BOARDWATCH... June 22, 2016 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education...

Sixty persons are allowed to sign up to speak during public participation at any regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) at Chicago Public School (CPS) headquarters at 42 West Madison Street. On Wednesday, July 22, 2016, fifty-four signed up to speak, at least seven were no-shows and fourteen spoke about the selection of the engineer and the principal at Saucedo Academy.

All Board members were present at the meeting. They were Mark Furlong, Dominique Jordan Turner, Jaime Guzman, Board 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 (CEdO) Janice Jackson, and Ronald L. Marmer, Chief Counsel.

Janice Jackson, the "Chief Education Officer" (CEdO) spoke the safety of children. She said that it was a tough time to be a student in Chicago.

Next, "Chief of Facilities Operations" Acosta gave a presentation on water testing. He said that CPS wanted to be pro-active beyond what is legally required and stated that lead was coming from many sources. He mentioned that Lake Michigan is the source of water in the schools. He said that any building built before 1986 and buildings with pre-K programs were being targeted now. He added that 324 schools had been selected to be tested prior to summer during normal usage.

The multiple samples of potable water inside pre-K rooms and faculty lounges were sent to two labs, he said. He stated that if lead were found, the water supply would be turned off. Of the 324 targeted schools, 98 were tested and 30 were found to have at least one device with lead issues. He delineated the remediation plan that CPS has in place to make sure that children are safe. He added that there would be no "cookie-cutter solution," but that CPS would focus on the needs at that particular school.

In response to Reverend Garazini's question as to how parents got information, he replied that a letter had been sent home to the parents of the children, after the principals had been notified first. Clinics were named where children could be tested, information was provided about testing in the home, other causes of lead poisoning were mentioned, and available Health Department help was provided.

Next, Board President Frank Clark announced that the agenda is now published before public participation sign-up begins and that by going to individuals can also arrange for meetings with Board members during office hours. Clark did not mention that the only reason the Board of Education had changed some of its discriminatory rules on public participation was that the Illinois Attorney General had ruled that the old practice utilized by CPS was a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Previously, the Board had ordered that public sign up for Board meetings be a week prior to the publication of the agenda for the meeting. That has now ended. The Board still limits the number of speakers at its meetings to no more than 60, despite the fact that the Board then reduces those who may actually speak by "consolidating" speakers at the onset of each meeting.

Secretary Estela Beltran announced the date of the next Board meeting, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. She said that sign-up for public participation starts at 10:30 a.m. July 25 and continues till 5 p.m. on July 26, or until all 60 slots are filled, whichever comes first.

Public participation then began with union and elected officials going first.

Michael Brunson, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Recording Secretary, addressed the Board first. He started out by telling the Board that "you can't find anything to do but file an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against us." He said that in 2015, the lead issue blew up and yet most schools have not yet been tested. He said that you have no sense of urgency. He asked that audience, "Do you want the water fountains tested?" Many hands went up. He added that many people are out there now demonstrating. He went on to tell the Board to open the schools on time in the summer and in the fall. He added that the schools are not broke -- the money is there.

Brunson continued. He said the financial transactions are untaxed, while corporations are subsidized and are running to Mexico and the Caribbean. He affirmed that Chicago, the State of Illinois, and the United Stated "ain't broke." He said that Tax Increment Financing (TIF)s funds currently go from the "needy to the greedy" and that we are "melting money from our schools." He added that our unarmed youth are not going to be gunned down in the streets by those who have been hired to protect them. He reminded the Board that pensions are affected, too. He concluded that our youth are our future, we must have an elected representative school board, and everyone was invited to march with the CTU. Applause followed.

President Clark said, "Thank you, Michael, for your perspective."

Secretary Beltran then gave public participation directions.

First to speak was Andrew Broy of Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) who said that we are now facing challenges that are affecting charter public schools. He informed the Board that you'll hear from parents today who have done their part. He stated that charter schools begin school on August 10 and that it was now three weeks till the first charter school payment from CPS. He added that Galapagos Charter School was closing. At the end of his two minutes, Board Secretary said, "Thank you, Mr. Broy."

Cesar Dominguez expressed concern about the lack of a budget. He said that students are doing their part, but the City and the CPS were not.

Eric Johnson, a parent of two at Audubon School wanted to know how many dollars the percentage of cuts equal. He said that the cuts would mean 35 children per class. He added that we can't wait till Labor Day to find a solution.

Board President Clark responded that we need new revenue sources. He said that TIF dollars are assigned by ward and that the individual aldermen should be spoken to before coming to the Board.

Jeff Jenkins, who is on the Local School Council (LSC) at Coonley Elementary, a neighborhood school, and who is a parent of two children there, asked that the Board share information to improve communication. He asked for names, schools, email addresses. He requested a meeting with the Board to amend policy.

