CPS censorship of Board meeting broadcasts becoming a major public policy issue... Repeat publication of the Substance report on the May 22 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education

[Editor's Note: Even those who are used to the media machinations of the Chicago Board of Education were somewhat surprised at the childish censorship of the Cable TV broadcast of the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Board. The largest number of reporters in history were covering the meeting, and had photographs of the brutal suppression of dissent that preceded the vote of the Board to close more than 50 of the city's real public schools while continuing the expansion of charter schools. At least six times during the meeting, security guards were ordered to drag dissenters away from the microphone, at the same time snatching the podium away from the speakers. We are reprinting our report on that meeting, with pictures of the major security attacks on democracy. George N. Schmidt, Editor].

Shannon Bennett of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) was the first protester to be grabbed and dragged away from the microphones during the tumultuous meeting of the Chicago Board of Education on May 22, 2013. Bennett was not the last, but at each point where Board President David Vitale ordered security to suppress dissent, the TV cameras which record the meeting were turned away from the podium and turned on to the face of the Board secretary Estela Beltran (next photograph). When the Board meeting video was broadcast beginning on Saturday, May 25, the TV audience would not learn that there had been any use of security against protesters during the meeting. Substance photo by Kati Gilson. Cries and shouts of protest from parents, teachers, and community members filled the air in the fifth floor chamber during the monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting on May 22, 2013. The meeting, held at CPS headquaters at 125 S. Clark Street, as usual filled half the seats in the small Board chambers with CPS officials, forcing those parents, teachers, and others who wanted to attend to be relegated to a "holding room" ten floors above.

The majority of the hundreds of people who came to downtown Chicago that day didn't want real public schools closed. After seven months of hearings of various kinds, the Board of Education was scheduled to vote on a list that included 54 elementary schools to close, six for so-called "turnaround," and 11 to be relegated to "co-location."

The opposition to the closings and other actions was virtually unanimous across the city. But in the end, only five schools of 54 schools that were scheduled to be closed were spared the hatchet. The spared schools were Marcus Garvey, Leif Ericson, George Manierre, and Mahalia Jackson elementary schools. A one year reprieve was given to Canter Middle School. In addition, Clara Barton Elementary School will not be turned around, but William W. Carter, Thomas Chalmers, Dewey, Leslie Lewis and Isaelle C. O"Keeffe will be reconstituted and turned around.

Every time the Board's security people reluctantly (they were all on orders to suppress dissent "or else" and their union had been one of those whose leaders scabbed during the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012) grabbed one of the speakers and dragged the person out, the TV cameras supposedly recording the meeting immediately focused away from the real action. At each point, they lingered on the bland visage of Board Secretary Estela Beltran. Above, Beltran holds her pose during the snatching of the microphone and podium away from KOCO's Shannon Bennett. Substance photo from the CPS TV screen by George N. Schmidt. By the time schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett got the list down to the roughly 50 schools that sources had said was Rahm Emanuel's objective as early as October 2012, not one charter school was listed as "underutilized." And the protests became more and more angry as the day wore on.

As originally planned, eleven schools -- most of them charter schools -- will now co-locate with eleven other schools. Belmont-Cragin will be co-located with Northwest Middle; Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School will be co-located with Richard T. Crane Technical Preparatory High School; and Chicago Talent Development High School. Disney II Magnet School will be co-located with Thurgood Marshall Middle School; Mary Mapes Dodge will be co-located with "Morton School of Excellence," John B. Drake will be co-located with Urban Prep Academy for Young Men - Bronzeville Charter School; KIPP-Bloom Charter Middle School will be co-located with Hope College Prep, a real public schools; the Montessori Charter School of Englewood Charter School will be co-located with Luke O'Toole Elementary School; Kwame Nkrumah Academy Charter School will be co-located with Walter Q. Gresham Elementary School; and Noble Street Charter - Gary Comer College Prep "Campus" will be co-located with Revere Elementary, while and Noble Street Charter - "Crimson Campus" High School will be co-located with George H. Corliss High School, and Noble Street Charter - "Orange Campus" High School will be co-located with Bowen High School.

