BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education meeting of July 22, 2015 highlighted by large public protests against budget lies, while new faces show the same corporate leadership of the nation's third largest school system...

Frank Clark, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's choice to replace David Vitale as Chicago Board of Education President, was present during the Board meeting. Substance photo by David Vance.The Chicago Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, at the Chicago Public Schools Loop Offices at 42 West Madison Street, Garden Level, in the Board Room. Preceding the meeting were a demonstration on Madison and Dearborn and a hearing on borrowing by CPS.

Roll call indicated Mark Furlong, Dr. Mahalia Hines, Dominique Jordan Turner, and Gail Ward, and Board President David Vitale were present. Also present were James Bebley, Chief Counsel, and Interim Chief Executive Officer Jesse Ruiz. Absent was Board Member Rev. Michael Garanzini, S. J.

Next month, the Board President will be Frank Clark, former head of Commonwealth Edison. Clark has been appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replace David Vitale, who served at Board President from June 2011 through July 2015. Jesse Ruiz will return as Vice-President of the Board after briefly serving as Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The new Chief Executive Officer will be Forrest Claypool, formerly head of the Chicago Park District. the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Chief of Staff for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The new Chief Education Officer will be Janice Jackson, former principal of Westinghouse College Prep. Denise Little will serve as "Senior Advisor" to CEO Forrest Claypool. Little had been serving as "Chief of Chiefs" at CPS.

Dr. Carlos Azcoitia will no longer be serving as a Board member. Other Board members who have recently left the Board are Dr. Henry Bienen, Andrea Zopp and Deborah Quazzo.

Board President David Vitale thanked all the Board members who are leaving who had served on the Board. He went on to say it had been an honor to serve Chicago these last

four years. He mentioned that the role came with challenges, but despite the challenges, the rewards had been even greater.

Following his comments, Interim CEO Ruiz named the winners of a Math Competition -- Whitney Young College Prep students.

The business portion of the meeting followed. Interim CEO Ruiz talked of the Fiscal Year (FY)16 budget which had presented what he is calling "budget challenges." Without noting that the Board still hasn't presented its actual proposed budget for public review, Ruiz continued to discuss what the Board has been saying about its finances. He noted that the local school budgets were released to principals despite what he claims to be a more than $1 billion dollar "deficit," a pension system that he stated was broken, and only $64 million dollars from the state to CPS. He said that other schools in Illinois receive more from the state, and repeated the Board's claim that the pension payment was driving the pension deficit.

Forrest Claypool, above left, had been serving as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chief of Staff. Emanuel has appointed him to be Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chicago Board of Education effective July 27, 2015. Claypool will serve at his first Board meeting in August 2015 and is expected to continue to policies of Barbara Byrd Bennett and Jesse Ruiz (who became "interim CEO" when Byrd Bennett was forced to resign during the federal investigation of corrupt contracts under her watch). The work of Byrd Bennett, Vitale and Ruiz included gagging those who wished to speak critically of Board policies and the mayor and restricting the ability of the public to participate in the Board's public meetings. Claypool is the latest mayoral aide from City Hall to get a major post at the schools since mayor control began in 1995. From 1995 to June 30, 2001, Gery Chico was Board president, and the former budget director of Chicago, Paul Vallas was CEO until he was replaced by Arne Duncan. Substance photo by David Vance.Ruiz claimed that $200 million dollars in cuts had been experienced by the school system, $1 billion dollars had been cut from CPS in five years, and there were fewer resources for schools. He added that the per-pupil funding was the same as before.

Chief Financial Officer Ginger Ostro then introduced what she called the FY16 budget in a Power Point. Ostro repeated said the local school budgets were released on July 13 this year, later than usual. She said that the first step in moving the budget forward for next year was the Bond Authorization, a Multi-Step Process governed by state statute. First broad purposes and a maximum amount must be covered. Next is a bond resolution listing amounts and purposes must be approved by the Board in another meeting to take place in August or September.

Ostro stated that $1.2 billion dollars in bond authorization for capital projects will replace variable rates with fixed rates to eliminate toxic swaps. Existing debt will be refinanced to provide what she called "budgetary relief." An umbrella request based on the best estimate as of today will deal with deficits. The "School Budget Overview" went to the principals on July 13, to the Local School Councils (LSCs) on July 20, and on July 24, schools must submit budgets. She also mentioned what CPS officials are calling the inequity in pension funding.