Kelly Vaughan, a former CPS teacher and a parent of two former CPS students, thanked the teachers and administrators of her children's school(s). She said her family was leaving the city we love because even great teachers need resources. She asked the Board to please do better by the children. She concluded that we need a budget now.

Marguerite Baran, an LSC member, wrote a letter expressing her concern with the lack of solutions being proposed. She asked for a city emergency return of revenue and a reduction in spending.

Sarah Chambers, a teacher at Saucedo Academy, was the first of fourteen people to speak about Saucedo. She mentioned that the Saucedo principal was leaving the state. She said that the district was run by crooks. She remarked that "You guys have money for everything but our schools." She asked that the present assistant principal, Charley McFadden, become the new interim principal. She mentioned a June 30 LSC meeting with the network chief. CEdO Jackson told Chambers and the meeting that Saucedo Academy should begin the LSC process.

Alex Krueger, of Saucedo, also suggested that the Assistant Principal become the interim principal. She stated that leadership and stability are important. She said that the students do better at Saucedo because the parents trust Mr. McFadden and that he may leave otherwise. Continuing her interruptions, CEdO Jackson said that the interim principal is appointed by the Network Chief.

Courtney Douglas, of Saucedo, added that Saucedo was a Level 1 school.

Sandra Carrion, a fourth-grade teacher at Saucedo and a parent of a daughter in sixth grade also said that Mr. McFadden was the right person and was very supportive.

William Lamme, retired from Kelly High School, a thirty-year resident of Little Village, and just elected to the LSC at Saucedo, also requested Mr. McFadden as the interim principal.

Carlos Ayento, Director of Music and Dance at Saucedo, told of the numerous performance ratings the band had won. He said he had spent $12,000 out-of-pocket in the last year. He also expressed concern about the interim principal and the budget. He said the programs are in danger and asked the Board to find a solution. He added that hopefully, Mr. McFadden will be interim principal.

Zerlina Smith, newly elected to the LSC at Saucedo, also said she wanted Mr. McFadden as the interim principal at Saucedo. She said that she is on many grass-root organizations and that the cuts will mean problems. She said that we will organize when summer comes and that funding should be split equally between North and South and West side schools. She concluded by stating, "We will come to your houses and churches." Board President Clark said," I have to admit, I've never been threatened so nicely."

Heather Alexis, of Saucedo, mentioned that many Saucedo teachers were long-timers. She said she also supports Mr. McFadden as interim principal and that he is a familiar face to the students.

Carly Kauffman, of Saucedo, then spoke in favor of the current building engineer, Kevin Moore, in light of privatization of engineers. She mentioned his attention to detail and that he comes early to do what needs to be done.

Paula Madden, Physical Education teacher at Saucedo and a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) asked the Board to reconsider using Sodexo to maintain cleanliness in the school. She mentioned that Saucedo is 102 years old. She said that Kevin Moore was familiar with the school and on top of all situations. She remarked that Sodexo will not provide the same services for us. She said that Kevin Moore keeps the floors and other areas clean. She asked the Board to reconsider turning over the building to Sodexo. She added that the school was not like it was before Sodexo came along.

Angelica Gamino, of Saucedo, added that it was unfair to have to share facilities with another school.

Diana Zurawski, of Saucedo, also spoke in favor of Mr. McFadden.

Later, Mercedes Casarez, a Saucedo parent, said she wants Mr. McFadden to be the interim principal because he communicates well and motivates the student. She said she wants to keep the school a Level 1. She added that CEdO Jackson came to our LSC meeting and that Ms. Sanchez doesn't seem to understand.

CEdO Jackson said that she would follow up and send a representative if she couldn't follow up.

Also later, sixth-grade students from Saucedo, spoke in favor of Mr. McFadden, current assistant principal. They said he is a good principal for us and named his involvement. They concluded that he would be the best principal for them.

Attention then shifted away from Saucedo with the next speakers.

Charles Hamer, of Chicago Bulls College Prep, with an ideal basketball height, mentioned that his father passed away when he was in seventh grade. He said he had tendencies then to be in trouble, but his teachers helped him. He said the schools need a solution before August.

Yvonne Johnson, a 1979 grad and a Johnson College Prep parent, mentioned that her son struggled and didn't want to repeat ninth grade. She said that Johnson helped him and named his achievements. She said that he is now college-bound to Northwestern. She asked the Board to please make the budget fair.

