BOARDWATCH: July 2016 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education ...

Frank Clark (right) and Jaime Guzman (left) were elected President and Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education at the July 26, 2016 meeting. Substance photo by David R. Stone.The seven-member Chicago Board of Education held its monthly meeting on July 26, 2016, once again at the Board's downtown office and not in the city's more than 500 public schools, in the community. Once again budget concerns and some unexamined claims by CPS and Chicago officials dominated the regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, which took place on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters at 42 West Madison Street in the Loop. Roll call indicated all Board members were present: Mark F. Furlong, Dominique Jordan Turner, Jaime Guzman, Dr. Mahalia A. Hines, Gail Ward, and Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S. J. Also present were Board President Frank M. Clark, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forrest Claypool, Chief Education Officer (CEdO) Janice Jackson, and Ronald L. Marmer, Chief Counsel.

The first order of business was to elect the officers of the Board for the new fiscal year (July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017). Frank Clark was elected Board President and Jaime Guzman was elected Board Vice-President. President Frank Clark talked about the challenges and rewards of serving as president of the Board. Jaime Guzman expressed similar sentiments about being Board vice-president.

Following these votes, Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool reported that a temporary budget had been passed in Springfield. Claypool's report emphasized three points: how CPS can help itself regarding taxes. Clayppol said that $102 million was received of which $29 million was targeted for Early Childhood Education. He noted the receipt of $215 million from the state for pensions. And he said that the $1.1 billion "deficit" the Board had been claiming had now been reduced -- but that a $300 million "gap" remains. None of the Board members asked Claypool about the numbers claimed for the "deficit" prior to the Illinois actions, nor was he asked about the so-called "gap" he announced on July 26.

Claypool than reported that the "20 for 20" campaign had "helped." The "20 for 20 Campaign" is based on a talking point created by CPS and City Hall during the 2015 - 2016 school year. That talking point said that since Chicago's public schools had roughly 20 percent of the state's public school students, Chicago's public schools must receive at least 20 percent of the money allocated from Springfield for public education.

He added that in August 2016, "We will present a balanced budget for CPS." None of the Board members asked when precisely the Board's "Proposed Budget" would become available to the public, or in what form. The Board of Education is required to hold hearings on a Proposed Budget each year, although CPS has held those hearings weeks into the fiscal year for several years, rather than holding them in June prior to the end of the previous fiscal year.

The Board will also tell how it serves students with diverse needs, compare Special Ed students to regular students, tell about the shift to educating students with diverse needs, and explain a multiple-tiered system of support. He added that principals began training earlier this week and that we have the same resources for diverse learners as last year.

Next, Chief Education Officer, CEdO Jackson said that MTSS would prioritize the needs of all students, meeting students where they are and providing resources that are needed for ALL students.

After this, Gail Ward read a proclamation recognizing the achievements of Annette Gurley, Chief of Teaching and Learning, who is retiring on August 5. She had a varied career in CPS, the resolution read, and before that in Catholic schools.

Then CEdO Jackson told everyone of the Curie High School vocal group Musicality's appearance on "America's Got Talent" and that they needed votes to win.

Alfonso Dehoyos-Acostas, Chief Administrative Officer, reported on the results of lead testing. He said 324 out of 529 schools were tested by June and that 1.4% of samples showed an "action level." He said devices have been decommissioned (shut off, with bags placed over the devices). In the fall, 205 remaining campuses will be tested by the last week of October. He added that new buildings are less likely to have lead in the water.

Board President Clark reminded everyone to avail themselves of the Board's website, where they will receive a response within 48 hours.

Board Secretary Estela Beltran informed everyone that the next Board meeting will be Wednesday, August 24, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. Sign-up to participate will take place beginning Monday, August 22. at 10:30 a.m. and end on Tuesday, August 23, at 5 p.m. or when all 60 slots are filled, whichever comes first. She also reminded everyone of public participation rules.

The first public official to speak was Alderman George A. Cardenas, Ward 12, who talked about school funding. He thanked CPS and the CTU for going to Springfield. He said that the last City Council meeting proposed a TIF surplus. He mentioned that Everett school had no air-conditioning and is in dire need of capital improvements. He remarked that negativity has had a tremendous impact on parents, who are now talking about going someplace else. He added that the schools in his ward are Level 1 now and that teachers are a great part of that. He also denounced Governor Rauner's statement regarding the "illiteracy" of CPS teachers. He also said that we owe teachers our commitment. He mentioned the importance of music and arts in the curriculum. Then he told his own family history. He went on to say that these cuts cannot happen and that uncertainty is a silent killer for families.

