Board of Education meeting of September 25, 2012 has smallest turnout for public participation in memory

The Chicago Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, at 125 S. Clark Street followed the suspension of the Chicago Teachers Union 2012 strike on Tuesday, September 18. Only ten people signed up to speak for two minutes each during public participation and only six people actually spoke, leading to the shortest meeting in recent memory.

Parents and community leaders from Little Village High School, School of Social Justice, described the sabotage of the school by the "Network Chief", who appointed a principal who immediately tried to fire to veteran teaches and dismantle successful programs. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The 10:30 meeting followed a 9:00 meeting devoted to a Public Hearing "concerning the Intent of the Board of Education of the City of Chicago to Sell Not to Exceed $750,000,000 Unlimited Tax General Obligation Bonds (Dedicated Revenues)." A short period of public participation was also scheduled for that meeting.

At 10:30, after the Pledge of Allegiance, roll call indicated that all seven Board members, including Board President David Vitale were present Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jean-Claude Brizard, Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and General Counsel James Bebley.

The meeting began with recognition of schools that had the largest gains in ISAT scores. Among the schools recognized were Oscar Meyer, Coonley, Decatur, Skinner North, Whitney Young, Lincoln, Hawthorne, and STEM. The principals credited the success of the schools to teachers going for National Board Certification, teachers taking responsibility for every student, making sure the school is not a test-prep school, adding IB (International Baccalaurete) and Montessori courses, being a Pioneer School, really good teachers, awesome parents who trust the principal and the process and believe in what the principal does, a principal who steers the boat with a single vision, the growing community, and being risk-takers.

Board Member Penny Pritzker said she liked the energy and enthusiasm shown here at the Board.

The Board then honored some of the principals who ran sites during the seven-day strike by the Chicago Teachers Union. CEO Brizard remarked that principals showed dedication by opening and operating the so-called "Children First" sites (schools that were open to feed and keep children occupied during the recent strike).

Last month Substance reported that the public was told, "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."

Some of the principals from Children First schools were recognized. Among the schools recognized were Ray, Sawyer, Lorca, Brunson, and Fernwood.

The business portion of the meeting began next.

CEO Brizard spoke of the Full School Day (FSD).

Then Board Attorney Joe Moriarity was introduced. He gave a Power Point summary of the tentative agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the BOE.

CTU members will vote on acceptance or rejection of the new agreement on Tuesday, October 2. If the member referendum accepts the deal, the Board will approve the new agreement at their next regular meeting on Wednesday, October 24. The tentative agreement is for three years, with an option for a fourth year, at the Board's request, in April 2015.

Other items that Attorney Moriarity mentioned were class size (current class sizes will be maintained), Special Education, the Full School Day, the Unified Calendar, air-conditioning, the (doubled) teacher supply reimbursement, fair compensation for teachers of 3% the first year, 2% the second and third years, and an optional 3% the fourth year, revised steps, retained lanes, extra compensation for teachers in leadership roles and hard-to-fill positions, the REACH teacher evaluation plan with observation considered very important, working with the Quest Center regarding teacher evaluation, a performance-based culture, seniority subordinate to performance for the first time in district history, and the retention of principal autonomy.

Board members asked questions. Board member Henry Bienen wanted to know how binding was class size. The reply was that class sizes can be changed systematically on forty-five days notice of changes.

Board Member Rodrigo Sierra asked for the name of the committee and who was on it. Attorney Moriarity replied that the Local School Council (LSC) was now on the committee.

Board Member Andrea Zopp asked about the rate of increase in teacher evaluation from year one to year three and commented on the unbelievable amount of his personal time that was spent by Attorney Joe Moriarity. She said, "We're lucky to have you."

Board President David Vitale said that it was an extraordinary team effort. He thanked CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and others. He remarked that the two negotiating teams got to know each other better, always had the same objective, but may not agree on how to get there.

Next Board President David Vitale made three announcements:

1) An honorary Student Board Member is being sought. Applications from Juniors or Seniors will be accepted next week.