Ellen Moiani praised Noble Schools and expressed concern about the budget. She said that Noble doors will open on August 22 and added that the budget needs to be fair. Ameshia Cross worked at Noble and said all students were given a second chance. She then named Noble achievements. Cynthia Martinez, of the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) also expressed concern about the budget next year. She read a letter about her daughter. Nelly Alvarez, of UNO, held a clock and spoke in Spanish, which was then translated. She said she was worried about the coming school year and the budget cuts. She reminded the Board that charter schools are not on the same schedule as regular public schools and are due back on August 10.

Xavier Walton, of Bond Elementary, spoke of an arbitration ruling in his favor in September of 2014. He informed the Board that he didn't get his basketball pay and that he was owed that money. He also he did not get his sick days and he needs to be made whole again. He remarked that the money went somewhere else and he wants the run-around to stop.

Board President Clark informed him that Matt Lyons in Human Resources would address his concerns.

Monet Foster, a graduate of Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Chicago, spoke of the high expectations at KIPP. She couldn't afford to go to a Catholic school, so she went to KIPP.

Jennifer Biggs, of Raise Your Hand (RYH) and a parent of tree CPS students, said she attended her first CPS meeting on February 2012. She said that Governor Rauner was relating a false narrative when he spoke of schools as being "crumbling prisons." She asked others to tweet #Notaprison to share positive stories of CPS. She added the the Board needs a Plan B.

Amy de la Fuentes, also remarked that the Board does not have a Plan B. She commented on the patronizing attitude from the Board. She praised RYH. She said she was told that she needs to listen to Mr. Claypool and responded that we are all stakeholders. The audience expressed agreement. Directing her question to the Board, she asked, "Are you a stakeholder?"

Board member Dr. Hines then mentioned that current Board members serve voluntarily. She added that many of them went to public schools and had children who went to public schools. She concluded that people just ought to say "Thank You!"

Mary Hughes, a parent and LSC member at Agricultural High School and Cassell Elementary, mentioned the sixty plus principals leaving CPS. She added that the parents are fleeing Chicago. She said that Chicago should stop its finger-pointing, reduce spending, shrink unessential departments, and reduce the length of the school day. She added that accounting transparency is needed.

Elizabeth Herring of Bret Harte Elementary School, expressed gratitude that the school would be able to keep its Pre-K program. She said that the original decision to end the program had been reversed.

Deandre Allen, age 17, said she had been a troubled student. She asked for assistance with market research and advice from the BOE. Board President Clark asked her if she was a vendor and if she was selling a product. He then remarked that he applauded her.

Ronald Jackson, thanked Board Member Dr. Hines for closing fifty schools and for her actions regarding former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. After commenting on a phone call, he said he would "meet you all in hell."

Natalie Phillips, a 2015 graduate of EPIC Charter School Academy, commented on the budget. Noelle McGee, a Northwestern University student, said she had completed her first year, that she was a Noble graduate, and she also spoke of her sister's achievements.

Susan Hickey, a retired social worker, did a survey and a report on mental health status. She remarked that nurses and counsellors lack time to help students. She said that her survey looked at the work-load formula. The recommended ratio was 1-250, but in CPS, the actual workload was 1-1500. She added that the paperwork was burdensome.

Robert Lamont, of Vets for Peace, said that most Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) classes can be taught without the military component. He asked why there was an increase throughout the nation in ROTC; he said the draft had ended. He went on to state that he was with the Community Renewal Society for many years and had worked to get a progressive income tax passed. He added that if your state representative was already with you on this issue, you should go to another district where they are not with you and talk to them.

Robert Jewell, Founder of Ad-ucation Media LLC , spoke about the signs that would be provided for schools that will bring money back to the school. He said that money could be raised this way to solve some of the shortfall. He added that it can change the landscape of education funding.

Board President Clark then asked him, "Are you a vendor? We have a process for vendors."

Jose Garza, of the LSC at Gallistel, said he wants to save teachers' jobs. He said that Gallistel, currently Level 2, can be Level 1 this fall, and Jane Addams is already Level 1. He said the teachers were to follow the students. He said hundreds of teachers were applying to teach there and only one eighth-grader has to attend summer school. He added that we have fond memories of the teachers, let the teachers follow the students to the new school, they deserve it.

This concluded public participation.

Board member Dominque Turner Jordan stated that lots of principals decided to leave and asked CEdO Jackson to address this.

CEdO Jackson replied that yesterday meetings were held with principals. She said parents are getting antsy and are concerned that principals are resigning. She said principals need to send letters to parents. She added that Chicago talent was being poached. She also said that the LSCs can offer contracts that are better than interim placement. She concluded that our kids can't get up and leave; we hope our principals won't leave.

Board Member Rev. Garanzini asked about statistics of fallout of leadership.

CEO Claypool replied that it's a concern and the longer the uncertainty, the more the risk.

Board Member Dr. Hines then made the motion that the Board go into closed session.


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