Board of Education Business As Usual on May 23 — as teachers began gathering for the largest downtown teacher march in Chicago history

The regular meeting of the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) took place Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in the fifth floor chambers at 125 S. Clark Street. The roll call indicated that two members were absent: Henry S. Bienen and Penny Pritzker.

Cindy Miller-Hardy, who teaches at Benito Juarez High School, was honored by the Board for receiving a Fullbright scholarship. She told the Board she was proud to teach at Chicago's best high school — Juarez, a general public high school. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.The meeting began with the announcement of a winner of a Fulbright Scolarship by Juarez High School Teacher Cynthia Miller-Hardy for the 2012-13 school year. She will exchange teaching positions with a teacher from England.

Three Golden Apple Winners were announced from primary grades at De Priest Elemantary School, Murray Language Academy and Norwood Park Elementary School.

Illinois High School Association championship winners were announced: Mather won for soccer, Simeon for Basketball and Whitney Young for Girls Basketball. It was the first time in 88 years that the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) won in soccer.

Academic Competition winners were: Whitney Young for the Academic Decathalon, Zapata Elementary for debates, and Lincoln Elementary. Christine Alex of Lenart Gifted was the Spelling Bee Champ.

CPS sports director Calvin Davis proudly introduced coaches and some players from Chicago schools that had won state titles this school year: Simeon, boys basketball; Whitney Young, girls basketball; and Mather, boys soccer. The Whitney Young coach and players — along with sports officials and students from other schools — have told Substance that they are worried about how the plan to increase the length of the high school school day for the 2012 - 2013 school year will effect their practices and games. Next year, Young’s academic day won’t end until 3:40 p.m. while the mayor and CPS central office officials claim that programs won't be harmed. CPS officials under the Brizard administration along with the CPS Office of Communications (all of whom are newcomers to Chicago's schools) have been trying to gag veteran teachers, coaches and administrators who are pointing out that the "Longer School Day" is about to complete the destruction of some of the best sports and extra-curricular programs left in the city (charter schools, turnarounds, and school closings have already destroyed some of the programs that once kept teenagers in high schools, such as the old "Red West" basketball leagues, which were destroyed under Arne Duncan through the privatization program called "Renaissance 2010." Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Outside the Board meeting and through several encounters with Substance reporters, sports officials at CPS have warned of the destruction that the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jean-Claude Brizard is about to bring on the city's high schools, especially the general high schools. With sports and extra-curricular programs being threatened with destruction so that all high schools can be forced on to the mayor's "Longer School Day" absurdity, the resulting increase in the dropout rate and other consequences can be foreseen. But since top CPS officials are no all people with no Chicago teaching or CPS administrative experience, the abstractions that currently rule the public pronouncements about the high schools for next year are as empty as the knowledge about Chicago currently at the top of CPS.

Next, the business portion of the meeting took place. Chief Education Officer (CEO) Jean-Claude Brizard was assisted by Akeishia Craven. The presentation "Resolution Regarding Elementary School Promotion Requirements," stated that, at the present time, 3rd, 6th, and 8th grade students attend the Summer Bridge program if they are below the 24th percentile in reading or math on the ISAT, get D or F as their final grade in reading or math, or have more then nine unexcused absences, and those 15 or older are referred to the Achievement Academy as a transition to high school. Resolutions were introduced that would end the Summer Bridge requirement for students who have more than nine unexcused absences and replace the Achievement Academies with a new Summer Acceleration program for overage students entering high school.

Harrison Peters, Chief of Schools of the "Lake Calumet Network", related an anecdote regarding a student who inexplicably laughed at the bullying he received. The student thought it was funny because he was now 200 pounds, instead of his previous 300 pounds.

Elizabeth Dozier, Principal of Fenger High School, gave a presentation of "then and now" at Fenger High School. She listed key strategies for improving teaching, learning, culture and climate and told how these changes had improved the school in the last two and a half years. Board Member Vice President Jesse Ruiz congratulated her and Board Member Andrea Zopp asked about the restorative justice program. Mention was made of the peer jury program.

Sean Stalling, Chief of Schools for the "South Side High School Network", said that Douglas Maclin will continue to be the principal at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy after it is "turned-around." A presentation was given which listed the progress in attendance, performance and behavior (APB Srategies) that will be built upon. The school has established partnerships with Olive Harvey College, Motorola, and Chicago State University. The Culinary Arts program won first prize this year in a city-wide "Cooking up Change" competition.

Next, a presentation was given on the proposed conversion of South Shore International College Prep into a selective enrollment school, and the change of Shields Elementary to two schools: pre-K to 4th grade school which will continue in the current building and grades 5-8 which will be housed in a new middle school.