"Two Minutes!" is the time each school gets before Chicago Board of Education Secretary Estale Beltran calls "Time!" and security move in to push speakers away from the podium. Above, Alison Burke of Trumbull Elementary School is moved away following her attempt to bring the facts about Trumbull's huge special education population to the attention of the Board members, whose "utilization" schemata refused to take such matters into account when determining which of the city's real public schools are "underutilized." (No charter schools were on the list of possibly underutilized schools). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The May monthly Board of Education meeting began at 10:47 a.m. with Board President David Vitale outlining the schedule for the May 22 meeting. An "honoring excellence" session would be followed by Public Participation, the CEO's report, Public Agenda items, and end with the Board going into closed session. What this meant practically was that the Board would vote on its public agenda before going into executive session. The public agenda included all of the "school actions" that had been at the heart of seven months of protests and hearings involving more than 35,000 people across the city, and if approved the closings would constitute the largest single school closings in U.S. history.

A teacher of first grade at Jane Addams Elementary School who also attended Jane Addams and Jones High School performed the "Star Spangled Banner.'' Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz said he saw her perform at a Pilsen Parade a few weeks ago and suggested she perform for the Board at its monthly meeting.

This was followed by a moment of silence for children who were Oklahoma tornado victims.

Roll called showed that all six current Board members were present: President David Vitale, Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, and Board Members Dr. Henry Bienen, Dr. Mahalia Hines, Andrea Zopp and Dr. Carlos Azcotia. The Board has only had six of the total possible seven members since Penny Pritzker resigned her appointed position three months earlier. This was Marquis Watson's final Board meeting as Honorary Student Board Member. Everyone cheered him after he gave brief remarks.

Next, two principals, from Tilden Career High School and Morrill School were recognized for excellence.

David Vitale announced that office hours for those who wish to meet with Board members were mentioned. Public Participation rules for signing up for the next Board meeting were also announced.

After the preliminaries, nine aldermen spoke the largest number to attend and speak at a Board meeting in Chicago history. They were: 17th Ward Alderman Latasha Thomas, 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin, 24th Ward Alderman Michael Chandler, 47th Ward Alderman, Ameya Pawar, 29th Ward Alderman Deborah Graham, 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno, and 2nd Ward Alderman, Robert Fioretti.

Alderman Latasha Thomas, a product of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), asked the Board to "take a step back and truly listen to what parents and students are asking for." She wanted to know "How are the children and families better prepared because of your actions?" She asked the Board to not use a saw when it should use a scaffold to support schools. She spoke of the strong commitments at Clara Barton School and the innovative use of space at Altgeld School. She spoke of long walks, gangs in the area, and dangers children would face. She concluded, "We need to be mindful of unintended consequences of what we do here today." She asked the Board to vote no on some of these actions today.

Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., said he spoke with mixed emotions. He spoke of the schools that would be closed, safety issues, the high homocide rate in Chicago, gangs, and crossing busy streets. He said he "didn't agree with all the closings" and "hoped the Board would take into consideration all the testimony."

Alderman Pat Dowell of Bronzeville was glad that the original number of schools would not be closing. She questioned the Board's decision in regard to Dewey School and said a strong safety program was needed for Overton School students going to Mollison School.

Alderman Jason Ervin said the schools need additional support, that the consolidation of Delano and Melody was troublesome (the school on probation is the welcoming school while the sending school is not on probation), that the parents at King School are fearful because their closing school is separated from Jensen School by a viaduct. He said, "We do not want children to leave the system; we are driving them out."

Meanwhile, President David Vitale called for silence from the people to his right who were standing along the wall. When he referred to them as "the peanut gallery," they retorted that he was disrespectful.

Alderman Michael Chandler asked that Pope School and Henson School be removed from the final list of schools to be closed. He said that both Pope and Henson had met standards of improvement. He added that safety and gang issues were also a concern. He asked the Board to vote to remove Pope and Henson from the final list.

Alderman Ameya Pawar asked, "How do we close schools while simultaneously opening charter schools?" He said, "We are incentivizing charter school proliferation. He added, "Ten to fifteen years from now, will we say, what did we do?" He urged the Board to reconsider the decision and give it a year. He remarked that the closings were an unprecedented action, the largest closings as a city.

