BOARDWATCH JANUARY 22, 2014... Longest Board of Education meeting votes to expand charters, renew daily physical education while ignoring massive and growing opposition to charter expansion

An overnight protest outside the entrance to the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) at 125 S. Clark Street and dueling press conference (for and against charter school expansion) preceded the Board's regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. The protesters (against charter expansion) spent the night on the sidewalk in bitter cold temperatures to express their disagreement with the planned 2014 charter school proposals on the agenda.

Surrounded by parents, teachers and students from several northwest side schools, including Steinmetz High School (white shirts) and Prieto Elementary School (green shirts), Alderman Nick Sposato told the Board members the community does not want an expansion of charter schools. Sposato noted that after this Board forced the Christopher House charter school into his ward -- against his wishes -- two years ago -- the charter school has acted in an arrogant manner against the wishes of everyone in the community. Sposato also noted that the claim by the Board's "Chief of Innovation and Incubation," Jack Elsey, that the proposed ITW Noble Street Charter School would "relieve overcrowding" was, simply, a lie (see text). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The Board had also scheduled a hearing on a proposed request for a waiver from certain No Child Left Behind requirements, but due to botched security, the waiver hearing had to be re-scheduled. The hearing began at 9:00 and ended quickly when CPS officials barred two registered speakers; the regular monthly Board meeting convened a little after 10:30 and became the longest since this Board took office in June 2011.

By 10:30, the regular Board meeting was ready to begin. Present at the meeting were Board members Dr. Mahalia Hines, Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, Andrea Zopp, Deborah Quazzo, and Dr. Carlos Ascoitia. Also present was Board President David Vitale. Not present were Dr. Henry Bienen and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Board President David Vitale told the public that Barbara Byrd Bennett was dealing with personal matters.

The meeting began three Power Point presentations: on Arts education; on physical education; and on the charter school proposals.

The first was a Power Point presentation by the head of the Art Department. He spoke of the vision of increasing equity and access in every school at every grade level. "The arts are now considered a core subject," is said and told the Board that a TIF investment has been made for 84 new Arts teachers for 2014-15 and 2015-16. "The Creative Schools Initiative" is comprised of four components: Arts Liaisons, Art Data, Creative Arts Certificates and a Creative School Fund, according to the presentation.

After the Art Power Point presentation, a music teacher from George Armstrong Elementary spoke, followed by an Art Liaison teacher from Darwin Elementary. Arts instruction will include music, theater, dance, and visual arts, they explained.

Like his City Council Black Caucus colleague Emma Mitts, Howard Brookins played the race card and disgraced the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by union busting and promoting charter schools, as he has done in the past. Along with Mitts, Brookins was one of the proponents of the anti-union WalMart invasion of Chicago in 2006 and later, and continued his support for anti union white wealth with his doubletalk during the January 22, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education.Art was first among the Power Point reports. Next, a Power Point presentation was given regarding the proposed new physical education policy. The background to this report shows that during the late 1990s, former Chicago Schools "Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas" (now a candidate for Lieutenant Governor) and former Chicago Board President Gery Chico (now President of the Illinois State Board of Education) proposed that CPS get a waiver from state physical education requirements. The waiver allowed 11th and 12th graders to opt out of physical education classes, supposedly so they could take more academic subjects and improve the Board's bottom lines. Once the waiver went into effect, a large number of physical education teachers and coaches were driven from their jobs at CPS.

