Lake Calumet hearing gets to bogus focus groups and continues serving up the official lies about 'underutilization crisis' and the 'billion dollar deficit'...... Lake Calumet Network Hearing at Olive-Harvey College was held January 30, 2013 Large Turnout -- CPS Officials claim “We Will Listen”

Between 300 to 400 parents, teachers and school supporters came to the Olive-Harvey College gym to show support for their schools. The largest schools in the audience were Whistler, White, Dubois, Gompers, Pullman and Taylor. But, the number of schools CPS is going to close in the Lake Calumet "Network" was the most important question of the evening on Jan. 30, 2013 and no one could answer that key question.

Some of the parents and teachers who turned out for the "Calumet Region" hearing on school closings on January 30, 2013 made their positions clear. But CPS officials were able to herd most of the protests into privatized "focus groups" and make sure that the rage of the majority was kept in private rooms from which the press was barred. Substance photo by David Vance.But, when 19th Ward Alderman Matthew O’Shea said “closing some schools” would be necessary he was booed off the stage. But the audience was required to leave before most general comments could be taken. So where the 19th Ward Alderman failed, the CPS crowd “pacification plan” succeeded. In the large Olive-Harvey gym, CPS planners permitted public comments for nearly 45 minutes before they tightened the rope. There was no Truman College propaganda fiasco event where CPS managers were afraid of public comments and pulled the plug on the mic. "Focus Groups" became what most of the public faced.

Behind the rhetoric of "transparency" and "inclusion," CPS under the administrators appointed by Rahm Emanuel's Board of Education are going out of their way to deny the public access to key information and to make sure that reporters -- especially those with cameras and video cameras -- are denied access to the growing mass movement across the city that is demanding no cuts this school year.

"We want to hear you!" they say.

"We do not want your words getting out to the public," they practice.

CPS also succeeded in crowd pacification by claiming they were "listening." After the open mic session, in a smooth voiced Denise Little persuaded the angry parents and teachers into breaking up into focus groups in four separate rooms. Little was polite and claimed they were "listening" and CPS really wanted to hear more comments from parents. But the comments had to be done during the focus groups, which excluded the media. And Little failed to mention that the focus groups had been financed by Wal-Mart and were under the auspices of an outside consultant.

One of the signs held at the hearing from DuBois school. Substance photo by David Vance.In each focus group, a CPS slide show on the “under-utilization of our schools" and “our budget crisis” were the propaganda messages. Despite the facts contradicting those two claims that have been brought out by the Chicago Teachers Union and independent researchers, the propaganda barrage continued. CPS officials did not talk about the destruction of public schools and priority funding for charter school operators. They did not present any long term plan to tell parents, teachers and the public what CPS is trying to accomplish.

Unfortunately, no one at the focus groups seemed to know enough to challenge all false claims made by the CPS presenters. They claimed the CPS budget is $1,000,000,000 in the red soon. They claimed while the 600 public schools have a "capacity" for 511,000 students. CPS has only 403,000 and this proves we have too many schools.

Parents and teachers did speak up in the focus group I attended. Most still believe that CPS will "listen" to their arguments and that eventually CPS will provide good public schools for their children. Massive opposition to the expansion of charter schools is still being ignored by CPS officials. As in the past, parents and teachers talked about the good reasons for keeping their schools open and were obviously being ignored.

The two "facilitators" seemed fair. They wrote the name and school of everyone speaking, but there was no stenographer to take notes verbatim. The claim that “your voices will be heard” was only a ploy to pacify.

Despite the large amount of money provided to CPS by the Walton Family for the focus groups, the last thing CPS wants from the meetings is an accurate record of how parents actually feel. Unless the union and parent organizations keep a record of each "focus group" and publicize it, the officials lies will continue. 


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