Alderman Deborah Graham said she did not like the process of schools being pitted against each other, the environment has already been tainted, and children are going home bitter. She mentioned that Francis Scott Key School, which was to be closed, was a national landmark. She strongly suggested that the Board reconsider the closing of Emmet School. She said her community was frustrated and a lot of healing needs to take place. She added that the community was scrapping for survival against each other and asked the Board to reconsider.

Alderman Joe Moreno said he was trying to control his anger. He added there would be no public schools remaining in the whole of East Humboldt Park. He offered an alternate plan from the community, remarking that we "pushed Lafayette School into the pool and then CPS blamed them for being wet." He told the Board that the community is not a blighted area, a lot is going on here. He asked the Board to vote its conscience and hear to continue the vibrancy of the East Humboldt Park community.

Alderman Robert Fioretti said at first he wasn't going to testify. He said the opening of thirteen more charter schools have contributed to underutilization. He told the Board that the closing actions are furthering urban blight and destabilization. He said the dropout rate and street violence would increase. He added that the reasons for the closings are constantly shifting and that there is no proof CPS will save any money.

While President Vitale closed his eyes, Fioretti told the Board that he had attended a dozen hearings and couldn't remember seeing such a public outcry in defense of schools. He is worried that all those hearings were a charade. (Cheers from audience) He added that he didn't recall the Mayor attending any hearing. He told the Board that no schools should be closed, that some children have been moved multiple times, parents want neighborhood schools with services, that Gold Coast parents get those services, that it was immoral to subject those families again and again to closings, and that it would impact the decision of families to stay or leave the City of Chicago.

Immediately beginning by affirming the long list presented by the nine aldermen, Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President, said, "What they said and more."

"I hope you can live with this decision that is on the wrong side of history," She told the Board. She pleaded for the removal of the "probation" label, what she noted was "a criminal/prison label." She reiterated that the teachers and other staff haven't heard the education plan which should be in place. Trying to cooperate, she said, "We are willing to work with you, but we are not willing to do craziness." Smiling through her remarks, she asked the Board to listen to the impassioned pleas of the aldermen and the more than 30,000 people who had spoken against the closings at the citywide hearings that began the previous year.

Clarice Berry, head of the Chicago Principals' and Administrators' Association, said that what the Board did this day "would play out on the national and international stage."

"I don't envy your accountability today," she continued. "There has been a lack of outreach to principals in the system. Hundreds of programs will be lost." She added that it was incomprehensible that CPS beat the drum for charter schools while continuing to attack the integrity of the city's real public schools and their leadership. "Is this the only plan available — to have our children become refugees in their own community?" she added. She stressed that the Board's actions today will push past the point of no return. She said that she was especially worried about Special Education children since she is the mother of and teacher of Special Ed children.

The first public participant to speak was Rebecca Martinez of Cardenas School. She asked people to call the Secretary of State regarding the school closings; a group of people had been arrested in Springfield by the Secretary of State police, protesting the closings to be voted on in Chicago. Martinez then went on to state that at this point, this Board of Education is illegitimate, the mayor is going to get what he is demanding. Speaking for the community, she said, "you don't concede on this."

Joining her at the podium was Shannon Bannett of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), who began to speak.

Immediately the Board secretary, Estela Beltran, began saying that Bennett was "out of order." David Vitale ordered security to take control, and the first of several wrestling matches at the podium began: Several of the Board of Education's largest security guards ripped the microphone out of the speaker's hands, the podium was pulled back from the railing towards the Board President and the executives, and, after a tussle, the people surrounding the podium were pulled away. Martinez and her companions ended by singing the well-known civil rights song, "We shall not be moved."

Jesse Sharkey, CTU Vice-President, waited while the tumult subsided. He then forcefully told the Board that the closings are massive and irreversible and that stability and continuity are what is needed instead. Sharkey said that children need to be able to attend any neighborhood school. He also noted that the Board had broken faith again by placing schools on lists to do "IB" and "STEM", and that the union objected to the loss of jobs by the veteran teachers in those schools. He stressed the importance of keeping children safe. He told the Board that we need massive promises or you shouldn't be closing any schools today.

