Met in Uptown church the night before the official CPS Board...Peoples Board continues its boycott of the regular meetings of the Chicago Board of Education

There was a "Peoples School Board Meeting" on Tuesday, November 19, 2013, the night before the regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. The "peoples" event took place from six to eight p.m. emphasizing the contrast with the Chicago Board of Education, which always meets during "bankers' hours" during the day. The November 19 event was held at the Peoples Church, 941 W. Lawrence in Chicago's Uptown community.

Members of the "Peoples School Board" meeting on November 19, 2013. Substance photo by Jean Schwab.The driving force for the formation of the "Peoples School Board" has been a collection of activist groups including Action Now, Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), Chicago Peace, Clergy Coalition; Teachers for Social Justice, and the Kenwood- Oakland Community Organization (KOCO). A large number of people turned out for the November 19 event.

The Peoples Board of Education Meeting was formed to put pressure on legislators to vote for an Elected School Board in Chicago, according to some of the event organizaers. It also would give people in the community a place to discuss the impact of school closures and budget cuts on their schools and communities, the organizers told Substance.

The meetings have the same agenda as the Chicago Board of Education meetings, according to organizers, except they say they actually listen and find solutions to help. As the Teachers for Social Justice hand-out stated defend public education AND transform public schools. CPS must provide all schools with equitable resources and support a school-community process of positive change that builds on shared knowledge, wisdom, and mutual respect of teachers, parents, students, and community members.

One way this respect, shared knowledge and wisdom can provide positive change is an elected school board, the organizers of the Peoples Board said. Students, parents, members of community organizations, and community members discussed issues within their schools and communities, and the Peoples School Board "listened."

Steinmetz junior Dalia Mena speaks about the actions she and other CSOSOS (Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools) have taken t in their attempt to stop CPS from opening a Noble St. charter high school right across the street from Prosser High School. Her speech is reprinted at the end of this article.The first report was by a member of CODE (Community Organized for Democracy in Education), which identified itself as "a coalition of parent, teacher and community organizations from across Chicago who come together to support a referendum for a representative elected Chicago School Board." CODE members have been meeting with different state legislators and have influenced more to vote for HB2793 which is for an elected school board in Chicago. According to its website, CODE consists of the following organizations: 19th Ward Parents, Action Now, Albany Park Neighborhood Council (APNC), COFI - COmmunity Organizing and Family Issues, Enlace

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Parents 4 Teachers, People for Community Recovery, the Raise Your Hand Coalition, and Teachers for Social Justice

CODE asked that people will call legislators who have supported them on school issues and thank them.

Martin Ritter, an organizer from the Chicago Teachers Union, spoke next. Ritter stated that the good news is that 60% of the certified educators laid off have found positions within the district. The bad news is that the CPS Board of Education plans to propose at its meeting November 20, meeting using millions of dollars that have nothing to do with children. The money will be spent on administrative items, like paying bonds. Ritter said that the CPS budget must be centered on the students. CPS continues to cut ESL (English as a Second Language), Special Education teachers and Paraprofessional School Related Personal (PRSPs) members. In November, 80 staff members were cut because of a decrease in state funding. We must run for local school councils and put money back into the classrooms. In November, the city council voted down the TIF Surplus Ordinance, Ritter said. "Look up your Alderman to see how they voted."

Jeannette Taylor, a member of the Local School Council at Mollison Elementary School, stated that CPS lied about the 20 day cuts when it said that positions would not be cut this year because of the 20th day rule. She noted that additional positions had been cut after the 20th day. We need to start circulating petitions about needed resources, she went on. Mollison is a receiving school. Parents do walk- through observation at Mollison. The kindergarten has 57 students and Taylor wonders where they are going to place these children when they reach first grade.

Jitu Brown KOCO Educational Organizer spoke next. We have an Accountability Committee to see whether the school is getting the resources needed, he said No parent should have their child in a school without basic resources." We are not told what is actually happening in our schools. There have been numerous fights along the safe passage routes but it is not published. CPS needs to be accountable that each child is safe and has basic resources at school.