Despite the fact that he was not signed up to speak, Rev. Jenkins (above) was allowed by Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale to speak during the racist attacks on the unions by Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. (above right). Vitale worked with Chicago officials and some in the city's "Black Community" desperately to try and "balance" the narrative in favor of the expansion of the city's charter schools. Despite the fact that two of the charters that were subsequently approved by the Board's votes will explicitly be "faith based," the Board members didn't even discuss separation of Church and State. Substance photo by David Vance.From the beginning of the waiver era, parents, teachers and others complained that the waiver was resulting in s less healthy student population. By the 21st Century, the focus on childhood obesity was also beginning to focus on the fact that public school children in Chicago received less and less health, nutrition, and physical education instruction in their public schools. According to those promoting the current "Healthy Schools" return, Chicago Public Schools has received a physical education waiver for 11th and 12th graders since 1997. That waiver expires in June 2014, and groups have been urging CPS to let it expire so that children and high school students could receive physical education every day, as their suburban peers do. The 2014 Board has announced that it has decided not to seek a new waiver, but for three months the actual content of the new policy has been postponed. Following the passage of the new policy on January 22, 2014, all students will receive daily physical education instruction. The number of minutes per week will depend on the grade level. Only JROTC students in the high schools will be allowed to avoid PE.

There were questions from board members regarding how academics classes will be affected by the addition of physical education and if there will be a pool of Physical Education (P.E.) teachers available to teach PE. Other questions were: Will some programs be taken away to accomodate P.E.?, how will this affect juniors and seniors?, and the amount that would be spent on equipment and supplies (66 cents per student).

Board Vice-President Ruiz that said we skirted the state law for 17 years. Experiences at Northbrook High School show that P.E. before difficult tests will improve scores. Mention was also made of the increase in brain activity exhibited on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)s by students who were walking compared to just sitting quietly. Board President Vitale added that we need to monitor implementation of this plan closely.

Jack Elsey, Chief Officer of Innovation and Incubation, then led a power-point presentation on the 2014 Charter School Proposals. It was stated that CPS is legally bound annually under state law to vote within 75 days of receiving a complete charter proposal. CPS chose to focus on what it termed over-crowded school memberships on the North and South West sides. Nine proposals for 22 campuses were considered. Four campuses were withdrawn voluntarily, five were requested in priority or overcrowded situations, nine were requested for areas with adequate capacity and four charter requests did not mention a specific location.

It was suggested that eleven campuses be denied, seven be approved, two with full approval and five with conditional approval. It was considered highly unlikely all nine would be open in the fall.

Board members expressed concerns about the Noble Street Charter School already being constructed near Prosser High School before the vote had even taken place. They also asked whether there was over-crowding at the high schools near Prosser (Steinmetz, Foreman, North Grand, Schurz, and Kelvyn Park). None of those schools is overcrowded, but the "relief of overcrowding" is supposedly the reason for the addition of new charter schools on the city's Northwest Side.

When the Chicago Board of Education voted (unanimously and without debate) to hire another guy from out of town to be the "Chief Incubation and Innovation Officer" in December 2012 there was no discussion -- even when the Board added a $7,500 sweetener for "relocation and transition expenses" on top of Jack Elsey's $165,000 annual salary for taking the newly created job which was not described but immediately began to exist. Members of the Board of Education apparently forgot to make Elsey take a Chicago geography test. On January 22, 2014, 13 months after he became a Chicago executive courtesy of the Chicago Board of Education, Elsey stood up at a public meeting with his Power Point on innovations and incubations of charter schools and tried to claim that a new Noble Street high school "campus" at Grand and Laramie would "relieve overcrowding" at Taft High School -- which is, depending upon the map you use -- at least five miles away from the new Noble site. As Alderman Nick Sposato pointed out, there are at least five real public high schools closer than Taft to the new Noble site, but Elsey didn't even apologize to the lifelong Chicagoans who had just been lied to. Instead, Board member Jesse Ruiz played Rahm Emanuel's attack dog when a later speaker noted on the public record that the "Noble Method" is actually a form of psychological abuse of students.The one overcrowded high school on the Northwest Side in 2014 -- because of a Board policy that allows and unlimited number of students to "choose" certain schools -- is at Taft High School, which is more than five miles from the "ITW Noble" site (which is literally across Grand Ave. from Prosser). Board members also asked about the numbers of students in charter schools that return to neighborhood schools and the performance at so-called "Tier 5" schools. Elsey ignored the correction to his version of the facts and moved on with his narrative.