Sonya Williams and Elisheba Bingham of Clara Barton Elementary School had signed up to speak against the placement of Barton on the "turnaround" list at the mandatory sign-in time, ten days before the Board meeting. Confident that Barton had indeed been removed from the turnaround list, they named many programs in effect at the school.

Alison Burke, of Trumbull Elementary, spoke passionately and in detail of how CPS "utilization" information was not accurate. For Trumbull, this was primarily because of the large number of special education students at Trumbull. She said that Cross-Categorical programming for Special Ed students (grouping students with different Special Ed learning needs in one classroom) was being proposed as part of the closing plan, but that it would not work.

She also told the Board that Andersonville, the school community, is very diverse and that the community and the schools were attractive to her family and many others because of those realities.

As if to underscore the fact that the people running the public schools were ignoring the problems facing the real schools, overcrowding became an issue immediately. The Board of Eduction's demographic information and their policy implications were repeatedly called into question, on the very day that the Board had focused public attention on what it had been calling "the underutilization crisis". The overcrowding problem, like the so-called "underutilization" problem, was exacerbated by charter schools, as the Board was quickly to hear.

Heather Yutzy, the Principal at Belding School on the Northwest Side, said that Belding was at 139 percent of "capacity" and needs help to relieve the overcrowding immediately. She added that 20 public schools near Belding have more students than the buildings were designed to hold. She remarked that only two schools near Belding are "underutilized" — one a charter school the Board built for the Aspira Charter Schools and the other a magnet school.

Yutzy continued, noting the fact that the Aspira Haugan Middle School, a charter school, should have its status revoked -- and the Board should return it to being a neighborhood school. She referred to the proposed addition of the Disney II Magnet School to the Thurgood Marshall Middle School as another example of a bad policy that forced more overcrowding than necessary on her school and its community. Instead of expanding the so-called "Disney II" (which already occupies a building in the community), she suggested instead to utilize the space available at Thurgood Marshall to help the real public schools of the community relieve overcrowding.

Most of those who wished to speak in opposition to the proposed closings were quickly pulled away from the podium by CPS security. Since January 1, 2013, CPS had forced citizens to sign up to speak at the Board meetings on line, thereby limiting those eligible to those with personal computers in their homes. The maximum allowed to sign up is 60, based on the fiction that CPS only has to allow two hours for so-called "public participation", no matter how many serious issues are arising in the communities. Sign in usually begins at 8:00 a.m. on the Monday before the Monday before the Board meeting and has been over by 8:30 a.m. for the past three months because of CPS censorship. Since public libraries do not open until ten a.m. (noon on some days), poor people are effectively excluded from participation in the supposedly "public" meetings of the school board in America's third largest city. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Jackson Potter, of the Chicago Teachers Union, noted that the row of seats behind him at the podium should used to be for parents, not functionaries. Six rows of seats behind the podium, all of those in the line of site of the video cameras that make the record of the Board meetings, are always filled with highly paid functionaries who have no business at Board meetings.

Potter also said that the banks would be willing to renegotiate toxic swaps that the Board had negotiated during the days when Arne Duncan was CEO of CPS. He told the Board that he and others from the union had met with officials from Bank of America on the issue, but that the Board had not requested any relief from the high interest rates the Board was paying for the swaps.

Potter added that Garrett Morgan Elementary School, one of the school slated for closing, has an elevator for Special Education students, but the "Welcoming School" does not. He concluded, "Save our schools!"

Magdalene Thurmond, of Duprey School, spoke of the need for a well-rounded public school in the neighborhood. She added that schools are safe havens for children. Alexander Roi, also of Duprey, asked that Board to "vote your conscience as if these were your children."

Sharon Taylor, of Granville T. Woods School at 62nd and Racine in Englewood, asked the Board, "Would you allow your children to go to Woods in Englewood?" She mentioned that Woods has been on probation for 17 years and has not had a functioning Local School Council (LSC) or Parent Action Committee (PAC). She wanted to know where the money was going. She added that a new police station at 63rd and Loomis is just out the back door of the school.

Nina Stoner, of West Pullman School, referred to the CPS formula for underutilization as discriminating against West Pullman.

