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BOARDWATCH: Chicago Teachers Union denounces 'hostile takeover' of three schools following Board of Education vote on 'turnaround' and a meeting where 'security swarms' dragged protesters away while those singing the praises of the Board were given extra time

A few hours after speaking in opposition to the proposed so-called "turnaround" of three of Chicago's real elementary schools, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis issued a fiery statement denouncing the vote of the Board of Education to approve the latest reduction in the number of the city's real public schools.

At at least six different times during the Board meeting, CPS security officials snatched the microphone away from speakers who were opposing the proposed "turnarounds." At the same time, speakers praising AUSL or supporting other Board policies (such as the conversion of Ames into a military school) were given additional time to speak. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Lewis spoke during the Board meeting and tried to urge the Board to make a reasonable assessment of how the schools slated for so-called "turnaround" had been deprived of resources, the Board members did not respond to her mild mannered statement. Instead, all five of those present during the meeting (two Board members, Mahalia Hines and Deborah Quazzo, were absent from the meeting) waited until most of the members of the public (including Lewis) had left before they went ahead with carefully scripted commented designed to rationalize the positions the Board was taking and the votes they were about to cast.

On of the features of the April 23 Board meeting was the violence with which critical speakers were treated by CPS security. More than a half dozen speakers critical of the proposed turnarounds were forced away from the podium by CPS security. Additionally, CPS Communications and Security Staff told this reporter that he would be arrested and barred from the Board chambers if he continued to "disrupt" the meetings by taking photographs from various locations within the public area during the public meeting, despite the fact that the Board has been apprised of its legal responsibilities under the First Amendment.

Pastor Clarence George, who told the Board he has children and grandchildren at Gresham, denounced the Board of disrespecting the faith based community before Board President David Vitale ordered CPS security to surround and remove him from the podium. CPS security chief Jadine Chou has also threatened to arrest Substance editor George Schmidt for moving around during the Board meetings to where the stories are, rather than remaining in the two "pens" the Board established to keep reporters and news photographers from getting to the scene of the story and to those who are being dragged away from the meetings. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.One of the two locations to which press photographers are herded forced the press to photograph the meetings from behind most of the speakers. The other forces photographers to stand in a cramped area on the side, unable to see most of the Board members because their lines of sight are blocked by pillars.

The five members of the Board who were present and voting during the April 23 meeting were Henry Bienen, Jesse Ruiz, David Vitale, Andrea Zopp, and Carlos Azcoitia.

The CTU statement is as follows:

Although Board of Education President David Vitale tried to ignore the fact that Karen Lewis was in the Board Chamber and sitting nearly in front of him when "Public Participation" began at the April 23, 2013 Board meeting, the Board eventually recognized the president of the union that represents 30,000 present and former CPS workers. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.CHICAGOThe Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released the following statement upon news that the Chicago Board of Education voted to turn around three elementary schools on the city's South and West sides. The move will transfer the schools authority to a politically connected business organization with ties to city hall:

Todays hostile takeover of three of our neighborhood school communities by the mayors handpicked Board of Education makes it quite clear that there is a war on older, African-American teachers and administrators, as well as the school communities in which they serve, said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

After being starved of resources for many consecutive years, Dvorak, Gresham and McNair, three promising elementary schools, were set up for failure by our school district. While we are proud of the members we have working in 'turnaround schools' operated by the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL), our issue is that this dubious, corporate reform model has proven to do little but take over schools discredited by CPS and then, after receiving millions of dollars in support, take credit for the sudden but short-lived academic success among students.

Nearly a year ago we witnessed thousands of parents, community leaders, clergy, educators and students begging to be heard as the Board destroyed nearly 50 schools. Today parents, administrators and teachers were forced to beg the Board of Ed for the right to a future, only to be slapped down and have their cries fall on deaf ears. Where are the leaders in our school district who are protecting the interests of these students and their constituents? This is why we stand strong in our call for a democratically elected, representative school board.



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