By the time all of the presentations and other business was over, it was after noon. As usual, members of the public who had arrived as early as six a.m. to take part in the meeting (and who often paid more than $30 to park downtown) had been pushed to the back of David Vitale's bus, as one critic has put it.

Public Participation began at 12:09 p.m., when Henry L. English of the Black United Fund spoke in support of the Board report regarding South Shore High School. He said the Community Action Council (CAC) will raise money for South Shore.

When Steinmetz student Jennie Czahor spoke against the longer day, Board president David Vitale’s response was that his high school daughter — a student at Walter Payton — also said the same things. After Sharon Schmidt used the Steinmetz Star to illustrate the many valuable after school activities that will be shortened by the longer school day, Dave Vitale said the arguments were “very repetitive.” For several months, the Board members have all echoed the same theme: "We have made our decisions and we are right, so you should stop bothering us with arguments against what we have decided to do because we are, have been, and will continue to be right..." As more and more of the decisions of the Rahm Emanuel Board and its out-of-town administrative team cause repeated disasters in the city's real public schools, critics are coming to agree with those who said from the beginning that Vitale's Board was placed in power to sabotage the public schools and privatize as much as possible — from central office work to the schools themselves — before someone drives them out of office. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Lisa Haynes also supports the South Shore International College Prep selective enrollment status. She thanked the Board for listening to parents. She asked the board to notify Option for Knowledge students of the new chance to choose South Shore as their Options for Knowledge choice.

Lashawn Brown, a parent, a community resident of South Shore, and a member of the South Shore Community Action Council, is fighting hard for selective enrollment at South Shore. He asked the Board to count all the students in the community because, he said, presently we have to take students from outside the school for quality education. He spoke of the need for funding to carry on the mission and of the need for volunteers.

Frank Horton, who retired twelve years ago from CPS, was the principal of South Shore in 2000. He said he had been there twenty-five years, first as an assistant principal and then as principal. He was asked and accepted the position of chair of the Education Task Force, even though it is an unpaid position, because he wants South Shore to be a model school.

Alderman Michelle Harris asked for money and resources. She said we are depending on the Board to support South Shore.

The next speaker was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, of Rainbow PUSH, who thanked the Board and told them of his joy and delight in hearing the story of Fenger's crucifixion and resurrection. He remarked that what happens here, happens around the world. He said that the flow of guns must be stopped and that if the shots had taken place in Afghantistan, they would have been stopped by drones. He mentioned to students who are seniors that only voters can be jurors. He then asked the students, how many of you would like to have been in a trial of Trevon Martin. He stated that absenteeism drives economics and mentioned that if our kids are absent and do not learn, we lose revenue from those absences. Rev. Jackson wants to work on an Equal Funding Lawsuit that is concerned with the lose of resources because of a lack of attendance. He added that current graduates can vote this November.

CEO Brizard said he wants to get every eligible graduate to be able to vote by the end of the school year.

Board Member Andrea Zopp supports this plan. She said she is a registrar for voters. She spoke of the lawsuit on funding and the suspension issue.

CEO Brizard stated that African-American males are disproportionately suspended.

Rev. Jackson said that Trevon Martin had been suspended for 10 days for possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Mention was made that suspension is not a solution to the problem; reducing absences will increase funds.

Board Member Dr. Mahalia Hines spoke of the need for restorative justice and the need for really great people in place, great chiefs in place, and dynamite principals. She mentioned working with alternative schools and the Gates Foundation Achievement Academies in the time she has been with the Board. She added that there are inconsistencies in suspension of our males. She added her support of getting students to vote.

Rev. Jackson then asked where suspended students go when they are kicked out for 10 days. He advocated for parents to take their children to school, to exchange phone numbers with teachers, and to attend church weekly as a family. He added that a teacher cannot teach absent children.

Jesse Sharkey, Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), said we want to have a contract in place next fall. He mentioned the differences in contract requests by the BOE and the CTU, for example, the Board wants to eliminate contract language in regard to class size and in its place, the Board wants to establish class size policy and notify the CTU what class size will be. He said another area of disagreement is that the Board wants differentiated pay based on levels of effectiveness and performance-based compensation. He added that if areas of disagreement can be resolved, we'll be able to work together and get a contract.

Brittany King, of Access Living, with five students in wheel chairs, advocates for those who have been bullied. She gave an example of a student who had been bullied and sought peer opinion. She mentioned that students with disabilities have more problems with bullies. She said suspensions have been lowered from ten to five days. She asked for support for the High Hopes Justice policy. She said that there should be a restorative justice practitioner in every school.

