BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education meeting of November 18, 2015... Claypool continues Board's Big Lies about Springfield, while continuing to ignore CPS's short changing on local revenues...

Although Chicago has rarely closed charter schools -- or the so-called "campuses" -- in the past, the new Board of Education may be turning over a leaf and subject the charters to the same careful scrutiny generally done to the real public schools. Above, "Chief Education Officer" Janice Jackson delivers a Power Point on closing plans to the November 18, 2015 meeting of the Board. Substance photo by David Vance. The Chicago Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, at the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Loop office, 42 West Madison Street, Garden Level, in the "Board Room." Dr. Mahalia Hines was the only Board member who was absent. Present were Mark Furlong, Dominique Jordan Turner, Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, President Frank Clark, Gail D. Ward, and Rev. Michael G. Garanzini, S. J. Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forrest Claypool, Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson, and Ronald L. Marmer, Chief Counsel.

The meeting began with "Honoring the Excellence" of George Washington High School's soccer team for placing third in the state competition. The principal, a coach/math teacher, and a coach/science teacher spoke, followed by comments by Board members. Another coach and three students stood with the group.

Following this, Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool reported on the response to the recent carbon monoxide situation at Prussing Elementary. He said that the Board must make sure that all school buildings are safe. Then he got specific, reporting that this situation was due to "a series of cascading accidents" and the failure of a regulator. He stated that all regulators must be replaced. He mentioned the failure of the carbon monoxide detector, the open fire door which was rusted, and a closed fresh air duct. He then told the Board that the engineer was suspended with pay.

Claypool then added that the building and boiler were safe, but that 5,000 additional carbon monoxide detectors would be installed in all schools, parent notification would be improved, and CPS would make sure that schools have their needs met. He also apologized on behalf of CPS and stated that now other schools will be safer.

After the Prussing report, Claypool went on to talk about what he called "the financial crisis." He said that CPS students are not getting their fair share of state funding dollars. He noted that he had discovered the CPS students constitute 20 percent of all state students and yet receive only 15 percent of the state pot. He called this a "fundamental unfairness," which, he said, must be addressed by Springfield. He added that CPS would receive $458 million additional funds if CPS received 20 percent of state funding dollars. He said that together with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), and others, "we" can dig out if "Springfield" takes the first step. He remarked that Illinois is last in the country in taking poverty into account. He concluded that we want simple parity -- equality -- the same as other school districts in the state, that with 20 percent enrollment, CPS should be receiving 20 percent funding.

Whitney Young students Charles Kotroba (in red) and George Vassilatos (far right) criticized Board members for threatening teacher cuts after Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said the Chicago school system would face enormous cuts in teaching programs unless all of its "relief" (financially) comes from Springfield. The Chicago Teachers Union, as most readers know, rejected a proposal by the Board's leaders that teachers, students and parents be organized to "get on the bus" to Springfield to lobby for what Claypool claims would be "full funding" for Chicago's schools. Substance photo by David Vance. Following Claypool's description of what he had termed the financial crisis and his characterization of it as a "Springfield problem," the Board members then weighed in from the same point of view. Claypool's financial report was then backed up by comments from a number of comments from Board members. Board Member (Rev.) Garanzini asked, "Did the Fire Department inspect each school at the beginning of the school year?" and was answered by a staff member.

Two "veteran educators" who were given novel (if undefined) titles and promotions by Forrest Clayppol after Rahm Emanuel appointed Claypool in July 2015 are Janice Jackson (left above) and Denise Little (right above, leaning towards Jackson). Jackson is the latest "Chief Education Officer" of the nation's third largest school system. Little's latest title is "Education Advisor to the CEO." Substance photo during the November 18, 2015 Board meeting by David Vance. Next, Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson noted that Healy Elementary's excellence as a National Title I Distinguished School in Illinois was recognized by the State.

John Barker, who had been brought to Chicago by Barbara Byrd Bennett to be the CPS "Chief Accountability Officer", will be returning to Memphis with his family. Barker's influence was immediate, pushing the discredited Tennessee "Value Added" method of evaluating schools, principals and teachers. Even though Barker is going to be gone, CPS continues to utilize the "Value Added" silliness despite the fact that it has been discredited by legitimate researchers. Substance photo by David Vance. She also reported that John Barker, the "Chief Accountability Officer" who had been appointed by Barbara Byrd Bennett would be moving back to Memphis with his wife. Jackson didn't explain how and why Barker had assumed such power under Barbara Byrd Bennett (who had appointed Barker) or what would happen to CPS when it was losing its most recent "Chief Accountability Officer." None of the members of the Board asked anything about Barker's brief tenure in "accountability" or what the futures of accountability will bring upon Chicago's public schools.

