Huberman orders major change from Duncan proposal... 'Turnaround' schools will be union schools with Local School Councils

Unannounced despite the large staff of the Chicago Board of Education's "Office of Communications", Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman has ordered the administration of the Chicago Public Schools to institute a major shift in its so-called "turnaround" strategy currently being discussed in public hearings at CPS headquarters. On February 5 and February 6, 2009, CPS officials reported the changes, instituted by Huberman on February 3, which end the proposal of Arne Duncan to staff 'turnaround' schools with non-union staff and to strip the schools of their elected local school councils.

Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman (above, right) at his first meeting of the Chicago Board of Education on January28, 2009, has ordered major changes in the school system's so-called 'turnaround' policy. On February 3, Huberman mailed a revised 'turnaround' proposal for Dulles, Bethune, and Johnson elementary schools to parents, teachers, administrators and local school council members at the schools. Under the previous proposal of former CEO Arne Duncan, the 'turnaround' of the three schools would have been managed by a contractor who had the right to hire non-union staff and break union contracts, and the local school councils would have been eliminated. Under Huberman's proposal, the 'turnarounds' will be managed by AUSL with union staff who are CPS employees, and local school councils will remain in place. Also in the above photo are Board Attorney Patrick Rocks (far left), Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins, and (above Watkins and Rocks, Board member Peggy Davis. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Announced as a change in the notification to parents, teachers, and principals at Dulles, Johnson and Bethune elementary schools during hearings on the proposed "turnaround", the change involves eliminating charter school operators from the pool of prospective turnaround vendors eligible for this year's six "turnaround" school operations. At the beginning of each of the three hearings held at CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. on February 5 and February 6, the hearing office, Michael Hernandez, noted that CPS officials had an important modification of the proposal to report.

CPS officials -- either David Pickens or an attorney from the Board's Law Department -- then read into the record that the original proposal for "turnaround" by former CEO Arne Duncan had been changed by new CEO Ron Huberman. According to the reports, Duncan's proposal had been mailed to all interested parties at the proposed "turnaround" schools in mid-January, as Duncan was preparing to leave Chicago to take office as U.S. Secretary of Education (appointed by President Barack Obama).

Duncan's proposals had been to have the turnaround at Dulles school managed by a group called "Chicago RISE", a corporate entity run by the Chicago International Charter Schools. The Johnson and Bethune "turnarounds" were to have been managed by the "Chicago Alliance for School Excellence."

According to David Pickens, whose title is "Public Relations and Internal Communications Executive Officer" for Chicago's public schools, on February 3, two days before the Dulles hearings, all parties were mailed a notice stating that CPS is proposing "turnaround" under the "Academy for Urban School Leadership" (AUSL).

Pickens told the hearing that there were three main differences between the Duncan proposal and the Huberman changed:

1. All staff at the schools would be CPS employees and subject to collective bargaining agreements with existing CPS unions.

2. The Local School Council at each school would remain in place.

3. The "turnaround" would be managed by AUSL.

As of Friday night, February 6, this major change in the proposal had not been communicated to Chicago's other media. Other changes enacted by the Huberman regime have yet to be confirmed by CPS sources, but informed sources at CPS told Substance that Huberman has fired a number of long-time people who worked at CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St., including at least one of the highest-ranking and most competent officials in the system.

On February 9, Board of Education spokesman Michael Vaughn told Substance that the plan to remove Chicago RISE from the list of eligible "turnaround" contractors and give the work to AUSL was in the works before Huberman was named CPS CEO.

Subsequently, Substance was told by members of the west side community organization "Block Together" that Orr High School, which was subjected to "turnaround" by CPS in June 2008, still does not have a Local School Council. In the opinion of at least one person familiar with the situation, who asked to remain anonymous, the promise of AUSL to provide a Local School Council at each of its "turnaround" schools needs to be examined more closely. Substance will continue to report on these developments. 


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