BOARDWATCH: Complete report on the November 19, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. More than 500 people attended the meeting, probably the largest turnout at a Chicago school board meeting in history...

Two of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education (Mahalia Hines and Deborah Quazzo) cut the Board meeting of November 19, 2014, even though the Board only meets once a month. This led some to speculate that they were afraid to face the public after the years of decisions they have made attacking the city's real public schools, from the massive expansion of charter schools to the largest school closings in American history. During the meeting, the five remaining Board members berated or condescended to the public during the lengthy session. Board President David Vitale ordered security to remove more than a dozen speakers from the microphones when people objected to the "two minutes" allowed for even those with the most pressing problems to tell their schools' stories. Above, left to right on stage: Board members Angel Diaz (student member), Henry Bienen, Jesse Ruiz, David Vitale, Andrea Zopp and Carlos Azcoitia. On the far right are the Board's attorney James Bebley and "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bemnett. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The November 19, 2014 regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education normally would have been held at 125 S. Clark Street at 10:30 a.m., but the Board is in the process of moving to new headquarters at 42 West Madison. So, in response to requests from parents and others, this month's meeting was held in a neighborhood instead of downtown for the first time in years.

The meeting was held on the West Side at Westinghouse College Prep High School at Franklin Boulevard and Kedzie, beginning at 4:30 p.m., a time that allowed more regular and working people (including more than a hundred teachers) to attend. Free parking was available in lots on the east and west sides of the school, compared to current downtown parking fees of about $36 for those who have driven to Board meetings. The nearly-full meeting was held in the 500 seat-auditorium. The comfortable theater-style venue led to more people speaking out and responding than usually happens in the Board chambers downtown.

Substance reporters counted more than 500 people at the meeting at the highest point; this has probably made the November 19, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education the largest in history, and an indication of the desire of the "public" for more participation in the governance of their public schools.

The crowd that turned out for the November 19, 2014, meeting of the Chicago Board of Education may have been the largest in history, nearly filling completely the modern auditorium of Westinghouse High School on Chicago's West Side. Above, many members of the crowd displayed signs towards the Board members comparing the corruption of the Board members with the corruption that resulted in the infamous Chicago Parking Meter privatization deal under former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Because of the usual subservient way in which Chicago's corporate media handles the Board meeting, nearly all of the dramatic testimony -- and protest such as those above -- did not get into the official ruling class "news" reports on the meeting. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Following the welcome by Board President David Vitale at 4:39 p.m., the Color Guard, which included students carrying rifles, presented the colors and led the Pledge to the Flag followed by the Star Spangled Banner.

Besides Board President Vitale, the roll call indicated that Board members Dr. Henry Bienen, Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, Andrea Zopp, Dr. Carlos Azcoitia were present, Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and Chief Counsel James Bebley. Absent were Board members Dr. Mahalia Hines and Deborah Quazzo. Also present was Honorary Student Board member, Angel Diaz (Curie High School), and a "shadow student."

CEO Byrd-Bennett announced that the "Honoring Excellence" portion of the agenda would be slightly different this month. She introduced the founding principal of Westinghouse, Dr. Janice Jackson, and the current principal, Patrick McGill, who welcomed a few special guests. He informed all that Westinghouse was the first Selective Enrollment (SE) high school on the West Side. He said it has a large diverse student today with world-class teachers who are teaching world-class students.

Next student musicians performed a musical selection. The musical instruments included a drummer, guitars, a flute, clarinets, trombones, and trumpets.

ABOVE: The now infamous August 2013 "Performance Policy," touted at the time as a significant change for the "better." At the time, Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett claimed that the "key changes" in the so-called "Performance Policy" were put into place to make the program better. At the time, she was acting as if the Board hasn't been changing its so-called "Performance" policies on an annual basis for more than 15 years, but there was no one on her executive team who had been around for more than two or three years, so there was no one with institutional memory to contradict her fantasies. The main thrust of every "performance" policy (by whatever name) all the way back to the first one promulgated by then CEO Paul Vallas in 1995 was to establish a system of ranking and sorting everybody in the school system by the use of test scores (by 2014, called "metrics"). The objective at every point in any years was to enable the Board members -- and administrators, more and more of whom had no teaching training or experience -- to then make simplistic decisions to the detriment of children, schools, teachers and communities. Once the information became "data" and was reduced to the mindlessness of spreadsheets and Power Points, those wielding power could undermine the complex realities of urban public education without ever having to know anything about the challenges of teaching and learning in complex communities such as Chicago's. The two reesults certain with each new iteration of the "policy" since the Vallas years (1995 - 2001) have been straightforward. The selective enrollment schools (especially the magnet high schools) are always at the "top." And the schools which serve the communities of color in the most impoverished and dangerous areas in the United States are always available at the "bottom" to be scapegoated. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. After the musical performance, CEO Byrd-Bennett discussed the move of the Board's headquarters. She said that most of the Board was now in the facility at 42 West Madison St. downtown. She claimed that the building at 125 S. Clark Street had been "under-utilized" and additionally claimed the move from there would result in a "savings" of $70 million over a period of years. She thanked Tom Tyrell, whom she called this month the "Chief Repurposing Officer", for making the transition possible.