After the Power Points, President Vitale reminded everyone that the next board meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, with sign-up to speak taking place beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday, February 17 and ending at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 24.

At 12:30, public participation finally began with aldermen and other elected officials speaking first, followed by the President of the Chicago Teachers Union. For the first time, the Board also allowed an unelected "official" to speak out of turn, as if he had been elected. David Vitale said that he was calling the aldermen in the order he was given the list, although it soon became clear that he was calling them in order to give those who supported the Board's charter plans the last word. By the time all the elected, not-so-elected, and union officials had spoken, more than an hour had passed before the secretary began calling those who had signed up to speak.

The first elected official to speak was Alderman Nick Sposato of the 36th ward. Apparently referring to the late start of public participation, he said, "One of my colleagues suggested I call Jimmy John's." He then read a prepared statement stating that CPS will be building a high school that is 6 1/2 miles away from Taft High School, an overcrowded high school, while a half dozen high schools closer to the charter site are not overcrowded.

Jack Elsey, who was imported to Chicago from Michigan by Barbara Byrd Bennett to become the nation's first public school "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation," presented the Power Point on behalf of the charter school recommendations to the January 22, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Elsey misrepresented several important facts, the most dramatic of which was when he showed he knew little about Chicago geography: He claimed that the Noble ITW charter school located at Grand Ave. and Central would help "relieve overcrowding" at Taft High School, which is more than five miles northwest of the ITW Noble site. It doesn't matter that a growing number of CPS officials come from outside Illinois, as the above photograph shows. In the background only one of the three top officials watching Elsey is from Chicago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.He expressed concern with the expansion of charter schools all over the city. He referred to the fifty real public schools the Board had closed on May 22, the reduction in school budgets, and the expansion of charters with little or no oversight. He stated that he is a vocal opponent of charter expansion. He mentioned the Noble Street ITW "campus" on Grand Avenue is one block from Prosser High School and 1 1/2 to two miles miles from four other high schools that are not overcrowded. "You don't build a new police station across the street from an existing police station and a new library is not built across the street from an existing library," Sposato told the Board. He added that the community hearing meeting was a farce, noting, with several others who spoke later, that the "NAC" had been manipulated. Charters want us to think today's vote is about choice of quality education, he noted, but charters operate with almost no oversight. He concluded by saying that if we can fund charters, we can fund the needs of neighborhood schools and we should invest in existing neighborhood schools.

Next to speak was Steinmetz High School student Dalia Mena, who was signed up to speak. She was allowed to speak before additional aldermen spoke because she had to return to school and was with a group with Alderman Sposato. Dalia told the Board she is a junior at Steinmetz High School and said she didn't want to see our money going to charters. She named high-quality but not overcrowded high schools within a short distance of a planned Noble Street charter school. She added that Taft (overcrowded) is far away from the planned charter school. She mentioned a student from Noble Street charter school who left Noble Street and who likes Steinmetz. The "counter narrative" had begun. She told of Noble Street charter school students who rank other students as to who will make it or not. She asked the board to vote no on the charter school proposal.

Second Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti read from a carefully prepared statement opposing the continued expansion of Chicago charter schools, but could barely contain his anger at the Board's continued privatization policies and lies. Observers noted the desperate manner in which the Board members tried to manipulate public perception of the charter school issues, allowing speakers who were not signed up to speak on behalf of the charters and making sure that two demagogic aldermen (Mitts and Brookins) were able to speak after Fioretti and the progressive aldermen to give Mitts and Brookins the last word. Nevertheless, with the return of some of the most knowledgable critics of CPS to the monthly Board meetings (a boycott the Board movement had been proved to be a mistake) the Board's claims and pretexts are being exposed month after month. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Alderman Robert Fioretti, of the 2nd ward, spoke after Dalia Mena. Fioretti urged CPS to table the charter schools vote, stating that the school closings damaged CPS and that CPS would be further wounded if charters are allowed after closing 50 schools. He said that approval of charter schools will appear disingenuous and that charters and neighborhood schools are in competition for students. He mentioned that the mayor will unveil his five-year plan Friday, that there are already scores of charters with no proof of academic superiority over neighborhood schools, and that charters should be evaluated as part of the Facilities Master Plan. He urged the board not to be stampeded into funding another large-scale fiasco.