A parent of a student at Brenneman Elementary School reported that parents are not welcome in the school. They want an accountability walk- through. CODE is working on a bill to support the LSCs (Local School Councils). Every school that has government funding should receive $2,500 per Local School Council. Schools currently on probation will have a working LSC.

We need a sponsor for this bill on LSC.

Steven Guy from Fuller Elementary School stated that two years ago Fuller Elementary was told they could not have an LSC because they were on probation. We looked up on the State Code and found that it didnt say we could not have an LSC. Now we have 60 people on our LSC. At one time Fuller Elementary School was a receiving school and a Rising Star School. It became a receiving school without needed resources. Applications for the Local School Council are due February 26 and the elections are on April 7.

Ames Middle School Sarah Simmons-It has been announced that Ames Middle School will be turned in to a military academy. We are planning our own action for the Board meeting. We had a vote on whether we wanted to keep Ames as it is and 780 voted to keep it the same and around 40 against. Ames supporters want to put a referendum on the ballet. Jitu Brown Talked about Dyett High School. In 2008 Dyett had a 42% increase of students going to college. It is the only neighborhood high school in the Kenwood Oakland/Bronzeville neighborhood and is being phased out by the CPS Board of Education. Right now there are only 70 students registered at Dyett. The students take gym online because it is a required course, there are no art, music, gym classes and honors or AP classes. Avid Programs were taken from the school, According to Wikipedia, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a program designed to give necessary support, particularly those in the academic middle, so that they can attend college and achieve their full potential. The AVID program supports students by reinforcing and teaching study and organizational skills. There will be no senior luncheon or graduation for seniors at Dyett. Students at Dyett will file a Civil Rights Complaint Friday. The Committee to revitalize Dyett High School will have a news conference at KOCO (Kenwood, Oakland Community Organization) on Friday, Nov. 22, at 10:00.

Students are also having two fundraisers for the luncheon and graduation. Chicago has school deserts. The city has disinvested in a neighborhood and by that they are disinvesting in the people in that neighborhood. Schools have been surrounded by for-profit charter schools and neighborhood schools closed. Providence Hospital has closed its emergency room. All of this destabilizes a neighborhood.

The final speaker, a junior from Steinmetz High School, spoke about students fighting against charter schools. Her comments follow:

Hi, my name is Dalia Mena. Im a student organizer from the Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, and I am a junior at Steinmetz High School. Last week Rahm Emmanuel gave Lincoln Park Elementary, a school in a rich neighborhood, $20 million. But when the problem is in a poor Black or Latino community suddenly CPS and the city are broke.

We are a group of students that are not required to meet, but we do anyway because we deserve more than what CPS is giving us. This year, CPS took millions of dollars from neighborhood schools while giving more to charters.

Just from Steinmetz alone CPS took $1.4 million this year, yet CPS still has money to build a new charter school right across the street from Prosser High School. Building more charters is pointless! CPS wants to build a Noble school right across the street of an already existing neighborhood high school. There are already four neighborhood schools that are starving for resources within a 1.5 mile radius of that site.

Unlike public schools, charters are privately run. They do not serve all the students in the neighborhood. They push out students they dont want and this includes English Language Learners and Special Education students just because they dont want to lower their test scores. Charters are just here to make money not to educate students. We need CPS to invest in already existing neighborhood schools that really need it.

In Steinmetz we see the need. Im in a computer class in which half of the computers dont work and in a band class that took four months to get instruments. One of my friends had to steal a psychology book just to do her homework at home because there were not enough book for everyone in the school who takes the class.

It is evident that neighborhood schools are in way more need than a private company like Noble and other charter schools. Last week, almost a 100 parents and students were outside Alderman Mitts office trying to talk to her about why she quit Prossers LSC and supports charters. But her staff just kicked us out in the cold and called the cops. Her staff talked about how we needed to learn respect and to be quiet.

I am here today because every time a new charter opens, neighborhood schools will lose students and therefore, lose money. This is an injustice! What we need to do is invest in the success of our neighborhood schools, not build more charters.

Whose schools?

Our schools!

Thank you.

The meeting ended with audience members shouting "Our Schools" with Dalia.


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