Chicken Little 'Crisis' claims refuted daily by the facts... CPS CEO continues disinformation campaign in letters to principals and 'stakeholders'
On February 13, 2013, while she was also preparing for selective meetings with reporters to release her latest Power Point on why to close schools, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett also dispatched an email and letter for CPS principals to distribute to parents and other stakeholders.
Here are the texts of both:
BYRD BENNETT MATERIALS BELOW HERE.
I want to personally reach out to you about the next steps we are taking to address the school utilization crisis currently facing our district. I’ve talked with many of you at your schools, community meetings, churches and by email and letter about the daunting utilization crisis currently facing our District.
As a former teacher and principal, my top priority is making sure every child in Chicago has access to a high-quality, well-rounded education. I also know that this requires us to make tough choices. Our District faces a $1 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year, while nearly half of our schools are underutilized. I cannot stress enough how this crisis is stretching our resources thin and limiting our ability to give every student the education they deserve.
We simply can no longer continue to finance underutilized schools because our children and our city’s future will pay the price. Our city’s population has significantly declined over the past decade, which has impacted our student enrollment. Today, we are supporting over 100,000 empty desks. Students in underutilized schools are more likely to be in split-grade classrooms; have limited access to art and music; lack access to support staff like nurses and counselors as well as safety and intervention services to help struggling children. That is not acceptable for our children.
By implementing a comprehensive and effective plan to use our resources smartly, we can fully invest in all students. In doing this, we will be better prepared to give all of our children a more robust and enriching experience every day that includes access to libraries, new technologies and computers, art and music, nurses and counselors, and playgrounds.
That said, the safety and security of every student is essential and we will not close any school where I believe we cannot guarantee the safety of our children as part of their transition to a new welcoming school. I will not compromise the safety of a single child.
This crisis not only impacts children at underutilized schools, but all students in our District. Teachers and principals need access to more resources so they can provide every child with what they need to be successful in the classroom. Once we take the actions needed to combine schools and resources, we will be better prepared to give all of our children a more robust and enriching experience every day.
However, before taking any steps to address this crisis, I made a commitment to our school communities to engage them at the front end of this process. I wanted to ensure that you had a voice and the respect you deserve as partners in this work. That is why I appointed the independent Commission on School Utilization in December to begin our rigorous community engagement to help inform us of critical decisions that need to be made on this issue. The Commission on School Utilization held 10 public meetings and gathered feedback from hundreds of parents, educators, community members, and subject-matter experts before presenting me with an interim report in January. I accepted many of their recommendations, including removing all Level 1 (high-performing) schools and high schools from consideration.
Over the past two weeks, we have listened closely to the more than 8,500 people who have participated in 15 community meetings with CPS staff, held in each CPS School Network. And during this time, we have continued analyzing the Commission’s remaining recommendations, in order to create a comprehensive and detailed set of planning criteria to help us move forward. We started this process with a total of 330 underutilized schools, and based directly on feedback from the community, we have removed 201 schools from potential closure. This leaves 129 underutilized schools under consideration for closure at this time. I expect more to be removed from consideration after listening to your feedback over the next two weeks. You can view the current list of schools at www.cps.edu/qualityschools Let me emphasize that this list of schools is not final. Over the next two weeks, I urge you to participate in your upcoming school community meeting. These are divided by School Network and listed below. Please remember that I will not make any decisions without your input. I look forward to reviewing your continued feedback, which I will carefully consider as I prepare to make my final recommendations to the Board of Education. Thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding during this time.
CEO, Chicago Public Schools
As a former teacher and principal, I understand the anxiety and uncertainty that you may feel as we all work to address the utilization crisis facing our District. This crisis is very real; and it is made even more drastic with the $1 billion deficit next fiscal year; it threatens absolutely everything in our District. In order to do what is best for all of our students, we must address this situation now. As principals, you understand that children in underutilized schools do not reap the benefits of our intentions. They are more likely
to be in split-grade classrooms, with limited exposure to enrichment programs and inadequate access to robust staff support and critically-needed safety and intervention services.
This crisis not only impacts children at underutilized schools, but all students in our District. Already limited resources are being stretched too thin, making it difficult for your teachers to provide their students with all the tools they need for success in the classroom. Once we take the actions needed to combine schools and resources, we will be better prepared to give all of our students a more robust and enriching experience every day.
However, before taking any steps to address this crisis, I made a commitment to engage you and your school communities at the front end of this process. By the time I make recommendations to the Board of Education later in March, the District will have held 29 community meetings in addition to the 10 meetings hosted by the Commission on School Utilization. I’ve also spoken with many of you at your schools and communicated often by letter and e-mail. Please know that I value your input and hope to hear far more from you over the next few weeks.
Your school is no longer under consideration for closure. I would like to thank you and those in your school community who participated in the community meetings over the past several weeks. We have two more weeks of community
meetings left to engage your communities on your schools and take their feedback into account. I fully expect that far more schools will be removed from consideration by the time this process comes to an end. The criteria we are using are based on recommendations from the Commission on School Utilization and feedback from our school communities. For more detailed information on the utilization criteria and the steps that will be taken going forward, please contact your Network Chief. You can also review the criteria and view the complete list of schools under consideration by visiting our website at cps.edu/qualityschools. We started this process with a total of 330 underutilized schools, and based directly on feedback from the community, we have removed 201 schools from potential closure. This leaves 129 underutilized schools under consideration for closure at this time. Moving forward, we will also remove schools where I believe we cannot guarantee the safety of our children as part of their transition to a new welcoming school. As I’ve said many times, safety is my top priority in this process. I will not compromise the safety of a single child.
As a mother, grandmother, former principal and teacher, I know that we all want what is best for our students. I look forward to reviewing your continued feedback, which I will carefully consider as I prepare to make my final recommendations to our Board. Thank you for all you are doing on behalf of your students. Sincerely,
CEO, Chicago Public Schools
House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, 3535 W. Roosevelt Road. NEW LOCATION!
Olive Harvey College, 10001 S. Woodlawn
Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson
Liberation Christian Center, 6810 S. Ashland
St. Anselm Church, 6045 S. Michigan
South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Dr.
Fuller Park Field House, 331 W. 45th St.
Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett
Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted
First Baptist Congregational Church, 1613 W. Washington
Mt. Vernon MB Church, 2622 W. Jackson
Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie
Daley College, 7500 S. Pulaski
Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western