She went on the comment on the 2015-16 school year calendar, being proposed today for adoption, which includes a full school day and a full school year. She said that school will begin for students on September 8, 2015, the day after Labor Day.

The highlights of the 2015-16 School Year calendar were explained by Annette Gurley,"Chief Officer of Teaching and Learning". She said that the calendar will include 208 school days, 178 instructional days, 10 paid vacation days, and two parent-teacher conference days. School for clerks will begin on August 26, for teachers on August 31, and Spring Break will take place from April 18 to 22. The number of days per quarter will be pretty much equal, from 43 days to 46 days, with an average of 45.

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" didn't date the SQRP Power Point she presented to the November 19, 2014 meeting of the Board of Education. Apparently, SQRP is still in Beta testing, since the original SQRP, unveiled by Barbara Byrd Bennet in August 2013, had to shed some "Tiers" (which were turned into "Levels") between Halloween and Thanksgiving 2014. The latest SQRP also has eliminated the evil word "probation" and replaced it with some circumlocution typical of the Orwellian world of corporate school reform. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt taken from the overhead at the November 19, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Copies of the Power Point were NOT distributed to members of the press or public during the meeting.CEO Byrd-Bennett then spoke about the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) and said that two amendments to the policy were being considered today. The original policy was passed by the Board 16 months ago, and was promoted at the time as a major improvement. Among other things, the SQRP of August 2013 changed the number of place a school could be placed from three "Levels" to five "Tiers." The "matrices" for evaluating schools were also adjusted slightly, although, as critics pointed out then and since, the majority of points are still based on test scores. What was new in the new revised SQRP for the 2014 - 2015 school year, according to Barbard Byrd Bennett on November 19, 2014?

1) There will be a new five category ranking system, Level 1+, Level 1, Level 2+, Level 2, and Level 3. The "Levels" would be used instead of last year's "Tiers." One of the big differences the previous SQRP was that the Board increased these things to five "Tiers," which at the time Byrd Bennett proclaimed that would make things just right. Now, although there are only three actual "Levels" (replacing the "Tiers"), there are still five things...

2) The CEO can consider significant impacts to a school before lowering a rating.

Like most of the top executives hired by the Chicago Board ofEducation since Rahm Emanuel appointed his Board in May 2011, CPS "Chief Accountability Officer" John Barker (above at the microphone) was imported from another state. Barker's last job was in Memphis, where he tried to rationalize the failed "Value Added" (VAM) method of evaluating teachers and schools that was first launched in Tennessee until its origins were finally discredted as "junk science." Above, Barker is seen presenting the most recent iteration of the 17-year-old CPS "accountability" system, which was begun under Paul Vallas in 1995 to scapegoat teachers and schools as part of corporate "school reform." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.After Byrd Bennet summarized the SQRP, John Barker, Chief Accountability Officer, discussed the key SQRP changes in policy -- and gave the audience a Power Point, too. Barker said that the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Progress (NWEA MAP) test is now "the test of choice" instead of the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT). He added that 97 percent is "the target test participation rate." The previous year the percentage of choice was, by the way, 95 percent, as a look back to the August 2013 SQRP shows.

Barker went on the explain what he said the latest ratings mean. Teachers remembered that in August 2013, the SQRP had established that ratings would be distributed through five so-called "Tiers." But by November 2014, the "Tiers" had been changed to "Levels," and there were only three of those. Barker explained how the system went from Five "Tiers" to three "Levels" which were really five places a school could be rated at.

Barker noted that now a "Level 2" rating carries a risk of "non-renewal for charter and contract schools." He also said that a "Level 3" rating means a school needs "intensive support". "Level 3" means that: the principal may be removed; new Local School Council (LSC) elections may take place; and the so-called "turnaround model" may be utilized. Also, Level 3 Charter and Contract Schools may be put on a Warning List and be given one year to improve or be closed. There were no questions from Board members about how many charters and contracts had actually been closed when Barker finished his presentation.

The Power Point from the August 28, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education introduced SQRP to the world. At that time, the Board dated the Power Point and Barbara Byrd Bennett assured the Board members that the new improved "performance policy" embodied in SQRP was just what Chicago needed to make the schools "world class" and every student "college and career ready." As it turned out, the August 2013 SQRP was sort of a "Beta" version of the performance policy, as the presentation (without the date on the Power Point) in November 2014 showed. When is "probation" not "probation" but is still, really, probation-by-another-name? There was another Orwellian moment before the meeting moved on from SQRP. After Barker finished, Byrd-Bennett mentioned another thing she claimed was "positive." She said the goal that the "probation" label be eliminated had been achieved as well. No more probation. Schools will still be treated as if they were on "probation" (for having committed a crime), but it will no longer be called "probation."