President Vitale said he wants to reduce suspensions.

Brittany King then told President Vitale, "I need a yes or a no..."

He told her that that's not how we work here.

She asked him the Board to come out on June 2 and hear what they have to say at a summit.

Board Member Andrea Zopp responded that they had already talked about this; she mentioned t-shirts and Disabled Youth United to Stop Bullying.

Dennis O'Neill, of "Connecting4Communities" spoke of the increasing access to secondary education, the shift in population, and the many magnet schools that look forward to working with CPS.

Alexandria Hollett, of Shields School, mentioned that the teachers will not necessarily go to the new school, but may possibly be displaced. She spoke of the student-centered education by long-time teachers.

Proudly wearing their CTU tee shirts, Shields elementary teachers Paul Hartman and Alexandria Hollett spoke about the transition planned for the school. CPS is planning to have students in the upper grades moved to a new building for students, but teachers may be displaced, they said. Like teachers in many Chicago schools that have faced Board actions of closings, turnarounds, phase outs, and consolidations, they attempted to share the positive aspects of the instructional programs with Board members and asked why teachers in such situations were risking the loss of their jobs just because a new school, which should be a cause for celebration, is brought to their students. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Paul Hartman, also of Shields, spoke of teacher concerns and instructional concerns. He spoke of the need for the Shields community to be part of the transition plan and of the safety and security plan.

Mayra Garcia, spoke in Spanish. She said she is a mother of three at Shields. She mentioned the new Shields School at 48th and Rockwell and said she supports the recommendation that Network Chief Victor Simon will make today.

Gloria Delgado, of "Education Reform Alumni," spoke of being assigned to under-performing schools and fearing for her safety. She introduced four students whose lives have been changed.

Elise Doody-Jones, who is a member of Friends of Goethe School and on the Local School Council (LSC), said that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to renovate the school yard had been submitted in February. She told the Board that we look forward to working with you and thanked Tim Cawley, Chief Administrative Officer, for working with them on this project. She added, "We need more comfortable chairs in back" (of the Board Chambers).

President Vitale responded that any money we have is spent on the schools.

The latest contributor of commentary praising the Board's corporate approach to school reform was Angela Rudolph (above) of the group calling itself "Democrats for Education Reform". Miller told the Board members they were doing the right thing. The so-called "Democrats for Education Reform" (DFER), financed like Stand for Children by some of the wealthiest people in the USA, has recently changed its tactics from a national approach to one aimed at every major state in support of union busting and privatization. With millions of dollars at their disposal, the "Astroturf" groups (so-called because they are phony "grass roots" organizations) form a new phalanx on behalf of corporation school reform and the destruction of public schools. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.
Angela Rudolph, of Democrats for Education Reform (DEFR), spoke of a strike as a "nuclear option" that would entail loss of wages for parents and child care costs. She mentioned nine strikes between 1969 and 1987. She told the Board that she grew up in the Lawless Gardens Apartments and went to Catholic schools because of strikes then. She said she felt that reasonable people should be able to compromise and asked the CPS and the CTU to "dial back the rhetoric." She said that children need to be our "Number One priority", that both CPS and CTU should stay at the bargaining table, explore all options, and put our children first.

Maria Mikel, of Hawthorne Scholastic Academy, said that the teachers did not want to vote for having their lunch during the school day (known as open campus). She said she felt she was bullied. She added that CPS talks a good game about a longer day, but she feels left out. She wondered how Chicago ended up with the shortest day and highest teachers' salaries. She also felt that the CTU, CPS and Mayor's office were in cahoots with each other.

Steinmetz High School junior Jennie Czahor spoke out against the longer day for high school students. While the plan is hugely unpopular with students, Jennie is the only high school student to have made a public statement against the plan this year. Board president David Vitale’s response was that his high school daughter also said the same things. The pending chaos in the high schools, destruction of many extra-curricular and sports programs, and the danger of violence from the city's drug gangs have been ignored by both the mayor's office and the mayor's CPS appointees. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt. Jennifer Czaher, of Steinmetz High School, spoke against the proposed longer school day. She said students were missing out on quality time and that parents need time to see their children. She added other that sports involvement, homework, especially for Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and after-school activities were also affected. She told the Board that there would be harm if the eighth period lunch was taken away. She also said that some students would drop out and would not want to be in school for an extra hour. Also affected, she said, would be jobs and service hours for extra credit.

President Vitale told her that his daughter makes the same comments constantly.

