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Gresham challenges 'turnaround' verdict

More than 100 (three bus loads and others) determined, angry, community members, staff and students of Gresham Elementary School attended the hearing on the turnaround of Gresham Elementary School. The Gresham school community is telling the board that they object to turning Gresham Elementary around and giving their school to AUSL. The hearing officer failed to identify himself to most people in the audience, and sat in the Board chambers behind a sign indicting he was James L . Bebley, CPS General Council. He wasn't.

Part of the crowd of more than 100 people who turned out to support Gresham Elementary School at the hearing at CPS headquarters on April 9, 2014. Seated in the group above (in front of the pillar) is Jonathan Jackson of Operation PUSH, who took the floor and chanted "This whole process is a sham!" challenging CPS attorney James Bebley, who was trying to chair the hearing as a "hearing officer." Substance photo by Jean Schwab. John Barker, the latest CPS Chief Accountability Officer presented a PowerPoint purporting to show varying scores for Gresham through the years. Baker, who arrived in Chicago from Memphis less than two years ago, stated that as of 2013 new cut off scores were created for the "meeting" and "exceeding" standards students. Because of the change, Barker said, his staff in the "Office of Accountability" went back and redid all the scores with these new criteria. So some years when students were meeting or exceeding, their scores would not be so high. Barker said this was done with Dvorak (another school facing "turnaround"), also.

Elizabeth Kirby, Chief of Schools, Network 11 since Nov. 2013 (and former Principal of Kenwood High), claimed that the school was given extra help during 2013-2014 year. She said that this had included working with parents, teachers and community members. Kirby listed reading interventions, implementing response in reading. After school activities such as sports, dance, and community outreach were offered but the school did not improve that much in one year, Kirby said. She ignored the fact that Gresham had been hit by staff cuts during the school year.

The next witness for CSP spoke about how good "Turnaround" under AUSL is. Miyoshy Knox, principal of Amos Stag Elementary School (AUSL). shared the same presentation as given to the Dvorak hearing on successful achievement at all 29 (AUSL) schools. Knox stated that AUSL Schools include a “No excuse climate.”

By that time, the anger was clear. Gresham Principal Dr. Diedrus Brown was called next to speak. About five community members (all men) came with her. The unidentified hearing officer told her that the community members had to sit down and they could speak later. The members just stood there and did not move. The hearing officer told them they would be removed if they did not sit down.

Above, the principal of Gresham Elementary School (Diedrus Brown) and Operation PUSH's Jonathan Jackson challenged the legitimacy of the hearing on the proposed "turnaround" of Gresham during the April 9 hearings. Jackson was overrun by security people when he spoke and repeatedly said "This is a sham..." Substance photo by Jean Schwab. Johnathan Jackson of Operation PUSH stood up and asked the hearing officer: “ Why do they have to sit down?” Bebley said that all of them should sit down and one could stay to give support. They did not sit down. Jackson asked why any of them should sit down. The hearing officer said that they didn’t have to sit down, but Jackson would have to be escorted out of the hearing.

The hearing officer stated that his job was to get information and lots of people wanted to talk so he needed cooperation.

Dr. Diedrus Brown addressed the audience and hearing officersayinbg, ”I sat while Mr. Barker and Ms. Knox reduced my students to numbers -- 99% of my students receive free lunch, We have almost a 35% mobility rate and we are located in a violent area. We lost money last year. I begged for a social worker last year and I believe that AUSL has a Social Worker. My students are happy."

I have done number analysis also. In 2011 we were removed from probation and given a "Level 2" rating. Give me the resources you give the charter schools.

She went on to note the see-saw realities created by the ever-changing CPS "accountability" policies. She said Gresham was removed from probation in 2007. "Please come out and see what we are doing at our school," she continued. "Last year we lost our parent advocate. We were supposed to be a 'Welcoming School' this year, but were not on the list.”

Alderman Howard Brookins (21st Ward) spoke next.

“Gresham is a school of choice," he said. "There was an attempt to siphon students from the school this year. This seems like throwing the baby out with the water. These students are fragile, 33% of the students are homeless. I listened to Mr. Barker when he got to value added -- it didn’t show how they compare with the district, why?”

Tina Bumpers-Walker is a 2nd grade teacher graduated from Gresham and lives in the community. She told Mr. Bebley that “We are not failures at Gresham, we work hard and we realize that there is work to do. We do not have a full time art, music and P.E. teacher. Our kindergarten doesn’t have P.E. Give us all the resources. We moved to level 2 in 2011. Our surrounding schools did not move to that status of Level 2."

Parent, Kittiota Walsh opposes the turnaround along with Tansy Sellers, parent and student aide. Adeline Bracey former paraprofessional, now laid off is opposed to the turnaround. “We have been ignored far too long. If the school is failing it’s because of CPS. This is a dictatorship, not a democracy”

Annie Harris is a grandma and great grandma. “Our students love their teachers. There are other people who work around the school custodians and lunch ladies. We are being ignored. Think about our children.”

Pamella Vaughn, great aunt of three Gresham students and community resident for 53 years.

It was disturbing when they wee busy refurbishing the building for other people. They have two elevators and a library full of books and no librarian.”

Amiyah Allen, second grade student, “We have half time gym and no music. There are 38 students in my second grade classroom.”

Amiyah and her mother say she is a high achiever.

The hearing officer then asked if Mr. Jackson would like to speak.

Johnathan Jackson came to the mic and started shouting.”This whole process is a Sham!” over and over and was taken out of the hearing.

Last but not least, Michael Brunson, Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary, asked for a copy of the numbers given by board officials. Brunson said he questions them and wants to do a number check. He also compared AUSL to a cancer that has spread to number 29.



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