This marked the first time since Paul Vallas began using the term "probation" in 1996 that schools will no longer be on "probation" but will still be in trouble if their metrics and other measures don't measure up. After the discussion of the SQRP, mention was made by Byrd Bennett of instituting a $13 minimum wage at the Board. [Presently, CPS is allowing contractors who supervise the Safe Passage workers to pay the workers $10 an hour; the amount going to the contractors has not been made public].

After the reports from the CEO, an announcement was made of a December LSC celebration at Lane Tech High School. The Local School Councils are having an anniversary. More information about the LSC celebration is available at 773-553-1400. Once again, Board President Vitale said that the public can make arrangements to meet with Board members during office hours by calling 773-553-2600.

While David Vitale regularly lectures the public that only he possesses what he calls the "true facts," at the November 19, 2014 meeting of the Board of the third largest school system in the USA, not one of the five members of the Board present (two cut) prepared to question the claims of the "Chief Executive Officer" about the new SQRP -- and why the time lines so proudly unveiled (above) at the time of the original SQRP had been violated. Note above, from Page 7 of the August 2013 SQRP Power Point, that in September 2014 the School Quality Ratings were supposed to have been published and "schools/parents" were supposed to have been "notified of performance status." As usual, the Board always measures its own performance and that of its highest paid executives in the top "Tier" (er., now the highest "Level") while assuming that members of the public are too stupid to demand that the Board members follow their own procedures and enforce the regulations they approve on the executives who fail regularly to complete their own performance tasks. Source: The above is from the Power Point distributed to the Board meeting in August 2013 and is available, along with the entire original SQRP, on the CPS website.Then, Vitale said that the next Board meeting will be held Wednesday, December 17, at the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) new Loop office on Madison St. at Dearborn. Sign-up for the meeting will begin at 8 a.m. on Monday, December 8, and end at 5 p.m. on Friday, December 12 -- or when all 60 public participation slots are filled. The Board has been limiting the number of people allowed to sign up for public participation to 60 since January 2013. Prior to that, any number of people who wanted to speak to the Board could sign up and show up and speak, if only for two minutes.

Public participation began at 5:39 p.m.

The first person to speak was 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman. Cappleman claimed that he was very supportive of public education and mentioned the principal at Uplift Community High School and their football team that made state playoffs. Then he requested that the neighborhood boundary for Uplift be changed. Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale (left) was caught by Substance cat napping during the remarks by Second Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti urging arbitration on the "toxic swaps." Board members Andrea Zopp and Carlos Azcoitia (center and right above) didn't discuss Fioretti's proposals but were at least acting as if they were paying attention. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Cappleman also asked that the Decatur Classical School be moved into the closed Stewart Elementary School building. Stewart was one of the 50 schools closed by the Board at its May 2013 meeting. Following Cappleman's speech, several other persons from his ward and from Decatur also spoke. Many of them were loudly opposed to the plan to put Decatur into the Stewart building. [Decatur is not in the 46th Ward].

Cortez Harris said he did not know how a magnet school would move into Stewart without neighborhood involvement. He asked that Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money not be used. He requested that the community be allowed to speak on the neighborhood component. He added that the alderman did not speak against the closing of Stewart in early 2013 (when the school closing hearings were being held), and yet Cappleman now speaks in favor of Decatur being moved into the Stewart building in late 2014.

Jon Ross said a closed meeting was held by the alderman, but they were not informed of all the closed meetings. He said, "We support the schools in Uptown," and that there was a divided community in Uptown. He concluded with the quote, "An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere."

The corruption of the Chicago Board of Education and the administration of "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett was illustrated with the tongue-in-cheek posters hoisted during the meeting by hundreds of those in the large Westinghouse High School auditorium. The citizens were comparing the corruption of the Board of Education's ongoing privatization schemes (and refusal to challenge the "toxic swaps") to the now world-famous privatization deal engineered by former Mayor Richard M. Daley and his administration earlier in the 21st Century. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Not all the speakers opposed to the plan to move Decatur to Uptown were from Uptown. Kristen Kenefick, another parent of a child at Decatur, wants the proposal to move the Decatur School into Stewart to be rejected by the Board. She said she opposed taking resources that are needed by one community from them and giving them to privileged communities. She said she wants the 7th and 8th grades to be on our own campus near Decatur, but doesn't want the Uptown community deprived of resources.

Kristin Boeke-Greven said she favors the move of Decatur into Stewart so that the 7th and 8th grades will be included. Decatur presently goes to sixth grade, and students leaving the school have to find a school for seventh and eighth grades before then going on to high school. She said that Decatur has "outgrown" its building, and that it has no gym, auditorium, or cafeteria because of the alleged overcrowding there.

Jeanette Schar also said she feels that the move of Decatur into Stewart is the best option. She said that the majority of the Decatur community favors relocation to Stewart. She added that Alderman Cappleman also supports the relocation of Decatur into Stewart.

With the first topic on public participation proving contentious, lots of yelling out occurred at this point -- with responses from Board President Vitale and Board Vice-President Ruiz. Both of them had voted in May 2013 in favor of the closing of Stewart against the vocal opposition of the community and now were apparently poised to move Decatur into the Stewart building. (The vote would not take place until the end of the meeting, when most of the public had gone home).

