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CPS schedules illegal AUSL 'hearings' to promote turnarounds without informing principals, teachers, parents at targeted schools

Faced with a mounting outcry against its plans to "turnaround" five elementary schools and one high school -- and unanimous opposition to all of its school changes proposed this month during testimony in the legally required hearings that must precede any Board of Education vote on the radical changes -- the Chicago Board of Education has quietly scheduled a second set of "hearings" about the turnaround schools. But this one is sponsored by the contractor who hasn't even been awarded the multi-million dollar contracts yet, the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), a contractor who stands to get what amounts to a commission of more than $1 million per "turnaround" school if the Board approves the current proposals at its February 25 meeting.

The official hearings on the proposed "turnaround" for five Chicago elementary schools and one high school have been going badly for the promoters of 'Renaissance 2010'. At most of the hearings, not one person speaks in favor of the proposals once employees of the Board of Education complete reading their prepared statements. At some of the hearings, speakers have denounced the plans passionately, and for more than an hour. Suddenly, on February 5, the hearing officers began to casually announce that a second set of "hearings" were being held. The second set of "hearings" are being advertised by 'Renaissance 2010' and promoted by the Chicago Board of Education's Office of New Schools. But the hearings are actually marketing opportunities for a private group called the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), which the Board proposes to pay to "turnaround" the targeted schools despite a poor record with schools AUSL already operates. Parents, teachers, community leaders, and school principals who spoke in opposition to the "turnarounds" on February 5 and February 6, 2009, were told by the hearing officers to attend the AUSL hearings, while material on behalf of the AUSL hearings were distributed by CPS security staff during the February 5 and February 6 hearings. Substance photo collage by George N. Schmidt. On February 5, 2009, while one member of the Chicago Board of Education watched, the hearing officer conducting the hearing on the proposed "turnaround" of John Foster Dulles Elementary School (6311 S. Calumet) announced that there would also be a "hearing" in the community about the proposal to "turnaround" the south side school.

The AUSL community hearing was not the official hearing on the 'turnaround' proposal. Under 'turnaround', the Chicago Board of Education will fire all of the current teachers at the Dulles -- and all of the other staff -- and give a contract to AUSL to bring in an entire new staff, one supposedly trained in the perfect methods developed by AUSL and its corporate sponsors to fix urban pubic school.

While the controversy over the plans to fire current teachers and principals is drawing more and more criticism, CPS has already given the OK for a hearing conducted by the contractor that will profit from the firing, Chicago's Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). These additional 'hearings' -- hastily scheduled during the last four days -- are co-sponsored by AUSL and the Chicago's Board of Education's quasi-autonomous "Office of New Schools." The "Office of New Schools" is the department within CPS that directly operates to run Mayor Richard M. Daley's "Renaissance 2010" program. The modest number of teachers, administrators, and parents from Dulles who were in attendance at the 3:00 p.m. hearing on the proposed 'turnaround' were told they could pick up announcements of the AUSL 'hearing' at the back of the Board chambers. Most of the parents, teachers, and students from Dulles were unable to attend the February 5 hearing, which the Board deliberately scheduled at 3:00 p.m. and at its downtown offices. CPS officials have been told repeatedly that the timing and financial burdens of coming downtown effectively limits the number of people from Chicago's poorer communities who can attend the meetings. Parking alone is prohibitively expensive for most of the poor families whose children attend schools like Dulles. The timing excludes the majority of teachers, many of whom work long hours in the after-school programs at the targeted schools.

No additional notification of the AUSL "hearings" was provided to the public or in the community on Friday, February 6. The AUSL "hearing" is scheduled for Wednesday, February 11, and is being give quasi-official sanction by the Chicago Board of Education. The beautiful James Weldon Johnson Elementary School (above, at 1420 S. Albany Ave. in Chicago's Douglas Park community) has been targeted by Chicago public school officials for so-called 'turnaround' because of low test scores. Despite unanimous opposition from parents, students, teachers, the principal, and community leaders, the Chicago Board of Education is trying to move the "turnaround" proposal forward as part of what many in the community believe is an effort to drive out the poor families currently served by Johnson and promote gentrification. At the February 6 hearing on the Johnson 'turnaround' proposal, not one speaker supported the Board's plan. Nevertheless, the Board announced at that hearing that a private contractor, the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) would hold a 'hearing" the following week to promote its 'turnaround' plans. The Chicago Board of Education had not even voted to approve the AUSL 'turnaround' of Johnson (and other schools) before CPS began promoting AUSL's marketing meetings. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.. The February 11 hearing will be held in the Dulles community, but not at Dulles school itself, which CPS officials are worried is too intensely opposed to the planned takeover of their school by AUSL.