Next, Alderman John Arena, of the 45th ward, said that parents want high quality education for their children and that the rhetoric of choice is being used to set up a "false narrative."

Arena told the Board that the education system is being turned over to corporations that siphon funds from the public schools and put them into private pockets. He added that neighborhood schools outperform charter schools "dollar for dollar." He also said that a $351 million cut to neighborhood schools was matched by a $145 million increase to charters. Arena told the Board of schools that operated at "Level One" despite cuts and repeated that the board is talking about not expanding support for neighborhood schools. In a statement that drew cheers, Arena said that the board is "beholden to a business plan not a lesson plan," and that some suspect our school system is up for sale. He ended by saying that we demand transparency of charter schools.

The hypocrisy underlying the fancy Power Point presentation by CPS "Chief Officer for Innovation and Incubation" Jack Elsey was demonstrated over and over by those who knew the communities of Chicago. After Alderman Nick Sposato pointed out that Elsey's claim that the new Noble Street charter high school on Grand Ave. near Prosser High School is ridiculous to claim to "relieve overcrowding" at Taft High School (which is more than five miles away from the "Noble ITW site"), local parent Rubi Bautista (above at microphone with the community's translator) told of how CPS has been sabotaging the school her children attend, Prieto Elementary. The brand new school, north of Grand Ave. on Central Ave. and three blocks from the Noble ITW high school site, has become overcrowded because of Board policy -- the closing of nearby schools during the massive closings approved by the Board at its May 22, 2013 meeting. But Prieto suffers from overcrowding as an elementary school while the Board voted to create a new charter high school. Substance photo by David Vance. After Alderman Arena, Rubi Bautista of Jorge Prieto Elementary School,, who had signed up, was also allowed to speak before other aldermen because she had to leave early. She mentioned that his school (a new school which opened two years ago on Central Ave. near Grand Ave. has been asking for mobile units for two years because it is already overcrowded. Nevertheless, the Board is building a new high school charter school less than two blocks away, while her real public school suffers from the sabotage that is Board policy. She added that students from closed schools are coming to her school. She added that now a new charter high school is planned when CPS needs to fund neighborhood schools.

Alderman Scott Waguespack (32) joined the other progressive aldermen speaking in opposition to the planned expansion of the charter schools. Substance photo by David Vance.Then Alderman Scott Waguespack of the 32nd ward joined the others in opposition to the charter schools.

After him, Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr., of the 21st ward, told of opposition to his decision to support new development at the site of the former Soft-Sheen building. Clearly playing the "race card," Brookins told Alderman Waguespack and Alderman Sposato "not to dictate to MY ward." Brookins claimed that that "we need this development in our ward" and that development required things like the charter school he was supporting.

Following his remarks, Reverend Jenkins who had not signed up was allowed to speak. He spoke of being where streets are stained with blood. He mentioned that the Legacy Project includes schools. Jenkins claimed before the Board that "80 percent of CPS graduates need remediation in college," Concepts schools were vetted by us, and STEM schools are overcrowded, he testified.