She added that four charter schools were up for a vote on closure.

Jackson then presented a Power Point presentation "Charter School Closure Recommendations." The "Revocation - Process Overview" stated that six charter schools had failed to make adequate progress toward student achievement goals. The six were:

Amandla Charter School

Betty Shabazz - Sizemore Campus

Betty Shabazz - Shabazz Campus

CICS (Chicago International Charter Schools) - Larry Hawkins Campus

CICS (Chicago International Charter Schools) - Lloyd Bond Campus

Polaris Charter School

She told the Board that the schools had been notified, remediation plans had been submitted, and that ratings and data were reviewed. She said three schools "failed to implement their remediation plans." Thus, state charter school law indicates "the chartering entity shall revoke the charter."

The three schools whose charters were revoked were:

Amandla Charter High School

Betty Shabazz - Barbara A. Sizemore Campus

CICS - Larry Hawkins Campus.

Board action on the revoked charters will take place at the December 2015 meeting.

Five other charter schools have charter agreements that will expire and they will present their renewal recommendations to the Board in Spring 2016:

ACE Tech

Bronzeville Lighthouse (an exception to the renewal recommendation process)

Chicago Virtual

Kwame Nkrumah

LEARN (seven campuses)

Help will be given to transition students to another higher performing school, according to Jackson.

A number of Board members made comments and asked questions about the charter school closing process. Some conclusions were that "Now we are aiming for parity with regular schools," "Charters are being judged by uniform standards" and "We must be able to close failing schools and exercise that option."

Board President Clark mentioned that 50 parents this last month had used the "Get Help Now" tool on the Board website to raise questions that were answered. In addition, he stated that 40 individuals had scheduled fifteen-minute office visits.

Board Secretary Estela Beltran announced that the next Board meeting would be held on Wednesday, December 16, at the Loop Office. Sign up for public participation will begin at 8 a.m. on Monday, December 7, and end on Friday, December 11. at 5 p.m. or whenever all slots are filled. She also explained the rules for public participation.

Public Participation began at 11:33 a.m.

First to speak was Alderman John Arena of the 45th Ward. He spoke about the October 30th situation at Prussing Elementary, a day on which a Halloween parade was held at the school. He said that the regulator on the Unit Two Boiler had failed, deferred maintenance had led to the failure, 71 children and eight adults were sent to area hospitals with dangerous blood levels of carbon monoxide, and no alarms warned of the danger. He added that CPS policy was not updated to ensure safety, the boiler room was 60 feet from the main building and the boiler room was 20 feet underground. He said that you cannot hear the alarm in the main building and spoke of the head engineer. He also stated confused assurances regarding the detectors were received and building code revisions for schools were being discussed in today's city council meeting. He concluded that trust was important, there should be a return to a full-time engineer, the heating system should be made safe, the heating system at Prussing should be replaced, and overcrowding at Prussing should be relieved.

The first public participant to speak was Phil Huckleberry who is on the Local School Council (LSC) at Prussing. He gave Board members a handout of the City of Chicago Ordinance regarding boilers. He said the City of Chicago has been instructed not to inspect the boilers. He added that the system needs to be upgraded and there should be permanent reinstatement of Carbon Monoxide detectors. He spoke of the history of Prussing and stated that Patrick Kelly, the school engineer, had been made a scapegoat for what happened. He asked that Patrick Kelly be reinstated. He also asked that trust be rebuilt.

Jacqueline Pinkerton, also of Prussing, said Prussing was told "no" to all requests and had to pressure CEO Claypool for an apology. She said the school had had a heat problem for years, some children had nosebleeds from excess heat, some children had to wear coats in the classroom because of not enough heat, and CPS had lost the trust of Prussing parents. She asked, "What is my son's life worth to you?" and added, "We need a full-time engineer."

Charles Kotrba, a student at Whitney Young High School, said CPS shouldn't threaten to lay off 5,000 teachers. He said CPS, along with Springfield, needs to come up with a plan to fund education. He said we also need a progressive income tax. He named other goals for funding the schools. He said, "Do not support SB 318." He also asked that we prioritize children over wealthy friends, and added, "Oh, you ARE the wealthy friends!"