Next, participants from Uplift Community High School spoke.

Representatives of Uplift High School in Uptown were asking the Board to draw attendance boundaries so that the school could serve a defined area. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Marc Kaplan compared the situation at Uplift to the resettlement of Indians from their lands and the forced movement of Africans off their lands in Africa. He said that Uplift was supposed to be a community school for all of Uptown. He reiterated that he wants Uplift to be a local community high school.

Elizabeth LeRoy spoke of two planning meetings that were held in Uptown. She mentioned two requests: a boundary change that would make Uplift a neighborhood school and representatives that would help with the transition.

At this point, Board member Andrea Zopp said that there is open enrollment now and we want to understand the problem now. She asked, "Why can't you do this now? Why does a boundary decision make a difference ?"

Mention was made that there is no assigned high school in the 46th ward and a city-wide boundary was never asked for. Most of the students from the Uptown community who don't go to magnet high schools go to Senn High School, which was not mentioned during the discussions.

Apparently all of the discussion of the Decatur-Stewart issue and the Uplift question were at that point on the agenda because the participants were included following the privileged speaking from Alderman Cappleman. CPS meetings allow public officials and certain others to speak before the public speakers are begun.

Second Ward Alderman and mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti delivered a strong criticism of the Board of Education's financial priorities, focusing on the "toxic swaps" and the legal necessity for the Board to file for arbitration on the deals. Despite the fact that the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates, prodded by some in the union's staff and leadership, had endorsed another mayoral candidate, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, for mayor, Fioretti stood, as usual, with the CTU people helping fill the auditorium. Garcia was not there and made no statement to the Board. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Next, Alderman Bob Fioretti of the 2nd Ward, spoke. He thanked the Board for meeting at Westinghouse, noting the size of the crowd and the importance of being in the community. He then spoke of past borrowing practices and the risky bond deals that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars. He said that the Board lost $100 million by gambling on Wall Street. At this, there was loud applause.

He continued, "Our teachers shouldn't have to hold bake sales for supplies for our students." Fioretti was speaking to the recent Chicago Tribune investigations which showed that the Chicago Board of Education had entered into risky bond deals while David Vitale was "Chief Administrative Officer" of CPS and was now refusing to try and have those deals submitted to arbitration. Noting a response by the mayor when he was finally cornered on the risky deals (which involve both city and CPS finances), Fioretti added that the mayor respects contracts when it comes to his wealthy benefactors, but not at times like this. He said that this is an opportunity to restore public trust. He named the things he believes can be done: file an arbitration claim, sue the banks, banks can volunteer to renegotiate, and political pressure can be put on banks, the "same pressure they are putting on us." He also said that we should not be gambling with our children's futures and that the Board should do something now.

Loud applause followed.

Two people from Saucedo elementary school spoke next.

Saucedo teacher Sarah Chambers (left) explains to the Board members that the REACH performance tasks are usually several "grade levels" above the children they are testing. As Chambers spoke, Zerlina Smith, a Saucedo parent, held up a sign listing the discrepancies so the Board members didn't miss the point. Later, as they asked questions, they proved they hadn't been paying attention. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Teacher Sarah Chambers reported that the reading levels at which various REACH tests are being given are out of reach of the children at which they are targeted. She said the reading level for the 5th grade test was 12th grade; the reading level for the 4th grade test was 9th grade; and that these tests are proving to fail our students. She added that she knows some people who can teach you how to boycott tests.

Sarah Chambers was followed by Zerlina Smith, who said she is a parent of a CPS student at Saucedo. She said report cards were just distributed. Adding to the research that had been presented by Sarah Chambers, Zerlina said that a 5-year-old should not have to worry about how to get a correct grade to get to the next grade. She told the Board, "You have no idea about what's going on in our schools. When the mayor leaves, you will, too." There was great applause following that remark.

Michael Brunson, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Recording Secretary, cited the Tribune articles last week that told of the swap agreements from 2003-2007. According to the Tribune investigation, the total costs of the swaps may be as high as $100 million -- over-paid to the banks. Brunson cited information that the loss might go as high as $200 million. He said that 4,000 education jobs will be lost. Noting that the Chicago Teachers Union has been trying to get the Board to confront these issues for more than three years, Brunson added that in June 2011, CTU members raised the issue of swaps and the unnecessary interest fees paid to banks and asked the Board members then to pledge to adjust them.

Saucedo parent Zerlina Smith added to Sarah Chambers's critique of the PARCC tests. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Instead of questioning the toxic deals favoring the big banks, the Board chose to close 50 schools, to open more charter schools and so-called "campuses", and to foist austerity across the nation's third largest school system. Brunson noted that everything from nurses to librarians were cut by the Board members who sat silently in front of him. Challenging the claim by David Vitale (Board President) and Jesse Ruiz (Board Vice President) that arbitration might not help, Brunson said that the Oakland and Detroit districts had successfully made deals renegotiating swaps as a result of making the challenges that the leaders of CPS were refusing to even try. Brunson said he again wants the Board to sign up to go back and renegotiate swaps.

