BOARDWATCH, August 22, 2012 Board meeting... Chicago Board of Education talks compromise and budget 'deficit', then approves nearly $50 million for scab centers during the CTU strike of 2012

The Board of Education met on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at 125 S. Clark Street, to approve the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012-2013 budget. Present were Board President David Vitale, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jean-Claude Brizard, Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chief Counsel James Bebley, and all Board members, except Dr. Mahalia Hines who joined the meeting at 11:10 a.m.

Under the protective eye of The Rat, CTU officers Michael Brunson, Jesse Sharkey, and Karen Lewis joined other union members talking to the press prior to the August 22, 2012 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.Congratulations were offered to three schools which had shown great improvement.

The business portion of the meeting began with CEO Jean-Claude Brizard announcing the results in test scores for the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE), the ISAT, and the ACT. He said we should be proud of the increase in the "Meets or Exceeds (M/E) scores." The largest increases, he said, were on the South Side and the West Side. Final results on the ACT scores also showed growth. Brizard remarked that as a "former teacher and principal," he appreciated the value recess activities added to literacy. He named schools where IPADS, cameras, computer labs, guitars, music, and physical activities had made a difference.

Next, Nancy Hanks, principal of Melody School, in the Garfield-Humboldt Network, with a pre-K to 8 school population of 300, told about what it was like to be a Pilot School in the Longer ("Full") Day project. Melody was one of the 13 schools that volunteered in September 2011 to institute the longer day, which began for those schools in January.

She said the school is 94% low income, 99.7% African-American and 15% Special Education. In January 2012, the school went on the longer day schedule which included 90 more minutes of instructional time for Reading, Math, and Science, and also time for recess. She said that as a result of the longer day Pioneer Project, Reading scores increased by 1.4, Math by 11.9, Science decreased by 2.1, and the composite score increased by 5.5. One glitch that occurred were bully-related incidents because of recess. Children had to be taught new behaviors, like don't push anyone off the monkey bars, since they had not experienced recess before. Ms. Hanks enumerated other features of the longer day at Melody and added that to make the longer day succeed, everyone wears multiple hats, flexibility is needed, autonomy is important, and since they have other uses for the library room, a librarian is no longer needed.

Karen Saffold, of the Rock Island Network on the Far Southwest side and Tracey Stelly, of Lavizzo School, told of the new enrichment and academic programs taking place at Lavizzo: Visual Art, Performing Arts, Gardening, Health and Wellness, the Junior Great Books Program, and a longer structured recess time, plus one on one collaboration of the administrator with the grade level teacher.

After that, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Tim Cawley spoke about the FY 2012-2013 budget and said there were no significant changes from what previously had been decided in May, June, and July, when some bargaining decisions were reached. He also summarized the budget, mentioning the tough choices and cuts that needed to be made and added that cuts would be made as far away from the classroom as possible. He said that the budget must be approved today despite the fact that negotiations were continuing.

Board Member Henry Bienen said he agreed with the budget, but that the one-time fix [the use of reserves], meant that the day of reckoning was being postponed.

Board members asked several questions about the budget and after answers were given by CFO Cawley, President Vitale concluded that there would be no more road to kick the can down after this year - the road has run out.

A "No Pass - No Play" policy was passed in regard to school-sponsored athletics. Enforcement begins in September 2012.

At the conclusion of these reports, President Vitale reminded everyone that the Board would be available monthly for comments and questions at 773-553-1600. He added that an online process for registering for public participation at future Board meetings would be introduced in the next couple of months.

First to speak during public participation was Second Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti who said an inadequate number of seats was available in the new Jones High School. He said he supports improvements for Crane, Wells, and Phillips High Schools. He also said quality neighborhood seats were needed and a neighborhood high school should be available in the old Jones High School.

Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU) President Karen Lewis told the Board that the news HERE sounds so wonderful. She spoke of the need to focus on Pre-K and Structured Play. She reminded everyone that there is no substitute for Early Childhood Education. She said that when one looks at the history of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the same story year is seen year in and year out in regard to cuts. She said, by now, there should be no Central Office by the way cuts have been announced in the past. She mentioned that the longer school day feedback that the Union had received was that it was not a better school day. She said that 45 negotiating sessions have taken place and that the Union was now engaged in informational picketing. She added that the Union was concerned about the Board's talk about restructuring the district. She affirmed that we will have a contract, but we don't know when.

President Vitale responded that we are in total agreement; we would like to get this solved.

Rebecca Steffes of Piedmont Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) said that through student internships, students get a glimpse of the real world by partnering with the business community. Some students that spoke mentioned that they saw parts of downtown that they had never seen before.

Enrique Perez, a parent of twins in the South Loop spoke of the poor school options that are available, the overcrowding of elementary schools, and the lack of availability of a neighborhood high school that is not a selective enrollment school. He said that if these problems are not solved, parents will leave for the suburbs. He asked the Board not to demolish the old Jones High School when the new Jones comes on line. He said keeping the old Jones High would make an excellent neighborhood high school and give South Loop parents more options.

