Chaos at Sumner Elementary School as second half of first semester begins

The veteran teachers of Chicago think theyve heard it all when yet another crazy story comes to light. After spending nearly ten weeks adjusting to the second year of the Longest School Day (the master plan of Rahm, Year One) and the massive school closings (Rahm, Year Two), Barbara Byrd Bennett announces, in the middle of a semester as if teachers have nothing else to do, that the "Networks" are changing. Instead of elementary and high school "networks," there will now be "Pre-K through 12" networks.

One of the Sumner Elementary School space heaters photographed by a visitor on a camera phone in mid October 2013. While charter schools and certain privileged public schools receive special treatment from David Vitale, Barbara Byrd Bennett and the members of the Chicago Board of Education, the majority of the city's real public schools are once again "at the back of the bus" because of the white supremacist policies of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his appointed school board, and the administrative team -- black, white and other -- that Rahm has put in charge of sabotaging public education in the nation's third largest city. The changes, which Substance continues to characterize as "Management By Chaos" from the top (and the "middle," if that's where the "Networks" are) also extends all the way "down" to many schools. The reorganization of the "Networks" means that all the directives, memos and edicts from the "Chiefs of Schools" of the "old" Networks may have to be shelved when the "new" networks arrive (with their new "Chiefs of Schools" or whatever they'll be called next). As of Halloween, CPS hadn't announced who had won and who had lost in this latest round of Management Musical Chairs.

But even without the centrally planned chaos out of 125 S. Clark St., local school administrators can make a mess of things, too.

Take Sumner Elementary School.

This story is true, and stuff like this does happen in Chicago Public Schools all the time. Generally its the poor black and brown communities where administrators bully teachers and parents to the point where many are afraid to speak up. This story is a result of a casual conversation that resulted in the following information being disclosed.

Sumner School in North Lawndale was slated to be a "welcoming school." That meant that Sumner was going to receive children from the schools that were to be closed. As part of all that, the "welcoming schools" were all supposed to have air conditioning, iPads, and other goodies.

However, at the last minute, Leif Ericson Elementary School remained open. So there were no kids being "closed" for Sumner to welcome, according to staff at the school and others familiar with current events on the West Side.

Sumner still received extensive repairs, air conditioning and a school garden.

However, the usual CPS planning was in effect. The chimneys were being repaired in mid October -- resulting in the inability to turn on the heat. Large space heaters were put in each classroom, but those did not always work.

Suddenly, as is wont to happen in Chicago in October (or, for that matter, at any other time), the weather changed. By the second and third weeks of October, temperatures dropped to far below the "average." Apparently, however, CPS planning for heating is based on the same flawed data that CPS uses for everything else. Instead of providing Sumner (and many other schools) with enough heat when the weather got cold, CPS officials made excuses.

"What are you complaining about? You got air conditioners didn't you?"...


Temperatures were still on the cool side as drafts came through the windows through which the exhaust was attached. Some classrooms, including preschool where children as young as three are learning, got down as low as 62 degrees. To date (October 29, 2013), there continued to be "boiler problems" -- so the space heaters were returned to the classrooms.

Being cold is one of the least of the issues at Sumner school as the 2013 - 2014 school year move onward. At least the children can put on their coats.

Kindergarten class size was still 48 as of October 28 despite the principal receiving a position over two weeks earlier. A teacher was hired but given a week to set up her classroom. On October 28 the current kindergarten teacher whose classroom was on the first floor was told she had to move to the second floor. The principal sent her and her students', all 48 of them, to the library while the engineers staff moved all the items in that kindergarten class to the second floor. The other kindergarten class finally began on October 25.

Ironically, the first kindergarten teacher was moved to the classroom she has been in for a number of years. She was moved to the first floor at the beginning of this school year. The principal told the teacher, who is 7 months pregnant, that she couldnt leave until her new classroom was set up. Two other teachers stayed to help her.

A first grade teacher, who was given a week to set up her class on the second floor and only started with students a couple of weeks earlier was moved to the first floor.

The reasoning for all this disruption? The principal wants one kindergarten teacher to teach all the reading and the other to teach all math.

After a timely complaint to the Chicago Teachers Union, the class size committee came to Sumner in late September and recommended three teachers, three assistants and a case manager. Staffing had been that badly done.

Violations of special education laws and CPS guidelines are looming. The current case manager is teaching a full load of classes as well as managing the IEPs.

Meanwhile, according to teachers at the school, one teacher has two classrooms at her disposal, one for reading and science and one for the other subjects. This teacher also has an aide to relieve her class size while the other over crowded classrooms go without. So not only is there inequity within the system, there is inequity within individual schools.


October 31, 2013 at 8:38 AM

By: Kati Gilson NBCT

k size

Correction, K ws split on 10-30.

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