For months, David Vitale has engaged in a one-sided almost metaphysical debate at Board meetings. Vitale regularly claims that Board members and himself have the "true facts" and that what others are saying are not the TRUE FACTS. After Brunson spoke, Vitale repeated what he has said many times to speakers, "Your facts are not correct." But he refused to allowed discussion about how his so-called "True Facts" differed from the facts presented by the members of the public who disagree with Vitale's version.

The stage was set for several confrontations, where the Board simply deployed security to hustle critics away from the microphone after turning off the sound. Every person who tries to speak to the Board at its once-a-month meeting is limited to two minutes, no matter how dramatic or serious the issue. Five people from Cook Elementary School spoke after Brunson sat down.

Stephanie King spoke of budget cuts and staffing issues at Cook. First cuts; then uncuts, but in all cases disruption of children's classes. King told the Board that a first grade teacher had been cut in the middle of the first semester (!) and replaced by a librarian who was to have the position in first grade. Now money was been found and the position was not being cut. She wanted to know where the money came from. She received no answer.

Albert Gaines said that Cook School needs help. He said that a drop in funding of $100 thousand and the reassignment of teachers had sent shock waves through the school. After claims by CPS that there was "no money", funding was found from an unknown source. Once again, the Board members sat and stared at the people.

Artia Dewberry returned to the issue of the librarian who was reassigned to a first grade position at Cook after the first grade teacher was cut in the middle of the semester. The librarian has not taught first grade in many years, Dewberry said. "What are we going to do, let these kids teach themselves?" Dewberry demanded.

Erica Anderson also spoke of the budget cut at the 90% poverty-level Cook School. She wanted to know, "Why was the budget cut? Why was a good teacher removed from first grade?" She went on to say that last school year the mismanagement from CPS has really hurt the children. She said that her son did not have a teacher for six months and his grades dropped because he had only subs -- "50 different subs!" she told the Board. She wanted to know why the budget was cut every year, then uncut. She also noted that lunch forms had not been filled out right.

Traci Newton-Travis said that chaotic things were going on, a teacher was lost a week ago, then the school got funds and the teacher is back. She is trying to figure out what is going on. She remarked that there used to be a lot of after-school activities and other activities for the students. She also added that things are being twisted around.

The people from Cook school were visibly angry as the Board members refused to address their issues or answer their questions. But it was when Mollison school returned with roughly the same problems that the meeting began to explode.

Next, Yolanda Redmond, a parent of three at Mollison School, said that the school was overcrowded, there were 30 students in each classroom, there were no after-school programs, there was a K-1 split, classes were held under the stairs, a nurse was at the Secretary's desk, staff members were using closets, there were no parent spaces, and there were no extra rooms. She said there was to be an International Baccalaureate (IB) program but without support. She added that there had been three school chiefs since the merger. She wanted Andrea Zopp to come to see what's going on. She also mentioned the 10-20 subs in third-grade last year.

Andrea Zopp replied, "I'll be there on December 3rd at 9 a.m."

Yolanda Redmond continued, "You owe us an apology. You are from the Urban League. Your job is to protect Black kids. You need to resign from the Board." As she continued to address Andrea Zopp, the security guards moved in to remove her from the microphone, which had been turned off. She told security guards, "Don't touch me." A ruckus followed.

Andrea Zopp repeated, "Thank you. We will meet you December 3rd.

Tara Stamps exposed the Board's hypocrisy, noting that the school at which she teaches, Jenner "School of the Arts", has been forced to cut all fine arts programs because of the Board's austerity budgeting. Substance photo by David Vance.Tara Stamps, a teacher at what is now called Jenner Art School, said that at Jenner, there is no art, no music, no theater, and no tech. CPS policies have cut all of the arts from a school supposedly dedicated to teaching children the arts.

Stamps said that the NWEA MAP test is on the computer, but there is no one to teach basic computer skills to the kids. She added that $100 million was squandered on toxic swap deals when you could renegotiate to get some of that money back. She concluded by saying that on February 24th, we will take back Chicago.

Two CPS librarians spoke next.

Nora Wiltse, a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) who is a Librarian, spoke of the rapid loss of librarians. To CEO Byrd-Bennett, she said that "you agreed on the need for librarians." Yet since that, the loss of librarians is acute in high schools; there are 38 high schools without libraries. Wiltse added that test scores are higher when schools are staffed with librarians. She asked that librarians be returned to the schools.

Librarian and National Board Certified Teacher Nora Wiltse updated the Board on how the Board has been eliminating librarians across the third largest public school system in the USA. No one from the Board responded to the latest library atrocity stories, which, among other things, note that CPS has now reduced the number of librarians in the high schools to 38. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Megan Cusick, the chair the librarians group, said that schools cannot afford basic services under so-called "student-based budgeting." She recommended that the TIF surplus be used by the mayor for schools and that student testing be reduced. She asked for a moratorium on closing schools, that the toxic swaps be renegotiated, and that librarians be returned to their former schools.

