 25% want 6.5 hours, and 24% want 7 hours, while 47% want 7.5 hours. She said the 7.5 hour day has led to exhaustion and a loss of extra-curricular activities, family time, and play time. In addition, travel time adds to the length of the day. She said many families struggle with the 7.5 hour day, asking "How can it (the 7.5 hour day) work with overworked teachers?" She earnestly requested the Board not to implement the longest day in the country.

Elizabeth Purvis, of Chicago International Charter School (CISC), wants renewal of the CISC contract.

Amber Mandley, of CISC Bucktown, a parent of a second-grader, said that teachers at CISC Bucktown are there more than 7.5 hours, there is a low teacher turnover, and she and her partner have made a conscious decision to remain in the city. She added that the CISC Bucktown students have art, music, and gym.

Jenna Skrak, a teacher at CISC Bucktown, was a 2003 graduate of CISC Bucktown, was prepared for Walter Payton High School, and attended college in Santa Barbara. She said she is now a first -grade teacher whose students do not want to leave at 3:15.

Frank Corona, of Gallistel Language Academy, at 103rd and Ewing, said the school is seriously overcrowded and deplorable. He said land is needed for a new site for an annex to the main building. He spoke about the contamination of an old gas station leaking benzene that is being proposed for a new school. He asked CEO Jean Claude Brizard to come out to the school.

Fanya Burford, of SOUL, said the Danielson framework for teacher evaluation is the best model.

James Paris, of the 19th ward, said the Board needed to connect the dots. He spoke of the gang problem in Chicago, adding that Stand for Children is the new gang, a gang in pin stripes, whose turf is our children. He said it has accepted money from Penny Pritzker, that talking points from a U.S. Education Reform and National Security Study about a connection between education and national security were used by CPS, and he mentioned Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children. He also said that CPS had persons holding spots for public participants who arrived later than other public participants. He concluded that we will have an elected school board soon.

Dwayne Truss, of PACE, said he was here to speak of the capital needs of Emmet School, saying that the Emmet School fieldhouse needs to be demolished. He referred to Stand on Children and then corrected himself, saying Stand for Children. He also said spots had been saved for supporters of a longer school day. He added, too, that we need an elected school board, remarking that he was in Springfield (to lobby) on Monday.

Courtney Sinisi, a leader of Girl Scout Troop 20657, said that there would be no time in a 7.5 hour day for Girl Scouts. She spoke of the late wife of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Maggie Daley, who was associated with an after school program called After School Matters, and added "It really does." She is against the 7.5 hour day and asked the Board to table the calendar vote until the budget is out next month.

Danielle Juracka, a visual arts teachers at Cassell School, said that last year funding was cut. She asked how the proposed calendar will affect the arts. She noticed that there will be no personal development days from the first to the last day. She expressed the feeling that teachers and students were being set up to fail. She said the Board keeps changing rules and we keep complying. She asked the Board to reject the proposed calendar.

Kathleen Murray, of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), asked the Board to look at the renewals of charter schools. She requested that they look at data before making decisions.

Sam Finkelstein, CEO of Legal Prep Charter Academy at 4319 W. Washington Boulevard, said he felt Mike Milkie was a wonderful guide. He spoke of having the opportunity to work with law professionals who will work with students and volunteer. He said the academy is not just for students who want to be lawyers. He mentioned the four hundred students applications that have been received.

James Ryan, of Andrew Jackson Academy, wants the tier system for high school selection to be changed. He said he has a daughter at Andrew Jackson Academy who is not a candidate for schools of choice despite her achievements. He said he is a Parent Council President and asked CEO Jean Claude Brizard, what are we doing for those who cannot get in because of their street addresses.

Margarite Jacobs, a parent of four and vice-president of the LSC at Carter/Wheatley in Altgeld Gardens, said they were given a library, but the science and computer labs were taken away. She spoke of problems with Safe Passage. She said our children are not machines, we are a part of Fenger, and it takes two hours by bus for school travel time. She added she wants safe passage for all children.

Maria Hurtado, of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, spoke in Spanish and translated for herself, because she says all children need to be in dual language schools. Her own three children speak both Spanish and English. She asked for a meeting with CEO Brizard.

In Spanish, BerthaCarbajal, a mother of two daughters in the Albany Park Community, spoke of the importance of knowing two languages. She said that there were more than fifty languages in her neighborhood, a neighborhood that she said was the most diverse in the city. She spoke of a teacher who didn't know Spanish and had to have her daughter translate and a nurse who didn't know Spanish and had to have her sister translate for patients and staff. She remarked that dual language programs focus on all students being bilingual and added that those who are bilingual face less of a risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Deborah Benjamin-Koller, of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and LSC at Burley School, said that 81% of those at Burley do not want a 7.5 hour day. She spoke of concerns about the loss of early morning prep time, the time for parents to meet with teachers, and time for teacher collaboration.