James Weldon Johnson AUSL 'hearing' scheduled across in the park, rather than at the school

The following day, February 6, 2009, the same thing happened during the official hearings on the proposed "turnaround" of James Weldon Johnson Elementary School. Johnson school is located at 1420 S. Albany Ave. adjacent to the rapidly gentrifying Douglas Park community and around the corner from Douglas Boulevard, a street that has been targeted by developers.

At the Johnson school hearings, the same thing happened on Friday that happened on Thursday at the Dulles school hearings.

The hearing officer announced a community "hearing" without mentioning that it was not a hearing like the one he was then conducting, but was instead a marketing event sponsored by the outfit that stands to profit most if the "turnaround" is implemented. The Johnson school hearing on Friday, February 6, was scheduled at 3:00 p.m., and parents, teachers and others from Johnson also complained to CPS officials that the hearing both by its location and by its timing was done in a way that excluded most of the people who would have come to oppose the proposed "turnaround."

Despite the inconvenient timing and location of the Johnson hearing, the Johnson hearing, like the Dulles hearing the day before, heard from a large number of people, including the school's principal, who noted the huge social and economic problems facing the families whose children attend Johnson. This school year, according to Board of Education data, Johnson is 100 percent segregated, 100 percent poverty, and with very high levels of social problems in the home and community. Johnson's 429 children come from an area of poverty and social neglect that many Americans have comforted themselves into believing no longer exists. At each of the "turnaround" hearings, officials from the Chicago Board of Education, African American and white, present a portrait of a "failing" school by carefully selecting data from test results, while scrupulously ignoring other facts -- and data -- which tell another tale. The focus is exclusively on test scores, manipulated via Power Point presentations and unsubstantiated claims that AUSL has proved its formula for "turning around" schools that serve children from extreme poverty in conditions of extreme segregation, crime, violence, medical, nutritional, and other problems.

Bethune School faces similar slanders

Following the hearing on the Johnson school "turnaround" proposal, the Board of Ed Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School, at 3030 W. Arthington Place, is also slated to be put into "turnaround" under a contract that will be given to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Like Dulles and Johnson schools, Bethune this school year has been serving a population of poor black children in America's most segregated city. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.ucation convened a hearing proposing to turn Mary McLoed Bethune elementary school, a mile north of Johnson, over to AUSL for "turnaround." The presentation of the evidence of the "failure" of Bethune was given by Ginger Reynolds, who has headed the Board's Office of Research, Evaluation and Accountability since 2007.

According to Reynolds, it is Bethune that has failed Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School, at 3030 W. Arthington Place, is also slated to be put into "turnaround" under a contract that will be given to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Like Dulles and Johnson schools, Bethune this school year has been serving a population of poor black children in America's most segregated city. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt..

But Reynolds did not enter into evidence any of the data about poverty, medical problems, violence, or racial segregation that was easily available to round out the picture of Bethune. It remained to the principal, teachers and parents from the school to do that. And since they are already presumed to have "failed" as measured by test scores, they are pleading a case which is then presented as self-serving.

This school year, according to the Board of Education's racial ethnic survey of students, Bethune has 253 students, 100 percent of whom are African American. Other data show that 100 percent of Bethune's students live in poverty, which can be observed by anyone taking a walking tour of the community. Other data would show that the majority of the teachers and other staff that CPS proposes to fire in order to turn Bethune around are African-Americans, too. The custodial and lunchroom staffs at Bethune are all African American. The majority of the teachers are African American. Only in Chicago in 2009, under the version of "school reform" controlled by the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley, could such massive segregation -- both racial and economic -- be blamed on school teachers, principals, and others who work in the schools.