Kate Goetz, a parent of a ninth grade at Whitney Young said she was upset at the disrespect shown by the BOE. She spoke about the Dyett Community High School and the new Northwest High School. She said that she was a member of the Northwest Community High School last year. She added that she was deeply insulted by the whole process, the vague proposals, and the meaningless process.

Veteran Special Education teacher Tammie Vinson might as well have been talking to the brick walls for all the interest the Board's administrators (in background above) or the Board members (see next photo) showed in the scandalous conditions Vinson described in her meager two minutes. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Tammie Vinson, of Oscar DePriest, Emmet, and Bethune, said she is a cluster teacher of thirteen students this year at DePriest. Ten of her students are non-verbal, some not potty-trained, and some who put things in their mouths -- and at least one "runner." She has two aides and the challenges are great. even under those circumstance. She said the students were not getting early intervention, that she also has to be a speech pathologist. She concluded that the toxic swaps should be arbitrated and the money saved put back in the schools.

Margaret OCampo-Delgado, is a parent of a child at Chicago International Charter School (CICS)-Belden. She told about why she chose a charter school. She spoke of her daughter who was behind in reading and writing and who had improved dramatically. She is now in sixth grade and is an honor student. She said that she herself had no choice when she was a student and struggled. She eventually made in to the top ten in high school and went to college.

While Special Education teacher Tammie Vinson was describing the appalling conditions under which the children in her class at DePriest Elementary School were facing, Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett was busily checking her email (above, during Vinson's remarks). Like most of the administrators at CPS in the current era, Byrd Bennett acts as if listening to the public were a nasty chore, rather than a public obligation, and routinely tries to fob off critics while repeating vapid talking points, some of which she apparently receives on her cell phone during the Board meetings. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Dwayne Truss wanted to know where the Board was when Westinghouse was built. He said, "We did a great, wonderful thing for the Westside of Chicago. Similar to the way the top ten items are named on the David Letterman Show, he named the top ten reasons for an elected school board.

Two people from Kelly High School spoke next.

Leslie Reyes spoke about the problems at the school she attends. Substance photo by David Vance.Lesie Reyes spoke of the lack of cleaning. She said that there was a lack of janitors, the pool was dirty, and there were insects all around. She said, "We deserve a clean space."

Bill Lamme, retired, also outlined the problems at Kelly HIgh School. He told the Board about inadequate staffing and the problems with school cleaning since Aramark took over. He mentioned the 700 students who attend the school on Saturday, the need for cleaning on Saturday, too, the Physical Education (P.E.) teacher who buys supplies, and the temporary special attention on lasting improvements.

During Bill Lamme's remarks, Nate Goldbaum, who had been taking photographs, called out to complain about the lack of access to take photographs of the speakers. From the beginning of the meeting, CPS security people had been ordered to keep photographers from getting decent photographs of the speakers and other activities taking place during the meeting. After Goldbaum called out, Board security staff allowed him to go to the corners near the stage, which were the only locations where a photographer could get decent photographs of the speakers, who were in shadows in the middle of the dark auditorium.

After the interruption, two people from Belding School spoke.

One of the many real time problems brought before the Board from the schools came from Belding Elementary School, which is more than 100 years old and still has many of the original auditorium seats. Above, David Ross (at microphone) explains the needs of Belding to the Board, while Ted Ernst holds an example of a broken and often-repaired auditorium seat from the school. On the right in the photo above are Tim Cawley (Chief Administrative Officer) and the Board's "Chief Repurcposing Officer" both of whom were observed playing "Angry Birds" or reading their email rather than paying attention to the problems of the city's real public schools that they are supposed to be administrating or repurposing. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.David Ross spoke of the need for a new auditorium at Belding Elementary School, one of the many schools that are not "underperforming" and constitute a kind of silent majority across the city. His companion, Ted Ernst, held up a broken (and oft repaired) Belding auditorium seat so Ross could demonstrate the condition of the seats.

Ross told the Board said that more than 50 of the seats in the Belding auditorium dated from when the school was originally constructed, more than 100 years ago. The seats have been picked at and broken by children since the last time the Cubs won a World Series. Ross noted that the Belding auditorium is heavily used, and told the Board that some of the seats have to be removed because they had become so broken. This then leaves behind the metal frames that had held the wood. He told the Board the seat problem is a safety issue and a liability issue for the school.

Ted Ernst, who spoke next, added that the Belding auditorium was also used for recess. He said the school was 114 years old, he was proud of the school, and that parents and others at the school just want new seats. Looking around the new Westinghouse auditorium, he noted that these seats would do nicely.

