Board launches campaign to avoid following the facilities law, refuses to issue 2013 Hit List by December 1 deadline
Less than 18 months after he began churning the top leadership of the nation's third largest school system, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, through the current iteration of his school leadership team, is attempting to evade the letter and spirit of the Chicago Facilities Law by asking that the publication of the annual "Hit List" of schools to be closed (or otherwise changed) be postponed until March 2013. The law requires that CPS hold hearings in November and post the list of schools slated for action by December 1.
Late in the day on Friday, November 2, 2012, the Chicago Board of Education launched its latest attack on legality and decency by asking that it be allowed to evade the clear letter of the Chicago Facilities Law and ignore the December 1 deadline required for releasing the annual "Hit List" of schools to be closed. Ignoring its own incompetence and the constant churning of CPS staff (beginning with the hiring of dozens of people from out-of-town who know little or nothing about Chicago â€” including the last two "Chief Executive Officers" â€” to run the schools), CPS claimed in its request on November 2 that it needs more time to do an adequate job in developing the Hit List.
While one alternative is simply to admit that CPS should not do a Hit List during the 2012 - 2013 school year (a course recently demanded by the Chicago Teachers Union), instead of admitting that it can't produce a rational list, CPS officials led by the latest Chief Executive Officer, Barbara Byrd Bennett, claim that they need more time, much like a child who doesn't do homework, attend class, or pass any tests for the first 18 weeks during a semester and then cries, during the final two weeks, that it's the teacher's fault, and that the teacher should provide the miscreant with "extra credit" and "makeup work."
The CPS press release announcing the change in tactics for CPS to implement school closings was issued on the afternoon of November 2, 2012. Substance was not sent a copy of the press release, which was subsequently published on the CPS website. [Substance is planning legal action against CPS for discrimination in the issuance of press releases, other press material, and the response to Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, requests since Rahm Emanuel took over the schools in May and June 2011 and appointed former Blagojevich administration official Becky Carroll to head CPS "Communications"].
THE CPS PRESS RELEASE IS AS FOLLOWS:
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to Launch Thorough Community Engagement Process On School Actions ... CEO is to seek extension of school actions deadline and appoint independent commission of expert stakeholders to guide engagement
November 2, 2012
Chicago â€“ Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett today announced the Districtâ€™s plan to seek an extension of the December 1 statutory deadline to release school actions in order to launch a rigorous, transparent and open dialogue with school communities over the next several months to help the District make more informed decisions around school actions and better invest resources that will help kids access a high-quality education.
CEO Byrd-Bennett announced the appointment of a nine-member Commission on School Utilization composed of stakeholders with different experience and expertise who will lead this community engagement process, gather information and provide a written report to guide CPS in making recommendations around school actions. CPS is asking the Illinois legislature to support its request by amending the state law that governs school actions to include a one-time deadline extension of March 31.
â€œI consulted with the mayor, the Board, members of my team, community members and other key stakeholders to assemble this independent commission charged with leading the work required to help our kids access a high-quality education,â€ said CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett. â€œOur goal is to give the community the respect they deserve in this process, rebuild trust with CPS and create a path for right-sizing our district so that we can better invest resources in every child and every school in our city.â€
Next week, the commission will begin its work and issue a schedule of upcoming public hearings.
Members of the Commission on School Utilization are:
The Honorable Iris Y. Martinez, Illinois state senator
Frank M. Clark, a civic leader and former chairman and chief executive officer of ComEd
John Hannah, a faith leader and senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church
Terry Hillard, a safety expert and former Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department
21st Ward Alderman Howard B. Brookins
Dr. Fausto E. LÃ³pez, a leadership coach and former CPS principal and teacher
Earnest Gates, a community leader who heads the nonprofit Near West Side Community Development Commission
Shirley Calhoun, a CPS parent, grandparent and Fiske Elementary assistant parent coordinator, and
Deberah Perkins, a former CPS teacher.
To view complete biographies of commission members, visit www.cps.edu/independentcommission.
In order to extend the deadline for releasing the list of schools subject to actions, CPS is seeking a legislative measure to extend the deadline stipulated in Illinois law SB 630 that states school actions must be announced by December 1 each year. Extending the deadline to March 31 will give the commission the time it needs to rigorously engage communities and will provide schools with the time they need to focus on preparing their students for annual ISAT tests and avoid any distractions to student learning.
