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Rebecca Clark's qualifications? Truthiness in federal court

Hold up your right hand. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?” (Note: This is what was asked, more-or-less.) “I do.” And so began testimony of witness after witness in the preliminary injunction hearings against Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) school closings before two different federal judges this summer. At Substance, and as educators, we are confused by testimony, under oath, given by one high-ranking CPS employee in the two different courtrooms.

One of the signs carried by protesters recently. The sign was referring to the qualifications of Board witness Rebecca Clark, who has testified for CPS in two major federal cases during the summer of 2013. Clark is paid $110,000 per year working in the special education offices at CPS. But special education is now called the "Office of Diverse Learner Supports" for reasons CPS hasn't bothered to explain to the public. Substance photo by Jean Schwab. On behalf of the defendants (read: CPS), the Director of Student Supports in the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS), Rebecca Clark, testified before U.S. John Z. Lee of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Friday, July 19, 2013 in the preliminary injunction hearings for Swan v. Byrd-Bennett and McDaniel v. Board of Education City of Chicago.

During cross-examination by plaintiffs’ attorney Thomas Geoghegan (Despres, Swartz & Geoghegan, Ltd.), she was asked:

Was she a special education teacher? No. Did she have a special education degree? No.

He then asked/commented that she had never taught an LD (learning disabled) child. Her response was “not entirely.” She elaborated for the judge and those present in court that for two years in Baltimore, as a sub, she worked with 7th and 8th graders, including LD students; and when the teacher was not in the room, she was in charge. When asked if she presented herself as an expert witness in special education, she replied: No.

On behalf of the defendants (read: CPS), said same CPS Director of Student Supports from ODLSS, Rebecca Clark, testified before U. S. Judge Gary Feinerman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 in the preliminary injunction hearing for J.N. et al v. Chicago Board of Education et al.

During testimony with questions from defendants’ own attorney Lisa McGarrity (Franczek Radelet), Ms. Clark said that she had worked at CPS for 11 years. And after reviewing her educational background, Ms. Clark was asked if she had [relevant experience] other than in CPS. She told the judge and those present in court that she had worked in a school, 7th and 8th grade, as a “behavior specialist,” and she was there for two years. Ms. McGarrity had her elaborate that this was between her undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Not under oath, on a webpage from her alma mater Northwestern University, entitled: “Alumni Share their Career Paths with Undergraduates at Career Event” (on October 26, 2012), it notes: “Clark, who taught in Kenya and Baltimore, is now director of school supports in the Office of Special Education and Supports in Chicago Public Schools.”

Rebecca Clark did not mention her teaching experience in Kenya in either federal courtroom. She did not specify her exact teaching position in Kenya for the Northwestern undergraduates. Question: Was she a sub and/or interchangeably “behavior specialist” in Kenya, too, or just in Baltimore?



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