Jacqueline Green of South Loop Neighbors also asked for the reuse of the old Jones High School for neighborhood children.

Blagica Bottigliero of the South Loop census tract said a gifted center is needed. She also asked that the old Jones be saved and said that the alderman said that TIF dollars can save it.

Ellen Lorden of South Loop, who has a child at Jones, said that selective enrollment schools do not support the needs of parents with more than one child.

Lynn Pieper, a parent of three on the Near West Side, wants a regular high school in the South Loop because a neighborhood high school is needed in the community.

John Jacoby, of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, said that the community needs a neighborhood high school that they don't have now. He asked that the old Jones High School be reopened as a neighborhood school in 2014 and asked "What's the problem with the old Jones as a neighborhood school?"

Alberto Brito, of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), repeated a previous experience he had shared with the Board. He said he was bullied in fourth grade and felt depressed because of the bullying. In sixth grade, he was bullied again. After the principal and the teacher met with him and the other students, the students who bullied him subsequently wrote a letter of apology to him which helped immensely. He said we need more guidance counsellors for students like me.

Stephanie Cruz, a junior at Roosevelt High School and a member of VOYCE spoke of her trouble learning material in History class. She said the class was overcrowded and needed better materials. She added students were using two kinds of books and that there were not enough study guides. She said overcrowding doesn't work for Advanced Placement (A.P.) classes or regular classes. She requested smaller class sizes and supplies.

Another person asked for a list of the schools with the highest suspension rates.

The response was that it is being worked on and should be seen soon.

Jaime Cornejo of Blocks Together thanked Dr. Hines and asked to met with all the Board members

Janelle Myers, of the Alliance for a Greener South Loop talked about Phillips High School.

Lupe Jimenez, of Perspectives Charter School, said she supports Social Emotional Learning. She said she attended Perspectives Charter School in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and thanked the Board for believing in charter schools.

Kati Gilson, of Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) and a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) at Sumner Elementary School, with a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration, spoke of the privatization of Pre-K. She spoke of 40 page-long applications due in November and a plan to wipe out pre-school for all, especially in low-income neighborhoods. She said principals are forced to compete with each other for funds.

Marty Ritter, of Crane, wants the Board to keep the old Jones High as a neighborhood high school and not to tear it down. He said he would like a fair contract which would maintain the present lanes and steps. He asked that TIF funds be used for schools and children.

Wendy Katten, of Raise Your Hand, spoke of the budget. She asked why Charter schools will get more with the projected deficit. She also wanted to know about neighborhood high schools. She said she feels that the Board seems not to be paying attention to neighborhood high schools. She noted that there are now 26 more employees in the Portfolio Office. She remarked that parents are concerned about class sizes and asked for long-term sustainable solutions.

Rod Estvan, of Access Living of Chicago, addressed the budget and told the Board that we gave you an electronic review of the budget. He added that we don't support the budget and that the Board did not have a budget audit meeting to look at each of the issues. He told the Board, "You need to have a series of meetings. Look at U-46 (Elgin)." He said he does not agree with the cuts affecting autistic students, that autism is increasing, that he supports more Early Childhood Education, and he has great concern over the reserve not being restored till FY 2015.

Scotesa Chapman, on the Local School Council (LSC) at J. N. Thorp Elementary School which shares space with a charter school whose budget has been increased, is concerned about Special Education. He said Thorp is losing four teachers and has overcrowded classes and split classes. He told the Board, "Do the right thing."

Jauntaunne Byrd, an LSC member and a Title I parent of children at Curtis Elementary School in the Roseland Community, Simeon High School and Southern Illinois University (SIU), said a School Improvement Plan is needed in order to address deficiencies. She said without a School Improvement Plan they cannot have a school budget. She spoke of being pleased to be sworn in as an LSC member yesterday.

Lilian Hernandez spoke in Spanish which was translated. She is a parent of two children at Eli Whitney Elementary School in Little Village which started school on August 13. She said she supports a longer school day and feels that it benefits the children. She mentioned that the children were more relaxed, excited, and behaved better with recess.

Karina Macedo, is an LSC member and a parent of five. She spoke of Greene School in the McKinley Park neighborhood. She supports and appreciates recess.

Jesus Campuzano, of Southside Together Organizing for Power (S.T.O.P.), said that there is a need for more social workers. Without them, he said, "I don't know where I'd be today." He said that if charter schools can be funded, then there is money for social workers, one for each school or for each 300 students.

Curtis Harris, of the Chicagoland Autism Connection, addressed the autism cuts. He said that he had worked with a behavioral therapist and that autism programs gave him the foundation that he has today. He went on to Columbia College. In October, he will run in the Chicago Marathon for the first time. He added that cuts in autism programs will be devastating and may lead to prison for students. He mentioned an article in the January 1988 New York Times that told of autism being on the rise. He asked the Board not to make cuts to autism programs.