Ron Bellamy, who identifies himself as "a retired CPS principal," was also allowed to speak with Brookins. Ballamy expressed his support for charter schools. From a prepared text, he read a letter to the Board about the proposed charter school in the Chatham area, where he said the focus would be on "diverse learners." No mention was made of the relationship of the charter schools that have expanded in certain Chicago wards, while the city's real public schools have been sabotaged. Observers noted acidly that Brookins has never spoken to the Board on behalf of the real public schools in his ward. His support for the destruction of the real public schools now stretches back ten years, said Substance editor George Schmidt, to the year (2004). "That's when he supported the closing of Calumet High School, a real public school, supposedly because it had gang problems." After Calumet was drained of students (disrupting the adjacent high schools for years) one year at a time, the expensively renovated Calumet building was given by CPS for one dollar a year to Perspectives Charter Schools.

John Arena, alderman of the 45th Ward, noted that the vast majority of the people in his ward want the real public schools to be enhanced, and overcrowding relieved -- without charter schools. Above, Alderman Arena speaking at the Board of Education's January 22, 2014 meeting. Substance photo by David Vance. The final alderman to speak was Emma Mitts, who like Brookins tried to play the race card. Mitts said she supports charter schools, adding that this is "a good thing for our neighborhood." From that point on, Mitts was playing the race card against the aldermen opposed to the charter expansion, basically telling them to stay out of "her" community. She also said that he was not using a script, but telling the board what is in her "heart and what she knows." She asked that the board let families have choice and affirmed that she was telling the board nothing but the truth, "so help me God." Continuing her anti-union attacks, now over a decade old since her publicity hungry support for the first WalMart in Chicago, Alderman Emma Mitts played the race card against the aldermen who spoke against the expansion of charter schools -- again. Mitts invoked God and was unembarrassed when one resident of her ward pointed out that the charter school she was supporting demands Christian faith. Board President David Vitale made sure that Mitts and Alderman Howard Brookins Jr., who is also a WalMart alderman and charter privatization supporter, got the last word during that portion of the Board of Education's January 22, 2014 meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Observers, including community leaders from Austin, noted that Mitts has been conspicuously absent during the massive struggles against the closing of Austin High School and the decimation of other public schools in that community during the years she was working to bring WalMart into Chicago. She was conspicuously silent a year ago when the mayor's policy of closing real public schools was targeting schools in her ward and more generally across the West Side.

Despite dozens of Board of Education meetings since she brought WalMart in to the West Side ten years ago, Mitts hasn't made public demands for the level of resources needed for the community's real public schools. Like Brookins, Mitts was silent in 2004, when the Board began the slow destruction of Austin High School, one of the city's largest public school buildings. Austin was strangled and closed using the same pretexts as were used against Calumet High School -- "gang problems." Instead of solving the problems with improved security, CPS officials led my then Board President Michael Scott claimed the schools could only be "cleaned up" by freezing 9th grade enrollment -- year after year until the school was empty. After an expensive rehab (like the Calumet building) he Austin building was subsequently give to a failing charter elementary school and a second charter school. The building also now contains a small real public school.

Jesus Garcia, a County Commissioner, arose in favor of the Healthy Schools Campaign and the policy change that will increase PE classes. He stated that the P.E. policy will positively affect our children. Children will be encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables which could lead to a lowering of childhood obesity, fewer obese adults, fewer cases of type two diabetes, and an increase in physically literate individuals. He also expressed his opinion that the board should reconsider the policy of rapid proliferation of charter schools.

Rosa Ramirez Richter and Mario Cortex from "Parents United for a Healthy School Campaign" also said that they support daily physical education.

The next move by the Board was unusual, but to some careful observers not surprising. While it has been policy for the Board to allow elected public officials to speak, suddenly the Board was allowing a "community volunteer" to speak during the time of the elected officials. Jose Garcia, who identified himself as a "community volunteer from the Gage Park neighborhood," stated that when the overpass at 37th to 49th Streets at Damen was taken away, it led to a lack of resources on the Southwest Side. He remarked that the jails are filling up with kids. As a result of that logic, he asked the board to vote yes to approve the charter schools that were on the agenda.