Jennifer (Jenny) Biggs, a parent of children at Mark Sheridan Academy, said it pained her to witness relentless attacks on teachers. She mentioned a ten-year CPS teacher who was committed to the students. She said that CPS is looking only at data from tests. She said the teacher was never asked to be a meaningful part, was viewed as insignificant, and feels as if her profession holds no value. Ms. Biggs said the teacher voice is needed because teachers know what is needed.

Gerald Gliege, of Sawyer School, spoke of the majority of students who speak a second language and receive reduced-price lunches. He said the secondary-language children had not progressed enough to be ready for regular classes. He mentioned that in 1995 UNO had its first school, which provided full English immersion, which he supports.

Jerry Skinner, of Kelvyn Park High School and a member of the school improvement team, said nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors; he remarked that the administration is locked behind closed doors with OTS. He said the staff had presented three points, but the team was being excluded. He asked CPS to make OTS hold to agreements and work with us.

Marisol Ledezma, who is graduating from Kelly High School, said neighborhood schools are being neglected. She added that CPS doesn't invest in neighborhood schools and that this was confirmed by Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley. She remarked that this is unjust; education is the only way out of the poverty cycle. She told the Board that we need support to succeed. She said she represents her civics class and gave the Board a petition for equitable facilities in CPS.

Kelly High School teacher Bill Lamme brought some of his students to question the Board's facilities policies and the neglect of the building needs of the area's general high schools, especially in contrast to the hundreds of millions of dollars in public money going to charter schools (most in that part of town run by UNO) in the same communities. The teachers and their students were told to meet with CPS officials out back of the Board meeting. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Raymond Duran, a senior at Kelly High School and a member of "Students for Educational Justice," told of chipping paint in the walls and ceiling, holes in the floor, seats missing in the auditorium, and missing doors in bathroom stalls at Kelly High School. He said renovations are needed. He mentioned that Kristin Mayle, CPS Financial Secretary and formerly a teacher a DeLaCruz, told of renovations that took place there beginning on the school's last day. A charter school then rented out the building for $1 rent for one year. He added that my neighborhood isn't safe, I'm on my way to college, and a charter school is coming where some of the kids will not be accepted.

President Vitale asked him to see Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley.

Patricia Breckenridge, of the CTU Displaced Teachers Committee, said many displaced teachers with resumes attend displaced teachers meetings at CTU. She asked that the resumes be accepted and that the Board contact Pat Gerard at the CTU.

Jose Hernandez spoke of PIAB bylaws. He said he was glad the Board showed up for the meeting. He said the LSC was not interested in collaboration and that non-involved parents do not show up. He added that there has been no quorum since 2008; that's who gets appointed. He said he also spoke at the March meeting and came up with a draft for elected reps.

President Vitale said we will look into that.

Wendy Katten, of Raise Your Hand, thanked Board Member Dr. Hines for doing her work, advocating for time and a better day. She said that Ella Flagg Young Elementary School will have eight fewer positions for fall because there are 300 fewer students; it will be overcrowded until the 20th day. She said the neighborhood school is Level 3 and has good teachers. She said a bunch of positions had been lost at neighborhood schools and she is looking at real estate listings.

Courtney Sinisi, a parent of a first-grader and a member of the LSC and a Girl Scout leader spoke of the over-crowding at Cassell. She said Dr. Cheatham who just stepped away may have heard about overcrowded classes there, as many as 43 in one room. She said trying to count the rotunda and the vestibule of the school as classroom space are not reasonable solutions to the problem because classrooms are not possible there. She said they lost a music position and that the principal then had to purchase positions to provide music, money that could go for books, etc. She said with a one-hour longer day and a ten-day longer year, they were being set up to fail. She added that the children deserve technology, a library, math, and science.

Pat Taylor is scheduled to talk to her.

Subtance editor (and Steinmetz teacher) Sharon Schmidt noted that the plan for a longer day for high school students was “crazy.” She used a copy of the Steinmetz Star to illustrate the many activities and paying jobs students acare about. Vitale said he knows about after school work, that his daughter is the editor of the Payton High School Paw Print and that Schmidt’s “thoughts” were “very repetitive.” Substance photo by Marybeth Foley.Sharon Schmidt, a parent of CPS children, a teacher, and editor of Substance newspaper, spoke of the increase of time in high school related to the proposed longer day. She said the high school day is already longer and the day is on a par with the rest of the nation. She added that high school students already have a full day. She told of students who are involved in many after-school activities, help out at home, do homework, and work because parents need the money. She remarked the longer day will simply mean seatwork. She mentioned Jenny (Czaher), her student and an earlier public participant, who is in her after-school journalism group. She asked the Board to respond to these concerns now, referring to hundreds who are in journalism-writing, sports, jobs, and clubs.