Ronald Jackson, of Tilden High School said that a Federal judge and a ten-year old had been given position numbers at a Chicago Public Schools. He spoke of Tilden teachers who are not certified and of a gym teacher who doesn't exist but is teaching at Tilden. He mentioned that none of the students at Tilden High School has received yearbooks that were paid for.

Donald Jackson, who said he was no relation to Ronald Jackson, said he has a 15 year-old daughter in tenth grade at Tilden, who was given lyrics for music by a music teacher that he named. When he asked a Board member to read the lyrics, no one would read them aloud. He said he went to eight charter schools but was told there was no space for her. Staff was asked to discuss this with him.

Darlene OBanner, of Goodlow Elementary School, now a grandparent and soon to be a grandparent, was inaugurated into the LSC yesterday. She thanked Dr. Mahalia Hines and CEO Brizard for the help they had given to Goodlow. She said the school sits behind the CSX railroad and next to Lindblom Park. She mentioned that weeds have been cut and that they now have a new principal from Julian.

Dr. Hines told her that you cannot depend on us to do everything for you. She added that they did it for themselves.

Michelle Clark, also of Goodlow, and a parent who is on the LSC, remarked, "It takes a village to raise a child." She said that Darlene OBanner had raised money for a basketball team and parents felt welcome in the school. She told the Board that all of them are invited to a Back to School Fair being held this Saturday from 10-3.

Cynthia Peterson, of Spencer Technology Academy and a community Family Resource Person, spoke of the Spencer Parent University (SPU). She said Spencer Principal Dr. Shawn Jackson will cut the ribbon next month and invited the Board to attend.

Yolanda Webster, also of SPU at 214 N. Lavergne said the SPU provides a parent room, resources, and training. She mentioned that student safety is a top priority and that the Longer Day supervised recess helps because their children cannot play in the community because of violence.

George Blakemore spoke of Black teachers, Black history, and contracts. He said he was an advocate for Black studies in Black schools. He advocated for Black teachers to teach in our schools and added that many Black teachers had been displaced. In regard to the budget, he said, "Connect the dots." He said that with illegal immigrants using resources, Black people have to compete for those resources and want to be at the head of the line. He mentioned the negative effects of slavery on CPS students. At this point, Security removed the mic.

Lennie Jarratt, of For Our Children's Future, requested a quality education for the children. He gave a handout to the Board which explained a sample contract at the Zion High School District. He said costs were controlled by helping teachers at a younger age. He said such teachers were more likely to leave in the first five years because of salaries. He said longevity bonuses were given at Zion. He told the Board that doing these things prevents layoffs and allows lower class sizes and fiscal sustainability.

Hugo Thurmond addressed the appeal of Ms. Lakisha Thigpen, an assistant principal who lives in the Roseland community. Last month she said she was falsely accused of violating Board policy. She was suspended regarding residency and still supports the school. He said she wants to stay as assistant principal with retroactive pay for her suspension.

Richard McAvoy Semyck handed folders to the Board members and told them he had been a Special Education Bilingual Educator at Stowe School. He spoke of his former principal, Dr. Kyle. He said Dr. Kyle was a top high level professional who had worked with Dr. Comer. He said Dr. Kyle brought Best Practices to Stowe School, met and exceeded all the Scantron Math and Reading tests and together with the staff, raised Illinois State Achievement Tests (ISAT). He asked that the Board give a promotion to him and use his qualifications across the city.

At this point, public participation ended with 33 minutes remaining for public participation on the television monitor.

When Board President Vitale asked the Board members for comments and questions, Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz said that the Board was putting more in the most needed schools. He remarked, in regard to Mr. Blakemore's comments and also Tilden School, that every child is entitled to an education.

When Board Member Andrea Zopp asked about autism cuts, Chief Instruction Officer Jennifer Cheatham said that we're not sure where they're getting that impression; there are no cuts to autism programs in CPS.

President Vitale mentioned that there were many speakers on the South Loop situation. He said that we have more Regional Gifted School Centers and more neighborhood seats in the new Jones. He added that we will continue to work to find a solution.

Board Member Andrea Zopp said that just because there's a building there, we can't [necessarily] put a new school there; parents can look into other high schools. She also asked for clarity of the level of discretion we are giving to administration.

Since a strike is possible, in order to lessen the impact on students, supervised shelter and meals with non-instructional support for students would be provided. There would be expenditures of no more than $25 million. Upon a ten-day notice to strike, this would become effective immediately upon adoption.

On July 24, an interim CPS/CTU agreement was reached and there would be amendments to the existing contract.

Board President Vitale said that he hoped not to have a strike, adding that parents who work rely on schools.

After this, the Board went into closed session.


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