Next, Alderman Scott Waguespack, Ward 32, asked that the TIF surplus be redirected back to the schools. He noted that the TIF was designed to help blighted areas, and requested a short-term redirection of TIF. He said the 32nd Ward economy was better than most of the city, but many are moving out of the city, we are losing taxes from them, and it is affecting our schools. He added that options are available.

Then, Alderman Gilbert Villegas, Ward 36, thanked the Board for the clinic in Hanson Park Elementary School. He said that the overcrowding at the school and others in his ward need to be addressed, that a field house for Hanson Park Stadium is needed, and that his ward was one of the fastest growing communities in Chicago.

Lastly, the Cook County Commissioner from the 8th District spoke in support of Alderman Villegas.

The first public participants to speak were Jill Wohl and Rosazlia Grillier. Rosazlia Grillier said she had dressed all in black because the dismantling of the Children and Families Benefits Unit is like going to a funeral. Jill Wohl presented articles about the CPS Children and Family Benefits Unit for the Board to consider.

Andrea Tolzmann said that the budget was not an open process. She said that there were cuts last year and that there will be cuts this year that will affect classrooms. She added that the funding formula was not being made available to principals. She asked if CPS will share formulas. She wanted to know, "What is the formula?" She remarked that COS should have created a data base to show how monies will fit into schools. She added that the taxpayers deserve honesty and respect.

Pam Witmer, of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), spoke of the 4 percent "hold back" from charter and regular schools in the Special Ed budgets. She expressed concern about combining charter and district run schools. Once again, she said that district run schools do not feel the same sort of pinch faced by the charter schools. She asked that the Board separate the charter school funds from the district school funding.

Responding to the challenge about the special education "hold back," CEO Claypool remarked, "Every IEP gets funded. The law requires this."

Jeff Young, LSC member and parent representative at Darwin Elementary School, who supports the principal at Darwin, said that he voted no last week on his Local School Council budget because there were direct cuts that affected the classroom, which he named. He made suggestions that more transparency is needed.

When questioned by Board President Clark as to the outcome of the vote, Jeff Young replied, "All to one."

Next, Akilah Muhammad and Sephanie Alonso of Kelly High School spoke about the lack of a playground in Brighton Park.

Then Dwayne Truss of Austin spoke of WBEZ articles that said construction leads to segregation. He said some schools were getting whiter and that diversity is needed through college. He also mentioned a lack of transparency by CPS.

Erin Weinstein, of McPherson Elementary, said that her child is starting pre-school this year. She said that enrollment at McPherson was increasing and yet there were cuts to Special Ed aides, a technology teacher, and others. She mentioned that the librarian now teaches technology. She added that each year something else is cut.

Michelle Leon, of Kelly High School, said that teachers had been laid off. She asked for enough to avoid cuts and that the TIF surplus was needed and more funding was needed for the school.

Marcos Ceniceros, of Kelly High School in Brighton Park, said that cuts affect the classroom, that charter school expansion is fiscally irresponsible, and enrollment is going down in district and charter schools.

Michelle Villegas, of Lincoln Elementary, asked for equitable funding. She said millions had been spent to expand Lincoln Elementary School, which was slightly overcrowded while 50 schools in poor, black, and brown neighborhoods were being closed. She also spoke about the WBEZ article. She remarked that if all children matter, then fund and elevate all neighborhoods in the city.

Donna Lechel, a parent and LSC member at Shields Middle School, spoke of the $198,000 that they will be losing and how it will lead to the loss of three or four teaching positions and larger class sizes. She said she was worried about Special Ed students getting services.

Christine Palmieri told the Board that has a son with autism. She charged that children with special needs are not welcome in CPS schools. She said her son's IEP is already "at max" and he needs more.

Wendy Katten, of Raise Your Hand, said that the school budgets don't reflect what is actually lost. She remarked that 10% of the budget is being lost at some high schools. She added that more money is going to UNO schools. She concluded that more equitable funding is needed.