Georgia Waller outlined the Board's destruction of the public schools' nursing staffs for Chicago children, noting how the reduction in nurses is placing more and more children (and school staff) at greater and greater risk. The Board members ignored Waller's information, although later, as usual, Board President David Vitale proclaimed smugly that the Board members had what Vitale calls the "True Facts"... Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Georgia Waller talked about the lack of sufficient nurses in the system. Waller is from Beard School, but was noting the problems not only at Bear but citywide. She said medicine was dispensed by unlicensed personnel because of the lack of nurses. She reported that there were 220 nurses now, when there were 300 nurses before. There are nearly 600 public schools in Chicago, so each nurse is required to service two to five schools. She said the school has to deal with seizures, tube feeding, cancer, allergies, and EPI pens.

Jerry Skinner, a twenty-year veteran teacher, from Kelvyn Park High School, told the Board that morale had been down at the school but now it was high because CPS provided the school with new leaders: Mr. Ernesto Matias, the network chief, and Ms Allyson Fox-Crump, the principal. He then summarized "a document that contains the past history of the unprofessional and incompetent manner in which teacher evaluations have been carried out" at his school over the last five years under the previous administrators. He said that no evaluations were done at Kelvyn Park during the 2011-2012 school year, there was a failure to follow CPS's own guidelines for evaluations, and selective evaluative observations were conducted during Grading Days and final exams.

Yolanda McCoy charged the Board told the Board that instead of stopping the bullying of her child at Aldridge Elementary School, the principal suggested that her son transfer to another school. The Board is ignoring the bullying issues that are brought before it at each meeting, apparently believing that having a "bullying policy" is enough even when dramatic examples of bullying are brought to the Board on a regular basis. McCoy was one of several parents who refused to be hushed when the two minute warning was sounded by the Board's secretary Estela Beltran. Substance photo by David Vance.Yolanda McCoy, of Aldridge Elementary, said her child was bullied last year and this year. The principal offered to transfer her child to another school, instead of dealing with the bully. She charged that the principal doesn't know what's going on. She mentioned that there were retired teachers [apparently working as subs] in the classrooms.

The next four individuals spoke about Dyett High School.

Jitu Brown, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) organizer, told the Board that he is part of the "Coalition to revitalize Dyett High School." He thanked the Board for reversing the decision on Dyett's closing and providing for Dyett to be re-opened in 2015. Then he challenged the Board's decision to issue Requests for Proposals for the new Dyett, rather than simply accepting the long-developed plans of the group he works with. He said that Bronzeville residents don't want Dyett to be a contract or charter school.

Jitu Brown outlines the reasons why Dyett should be opened in September 2015 according to the plan already developed by the community, while CPS "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley (right) shows his interest. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Noting the inequitable (and in many cases racist) treatment afforded different communities in Chicago, Brown stated that the Lincoln Park and Edgewater communities are "valued and don't have to beg for services or schools". He added, "We don't enjoy getting arrested," but told the Board he would continue to use civil disobedience when necessary. He asked for a high-quality neighborhood school and proclaimed that the plan was already in place for the Dyett school that should be opening next September.

Erana Jackson, said that because of no additional funding at Dyett, there had been a major spike in violence. Mention was also made that all Bronzeville children deserve high-quality schools in our neighborhoods. Irene Robinson also spoke about Dyett.

Rico Gutstein, of the College of Education at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and a member of Teachers for Social Justice, continued on the theme that Jitu Brown had added regarding the future of Dyett. Gutstein said he and others want a sustainable school where transformation is needed. He said the BOE should use School Improvement Grants (SIG) money to fund this at Dyett in Bronzeville.

Dwayne Turner, who was not on the list of speakers then asked for a meeting with BOE leadership.

Marshall High School teacher Francine Reizen was one of more than a dozen speakers who reminded the Board members that they should arbitrate the "toxic swaps" and try to recoup some of the money the banks had siphoned from Chicago's underfunded public schools. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Francine Reizen, a teacher at Marshall High School, said that the 8 a.m. beginning to sign-up for the Board meetings was a challenge because that is when her day with students begins at Marshall High School. She has to enlist the help of another person so that she can sign up at 8. She said she was concerned about toxic swaps and feels that they have disaster financial effects, are a serious mistake, and are a costly mistake.

Jose Caraballo, of Communities United for Quality Education and Hanson Park Elementary School, spoke in translated Spanish, about having a grandchild at Hanson Park, the overcrowding at the school, the need for an annex, the ignoring of the school's needs, and that nothing had been promised for Hanson Park.

Jacquelynn Charkes, of Darwin, said that the early-childhood setup was not developmentally correct. She added that a full-day kindergarten and small class sizes are needed. She asked, '"We can use the money back from the swap deals."

Veronica Solis, a mother of five in Albany Park, spoke in translated Spanish about her wish for college education for her children and about the toxic swaps.

Matt Luskin, a parent and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, was pushed and pulled away from the microphone after the mic was shut off when Luskin demanded that the Board members answer his questions about their refusal to arbitrate the "toxic swaps." Luskin noted for the Board that he and others have been bringing the issue before the Board for three years, but the Board members relied on their muscle and sat in stony silence as Luskin was pushed from the speakers' microphone. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Matthew Luskin, parent of three CPS students, spoke of coming here for three years about the toxic swaps. He mentioned that the Tribune tells a different story. He said that the banks took over the deals and failed to disclose the risks. He said that we can file for arbitration and CPS won't do business with these banks, but that will only happen if we fight for it.

