BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education meeting of July 22, 2015 was highlighted by renewed public protests against budget lies... Later, the Board continued insulting unions, promoting expensive and vacuous privatization schemes, and fawning on charter schools...

The regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education held at the Board's "new" downtown headquarters (in the old Sears store building, a building not meant for the administration of the nation's third largest school system) was highlighted, again, by disrespect against representatives of the city's real public schools and a cynical promotion of the city's unaccountable charter schools. The narrow, tiny "Board Chambers" make it virtually impossible for most citizens to attend the public meetings of the seven-member Board. Substance coverage continues, month after month, with analysis as needed.

A video of the meeting is available at

Mark Furlong, Mahalia Hines, David Vitale and Dominique Jordan Turner, four of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education, pledge allegiance at the beginning of the Board meeting of July 22, 2015. The meeting was the final one for Board President David Vitale (third from left), who was first appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May 2011. Not in the photo (but present at the meeting) are Gail Ward and Jesse Ruiz (who was still serving as "Interim CEO." Furlong and Jordan Turner are new appointees by Rahm Emanuel. 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 that 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 Henry Bienen, Andrea Zopp and Deborah Quazzo.

David Vitale ended his four-year time as President of the Chicago Board of Education as he began it -- by lying and mistreating the Chicago Teachers Union. Vitale tried to ignore the fact that CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle was at the meeting and had asked to speak during the time reserved for public officials and union officers. Vitale and soon-to-be Board President Frank Clark basically vetoed Mayle's request. Then, when CTU member services coordinator Jackson Potter demanded an explanation in public, Mayle was "allowed" to speak -- but for the second time in two months, the microphone was snatched away from her in less than two minutes. Union officials noted that Vitale and Board Secretary Estela Beltran had let Alderman George Cardenas go on for nearly eight minutes. Substance photo by David Vance. 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 M. Young Magnet High School students.

The business portion of the meeting followed. Interim CEO Jesse 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.

During the "good news" portion of the July 22, 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education the Board honored the "math champs" from the Academic Program (seventh and eighth graders) at Whitney Young Magnet High School. An irony noted following the meeting was that the Board announced a week later that 82 schools, most of them high schools, would be forced on a bus schedule that will interfere with the ability of the "Ackies" (the nickname of the kids in the Academic programs, which are at Whitney Young and other high schools) to get to school, forcing them also to leave school during the winter dangerously late. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.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. What Ruiz failed to mention was that during those years he had voted regularly for the expensive expansion of charter schools and other privatization schemes. Since Rahm Emanuel appointed Vitale and Ruiz (and the others) to the Board in May 2011, the Board's policies have been to increase the privatization and charter expansion work that had begun earlier under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and the school boards he had appointed. 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.

Soon-to-be "Chief Executive Officer" of the nation's third largest school system, City Hall Chief of Staff Forrest Claypool was at the July 22, 2015 Board meeting. Claypool replaces Interim CEO Jesse Ruiz, who will remain Board Vice President. Claypool's predecessor is Barbara Byrd Bennett, who resigned from her position because of the federal investigation into corrupt contracts with "SUPES Academy" and other outfits. Counting the "interim CEO" (Ruiz), Claypool will become the fourth chieftain since Rahm Emanuel took over in May 2011. Jean-Claude Brizard (from Rochester New York) served as Emanuel's first CEO, to be replaced by Barbara Byrd Bennett (from Cleveland and Detroit) following the September 2012 Chicago teachers strike. When Bryd Bennett's corruptions became too blatant to continue to cover up, Ruiz stepped in as "Interim CEO." Substance photo by David Vance. 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 John Barker, "Chief Accountability Officer," Aarti Dhuphelia, "Chief Officer for Career and College Success," and Liza Balistreti, Director of Real Estate.

John Barker and Aarti Dhupelia, two of the majority of CPS executives who have never taught in Chicago's real public schools, presented Power Point versions of reality at the July 22, 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.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.

Like Forrest Claypool, retired Commonwealth Edison President Frank Clark (above at the July 22, 2015 Board of Education meeting), is not an educator. Clark has been appointed President of the Chicago Board of Education to replace David Vitale, who was overseer of the orgy of privatization, charter expansion, school closings, and teacher bashing that have characterized the four years since Rahm Emanuel became Chicago's mayor with the power to appoint the Board of Education and its top executives in May 2011. Clark was overseer of the attacks on the public schools, under the guise of "underutilization," that resulted in the closing of 50 of the city's real public schools in May 2013. The Board of Education continued to expand charter schools -- and charter "campuses" -- after the historic vote at the May 2013 Board meeting to close the largest number of public schools in American history (not counting the segregationist closing of public schools in the South following the Brown decision). Substance photo by David Vance. 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.

See a July 2015 report on the board meeting with a photo of the slide:

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.

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 (above, in grey suit) ignored the devastation caused for the people of his ward by the combination of school closings and charter school expansions. Instead, Moreno continued to praise the charter schools, and stepped aside to give an apologist for the discredited UNO charter schools (now called the UNCS, "UNO Network of Charter Schools") to repeated the usual platitudes about how the charter school had saved the children from the rape, violence, and lowered expectations that they routinely claim typical of the city's real public schools. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.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.

Without mentioning that the UNO charter schools are mostly segregated and include few African American children, the speaker spoke on behalf of the "UNO Parent Alliance" about disagreements with the leadership of UNO. Moreno ignored the fact that the UNO charter schools have been a major factor in the elimination of many of the real public schools in Moreno's ward and the broader community. 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.

