BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education continues cynical manipulation of facts during its February 2016 meeting...

Four of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the February 24, 2016 Board meeting. Left to right (rear): Frank Clark, Mahalia Hines, Gail Ward, and Father Baranzini. On the far right is "Chief Executive Officer" Forrest Claypool. All of the Board members and the CEO were appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Substance photo by David Vance.As usual, it was Board member Mahalia Hines who asked the "set up question" at the very end of the Board of Education meeting. Hines's question allowed CPS officials to lie in contradiction to a major issue that was raised clearly during public participation earlier in the meeting. During the public participation portion of the meeting of February 2016, the Board members sat stolidly (while for a moment "Chief Executive Officer" Forrest Claypool closed his eyes) during a major presentation by school nurses and Chicago Teachers Union researchers. A new research study by CTU showed that the privatization of school nursing services by CPS is undermining school health services for children -- and in some case endangering those most at risk.

In addition to CTU researcher Sarah Hainds, others spoke forcefully and factually about the decline in student health services in CPS schools since CPS entered into a four-year $30 million contract with a New York corporation to privatize school health services -- and reduced the number of nurses serving the city's real public schools. The contract, which calls for the Board to pay $7.5 million for each of its four years, was evaluated carefully by the CTU research department and found to be almost a danger to the children. Instead of a nurse in every school, CPS has now created a situation in which no school has a full-time nurse. And principals are required to make their appeals for health services to a call center, or to face a privatized "health center" (such as at one Northside high school) that often bills families for services to children!

The evidence presented by Sarah Hainds and the others was precise. No Board member asked questions during the presentations by the union researcher and other health professionals. Instead, the Board members sat stolidly during the careful presentations. At the very end of the meeting, prior to the Board's going into Executive Session, Mahalia Hines repeated a trick she had used before: She asked the scripted question that the Board had prepared so that the videos of the meeting showed a scripted explanation for the privatization -- and the claim that the deal was going well.

The members of the Chicago Board of Education had no questions for school nurse Joan Lipschutz. Nor did they speak when additional details were presented by Chicago Teachers Union researcher Sarah Hainds (in background, wearing red) or others. Observers realized as the Board members left to go into closed session that the Board had scripted the claim to prove that its privatization scheme had fulfilled the "data driven" criteria claimed to be in the contract. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.One of the most powerful presentations was provided by Joan Lipschutz, a veteran school nurse, who told the Board members precisely what was happening under the contract. Her experience and presentation were ignored.

Bit it's as interesting to provide our readers with our usual BOARDWATCH, in detail, since the coverage of the Board's monthly meetings by other media is less than thorough.

The meeting began, as usual, with the Pledge of Allegiance, and the notification that all seven members of the Board were present, along with CEO Forrest Claypool, CEdO (Chief Education Officer) Janice Jackson, and General Counsel Robert Marmer.

"Honoring Excellence" featured the Whitney Young chess team, which has again won the Illinois State title and now goes to the nationals. Jackson, gratuitously in in the opinion of this reporter, silly-ly, had to note that chess helped students learn a bunch of "skills" including what she called "critical thinking." The mantra of corporate reform, repeated regularly by Jackson and CPS education officials, has to force every activity into some kind of Common Core straight jacket. "Chess is fun..." was not on the CEdO's script...

Two executive reports were given to the Board.

The first, by Jimm Dispensa, noted that the Board was doing some facilities changes, including the termination of the three-schools-in-one building thing at Austin High School. Dispensa told the Board that the other consolidation (Morton and another AUSL school) had been cleared by the community. There was no mention of the lengthy history of political opportunism and racism which had led to the destruction of Austin High School in the firsts place back in the day when Michael Scott was President of the Board of Education.

The second presentation was about the new course requirements for high school graduation. Annette Gurley and Alan Mather presented a Power Point which showed that students would be taking more computer science classes and a thing called "civics." None of the Board members asked the key question about computer science in Chicago's public schools (both the real public schools and the charters): Do all the schools have working up-to-date computers to do this? There are two questions here which the Board members ignored:

First, does every high school have enough computers to offer these computer science, STEM courses?

Second, has the Board provided each high school with the technical support necessary to keep those computers operating as they endure the harsh reality of daily work by Chicago teenagers?

There was also a discussion about the fact that Illinois is now moving from the ACT to the SAT as part of the high school testing program, but Chicago is going to continue using the ACT for one more year. No question was asked about the specific cost of continuing to use a test that's no longer used in the state by the supposedly "broke" Chicago school system.

Following the Power Point presentations, the Board heard from one public official and one executive from the Chicago Teachers Union.

Alderman Ricardo Munoz stood with a number of people and asked the Board why it had been cutting bilingual people during the recent round of cuts. Munoz reminded the Board members that they were under legal obligations to sustain, not cut, the school system's bilingual programs.

After Munoz and his supporters had left, CEO Forrest Claypool answered a question from Frank Clark. Claypool claimed that the Board had not cut the people who were supposed to be coordinating bilingual programs, but had simply reorganized them under the latest chief of audit.

After that, Chicago Teachers Union recording secretary Michael Brunson spoke forcefully against the Board's announced plan to eliminate the seven percent "pension pickup" for union workers at CPS. Brunson pointed out that the elimination of the pension pickup was a pay cut of seven percent for those he represents. He also told the Board that the union would be more than willing to work on revenue solutions with CPS, but only when CPS officials did something about major issues the union has been raising, including what are called the "toxic swaps" and the TIF surplus.

Unlike the response to Munoz, Claypool made no response to the official from the CTU.

After the silence that followed Brunson, the Board Secretary, Estala Beltran, announced that public participation would begin.


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