She said the state funding continues to decline, the state is not fully funding, but providing only a percentage of what is supposed to be funded, and state funding is down over $100 million dollars since just last year. She added that there are few places to turn because property taxes are capped at the rate of inflation and federal funds which provide supplemental resources are determined by a formula.

Then Ostro returned to the talking points CPS has been repeating for the past five Chief Financial Officers (see related article, left column). Regarding pensions, she said that last year CPS spent $1,600 per student for pensions while the state pays $3.4 billion dollars for all teachers and principals outside of Chicago.

Speaking of Student Based Budgeting (SBB), she said that the same amount is provided for all schools for what CPS called "core instruction" and that the money "follows the students." She added, near the end of her discussion, the obvious: that not all CPS funds are distributed using SBB. She concluded by repeating that inequity in pension funding and inadequate state education funding are affecting the budget.

Next to speak were Dr. John Barker, Chief Accountability Officer, Aarti Dhuphelia, Chief Officer for Career and College Success, and Liza Balistreti, Director of Real Estate.

Dr. Barker presented to the Board for approval for a new LSC Principal Evaluation Form. He stated that the last form was updated in 2002. He also asked for continued approval of the Northwest Evalution Associaton (NWEA) contract for one year for grades 2-8. He added that he has a sixth grader in CPS, but did not say which school the child attends.

Board member Hines mentioned here that she had heard from some who were concerned about the lack of training.

Aarti Dhuphelia, Chief Officer for Career and College Success, said they were seeking Board approval of vendors. She said 61 high quality outside vendors were selected in 2012 and since 2012, 20 more vendors need to be approved. A list of 81 vendors was provided. Dhupelia did not explain why the Chicago Board of Education was privatizing "Social Emotional Learning" (SEL) services, and the Board members did not ask any questions about the massive contracting.

Dhupelia also spoke of the Student Code of Conduct (SCC), revised in 2012, and the anti-bullying revisions. She remarked that school suspensions. a last resort, now include anti-bullying. She added that schools must teach students what constitutes bullying and that there should be no retaliation against a person who reports bullying.

A summary of suspensions and expulsions in Power Point format showed that they dropped dramatically, Dhupelia said, but there is still a racial imbalance in suspensions in Chicago and the United States. She did not draw the Board's attention to the dramatic imbalance between expulsion from charter schools and from the city's real public schools, which was shown on the Power Point. Previously Board member Andrea Zopp had asked questions about this fact, but neither the veteran Board member present (Mahalia Hines) nor the new members even alluded to it as it stood there sharply but briefly on the screen.

Next, Liza Balistreti, Director of Real Estate, said that three Board properties sales are up for approval.: Near North at 739 N. Ada, a school at 2600 W. Hirsch, and Overton at 221 E. 49th Street. Eight and a half million dollars is expected to be generated for the district.

After this, Interim CEO Ruiz asked for a personal privilege since this was his last meeting as Interim CEO. His position as Interim Interim CEO was rescinded effective July 27 when he returns to his position as Vice-President of the Board. CEO Ruiz spoke of his background, mentioning that he grew up in the Pullman community, five blocks from Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep High School. He then named the achievements of Board President Vitale.

First Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno talked at the Board meeting in praise of the UNO charter schools, which he claimed are serving "low income" and Latino children in his ward. He brought up an UNO parent to speak as well. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.When Ruiz was finished, the usual announcement was then made that the public can request a meeting with any Board member during regular office hours by calling 773-553--1600. The secretary did not add to the announcement that the Board member could not be chosen by the person requesting the meeting.

The Board secretary, Estela Beltran, announced that the next Board meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 26, 2015, again at the Board's Loop Office. Sign-up for public participation will take place beginning at 8:00 a.m. Monday, August 17 and ending at 5:00 p.m. Friday, August 21, or "when all slots are filled." No one noted that "all slots" were filled within five minutes for speakers at the July 22, 2015 Board meeting because the Board limits the total number of speakers to 60, even if (as happened again at the present meeting) more than half those signed up to speak were from charter schools. (Fewer than 30 people actually spoke at the July 22 Board meeting).

Public participation began at 11:50 a.m. with four aldermen. The Board has traditionally allowed elected officials, public officials, and union officers to speak prior to the beginning of the speaking by members of the public who have signed up to speak.

First Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno spoke in support of United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) charter schools, which he said were serving Latinos and lower income families. Sandra Chavez, a leader of parents then said she was tired of the "finger-pointing regarding UNO" and stated that the conflict must come to an end.