There were some parents who support charter schools. Yvonne Johnson, of Johnson College Prep, said she was a 1979 graduate of the school and added that her child attends Gary Comer and will attend College Prep in Englewood next. She added that the decision to send her child to a Noble Charter School was the "best decision I ever made. My child is in athletics, plays sax, and is on the honor roll with a 4.21 Grade Point Average (GPA)." She concluded, "I cannot apologize for the choice I made."

Keva Brown, a teacher at the Dewey Academy of Fine Arts, a real public school, spoke next. She said that her school is being reconstituted and turned-around, asked that the school be taken off the list. She listed the programs and the quality of staff at the school. She said that our children need stability, we've already turned our school around ourselves, and our staff is meeting the school needs. She asked the Board to reconsider.

(President David Vitale remarked that there is a lot of noise and it is disrespectful.)

Ladisha Stamps, a parent and an LSC member at Dewey School, said she opposes the turnaround of Dewey. She said that for the last three years, discretionary funds have been used for high-quality education. She named programs and staff qualifications. She asked the Board to "give us an additional year or two."

Matthew Johnson also spoke against the turnaround of Dewey School.He said the school may need additional support and asked that the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) approach be reviewed. He named the things that Dewey already has done to assure that the students excel and asked for more time.

Andrew Broy, of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), said that today has the potential of a new era for Chicago. He said 600 charter school parents went to Springfield to lobby, and that other charter school parents will speak today.

Valerie Nelson, who said she is a parent and LSC member at Lafayette School and member of Stand for Children, said that now the children at Casals (turned around in 2012) are behaving. She said that last year she was an opponent of turnaround. She remarked that she was once against turnaround at Lafayette, too, ignoring the fact that Lafayette was not scheduled for turnaround (actually, "reconstitution") but closing. According to her, parents needed to learn what is best for their children -- and turnaround is best. She compared this process to children having McDonald's and "loving it" -- to really needing Whole Foods.

Erica Clark of Parents 4 Teachers said she is opposed to every school action and closing on this list. She began reading the names of all the schools that are scheduled to be closed in alphabetical order and sat down at the microphone when she was told that her time had expired. Security lifted her and removed her as she fell limp. She lost one shoe. As she left with security, the crowd around her chanted, "Every school is my school" and repeatedly called and responded, "Whose school? My school!"

Later, everyone would note, the Board of Education voted to close all the schools listed for closing without naming any of them. Instead (see below), the secretary simply read the numbers of the "Board Reports" when it came time to vote, and the Board members voted by agreeing to "apply the last favorable voice vote" without hearing the names of any of the schools they were voting to destroy. Clark's reading was the only time during the day when the Board members would have had the opportunity to hear all of the names.

While Clark was being dragged out of the chambers, it was back to the cheerleaders for charter schools. Albert Mendez, a Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) Irving Park School parent of three and member of the Avondale community on the Northwest side, supports charter schools, he told the Board. He asked the Board to "visit us at Irving Park. I will give a tour." He said he wants equal funding for charters and said unequal funding violates civil rights. He added that without choice, we would have to look elsewhere and walk away from Chicago. He repeated that he wants equal funding.

There was a small but vocal charter school group in the audience, and so Mendez received cheers from the audience. Vitale didn't say anything about disruptions or a "peanut gallery."

Sophia Ragland, an LSC president at her school, opposes turnarounds.

Neredia Sanchez, of Noble Street Charter School, is grateful for choice and invited Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett to visit and tour. She said she is concerned with the attacks on charter schools and added, "Let's not forget the voices of the children on the waiting lists."

David Montgomery, a Science teacher at Calhoun North School, said it is a high-performing neighborhood school and should be labeled Level 1 according to CPS standards. He said the scores have increased and are better than charter schools which opened in 2009.

Jymetta Pensons, a PAC member at Mahalia Jackson School, spoke of keeping Mahalia Jackson open.

Antoinette Sea-Geralds, who introduced herself as from "Charter Parents United in West Englewood," said she has a daughter attending Gary Comer College Prep and stressed that it is a public school. She told the Board about a rally that was held on May 8 in support of charter schools, and of 53,000 postcards that were sent to CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, requesting equal funding for charters. She said she was tired of being blamed for the choice we made. She added that we are not for school closings, all we want is equal funding. (The audience booed.) She said that she has petitions signed by 10,000 parents asking for equal funding and offered them to the Board.