Joy Clendenning, a parent of a student in Hyde Park, asked for a quality school day. She said she thinks a 6.5 hour day is a good choice and a 7 hour day in high school was okay, but longer than this was not better. She remarked that recess is needed and that outdoor physical activity helps children, adding that her children have always had recess. She advocated for a 6.5 hour day (with recess). She asked that we honor and support teachers and spoke of her gratitude to teachers.

Sylvester Hendricks, wearing a hoodie, asked for a moment of silence for Jesus Christ, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Michael Scott, and Trevon Martin. He said he has been an activist since 1990 and has attended dozens of funerals for CPS students. He said he feels that students athletes are being retaliated against, adding that his child has been retaliated against. He asked the BOE to institute a policy to protect children.

Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks asked him to meet with a staff member in the hallway outside.

Veronica Serrano and parents of students at Prieto Math and Science Acedemy on North Central Avenue spoke of their concern about a longer day. She said there are no funds and asked, "Where will the money come from?" She said that five additional teachers are needed. She told the Board that teachers deserve to be paid for additional time. She informed the Board that there are 42 children in Kindergarten and an average of 32 in each classroom.

Rita Bramble, of Stone Scholastic Academy, welcomed the 6.5 hour day and is against the longer day. She said children who attend Kindergarten at Stone are charged tuition. She said there is no library and she also spoke of the early and late hours children would have to ride buses.

Julio Contreras, of South West Organizing Project (SWOP) Gage Park, is a sophomore and a leader in Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE). He and Zehra Inman, also of SWOP, shared four minutes of participation. Together they asked for a change in the Student Code of Conduct to make it more fair, speaking of current suspensions of three day for throwing food in a grade school lunchroom. Ms. Inman mentioned that he black students were suspended more than her white students. She said that 82% of the suspensions out of school were from Group Two or Three Infractions. She asked that CPS include these demands and inquired, "Does the Board agree?"

President Vitale asked her, "Are you finished?" and thanked her.

Rhonda Hopps, CEO of Perspectives Charter School thanked the Board for renewal of the Perspectives Charter School contract. She said that they took over Calumet High School and that the program is not fluff, but a rigorous academic program.

Larry Vaughn, assistant director of Youth Connection Charter School (YCCS), said that they serve 4,000 plus students on 23 campuses.

Gersom Carrera, also of YCCS,, said that students come back to school after being out so long.

Ron Giles, of YCCS, said students are not treated equitably. He spoke of wanting to enhance the partnership with CPS.

Sonia Kwon, of Raise Your Hand, spoke of concerns about the 7.5 hour day. When she met with CPS, she was told, "This isn't a done deal." She was told it hasn't been voted on and that there was no new funding. She said that there is a deficit today and was told to be practical, that the money isn't there. She added that she was in line at 6:30, but places were being held in line for those who were there in favor of a longer school day.

Anton Seals, of the International Network of Charter Schools (INCS), said that five schools were up for renewal today and that there are 110 charter schools in the network. He said INCS wants all the schools in the network to work in unison.

Karen Miles, a former teacher, volunteer, adjunct professor, and parent of twin daughters at Disney Magnet School, a school with 1700 students, wants a full school day, saying that 30 minutes for the bus to drop off students was more realistic than 10.

Alison Burke, of the PAC at Trumbull School and an LSC candidate, supports a longer day because she says it will provide additional instructional time. She explained that children are now short-changed by the system. She said the school has 64% Hispanic students and 54% graduate. She added that the Pierce Elementary boundaries should not be extended.

Donna David, a parent of two at Trumbull School, said that financial challenges cannot be allowed to overshadow a longer school day. She also asked that the Pierce School boundaries not be extended.

EvAngel YHWHnewBN, said that Mayor Emanuel is in charge of the schools and selected the superintendent of police. She spoke of the disproportionate suspension rates of black students. Referencing the subjugated race students, Brown vs Board of Education, and the NATO summit, she asked, "Will you meet with us?"

President Vitale replied, "Probably not."

She responded, "That's why we need an elected school board."

George Blakemore spoke of black history and black schools. He remarked that it's about the money, the City of Chicago is broke and the State of Illinois. He said that illegal immigrants are allowed in and this has a negative effect on the quality of education in Chicago. He added that in the legacy of slavery, we never get reparations.

President Vitale said, "Thank you."