Next, Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU) President Karen Lewis said that the good news is that freedom to choose is at the bedrock of our society. She added that the Local School Council (LSC) is a voice for the parents that would be removed if their children go to charter schools. She remarked that parents don't choose charter schools, charters choose children. Karen Lewis noted that according to a Raise Your Hand study, 47% of current CPS charter schools are underutilized. She also said that parents were denied the choice to keep neighborhood schools. She told of the corrupt "seamy underbelly of the charter movement" that can be found in state after state. She told the board that the union will help to work with you to overturn the law that created the Illinois Charter Schools Commission. The Commission has the power to overrule a local school board and force a charter school on to a reluctant school district. Lewis noted that currently CPS can be over-ridden by the state in regard to charter schools. "We will go with you to Springfield and Springfield will respond," she said, smiling.

By the time all of the elected officials, appointed officials, pseudo-officials, and union leaders had spoken, more than an hour of the "public participation" time had gone.

President Vitale answered, "Let's join hands."

The Board Secretary, Estala Beltran, then began calling on the speakers according to the list she had developed in her own unique and increasingly controversial way. Steven Kraus spoke in favor of "Great Lakes Academy" for the South Shote community, while Board members ignored the current demographics of South Shore and voted to approve the plan. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The next two speakers, Katherine Myers and Steven Kraus, of the proposed Great Lakes Academy Charter School, spoke in support of their charter school that was planned for the South Shore community and asked for the board's approval. The evidence of support for the proposed school consisted of petitions signed by community residents and letters of support from community residents.

After them, Kerry Murphy asked the board to vote no on the proposed charter schools. She said that Alderman Emma Mitts was invited to their meeting but did not attend. She spoke of charter schools students that test no better and no worse than neighborhood school students. She added that the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) process was "flawed" but didn't provide all the details that were shared by a later speaker.

Then five speakers in a row, Angelica Alfaro, a 2003 graduate of Noble Street Charter School, Lucy Reese, Esmeralda Mora-Begres, Rhonda Kochlefl and Juanita Ariola spoke in support of the new Noble campus. Ms Reese stated that both she and the person spoken of in Ms. Alfaro's letter were not accepted at Selective Enrollment (S.E.) schools so they went to Noble schools.

At this point, Dwayne Truss, an Austin community leader, objected to being skipped over. Observers including Truss noted that the clumping of people supposedly to keep those speaking on the same topic from taking over the agenda has resulted in six speakers in a row providing testimony on behalf of the wonders of the Noble Network of Charter Schools without anyone ever talking about whether the "Noble ITW campus" should be created a block from Prosser Vocational High School. Part of the counter narrative to the Noble Street salvation story began to emerge.

Teacher Katie Osgood created a dramatic interruption to the salvation narratives being preached by a half dozen speaker when she told the Board that the pressures on Noble charter school students were resulting in anxiety, depression and even suicide thoughts. Substance photo by David Vance. Next, Katie Osgood, a teacher at a psychiatric hospital, said she saw a disturbing pattern in students from Noble Street charter schools. She mentioned that those students experienced stress, exhaustion, fear of repetition, anxiety, depression, a culture of shame and humiliation, and some even spoke of suicide. She said that the secret sauce of the dark underbelly of push-outs was children ending up in psych wards. She asked for an investigation of what's going on. She said she was speaking as a citizen and did not want to give the name of the hospital on the North side. Chief Counsel James Bebley, who asked for the name of the hosptal, then asked her to speak to a staff member in the hallway outside the board chambers.