Keti Tuthorn, of Courtenay School, compared the closing of schools by CPS to "The Hunger Games." He said that 100% of eighth-graders are at or above on the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT). He offered an alternative plan to the closing and remarked, regarding Courtenay School, "I have a dream that there's one hero on Board."

Katie Reed, of Courtenay Elementary, had a proposal regarding Courtenay School and Stockton School. She said there are 200 on the waiting list and a principal is now being hired. She mentioned a December letter that said Courtenay would not be closed. She said that they were later blind-sided. She asked the Board to vote no today; a better plan is needed.

Rousemary Vega, above, was one of the passionate defenders of Lafayette Elementary School, but the Board closed it nevertheless. Lafayette was even featured on radio and TV for its famed programs, but CPS rammed through the mayor's agenda and Lafayette was on the Hit List. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Rousemary Vega, of Layfayette School, (the audience responded "whooo!") asked CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to look at her while she talked to Barbara Byrd-Bennet. She spoke of discrimination against Lafayette and mentioned that CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was a grandmother. She said, "You have grandchildren; think of these children. Look at your heart when it comes to attacking our children and hurting our community." She added that our community has come together and you (CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennet) are discriminating.

(The audience chanted, "No school closings!")

Jeanne Olson, a parent and a member of Apples to Apples who has a background in consulting and research, compared utilization to a scalpel. She said Special Ed has been made invisible. She asked the Board to vote no on the closings if they are in doubt.

Mary Beth Cunat, principal at Wildwood School, said the school was overcrowded and is at 175% of capacity; the overcrowded situation is expected to continue through 2017 and mobile classrooms were supposed to be a temporary situation. Because of the overcrowding, she said they would lose their library, the students now eat in the gym but will eat in their classrooms next year, and the seventh and eighth grades will be combined next year.

Ursella Cherry, of Marcus Garvey School, remarked that data drives institutional practices. She said that she wants all students o be career and college-ready. She added that the Wall Street Journal recognized the school yesterday.

(At this point, Board President David Vitale corrected the reporters, videographers, and photographers in the small camera section for talking.)

Stacy Godbold, of Marcus Garvey School, said that Marcus Garvey was a model for schools for social/emotional learning and that all students are mentored. There are PEACE centers in the hallways.

Wanda Wulburn, of the "Harvard School of Excellence," said we are raping our children of their heritage. She asked that AUSL Schools, Harvard and Stagg, be considered and remarked that they are still public schools.

Karl Hubert, of the CTU, introduced himself as a teacher and a citizen. Hubert, a lawyer, referred to the court case "Brown versus The Board of Education." Comparing the Chicago Board of Education in 2013 to an earlier era in history (the 1950s), he said that the South pushed back against Brown versus The Board of Education by closing schools, rather than complying with the court decision. He added that "history does repeat itself." He quoted Plato and Aristotle regarding when we have justice.

Ronald Jackson, of Tilden School and an LSC and NAACP member, expressed concern that CPS didn't inform anyone of the sex offenders in the neighborhood. He said that 1,000 will be released from prison this year and asked, "Where's the CPS plan?" He said, because of complying with the adage, "If you See Something, Say Something," he was arrested.

(Cheers from the audience!)

Jaton Hould, of Overton School, said changes were made within the school to enhance education. He said he is not against Mollison School, but parents chose Overton, the academic scores were raised and they will keep fighting to the end.

(Applause and cheers from the audience)

Although C. J. Hawking of ASPIRE didn't pray as she had during the 'Pray In' earlier in the month, she told the Board that the plan to close the largest number of schools in U.S. history was wrong. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.C. J. Hawking, a United Methodist Pastor and member of Arise Chicago, told the Board, "You are not bound to any decision. You are free to vote against the closings of these schools." She said that the Montgomery bus owner had to make a decision to allow blacks to seat wherever they wanted in the bus, the captain of the Ohio National Guard had to make a decision not to shoot, Bull Connor had to make a decision not to have the dogs attack, and you (the Board) today have a moment to reconsider. She asked the Board to take a step back and show you care. She added, please note, our prayers are with you.