Kareem Mohammed, who said his name had been misspelled Karien McHammond on the public participation list, belongs to the NAACP and is a music teacher. He said children are being taught how to be slaves to the system. He said it's a case of price vs value. He mentioned that housing inmates in Cook County Jail costs $50 thousand and that we could be paying that amount to teachers. He asked the Board to quit "BS-ing" people and yourselves, adding robots will replace you. He quoted Herbert W. Armstrong as saying that God created all with the potential to lead the human race.

Ernestine Standberry, who received a substitute teacher license in 1995 and is a Pro-Life Advocate and CAN-TV producer, wants her teachers License renewed before it expires in June. She was told she has to come in as new and she said she's not new.

President Vitale told her the Human Relations Department will talk to her.

Phillip Casser, a privatized custodian with CPS, had been asked to babysit. He did though it was not in his job description. Then he was terminated. He said the Union went to bat for him.

Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks told him he was not sure I can resolve this and asked Michelle Early to look into it.

Patrica Pacheco said her daughter is a senior at Lane Tech High School and her picture should be in the yearbook. She named a teacher who was harassing students and asking inappropriate questions of her daughter. She asked for an investigation.

Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks told her he will meet with her in the hallway and take down the information.

Robert Elfinger, of Disney I I Magnet School, said that parents got letters for selective schools. He mentioned that Disney is three blocks from his home and asked, "Can neighborhood children be accepted?" Present choices for the neighborhood are Scammon which is far away and Belding which is overcrowded. He said the only other choices are Catholic schools and suburban schools.

Michelle Thompson, Executive Director of Schools for Excellence, wants consideration of their charter school application today.

Trina Hollingsworth, of the Chicago Vocational School (CVS) Band Alumni Association, learned to play clarinet as a child and wants utilization of unused CPS instruments, claiming some instruments (woodwinds, for example) will rot if not used. She said children can learn to sight read music. She told the Board that Parkside School cannot accommodate them, but Fermi had a performing arts school in it. She asked that Fermi be made a performing arts school and that she would like Bill Gerstein, if he's available.

President Vitale told her that we will look into it.

Albert Orsello, co-founder of Prevention Austin/North Lawndale, spoke of the Illinois Youth Survey and Partnerships for Success and community benefits, naming several communities. He said that CPS should utilize the survey results.

Jennifer Nielsen, of Prevent School Violence Illinois, wants CPS to support the Illinois Youth Survey. She asked that the surveys be given in schools and said grant funding was needed.

Maureen Cullnan, of Keller School, spoke of the longer school day. She said the Municipal Infrastructure Trust is not clear to many and hopes CPS will look into this more deeply.

Rosita Chatonda, who this month introduced herself as being from CAUSE and from the NAACP spoke of student suspensions and expulsions. She said minority students face harder punishments. She said racial profiling starts when children enter school. She charged that 45 black students had faced 76 suspensions. She added that what happens to students happens to teachers. She remarked that she couldn't get a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) response. She said she was a product of the community, a parent, and a teacher. She thanked Jesse Jackson, Sr. for last month's Board appearance and added that CEO Brizard visits her church and that she was going to ask her pastor to talk to him about his policies.

After public participation, the press was given three handouts which corresponded to three Power Point presentations made by CPS officials:

Jennifer Cheatham went over the 2012-2013 School Calendar, outlining the loss of two holidays (Columbus and Pulaski) and the change of ten personal development days to student attendance days. Cheatham, whose title is "Chief Instruction Officer", explained why the parents and teachers who had been protesting the new calendar were wrong. (The Board approved the proposed calendar after it returned from executive session).

Oliver Sicat, whose title is Chief Portfolio Officer, went over a Power Point handout that he said was about "creating opportunity for every student in every community." He explained how charter school "accountability" will affect charter schools as well as regular public schools. (The Board approved the proposed calendar after it returned from executive session).

Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley presented an overview of the CPS Budget for Fiscal 2013 (July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013) in Power Point format. Communications Department officials also distributed an fact sheet explaining what factors they claimed will affect the proposed budget. (The Board approved the proposed calendar after it returned from executive session).

After the three presentations and a few questions from the Board memebrs, the Board went into closed session.



Comments:

April 29, 2012 at 7:36 PM

By: Rita Bramble

Your summary of my testimony at the board meeting

You wrote that I said "children who attend Kindergarten at Stone are charged tuition. She said there is no library" However, this is not the case at Stone. I was descibing one of my neighborhood schools (Waters) that I felt was NOT an option for my family because of the tuition and lack of a library, etc. Therefore, by accepting the slots at Stone for my children, the trade off is time riding a bus. It is the lack of neighborhood school funding and programs that I was trying to bring to the board's attention and I was asking them to consider bus time in the context of a longer school day.

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