President Vitale said he had heard this before from his daughter who is a student at Walter Payton High School. He added, "We appreciate your thoughts, but they're very repetitive."

David Williams, of the Youth Advocate Program, enumerated many statistics. He mentioned that the contract will end in 2012. He invited that Board to visit an awards banquet on June 22.

Amy Hilliard, founder of the Comfort Cake Company, said she had received a full scholarship to Howard University. She told the Board that content without context leads to confusion. She said that the Comfort Cake Company supplies a whole wheat crust to CPS and many stores carry our products. She told them that she sold her home to fund the food business, and that her children work in the company. She remarked that the crust is a quality crust made to specifications and was voted best in the schools. She said they have supplied CPS schools since 2003.

Board Member Andrea Zopp told Ms. Hilliard that she was ecstatic about what you're doing and that the Urban League knows what you're doing.

President Vitale congratulated her.

Board Member Andrea Zopp told her that she loves the sugar-free as well. "That's awesome!"

While the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education (minus Pritzker and Bienen on May 23 — both were out of town being important plutocrats) met as usual behind a phalanx of security during "bankers hours" at the Board's headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. on May 23, 2012, hundreds of thousands of Chicago parents and teachers were busy working, teaching, or otherwise trying to do the best with their lives. Most teachers and parents can't afford the parking ($31 for the length of the Board meeting), or to take a day off from work while the Board arrogantly holds its daytime meetings in Chicago's Loop, stalls the beginnings of the meetings as long as possible, and then disdainfully comments when average people disagree with them. The last time they met in a school with free parking for the average person was in 2002. But the members of the Board and the mercenaries from out of town and not from education were present during the teacher rally and march on May 23. Above, teachers arrive with puppets depicting (left to right) the Board's millionaire banker President David Vitale; "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard (who came from Rochester New York to take his quarter million dollar a year job — and collect an additional $30,000 to "relocate" to Chicago; Brizard communicates with mere teachers through electronic "town hall" meetings because he is afraid to face Chicago's finest directly); Board "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley (behind Brizard, he came to CPS for his $200,000-plus job from Motorola via AUSL); and Board member Billionaire Penny Pritzker (who considers herself an "entrepreneur" even though she was born with such a huge silver spoon in her mouth that most people couldn't see it stretching from one horizon to the next). During the rally inside the Auditorium Theatre, CTU President Karen Lewis noted that Chicago is the only school district in Illinois that has a corporate-style "Chief Executive Officer" rather than an educator certified and experienced in teaching in Illinois. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.Greg Seaphus said he spoke to the secretary on August 26, 2011 and was told you were out visiting schools; she said you'd get back to me. He said it's now May 25 and she hasn't gotten back to me. After telling the Board that things needed to be done differently than they had been done, he asked that he be called anytime.

Patricia Pacheco, who had complained at previous meetings regarding Lane Tech High School Principal Toni LoBosco,was allowed for a second time to utilize a public forum to address what is supposed to be a confidential personnel matter. Pecheco said she is not getting a response and needs help with a problem with the principal, who, she says, doesn't respond to her. Pacheco said CPS also does not respond, adding that "nobody does anything." She added that she talked to the Law Department. She asked if she could have a word with them today.

This time, CPS officials were prepared to respond to Pacheco's complaint. Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks said that his office did investigate about the claim of principal retaliation against her daughter, the example being that Pecheco's daughter's picture was not in the yearbook. Rocks said the daughter missed her June 2011 appointment. During a two-week period, the appointment could have been rescheduled. In August, another appointment did not take place. He added that four of five students complied with repeated requests, but the daughter didn't. He said the school will not reprint the yearbook. He mentioned that an insert would have been provided, but the offer was declined. He added that the principal did not do anything improper.

Ms. Pacheco then asked, "What about the allegations...?" as she was surrounded by security.

Rosita Chatonda, who said this month that she is a sub-committee chair for the NAACP, a displaced teacher, and a member of C.A.U.S.E., said she listened to Board Member Dr. Hines who said tht the Board was not getting the right press. Ms. Chatonda said many who have worked their fingers to the bone are being terminated. She thanked Rev. Jackson and said we do restorative justice for teachers at Rainbow Push headquarters. She told of thirty-year olds who are being E-3d at schools at an unparalleled rate on the South Side. She added that the teachers force is being wiped out. She then remarked, "Dr Hines is reading something else. It is so disrespectful."

Following the last speaker, additional remarks were made Board Members and staff members regarding transition plans, selective enrollment schools, the Chartwell contract, Shields School, principal selection in a new school, and Phillip Hampton who is retiring from the Shields community. After this, the Board went into closed session.


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