Layers Jesse Ruiz proved his value to the administration of Rahm Emanuel by attacking Katie Osgood after she had begun the truth about Noble charter schools. After having listened blissfully to six speakers praising the Noble Street miracle without interrupting or asking any critical questions, Ruiz could barely hold himself in before demanding to know where Katie Osgood was teaching. When she refused to provide that information, Ruiz's harrumphh was almost audible, while Board President David Vitale looked on as the carefully scripted meeting continued. For nearly two years, Ruiz and Vitale, along with the other Board members, has listened in silence while Noble and other charter school "parents" and "students" praise the charter schools and tell lurid stories about how terrible it would have been had the child been forced to attend the evil real public school. As a growing number of those testifying on behalf of the charter schools emerge as a sophisticated equivalent of the "Rent A Protesters" utilized by the Emanuel administration during the push for the "Longer School Day," it is becoming more and more clear to the public that many charter school "choice" advocates are repeating from a script that always attacks the real public schools and speaks about the transubstantiation that takes places at the charter school -- even if the tesitifier had gone to the charter school from a Catholic school after never having attended a real public schools. Substance photo by David Vance.Racquel Macias, of Hanson Park Elementary, spoke in opposition to the Noble Street Charter School planned for across the street from Prosser High School. She said that Noble Street has already started construction before approval by the board.

Erica Clark, of Jones High School, told the board that there is a direct correlation between the actions the the board was taking today and the impact on schools. She stated that the Lincoln Park neighborhood and the Sauganash community got annexes and asked, "Where is the money for charter schools coming from?" She added that "toilet paper fund drives" were now being held in some schools. Noting recent stories about how Paton received a quarter million dollar donation from a local billionaire, she told the public that the children of the mayor and Bruce Rauner don't go to charter schools. [Rahm Emanuel's children go to the University of Chicago Lab School; one of Rauner's children got into Walter Payton College Prep High School based on the billionaire's clout with the previous principal].

Jennifer Biggs said that neighborhood schools were being decimated. She told the Board that at fifty charters schools there were 11,000 empty seats. She also said that she would like to go to Springfield about charters to get the elimination of the Charter Schools Commission that can override local school boards.

Former Little Village High School teacher Jackson Potter (now working for the Chicago Teachers Union) had to remind the Board that they had excluded two people from the testimony at the earlier hearing on the No Child Left Behind waiver. Board President David Vitale, after consulting with Board attorneys, announced that the hearing would be rescheduled for a future date. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Jackson Potter, a CPS graduate and teacher and a CTU official, stated that there was a procedural error. He said that at the Continuous Improvement Work Plan (CIWP), a school improvement plan, meeting held at 9 a.m., two people were not allowed to speak. He said that there was miscommunication downstairs and he was not sure how this failure to allow the two people to speak affects the vote today.

After that important topic, he reminded the Board that its vote on charter expansion would resonate into the future. He added that last year he warned the Board about United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) corruption and nepotism. Now a SCC investigation may follow the Concepts Charter School approval.

(Later in this meeting, Board Reports EX 3 and 4 were withdrawn because a new hearing was needed.)

Wendy Katten (left) of Raise Your Hand stood with Jennifer Biggs as Biggs challenged the Board's claims about "waiting lists" for Chicago's charter schools. Since the early days of Arne Duncan (2001 - 2008), CPS officials and other public officials have claimed that there is some "waiting list" of thousands of children demanding to get into the city's charter schools. But according to the recent study from "Apples to Apples," nearly half Chicago's charter schools and "campuses" are "underutilized" by the same criteria the Board of Education used in 2013 to close the largest number of real public schools in Chicago history (49, by a vote of the May 22, 2013 Board meeting). Within a few minutes, CPS officials and their media allies (such as Alexander Russo of the Chicago Tribune blog "") were questioning the credibility of the underutilization study without refuting it. Substance photo by David Vance. Martha Arroyo asked that the Be The Change Charter School be approved. She said that this charter school will work to be integrated.

Dwayne Truss said that the mayor closed four neighborhood schools in Austin and that at Nash Elementary, a choice had to be made between tissue and a teacher after cuts were made. He said he believes that the line between church and state is being blurred with the Board's approval of the CEP charter school in Austin.

Mike Rogers, a preacher, of the Austin neighborhood spoke in support of the Chicago Education Partnership (CEP) and said that two Austin neighborhood principals also supported CEP.