35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa was the most forceful of the aldermen who spoke at the meeting in his denunciations of the Board's attacks on the city's real public schools. The alderman of the 12th Ward, George Cardenas, was given eight minutes to ramble on about his concerns, following his support for charter schools during the past 10 years. Alderman Joe Moreno (First Ward) used his time to speak in favor of the UNO charter schools, which are among those that eliminated real public schools in Chicago's Humboldt Park community, part of which is represented by Moreno. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Following Cardenas, newly elected 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa spoke. Rosa said that he is a CPS graduate (Whitney Young, 2007), then shared 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.

As opposed to Alderman Cardenas, who needed a meandering eight minutes to quietly suggest a "pause" in charters, Ramirez-Rosa spoke concisely and clearly and upset the board members.

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


A July 2015 Substance article reported on the aldermen's presentations and provides additional facts and commentary. See§ion=Article.

The first member of the public to speak was Cassandra Creswell of More Than a Score who spoke against the millions for outside vendors, Common Core materials not aligned with Common Core and other waste in CPS testing spending.

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 the program is being dismantled and kids are in limbo. 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.

By the time of the July 22, 2015, Chicago Board of Education meeting, Board President David Vitale and incoming president Frank Clark had decided to stop honoring the tradition of the Board meetings, which included allowing elected officials and union officers to speak prior to the public participation. Vitale and Clark showed their hostility towards the Chicago Teachers Union by trying to ignore the fact that one of the union's four elected officers, Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle, was at the meeting and waiting to speak. When Vitale ignored Mayle, CTU staff member Jackson Potter (above left) demanded to know why Vitale was ignoring the union's rights. Vitale finally said that Mayle could speak, but as in June 2015, Mayle was cut off even before two minutes were up, when CPS security grabbed the microphone from Mayle while the Board's secretary, Estela Beltran, called "Time!" fiercely. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt. 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 said also that we are heading back to "warehousing" special ed students. She continued, speaking 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. Again, the Board cut her off, moving observers to note that Alderman Cardenas had been given eight minutes, while Mayle, representing the union's nearly 30,000-members, was gagged (for the second month in a row). 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. Puzzling some observers, he said that his own children attend Sutherland School, a traditional public school in the Beverly community. He added that funding is crucial for small schools.

Steinmetz teacher Sharon Schmidt told the Board that the school offered more than what was available at the local charter schools, and that the 36th Ward opposed the expansion of charter schools. Substance photo by David Vance.Sharon Schmidt, a teacher at Steinmetz High School (and CPS parent and managing editor of spoke against the threat to the city's real public schools by charter schools, the Board promotion of charter schools and charter school advocates. She said that she appreciated Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa's comments and said that like the 35th, the 36th Ward where Steinmetz is located, is against charters. She said that a charter school would like to open a school in the Steinmetz area, but the community does not want a charter school and that was evidenced in the recent municipal election.

"During the recent aldermanic elections, all four candidates, including Gil Villegas who was elected, pledged to fight any new charter expansion in the ward," Schmidt said.

Schmidt spoke of how "wonderful" Steinmetz High School is. She said two minutes was not enough to share its academic, extra curricular and athletic strengths, so she was giving members the Steinmetz Star newspaper (of which she is faculty sponsor) as a way of showing the faces of the students and some of the programs at the school. She said Steinmetz was proudly diverse racially, economically and academically. With her at the podium were Steinmetz students, teachers and parent Minni Sangha, whose daughter Lilian, a 2011 graduate, is headed to medical school this fall.

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, became the latest principal to stand up to the Board's policies and lies. Szkapiak told the Board that people in his part of town, the Southwest Side, rejected charter schools. He also detailed how the cuts forced on the city's real public schools by "Student Based Budgeting" would further sabotage the large and honored southwest side high school he led. 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.

One of the many speakers representing Chicago's real public schools who were insulted by David Vitale's rulings at the July 22 meeting was Victoria Benson, from Portage Park Elementary School, who had the microphone snatched away from her while she was outlining her school's losses under the lies of "Student Based Budgeting". Substance photo by David Vance.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. She was one of several people who defended the real public schools who was stopped by security when "Time!" was called.

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.

After listening for nearly two hours to the same refrain from more than a dozen speakers praising the various charter schools, as if the charters had invented good teaching and encouraging students to go to college, Steinmetz High School teacher Renato Roldan told them, "You stole my lesson plans!" Roldan's remarks indicated a challenge both to the Board of Education and to the press to stop presenting the silly claims of the charter schools as if they were somehow based in fact, rather than public relations claims). Roldan, who has been serving on the northwest side Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC), in place to consider the Intrinsic Charter High School proposal for the area, said there was no need for the school, especially when CPS says it has to make cuts in public schools. For years, teachers, parents and students from the city's real public schools have watched in almost impotent fury as the public was led to believe that only charter schools -- along with the lies about "choice" and infinitely expanding "waiting lists" -- could save the children of Chicago, who have been "failed" by the city's real public schools. Whether the propaganda on behalf of the charter schools will be countered in the face of the false austerity claims of CPS in the near future remains to be seen, but thousands of teachers like Roldan are preparing to speak at future Board meetings and to demand that the Board members cease their insults to Chicago Teachers Union officials and to the city's 20,000 real public school teachers. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Renato Rolden, a Steinmetz teacher, 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 said he was on the NAC and saw that there is no need for another charter high school on the northwest side or any where in Chciago. He concluded that charter schools should unionize.

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 said 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 35 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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