George Vassilatos, also a student at Whitney Young High School, asked for a moratorium on charter school expansion. He mentioned that charter schools pay $1 a year in rent for their buildings. He labeled them "parasitic and unregulated." He said special ed programs are not in place, charters unenroll students, regular schools are underfunded, and asked for a ban on charter school expansion. He concluded that closing schools is never the answer and told the Board, "Do your job and fund our schools."

Corey Scott, of Oglesby Montessori, expressed appreciation of the school and said, "We need a whole network for Montessori." He said it was a whole new way of learning and that he wished he could have learned that way. He said that he was tired of asking for help.

Cynthia Martinez, of UNO Charter School Network (UCSN) said that she and her husband had looked for a good school and now thanks to UCSN teachers, her daughter was getting a great and safe education.

The next speaker was happy with the education his son was receiving at a UCSN school. He said it was an exceptional experience choosing such a top-level school for his child and that he was proud of his child's academic achievement and his teachers. He added that UCSN encouraged families to participate in the education of their children.

David Ireland, CEO of Betty Shabazz Charter School, said the school had over-achieved on many goals, but did not meet all goals. He added that many of their students qualify for Selective Enrollment (SE) schools. He also said that the children are safe and want to be in school. He mentioned that the absentee rate for students and teachers was low. He said that both of our schools are now Level 1 and Level 2. He asked that the Board not destabilize the community.

Makita Kheperu, of Betty Shabazz, said the school had reached its goal to not be a Level 3 school, that it had that in writing, that it had met with CPS many times, and had been told that they were doing well. She said the the Math scores had affected the Level rate.

Danielle Robinson, Principal at the Betty Shabazz campus, said the students have grown more than the national rate and that CPS had reconfigured the data. She said the students are safe and calmer at their Shabazz campus and are petrified at having to go back to their old schools. She said the campus is the best option in Englewood and the children are respectful, too.

Michaly Long, an eighth-grader at Betty Shabazz Barbara Sizemore Campus said that the school is calm and safe. She mentioned that the police are not there often. She added that students are taught to be kind as well as smart.

Bill Konada, also an eighth-grader at "BASA" said that the teachers excel and help the students to learn about their African culture and heritage. He also explained who Barbara Sizemore was.

Essie Porch, who called herself a concerned teacher and parent at Bronzeville Lighthouse, said the school had been at Level 1 in 2011 and experienced a sudden decrease in achievement. This led to a planned increase in rigor for teachers and students, the school day was restructured, holistic learning was introduced, and they received a grant. She said the school has not seen equal treatment. Because she could not go on, another person took over and said that they were only .5 away from a being a Level 2 school and that they were Level 1 in the past. She said there were 400 children at the school and she felt that she herself was a parent to each child. Essie Porch then spoke again and said, "Give us a fighting chance." She asked, "Where is the equality and justice?"

Patricia Miller, a Bronzeville parent, said that in 2014 they received a new principal, Ms Page, who was an effective and inspirational leader. She said that in 2011, the school was up for renewal and yet on October 28, 2015, the Board put the school on the academic warning list and was then told no renewal. She said that the Board did not visit the school and postponed the vote. She asked that the school be properly evaluated.

Jackie Lindsay, also of Bronzeville Charter School, said she had been a student at the school three years and saw changes. She stated that the children went through a lot of changes. She asked that the Board come out and visit the school. She said that they were never given a remediation plan and it was never indicated that the charter would be revoked. She was told by Counsel that the school was facing a different process, not renewal.

Someone from another charter school threatened with closing, Kapria Priest of Amandla (a 5-12 school), said our progress is being ignored. She said that only two weeks notice of shut-down was given. She added that we have been taught perseverance. She said that she is now successful in college because of Amandla. She asked the Board to help us to keep our school in open in Englewood.

Sarah Brenner, a teacher who started Amandla Charter School in Englewood, said that the first class of seniors was now going to college. She remarked that there is no better option in the community. She said that the present process was rusted and reckless and that they did implement the remediation plan. She submitted 100 letters of support and said that the community had walked eight miles to present them.

Matthew Mata, editor of Walter Paytons Paw Print and a Substance reporter, asked that funds be made available to traditional schools. He also asked the Board, Mayor Emanuel, and Governor Rauner take the Athenian Civic Responsibility Oath, an oath that would demonstrate that the jobs and education of teachers and students are truly valued.

We will never bring disgrace on this our City by an act of dishonesty or cowardice. We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the City both alone and with many. We will revere and obey the City's laws and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us. Athenian Civic Responsibility Oath

The next speaker said that you can't keep pointing the finger at Springfield. He mentioned that Sheriff Tom Dart had said that it cost $158 a day to house a prisoner. He remarked that closing Sizemore Charter School was a total mistake.