Marianna Chavez, a charter school parent and member of "CPU," wrote a letter to a main local newspaper in the last few days regarding taxes and charter schools not getting their fair share. She was followed by Ebony Carr, who said she is "a proud Bronzeville charter school supporter," and who spoke of her children who attend CISC Bucktown School. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that we look forward to meeting you.

(Someone called out, "The devil is a liar.")

Josh Radinsky, on the citywide LSC advisory board advised the Board to take a one-year hiatus, after multiple meetings with CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and members of the cabinet. He remarked that this is a policy for black children in Chicago. He called the closing plans a "hasty and distractive plan."

Anthony Williams, of Mayo School, asked the Board to reconsider. He said that our children cry every day, "Will our school close?" He said there is money for the Red Line, for Navy Pier, and for casinos. He asked, "What do you think will happen when you close these schools? Is this fair? You have a chance to stop this."

Michael Colwell, a seventh and eighth grade Math teacher at Ericson School, said the school is not under-performing or under-utilized. He asked that the Board give Ericson School a reprieve and thanked them for that. He likened the decision to close the schools to an educational death penalty.

Danielle Horton, of Westside Against All School Closings and LSC President at Marconi School, said that Marconi has higher scores than Tilton School and asked, "How is Tilton the receiving school? How come we weren't the receiving school?"

Lastly, Beverley Catherine stood arm-in-arm with her sister, Evelyn Mireles. She is a member of the Garrett Morgan School community and mentioned that Garrett Morgan was the inventor of the stoplight. She asked that Morgan School be taken off the list. She led a prayer, "Thank you, Lord, for Arnold Mireles for whom Mireles Academy was named, and asked that the Board be given the answers they are looking for. She concluded, "Guide us all."

This concluded public participation.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett then spoke of the closings and the Board's reasons for their decisions.

An officer representing the Chicago Police Department spoke of Safe Passage and the expansion of Safe Passage coverage to other agencies.

(Ronald Jackson repeated his previous statements and was escorted out.)

Chief Transformation Officer, Todd Babbitz, gave a Power Point presentation report on the numbers of hearings, hearing officers, etc.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett spoke again, pausing repeatedly, and quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding "Doing what is right."

The quote from Dr. King enraged many, and someone called out, "How do you sleep at night?"

Board President David Vitale spoke next, followed by comments from each Board member.

After this, a vote of the closings took place. The schools noted at the beginning of this article were exempted from closing, with the Board members voting individually on each of those schools. Then the Board members held a vote on the motion to close Von Humboldt Elementary School, and the vote was four in favor and two against.

Finally the Board got to the main closing list, and instead of reading the names of each school, the Secretary read only the number of the "Board Report" on each school. The result was that many of the parents and others protesting the closings didn't even know that the Board had just voted to close their schools. David Vitale's words were, "Seeing no objection from my fellow Board members, I will apply the last favorable vote..."

The meeting ended almost five hours after it began when the Board concluded voting on the rest of its agenda and went into executive session.


June 2, 2013 at 4:35 PM

By: Theresa D. Daniels

CPS Board ridiculous antics

Thanks for this wonderful report, Marybeth, and good photographs, George. I wish I could have been there to help photograph the chaos these destroyers of education create.

June 3, 2013 at 1:50 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

People need a true video of the Board's bullying

Thanks, Terry. But this is a major example of why we have to have reporters, photographers and videographers at each meeting of the Board and each school now that the Board and the plutocracy are attacking 60 schools, our brothers and sisters, and thousands of children.

The stories are not going to be told by the whores of the corporate media -- although some are doing a better job now than they were two years ago. But today the tragedy is unfolding across Chicago, from Trumbull on the far north through West Pullman and others on the far south.

We also have to bring Rahm Emanuel to justice. And we will be building both our work and our reporting and our power to do all of these. The children, families, teachers, PSRPs and our growing number of community allies are growing stronger.

The most important date in the past month was not May 22, when the whores of the plutocracy voted on Rahm's orders to commit one of the bigger crimes in this city's history, but May 17, when CORE got more than 80 percent of the vote to lead the Chicago Teachers Union for another three years.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 2 =