Gin Kilgore said she was "all in for CPS." She mentioned that she didn't envy the Board their jobs. She noted that the principal at Goethe Elementary School was "amazing." She said that the budget cuts affect classrooms and school morale. She added that the LSC voted for budget cuts out of fear and with objections.

Eric Jenkins, a mental health professional from Kenwood, said the budget cuts affected the children in Hyde Park. He said repairs need to be done to the school and improvements are needed.

David Stone, of Gallistel Elementary School, said that diverse learners have a right to special services and that Special Ed funds are lumped with the main budget. He added that principals are blamed when services are cut and Federal Law is being violated. He added that we need to cut bloated bureaucracy and make the rich pay their fair share.

Board Member Mahalia Hines said that it is the law that the Board follow the IEP of students despite how funds are lumped. CEO Claypool added that all IEPs must be funded first.

Next up came the monthly parade of former charter school students who trash the city's regular neighborhood schools (especially the high schools) and who are not answered from those schools.

-- Xochihl Marquez, a graduate of Noble Street College Prep "campus", said that high expectations prepared her for college. She said she went to Georgetown University and will be a senior next year.

-- Itzel Villegas said she was the first in her family to graduate from college (debt free). She said that she began at Funston and then moved to Rowe Clark Charter school instead of her local district high school. She went on to Denison University and hopes to be a doctor.

-- Arthur Morales, of Chicago Bulls College Prep, will graduate from UIC. He said his Chicago Bulls education helped him to move out of Special Ed when he was in college.

-- Mayra Lopez, a student at Wooster College, was also a graduate of Noble Street College Prep. She was able to get funds to attend college.

-- Adriana Rodriguez did not test high enough to attend a selective enrollment high school. She said attendance at Noble Street prepared her for Yale University. She asked that the Board consider Noble in its budgeting decisions.

Leon Finney, of Woodlawn (and a member of the clergy), said he represents 2,900 families in Bronzeville. He informed everyone that he was a 1957 graduate of Hyde Park High School. He said he was concerned about the IBEW vocational program at Dunbar. He wants to make sure that CPS is prepared to make sure that the IBEW program will be successful. He added that the program needs to be expanded to other building trades in Chicago.

Gerald Morrow, principal at Dunbar, expressed thanks to the others including CEdO Jackson who spoke in support of the vocational program.

Dori Collins, a community resident of Bronzeville, said she supports the construction trades program at Dunbar which will lead to financial freedom for students after graduation and stable jobs.

Sable Russell, a graduate of Dunbar, supports the Trade Bill.

Melina Kelly, of the Chatham Business Association, supports the Trade Bill at Dunbar, and named trades that are in the pilot program and wants the Board to ask at construction sites if the Dunbar Trade Program is involved.

Robert McKay, who is a 1967 alum of Dunbar, said that after high school he went into the military, was a Viet Nam vet, and completed his education at Southern Illinois University. He said that we need to bring the trades back to Dunbar.

Dennis O'Neill said that four segregated schools were closed and consolidated into Smyth School going against Brown vs Board of Education.

Maria Juarez, whose children are at UNO charter schools, is advocating for equal funding for charter schools. She wants an on time beginning to the school year.

EvAngel YHWHnewBN returned to the Board to continue her complaint about people who refer to children as "kids." Claiming that this is not proper English, she asked everyone to "kick the k word habit." Elaborating, she claimed that "a kid is a goat and a child is a human." She invited everyone to wear black and white to the 50th Anniversary of the march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into Marquette Park. She said children will present art work and essays. Board President Frank Clark said that his Chief of Staff, Abigail Joseph, will help support this.

Gabrielle Dumitrascu, a staff member at Thurgood Marshall School, spoke of the changing of the name to Roosevelt Middle School and was told by CEdO Jackson that busing is not covered yet, that this is a co-location, and the staff is not required to reapply.

Martin Ritter, of the CTU, spoke of the "Creation of a Public School Revitalizaton Grant for distribution of tax increment financing (TIF) Surplus Funds to financially distressed school districts."

Martha Arriaga, spoke of the"Marshall Boulevard School Campus Plan" that is being proposed and the schools that are being merged into one. She said that all four schools have unique cultural aspects.

After comments by Board members, the Board went into closed session.


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