AUSL proposes to hold its marketing hearing regarding Bethune not at Bethune, but at the Chalmers Elementary School, another segregated (and all-black) public school a half mile away from Bethune Above: Chalmers Elementary School (2745 W. Roosevelt Road). AUSL knows so little about the community it has been taking over for the past four years that it proposed hosting next week's "community meeting" about the Bethune school turnaround at the Chalmers Elementary School (above). Chalmers is located a half mile south and east of Bethune. Parents from Bethune told the CPS hearing on February 6, that gang boundaries in the community make it certain that families from Bethune will not dare cross California Ave. ((the street in the background, above) to attend the meeting at Chalmers. Officials of the Chicago Board of Education's Renaissance 2010 center, called the "Office of New Schools", have been unable to explain why AUSL community meetings are not being held at the schools targeted for AUSL turnaround, but teachers and parents suspect that the reason is AUSL fear of confronting the people it will be firing in the buildings AUSL will be taking over. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. .

No explanation has been offered for the choice of locations away from the schools that are facing turnaround.

Charter schools raid top students from public schools, then CPS declares schools "failures"

Additional hearings on the proposed "turnarounds" are scheduled for Monday, February 9, and Tuesday, February 10.

On February 9, there is a hearing at CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. at 3:00 p.m. on the proposed "turnaround" of Holmes Elementary School (located at 955 W. Garfield Blvd on Chicago's south side).

Like the other elementary schools facing "turnaround," Holmes has had students taken away by the Board of Education's decision to locate a charter school nearby. Charter schools have been engaged in a process scholars have begun to call "cropping" -- slowly selecting students based on criteria which can limit admissions and then enable the charters to eliminate students for disciplinary and academic reasons. The charter school most affecting Holmes is the Chicago International Charter School "Basil" campus. CICS Basil is located at 1816 W. Garfield Blvd., one mile west of Holmes.

On Tuesday, February 10, there are two hearings. At 3:00 p.m., the Board hosts a hearing on the proposed "turnaround" of Yale Elementary School (7025 S. Princeton). At 8:00 p.m. that day, there is a hearing on the proposed "turnaround" of Fenger High School (11220 S. Wallace).

If the Board of Education succeeds in doing "turnaround" at Fenger High School, the Board will have eliminated seven general high schools to turnaround since 2004.

The Collins High School building at 1313 S. Sacramento Blvd. in Chicago's Lawndale community has been taken over by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and North Lawndale College Prep following decimation that began in 2005. Collins High School will graduate its last class as a general public high school in June 2009. The remaining teachers and students from the general high school are currently being treated like "poor step children" in the building that was created after fierce community struggles during the civil rights era. Like the other six Chicago general high schools that have been attacked in the media and then semi-privatized since 2004, Collins served a student population that was 100 percent African American and 100 percent children from families in poverty. When CPS proposes closing or "turnaround" for schools, the social and economic conditions faced by the children in those communities are ignored, with an exclusive focus on low test scores as the decisive framing of the issue. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt..All of the high schools targeted by the Board have served a general high school population that is 100 percent African American and almost 100 percent children of poverty.

The high schools eliminated as general high schools prior to the current school year are:

Austin High School, 231 N. Pine St.

Calumet High School, 8131 S. May St.

Collins High School, 1313 S. Sacramento Ave.

Englewood High School, 6201 S. Stewart Ave.

Harper High School, 6520 S. Wood St.

Orr High School, 730 N. Pulaski Ave.

Charter schools which limit the students from the local community have been placed inside the Austin, Calumet, Collins, and Englewood buildings. Harper High School and Orr High School are under "turnaround" this school year after the Board of Education fired most of their teachers and other staff at the end of the 2007-2008 school year. Orr High School's "turnaround" is being managed by AUSL, while the Harper "turnaround" is under the control of the Chicago Public Schools Office of the Chief Education Officer, Barbara Eason-Watkins. 

THE COMPLETE TEXT OF THIS ARTICLE, ALONG WITH ADDITIONAL DATA AND GRAPHICS, WILL BE PUBLISHED IN THE FEBRUARY 2009 PRINT EDITION OF SUBSTANCE. THE PRINT EDITION WILL BE MAILED TO SUBSCRIBERS FEBRUARY 17, 2009.



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