2) Public Participation Sign-Up will be revamped for the October meeting. On-line sign-up will be allowed.

3) The Board members are maintaining "Office Hours." Interested members of the public may request a meeting with Board Members by calling 773-553-1600.

Public Participation began next. Michael Brunson, CTU Recording Secretary, presented a letter to CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. He then said that the CTU and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had put in a lot of work since last November. He added that we all worked together and are at a delicate point in the process. He said he wants a truce of peace. He remarked that this is not a time for saber-rattling. He told the Board that it is best if we all work together. He admonished the Board that million dollar ads don't help. He observed that neither one of us wants to win the war and lose the peace. He commented that he was concerned about the rumor of over 100 schools closing, He asked that the list of the schools be released and made public.

Board President David Vitale remarked that this not true [about the list of schools], and that when there is a plan, we will engage everyone.

Board Member Penny Pritzker said that all of us should come together; Management and the Board share that sentiment.

After this, the first speaker, Janelle Myers, a city-wide teacher told the Board that she survived the brutality of a CPS principal. She said she wants her file reviewed and cleared and wants to be put back on her professional track. Last month, she submitted a 34-page document "Why Schools Fail." She asked if anyone had read it. No one indicated that it had been read. She requested that they please read it.

Rico Gutstein, a University of Illinois-Chicago Education professor who helped found Social Justice High School (SOJO) as a result of a 19-day hunger strike in 2001 said that last fall, after the principal quit, Ms. Farr came to the school, and was then replaced by Ms. Velasquez. Principal Velasquez had staff demoted, mixed up student schedules, cut Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and created a climate of extreme dysfunction. He said the community was up in arms over the chaos, the students were organized, and he wants the Board to rewind to August 6 with Kathy Farr as principal and to rein in the destabilization.

Ignacia Rojas Garcia, a parent of a Senior at Social Justice High School, said that she is concerned about the level of disorder in the school, provoked by the removal of the principal (Ms. Farr). She remarked that she is opposed to Ms. Velasquez, who has turned the school upside down and disrupted schedules, She added that the school doesn't have books and children are affected emotionally because of the drastic changes that have occurred. She wants the Board to help reestablish order. She told the Board that we hold you responsible for everything happening on our campus.

Board President David Vitale asked Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett to meet with Ms. Garcia.

Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett told Ms. Garcia that I'll check my calendar and get back to you by the close of business today.

Patricia Buenrostro said that Principal Farr was removed by the Board in August. Ms. Buenrostro said she was part of the LSC for the last two years. She added that we followed the procedure to hire a principal and on March 1, Principal Farr came on board, but was not given a contract. She requested that the Board respect us.

Juanita Alexander of North Lawndale spoke of disabled children and said that her child who has a disability cannot take the A.P. exam.

Board President David Vitale told her to speak with Jennifer Cheatham, Chief Instruction Officer.

Last to speak was "the Honorable" Sylvester J. Hendricks, Brigadier General of the Frank C. Bacon, Jr. Post 2091, who spoke of meetings held in Fernwood church. He said he was here on behalf of an entrepeneur and presented a proposal from Virgil Mathis [Inventor].

Board President David Vitale directed Mr. Hendricks to speak to CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

Mr. Hendricks replied that he wanted to submit the proposal to Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, "with all due respect."

Board President David Vitale replied that "He's a great educator."

Mr. Hendricks asked Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett if she could schedule a meeting.

After these six speakers (plus CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson), questions were asked by Board Member Andrea Zopp about items 12-0925-PR8 (an agreement with Ajilon Professional Staffing) and 12-0925-PR11 (the purchase of projectors) on the closed session agenda. Chief Financial Officer Tim Cawley responded.

Board Member Henry Bienen mentioned that when CAO Tim Cawley presents the budget at the the next meeting, he will also present the implications of the agreement [the school closings]. He added that there will be implications for the new agreement because "there's no printing press in the basement here."

At 11:40, the Board went into closed session.


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