Moreno was followed by 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas followed Moreno and spoke at length on the budget and on charter schools. On the budget, he asked what's next if Springfield does not act. He mentioned the Pilsen/Little Village schools (come of which are in his ward) and talked about the population change in Little Village/Pilsen because non-Hispanics are moving in. He stated that the so-called "student based budgeting" (SBB) funding method violates the state constitution and mentioned that in "1997" mayoral local control of schools began. He believes that grid lock in Springfield is here to stay. He then spoke of an Equal Protection Clause and inquired whether the BOE could join that lawsuit. Board President Vitale replied that had worked in other states and said we are behind you.

Alderman Cardenas also spoke of the additional money going to charter schools based on per-pupil funding. He asked the Board to consider a pause on charters and that the Board should put its financial house in order first. He added that Little Village High School enrollment is dropping due to charters and that this is destabilizing the communities. He stated that he feels this whole thing can be part of contract negotiations. He believes that charters get more of the money, programs are cut in traditional schools and parents decide to move. He asked, "How do we stabilize that situation to the benefit of all residents?"

Board President Vitale said that the final budget will be presented to the public in August, money for the new charter start-ups was one of the cuts, and this will be decided in the Fall, when charters can then go to the state.

Carlos Rosa, alderman of the 35th Ward on Chicago's Northwest Side, spoke forcefully against the Board's continued expansion of charter schools. When Rosa had finished speaking, two Board members (Vitale and Hines) challenged him. Vitale returned to his claim that the Board members know the "true facts," while Hines said publicly that people should stop complaining about charters because the way to prove charters were bad was to stop parents from wanting them. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Next came 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. Rosa said that he is a CPS graduate, then mentioned the well-known definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting something to change). He said that for two decades this Board has tried the same things over and over and expected different results. He affirmed that it's time for a real school turn-around, collaboration, real revenue options and an elected school board. He then quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on courage.

He added, "We must ask the rich, including some on this Board to pay your fair share." Referring to the practice of selling snake skin oil in the West, he said charter schools are not fixing public education and it's time for charters schools to move on.

Board President Vitale responded, "Get the facts right." Board member Hines stated she is a product of CPS and said that if you don't want charters in your neighborhood, "stop sending children to the charter schools."

41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano thanked the Board for relief at Dirksen School which was over capacity and for the annex at Oriole Park School. He also requested annexes at Taft High School, Ebinger School, and Dirksen School. He mentioned that he is a father of three CPS students 8, 7, and 4, a former police officer, and he loves


The first member of the public to speak was Cassandra Creswell of More Than a Score who spoke of contract spending cuts and named them:

-- millions for outside vendors, Common Core materials not aligned with Common Core, and other data.

Roberta Salas, an LSC chair at Murphy School and a member of Raise Your Hand, said that Board funding eroded while supporting charter schools. She added that positive financial solutions are needed by the new Board.

The next speaker was from Oglesby Montessori. She said our program is being dismantled and our kids are in limbo right now. She asked the Board for help to eliminate bullying by administrators. After she finished, student Janyah Bradley said that individual lessons with each student were great. She added that she was in a traditional school before.

Jackson Potter, of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) then protested what the Board had just done. Potter said that the CTU was not called on prior to public participation when the Board heard from the aldermanic speakers. Board President Vitale remarked that that was not a deviation and told him, "You have two minutes." Jackson Potter then stepped aside so that Kristine Mayle, one of the CTU's four officers, could speak.

Kristine Mayle, Financial Secretary of the CTU, spoke about the cuts in services for children. She said that money had been paid to bankers to cancel toxic swaps. She mentioned the lack of supports for the most vulnerable students and referred to the

Americans With Disabilities Act anniversary. She remarked that we are heading back to warehousing students. She also spoke of larger class sizes and safety issues. She asked the Board to reconsider the cuts and to move them away from our most vulnerable students.

Andrew Broy, President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), followed Mayle. He said that charter schools are scheduled to receive only 15% of budgeted money. Among other comments, he said, "We do not try to pit charter public schools against traditional public schools."

Samuel Finkelstein of "Legal Prep Charter Academy" which opened its doors in 2012 to prepare college graduates, talked about the budget and the flat CPS funding for both charter and neighborhood schools. He remarked that his own children attend Sutherland School, a traditional public school. He added that funding is crucial for small schools.