Cassie Cresswell, of More Than a Score and a Raise Your Hand (RYH) Board member, said that there were significant problems with the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) that was used. She said that she opposes charter schools. She added that Amandle opened in 2008 and she asked how a school can be rated without anyone ever setting a foot in the building. She mentioned that New York City does better at rating, using an external reviewer. She remarked that Chicago deserves better and that SQRP was deeply flawed.

Alfred Rogers, of the Latino Organization of the Southwest in Gage Park, said that the Board is more stable now. He remarked that last month the Board didn't want Spanish, but he said, "How about Healy - Chinese is taught." He added that you don't have to be a citizen to be on the LSC.

Albert Mendez, a parent at Chicago International Charters Schools (CICS) Irving Park, said his alderman, Alderman Sawyer had supported a moratorium on charter schools, but he was not swayed by the moratorium. He said he has three children in two CICS charter schools, Northtown and Irving Park, and that they had the highest Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT) scores. He said that both schools were Level 1 and stated, "Let's not limit choices."

Debra Hass, a parent and a member of RYH, said she had fought school closings before. She stated that this process is equally flawed. She told the Board that RYH was founded in 2010. She said that since there was no revenue from Springfield in 2015, CPS places the blame on Springfield. She added that SB 318 does not offer sustainable solutions and that in three years we could be the same or worse with SB 318. She concluded that a balanced approach is needed.

Kevin Wallace, of Howe School and a parent of seven, said the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) charter school had gone from a Level 2 to Level 1 school this year. He remarked that 97% of kindergarten students are reading above grade level in 2014-2015. He mentioned other statistics. He thanked the Board for its support.

Timothy McCaffrey, of Decatur Classical K-6 School, said the school has significant facilities limitations, including one adult toilet in the building. He added that enrollment was limited or the school would be overcrowded. He asked for expansion on the current site and is aware of the significant financial constraints. He asked that some of the funds be allocated to their problems.

Mary Hughes, of the 19th Ward Parents for Special Education and RYH, spoke of the piecemeal restoration of some staff. She said that we cannot provide the Individual Education Plan (IEP) minutes, that there is a flawed staffing formula, and that Special Education cuts face legal times ahead and long-term societal costs. She added that the children are not being given independence.

Cynthia Woods, of the Illinois Association of School Boards, thanked CPS for collaboration. She said that this was the 44th year that schools would be visited. She mentioned a service project to stuff backpacks on Thursday. She said that distribution of the backpacks would take place on Friday and four schools would be visited. She added that Healy was "good."

Vivian Tram, editor of the Lane Tech High School Warrior, spoke against any cuts of teachers. She said that her English teacher was devoted and that she herself had been accepted to two of her top schools. She said that her English teacher might be cut because of budget cuts. She said that removal of teachers and staff hinders students. She asked the Board to find a way to keep this from happening.

Robert Antonson, spoke of transportation. He said that children do not have "jet packs." He told of being bullied by an educator, fraud, and siphoning of funds. He told the Board, "You blame the teachers." and "Teachers are not the cause of the financial mess, management is." He added that CEOs in the past went to jail or the District of Columbia (DC) Department of Education.

Aide Acosta, an Independent citywide parent who works with the Noble Network, spoke of the Pritzker scholarship for tuition assistance which provides $12 thousand per year for financial aid for students. She said that full tuition scholarships were available for undocumented students and that there were 80 undocumented seniors now.

Nicole Jones, of Horizon Science Academy, a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president, and a "proud parent" of a seventh-grader, spoke of the Chatham campus which had not opened, while the 54th and Western (Horizon) campus did. She spoke of the dedicated staff and said the school has some of the best students Chicago has to offer. She mentioned that her son improved each year, the schools has 30 different clubs, seven electives are offered, and tutoring and sports are offered.

Elud Raigoza, of UCSN, thanked the Board for the Noble southwest side campus. She said that our community will be better and her daughter now has opportunities. She added that her daughter wants to be a teacher.

Public Participation ended at 1:09 p.m.

Public participation speakers were not cut off when they exceeded their two minutes and security did not wrestle the mic away from speakers when they did. In fact, the countdown clock started counting back up again FROM zero for some speakers.

Board members made comments about charter school closings, discrepancies in the norming of tests used by charter schools, and that the SQRP was a requirement for charters, too.

Then, Board President Clark read the statement that allowed the Board to go into closed session and the Board room was cleared by Security.


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