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Clueless? No -- CORRUPT. Chicago Board of Education meeting reprises the silly talking points of Tim Cawley on the Aramark mess -- while ensuring that no financial officials are at the meeting in case the Board has to discuss the ongoing scandal of the 'toxic swaps'

David Vitale and the members of the Chicago Board of Education waited until their critics had left the Board meeting on September 24, 2014 before calling "Chief Administrative Officer" Tom Cawley to the podium to answer their carefully scripted questions about the scandals involving the Aramark custodial contract. Although a parent and the president of the principals' association had added their voices to the criticism of the implementation of the quarter billion dollar "re-privatization" contract (CPS custodial services had already been largely privatized) that Cawley and Barbara Byrd Bennett presented to the Board at its February 2014 meeting, the Board members made sure the critics who had brought additional facts before the Board were gone. Then Cawley was called to the podium. He basically reprised his talking points from the infamous Power Point presentation he gave to the Board in February, adding cutely that the Board members would be eating an "Aramark lunch" when they went into executive session. One of the most noteworthy lowlights of Cawley's spiel came when he promised the Board that the Aramark problems would all be solved by "January" (apparently indicating January 2015). Like most of the current executives at CPS, Cawley came from corporate America and apparently never realized that the three "big days" for cleaning buildings were the first day of school, the first day the kids come back after Winter Break, and the first day after Clean Up Week in the Spring. Cawley's spiel acts as if the calendar year were a valid way to measure the performance of custodial workers, who actually need to be working on all-school cleanings daily, with special emphasis on the three "vacation" periods. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.It's in a way no surprise that the so-called "public participation" portion of the meetings of the Chicago Board of Education has reached what might be an all-time low. Between threatening to arrest those who speak out, blacklisting some of their critics, and working virtually daily to muzzle the press (which often languidly goes along with the muzzlings), the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education have possibly succeeded in reaching the goal of destroying what was once one of the most vibrant forums for democracy and truth in Chicago.

As Substance reports this week, only 18 people (plus two "officials" who don't have to sign in) spoke at the September 24, 2014 meeting of the Board of the third largest school system in the USA. Only 26 people had signed up to speak in the first place, and of those seven were "no shows" and one (this reporter) was barred from speaking because although he signed up, he had "spoken last month" and under CPS rules no citizens can speak to the Board two months in a row). For the first time in a year or so, the officers of the Chicago Teachers Union were also absent from the Board meeting.

During the three years since this Board of Education took office in May 2011, the Board has been on an all-out campaign to suppress citizen participation in its public meetings. The Board has also manipulated reporters in ways that were unthinkable before the newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed this Board (and his first "Chief Executive Officer," former Rochester Supt. Jean-Claude Brizard) in May 2011.

Within a month after May 2011, it began to become clear that CPS would no longer be holding press conferences. Instead, CPS officials and Mayor Emanuel have been successfully hosting tightly controlled media events, usually featuring the mayor, the current CEO (the 2012 replacement for Brizard was Barbara Byrd Bennett, who at the time she was brought in was helping to destroy the public schools of Detroit), and a silent cast of young people, most of them African Americans or Latinos. On a few occasions, CPS officials called select reporters to invite them -- secretly -- to one-on-one "briefings" with Byrd Bennett, but that ended when reporters for the favored few began calling Substance and others and we began showing up, "uninvited", for these privileged and oh-so-private soirees.



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