â€œWe must be committed to a transparent and open process to properly engage the community around this work, and we also need to acknowledge that our District is not serving all the needs of all our children because our resources are stretched so thin,â€ said CEO Byrd-Bennett. â€œWe simply canâ€™t do what is necessary for our kids while school buildings are crumbling or provide the resources for a 21st century education that they deserve. When we consolidate schools that are underutilized or half empty, we will be able to better invest those resources across the district.â€
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to Launch Thorough Community Engagement Process On School Actions
CPS Releases Draft School Actions Guidelines that Integrate Community Feedback
CATALYST HAD THE MOST DETAILED STORY, WHICH FOLLOWS:
CPS to ask to delay school action announcements. By: Sarah Karp / November 02, 2012
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said today she plans to ask the state legislature to postpone by four months--from Dec. 1 to March 31--the announcement of proposed school actions.
CTU President Karen Lewis reiterated her stance that Byrd-Bennett put a moratorium on school closings for a year. She said waiting to make an announcement til March 31 doesnâ€™t give parents and teachers enough time to prepare for a school closing the following fall.
â€œIt is time to step back and do some analysis,â€ Lewis said.
But others seemed to welcome Byrd-Bennettâ€™s desire to spend more time to get community feedback before making the announcements.
Byrd-Bennett, who just weeks ago took over the helm of Chicago Public Schools, rejected the idea of waiting a year. She said CPS has a projected $1 billion deficit and it would be fiscally irresponsible for her not to make some moves this year. CPS officials say they can save anywhere from $500,000 to $800,000 annually per school. Byrd-Bennett has refused to say how many schools she will close this year. However, the administration will hone in on servely underutilized schools. According to CPS, 140 schools are more than 50 percent underutilized.
The delay to March, Byrd-Bennett said, will give her the time she needs to engage the community in an â€œauthenticâ€ discussion. Also, on Friday, she appointed a nine-member Commission on School Utilization.
Commission members will be charged with holding public hearings, collecting information and coming up with recommendations about which schools to close. Byrd-Bennett did not commit to following the commissionâ€™s recommendations.
Among the commission members is State Sen. Iris Martinez, who is also co-chair of the Chicago Educational Facilities Taskforce. The taskforce, created by the General Assembly, pushed the bill that established the timeline for announcing school actions.
To get the deadline postponed, a lawmaker will have introduce a bill and it would have to be voted on during the veto session that starts Nov. 27. The other co-chair of the taskforce, Rep. Cynthia Soto, said she and her colleagues have a lot of questions for CPS before they support changing the law to extend the deadline. She said they have a meeting set up.
When the Chicago school facilities bill was approved in 2011, the timeline was seen as a major victory for activists. For a long time, they complained it was too late to let parents and teachers know in late winter or Spring that their school was to be closed.
Many times the announcement about school closings came after deadlines for parents to apply to magnet, selective enrollment and charter schools, thereby limiting their options.
This year, the deadline to apply for magnet and selective enrollment school is Dec. 14 and letters of acceptances are supposed to be sent out well before March 31. Each charter school has a different application deadline, but many of them are early Spring.
â€œWe control the deadlines,â€ said Byrd-Bennett. Her team is looking at ways to make sure that students and parents will be able to apply to schools, should they learn their school is to be targeted in late March.
State Sen. Heather Steans said that after talking to Martinez she supports the delay in the announcement of proposed school actions. Martinez told her the commission will be going out to every community and talking to them about school actions.
â€œI think that if we can get real community input the process is going to work much better,â€ she said.
She also noted that when school closings are announced, schools often are thrown into turmoil. If the announcement comes later in the school year, students will experience less upheaval, she said.
But Lewis said it is not good for parents, students and teachers to be left scrambling looking for new options so late in the school year. She pointed out that it is not clear how much of a financial benefit the school district will reap by closing schools.
Some districts that have closed schools in the past have not realized big savings. Also, the savings are dependent on the school district closing schools and not opening new ones in their place. In Chicago, the vast majority of schools closed over the past decade currently house new schools, many of them charter schools.
Byrd-Bennett said she doesnâ€™t want to entangle the discussions about closing schools and opening charter schools. â€œOnce we have the building closed, we will look at it and talk about what goes in there,â€ she said, at a discussion at the Chicago Urban League Friday morning.
Byrd-Bennett said she was once anti-charter schools until she had a chance to tour one in Harlem a few years ago and was impressed. Now, she said she doesnâ€™t care what kind of school it is as long as it is doing well by children.
Lewis said Byrd-Bennett wants to separate the discussions because having them together reveals that the policy doesnâ€™t make any sense. â€œIt is not realistic to say we are closing schools for under-utilization, while at the same time opening new schools,â€ she said.
The members of the commission are:
State Sen. Iris Martinez
Frank Clark, former chairman and CEO of ComEd
John Hannah, senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church on the South Side
Terry Hillard, former Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department
Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st Ward on the South Side
Fausto Lopez, a former CPS principal
Earnest Gates, head of the Near West Side Community Development Commission
Shirley Calhoun, assistant parent coordinator of Fiske Elementary School on the South Side
Debra Perkins, former CPS teacher