Steinmetz High School English teacher Sharon Schmidt gave each of the members of the Board a copy of the graduation (end of the school year) issue of the Steinmetz Star, pointing out that the school newspaper is now in its 81st year of continuous publication. Schmidt's speech was against the expansion of the charters into the Northwest Side. She noted that no one from the communities affected (the 36th, 38th and 45th wards) wants charter schools but real public schools. In addition to her work at Steinmetz, Sharon Schmidt is managing editor of Substance, a CTU associate delegate, and a member of the CTU Executive Board. Substance photo by David Vance. Sharon Schmidt, a CPS parent, teacher at Steinmetz High School, and managing editor of, spoke rose to challenge the attacks on the city's real public schools by charter school advocates. Schmidt spoke of how "wonderful" Steinmetz High School is. She added that a charter school would like to open a school in the Steinmetz area, but the community does not want a charter school. She wants the Board to continue to invest in the school which is diverse in many ways. She passed out copies of the final issue of the Steinmetz Star newspaper (of which she is faculty sponsor) and told the Board members that the Star has been in regular publication now for eighty-one years. She told the Board members and that she expressed appreciation for 36th Ward Alderman Ramirez Rosa's comments.

A Steinmetz senior, Juan Padilla, talked about the budget cuts and how this lowers the chance of the students succeeding.

A Steinmetz junior, Jonathan Aguilar, Jr., also told how the budget cut affects Steinmetz and other schools, such as Roosevelt. He said the cuts take away resources for proper education, worksheets, and books. He stressed that cuts every year mean the school and the teachers might not be here.

Rachel Davies, a fifth grade teachers at Hearst Elementary said that a $200 thousand cut followed a drop in only twenty students, leading to 30 to 40 students in each class. She said that there was so much more the Board could be doing. She added that it was not fair to rent space in the "Academy for Global Citizenship" charter school for $1 a year for 10 years. She said, "We're all fighting for scraps," she said. "Change the boundaries."

Michelle Navarre, Co-Founder of Polaris Charter Academy (with 400 students in West Humboldt Park), said the school was recognized nationally and charter schools are public schools.

Raymond Wohl, Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) Trustee, told of protecting pensions. He mentioned Jane Addams had also served on the pension fund. He said this year was the 120th anniversary of the pension fund, which was the first teacher pension fund. He spoke of the new CTPF Executive Director, Charles Burbridge, who can inform all of complex pension issues.

Gabriel Sheridan, a 17-year teacher at Ray School, spoke of the need for full-time counselors for students such as Mario and Maxie. She also said the pension she has been paying into all these years is not the problem.

George Szkapiak, Principal of Kennedy High School, added to the principals' criticisms of current CPS policies when he spoke at the Board meeting. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.George Szkapiak, principal of Kennedy High School, welcomed the new Board members. He stated that the southwest side of Chicago is united that Board funding should not be used to expand charter schools. He mentioned that Kennedy High School has the best trained faculty in the city and the greatest increase in scores. He concluded the he wants the Board to be our partner.

Rachel Peralta, the Assistant Principal at Kennedy High School, said scores at Kennedy had increased and had beat all other city schools in gains in the last two years. An International Baccalaureate (IB) program is now offered. She added that the funding of a charter school set to open in the area of Kennedy High School "devalues our school."

Beth Napleton, who introduced herself as the "founder of Collegiate Charter School in Roseland," told the Board that the school began in 2010. There, she claimed, fourth graders made more "growth" in one year than the previous four years. She invited the Board members to her school. She joined other charter speakers in opposition to the delayed charter payment and asked for equitable funding. She also said the Board must figure out the pension situation.

Tony Caldwell said that he has a child in a Washington Park charter school (Chicago International Washington Park campus) at 61st and Indiana. He said was the "25th most dangerous community" in the United States. He stated that the school was like a Catholic school and provides the discipline that he wants. He concluded by saying that a charter

school is an American school. He was referred to staff.

Amy de la Fuente, a CPS parent, said that the children don't have a voice but the budget cuts will be impacting them the most. She continued, "We're all in this together and we need more transparency and accountability." She added that there need to be admission of mistakes that have been made. At the end she said, "We can't just say it's all up to Springfield or property taxes."

Myisha Shields mother of nine "scholars" at Catalyst Maria Charter School who are all honor-roll students, said, "The school fits my needs for my children." She also said that 15% was not enough and wants full-funding.

Claire Gipson said her child, Ivy, left her neighborhood school. She researched schools and then enrolled Ivy in Perspectives Charter Schools. Since then her test scores improved and she is now valedictorian. Gipson credited the youthful faculty and the 26 "Principles of Life" of Perspectives. She ended by saying, "Do not shortchange charter schools."