Reverend Marshall Hatch also spoke in support of the new charter school in Austin. He added that he supports neighborhood schools but wants options for "higher quality" elementary schools.

Alonso Zaragoza, a member of the northside NAC wants investigations of the northside NAC. He said that Noble Street already is demolishing a structure in preparation for constructing a new school, without board approval. He asked if it was a done deal.

James Stewart, a CTU retiree, said that there was not adequate funding in all neighborhood schools. He remarked that some charter school teachers do not have an education background. He added that you wouldn't send a non-medically trained person in to do surgery. He asked the board to table these proposals.

Mary Hughes, of Cassell in the Mount Greenwood area, thanked the board for the eight classroom addition at Cassell this summer. She said that Casseell was a Level One Fine Arts neighborhood magnet school.

Salim Ucan, Husni Selenica and Richard Townsell spoke in support of Concept Charter School.

Joel Rodriguez of the South West Organizing Project (SWOP) spoke against Concept Charter Schools and Curtis Sharif STEM Academies. He also asked the board to change the monthly board meeting to a time and place that parents and students could more easily attend. He also spoke of an article in the Sun-Times referring to the track record of Ohio Concept Schools which had zero graduates.

David Castro, a graduating senior at Loyola University, told of his success due to his own autonomy and prayer. He said he was a product of CPS schools through and through and was not an anomaly. He added that he was also a member of SWOP and a volunteer at Morrill.

Rebecca Martinez, of Little Village and a CTU staff member, made a statement on behalf of Mr. Wilson at a school that was not named and also spoke against Curtis Sharif schools. She said she is against spending money on charter schools.

Shawn Gowder said he was disappointed that Barbara Byrd-Bennett was not here. He said he was from Clara Barton School and had been coming here since the 1990s. He also thanked CEO Byrd-Bennett for bringing Black History to CPS. He then named and displayed several books on Black History.

CTU organizer Kathy Murray criticized the Board's plan to put a charter school into a strip mall at a crowded intersection in the 18th Ward. Substance photo by George Schmidt.Kathleen Murray of CTU asked why the Comprehensive Annual Report was late. Board President Vitale said it would be out in another month. She said she was against the Curtis Sharif Schools. She said she was raised in the 18th ward and the 18th ward did not need another charter school. She said a new charter school was being planned for a strip-mall at 87th and Kedzie . She remarked that a new charter school should not be placed next to stores such as Weight Watchers and Dunkin Donuts (an unusual pairing) and where the traffic volume on the adjacent streets was high.

Lawrence Ligas said he was neutral on the charter issue. He asked the board how it could approve new charter schools when you have not addressed malfeasance at current charters, such as Aspira and UNO. He spoke of fraud being committed with taxpayer dollars.

Rebecca Martinez added to the factual denunciations of the expansion of charter schools. Martinez works as an organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union. Martinez reminded the Board members that they have been stalling on the release of the annual CAFR, which will show that the Board's propaganda claim that it faces a "billion dollar deficit" is a lie. The CAFR is usually presented to the Board in December and made public in January, as has been going on for at least 100 years. Substance photo by David Vance.Tina Robinson asked why the principal of Earle School was removed. She said that scores had increased and we support Ms. Melendez. She spoke of a school with calm classrooms and hallways and parents who were welcomed. She added that someone from Earle would be here at the board meeting every month till Ms. Melendez is back as principal.

Deborah Umrani expressed disappointment at the board decision not to open Curtis Sharif charter schools.

Martin Ritter, of CTU, spoke of 11,000 empty charter school seats and asked the board to say no to proposed charter schools. He said that aldermen and SWOP were against the charters.

Finally, Nancy Vasquez of SWOP and parent of four students, asked the board not to give up on the neighborhood schools that we now have.

This concluded public participation shortly before 3 p.m.

Following this, the board voted in open session on many items on the board agenda.


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