Wendy Katten, of Raise Your Hand (RYH), thanked CEO Byrd-Bennett for saying we are not ready for the PARCC exam. She added that delaying the PARCC is one small step in avoiding over-reliance on testing. She said she is against one single test score being used for 60% of an evaluation. She also said that we need a real accountability policy.

Robert Lamont of Veterans for Peace noted that he had taught at the "old" Westinghouse (the "candy factory") for nearly three decades after he left the Army. Lamont then repeated his reminder to the Board that encouraging the militarization of the city's public schools was encouraging the military method of "problem solving" -- which is to use violence and designate enemies. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Robert Lamont, of Veterans for Peace, said that he taught at the old Westinghouse for 25 years. He spoke of symbols, ideas, and action: an open book for Westinghouse, ties on the gentlemen that lead to respect for them, and children holding rifles. He said that the military uses violence as its solution. He remarked that you agree that teaching the children to use rifles is good. He asked that the Board demilitarize the whole school system and read aloud paragraph two of the Declaration of Independence at the beginning of every Board meeting.

Jackson Potter, of the CTU, expressed concerns about district financing. He said he wanted to emphasize what you're going through right now. He remarked that if I make a mistake, it is not easy to be subjected to public scorn. He said that three years ago we talked about the toxic swaps. He added that Board President Vitale should recuse himself. He mentioned that CEO Byrd-Bennett responded favorably three years ago. He said that the alarm is being raised by financial experts across the country and it's your duty and obligation to take care of this now. He added that he wants the minimum wage for the BOE to be $15 instead of $13.

Saqib Bhatti, of the Roosevelt Institute, said that we released a report to you yesterday on Dirty Deals. He remarked that the Tribune expose only scratched the surface and revealed the tip of the iceberg. He added that CPS now needs to try to get out of these deals and file for arbitration or sue for breach of contract. He said we need to force the banks to renegotiate.

Samantha Bisuet, of Orozco, is concerned about LSC decisions affecting her children. She said, "We are Latinos. How much more do our children have to lose? Meet with us."

While Lindblom physics teacher Ed Hershey described the problems faced by teachers, CPS "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley (above right) catches up on his nap needs. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum. Ed Hershey, a Physics teacher and Robotics Coach at Lindblom, spoke about the Aramark contract. He said the school is filthier, not cleaner. He added that the District has saved money and a new level of management has been added at Aramark. Things that used to be handled by the building engineers are handled by Aramark.

Rena Jackson, of Dvorak, said the school was turned around and became an Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) school which was opposed by this parent at first. Home-tutoring was a consideration, but Rena Jackson's daughter said, "Let's try it," and is now on the A/B honor roll.

Alderman Jason Ervin of the 28th Ward welcomed the Board to Westinghouse in the 28th Ward. He asked the Board to consider doing this on a more frequent basis. He spoke of two issues: 1) neighborhood schools, he mentioned a child who could not attend the school across the street from his home, and 2) setting a floor wage level of $13 with $15 also being looked at.

Public participation ended at 7:56 p.m., followed by comments by the Board members.

Bhatti, Saqib returned to the Board to remind the Board members that they still had time to try and get arbitration on the "toxic swaps," but the Board members, led by David Vitale and Jesse Ruiz, continued the double-talk they had tried since Saqib's first presentation to the Board at the September 2014 Board meeting. According to Vitale and Ruiz, the Board is not evading the arbitrations, but simply evading the arbitrations because it is possible that the Board wouldn't "win" in the arbitration. Substance photo by Nate Goldbaum.Vice-President Ruiz asked what Sarah Chambers was referring to.

CEO Byrd-Bennett said, "I don't have any idea, but I will explore it."

Dr. Carlos Azcoitia wanted an update on Aramark and cleanliness concerns.

Andrea Zopp referred to Cook, Kelvyn Park, Aldridge and the nature of the concerns and how we will resolve them.

CEO Byrd-Bennett mentioned the lunch forms at Cook and said the money came from a position not filled at Central, and which will not be filled.

Andrea Zopp asked about kindergarten testing and wanted to know what we are doing?

Angel Diaz, the student Board member, said that the cleanliness situation at Kelly needed to be investigated, but that the problems he had reported at the October Board meeting from Curie had been resolved.

Dr. Henry Bienen said that the problem of swaps won't go away and it is very complicated. He feels it would be very useful to put out a fact sheet and have a conversation with the Tribune Editorial Boards about deals negotiated years ago. He added that the Board should put out its own fact sheet.

Jackson Potter called out, "Why not consider legal action?"

Another audience member called out, "Our children deserve that."

Dr. Henry Bienen expressed a wish to have a conversation with Jackson Potter.

Board President Vitale added, "I'm always in the office. I'm available any time."

At 8:04 p.m., Dr. Bienen then read the statement allowing the Board to go into closed session. The Board recessed and the audience was cleared from the auditorium.