Tim Bouman of North Lawndale College Prep, another charter school which occupies two "campuses" stated that counselors stay with the same students for all four years, as if this were something unique to charter schools. He said the uncertainty of the budget makes it hard to plan for a smooth school year. He asked the Board to please release the other 85% of the funds.

Nicole Boardman, who gave her titles as "Chief Operations Officer" of Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools, stated the goals of the KIPP schoola and invited the Board to the school. She said the 15% funding is overshadowing the return of the faculty on August 3.

Edgar Rios, who introduced himself as an alumnus of Noble Charter schools (and member of its first graduation class), said that he grew up in Humboldt Park. He said Noble made me believe that college was a possibility, implying that Clemente,, Wells and other general high schools would not have done that. He said that he obtained his master's degree in Urban Planning. He told the Board that his brother, in a neighborhood school, did not go to college.

Carol Coker, another charter school parent, also called her children "scholars" not students. They attend Catalyst Maria Charter School and both children want to be doctors.

Catalyst Maria Charter schools continued, even though the Board supposedly limits speakers to two per topic. Teresita Lopez, also of Catalyst Maria Charter School, said her oldest who was graduating would attend Robert Morris College. She said that she herself went to John Spry and Saucedo elementary schools, and Kennedy High School. She said that as a parent she loves the organization and discipline at the charter school and her "scholars" also love the school. She concluded that the district cannot balance the budget on the backs of charter schools.

Victoria Benson of Portage Park Elementary School talked about the budget cuts that will lead to losses. She said that seven teaching positions will be lost. She stated that the first day of August the cuts will be announced. She added that Student Based Budgeting (SBB) makes the students into guinea pigs. She said that the cuts are irresponsible and consultants are making exorbitant fees.

Julia Dumas, a PSRP (Paraprofessional and School-Related Personnel), said that not knowing if I'll get my pension is scary. She added that the Board needs to get the money from toxic swaps to fix the pension. She concluded that the Board should not expect its employees to bail them out.

Jamie Adams told of conditions at Roosevelt High School where there were not enough books and yet we get punished for not meeting the Board's standards and the budget includes increases for charter schools. She said equitable funding was needed.

Merced Alday, of Communities United, spoke in Spanish which was then translated about the schools that were unfunded compared to the charter schools. She said that Roosevelt had suffered a $900 thousand dollar loss.

Gregory White, President and CEO of L.E.A.R.N. charters schools, continued the charter schools testimonials. He mentioned that the charter schools cannot meet their payments despite the money due to the charter schools today.

Velia Soto, Principal at Erie Elementary Charter School in Humboldt Park with 420 children in attendance and 200 on the waiting list, wants funds released to charter schools.

Lori Fink, of CICS Prairie Charter School in Roseland, complained about the delay in funding and the negative effect it will have. She asked for equal funding and equal treatment. She invited the Board to the school. Interim CEO Ruiz remarked that he went to CICS Prairie.

Amber Mandley, of Charter School Parents United, spoke of the 15% cut in July payment to the school and asked for equal funding.

Sylvia Garcia, a resident of Brighton Park and a charter school parent, spoke of the negative impact that cuts would have on charter schools. She asked for equal opportunites for both CPS and charter students.

Renato Rolden, a Steinmetz parent, said that Steinmetz High School, already offers what charter school parents praise. He added, "If we already have great CPS (traditiional) schools, why do we need another school?" He concluded that charter schools should be unionized.

Robert Lamont, of Veterans for Peace, said he was taught to read by the sight-word method. It wasn't until he learned Spanish and German that he was introduced to sounding out words using the phonics method which improved his reading. He remarked that the military model cannot make peaceful schools and students. He said he was taught to kill people in the military. He referred to Secretary of State Kerry in regard to Iran and asked for the repeal of the Reserve Officers Training Core (ROTC). He added that he taught history for 25 years at Westinghouse High School.

Public Participation ended at 1:50 p.m. after thirty-five individuals on the public participation list spoke. Nineteen of those speakers represented charter schools. In addition, four alderman, two CTU officials, and a CTPF trustee spoke during the two hours of public participation.

Board President Vitale then remarked that the budget process had been delayed and the charters will get money that is due them. He added that the Board has a limited ability to raise funding and needs more authority to tax and needs more support from the state.

Board member Hines concluded that she taught for 17 years and was a principal after that. She said that she also gets a pension and "We may all have to make sacrifices."

After this, the Board went into closed session.


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