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BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education ignores financial reality at September 28, 2016 meeting, approving $2 million more for 'turnaround' and hundreds of millions for building schools for the already privileged...

By the time Forrest Claypool was appointed "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in June 2015, Rahm had gone through a half dozen chiefs at the city's public school systems and also did a program of destabilization of the schools that included the closing of 50 schools and the unprecedented privatization of nursing, librarians and other school-based services. Claypool, who had been Chief of Staff to the mayor, had no experience or credentials in public education, and so became the perfect choice to continue the mayor's agenda of union busting and undermining public education in the nation's third largest schools system. Substance photo at the May 2016 Board of Education meeting by George N. Schmidt.With the probability of a Chicago Teachers Union vote to set a strike date looming later in the day, the members of the Chicago Board of Education met on September 28, 2016, without regard to the facts as they continued to vote to spend millions of dollars on privatization plans and on the construction of new schools where they were not needed. The Board meeting heard from dozens of citizens who were angry both at the Board's priorities and at the smugness with which they were greeted by the six-figure bureaucrats who sit through the Board meetings often playing on their devices as if they were motorists doing distracted driving, texting on one of the city's expressways.

Complaints about an alderman's plan to merge schools in their neighborhood and tales of how Special Education students have been affected by a lack of busing and by evaluation procedures were the major concerns expressed at the monthly meeting of Chicago Board of Education held at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters at 42 West Madison Street on Wednesday, September 28, 2016.

Board members present were Mark Furlong, Dominique Jordan Turner, Jaime Guzman, and Gail Ward, plus Board President Frank Clark. Absent were Rev. Michael Garanzini, S.J. and Dr. Mahalia A. Hines. Dr. Hines arrived about 45 minutes after the meeting began. Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forrest Claypool, Chief Education Officer (CEdO) Janice Jackson, Ronald L. Marmer, Chief Counsel and Patrick Baccellieri, "Chief of Diverse Learner Supports and Services."

Sixty persons were signed up to speak in the public participation portion of the meeting; most of the sixty spoke. A musical performance by CPS students in Mariachi outfits preceded the business portion of the Board meeting. This was missed by this reporter who experienced a power outage in her area.

CEO Claypool began by talking about inadequate transportation for students and a possible strike, which he called "disappointing." He added, "our teachers do incredible work." He repeated his claim that "a fair bargaining offer" was made last winter and improvements had been offered, such as reducing paperwork.

Chief Eduction Officer Janice Jackson gave details about what she termed "student progress" and the increase in graduation rates of incoming freshmen.

She said the dropout rate over time had been cut in half since 1999 without providing an analysis of the historical details, and without critical questions from Board members. She also claimed that early college and career credentials had made college more affordable and attainable. She said Advanced Placement (AP) courses and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses also helped students to be college bound. She added that the ACT would no longer be given and was being replaced by the SAT this school year (another example of how trends cannot be compared). She claimed that CPS students achieved a "record high" of 18.4 percent average on the ACT last year. All high school juniors have to take the ACT.

Continuing to emphasize testing, she said that elementary students take the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Map exam. She continued her claims by stating that "district performance on the NWEA Map over time shows that there is a consistent growth." Achievement gaps show improvement across race, gender, and social economic status. Attendance has also improved, while suspensions have dropped dramatically from 61,000 in 2011 to 26,000 in 2016; expulsions have also dropped over time. Meanwhile, $1.1 billion in scholarships have been earned by students.

Board member Ward expressed appreciation for the good news; adding that she had visited eight schools this week.

Board member Turner applauded the teachers for the great work. She mentioned that the Great Scholars organization observed more and more minority students achieving each year.

Board President Clark offered congratulations to the teachers, parents, and students.

Clark then went on to announce that office hour meetings were available with Board members by accessing the website cpsboe.org. He says that a response would be given in 48 hours.

The next Board meeting will be Wednesday, October 26, with sign-up for public participation taking place starting Monday, October 24 at 10:30 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 25 or whenever 60 sign-ups have taken place.

Then public participation began.

Public officials were allowed to speak first.

Alderman Susan Garza of the10th Ward said CPS had changed the way Special Education was funded. She said that Special Education funding now comes out of the budget for the school. This has led to principals competing between General Education and Special Education. This is a problem for Special Education because Special Education funding never came out of the principals funding before. She said that principals oversee the Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and have to observe that child; if they don't sign off on that child and program, the child cannot be serviced and kids are left behind. She said that Special Education teachers are leaving in droves, seven at Roosevelt High School last year. Because of a lack of busing for Pre-K children with disabilities, there is no way to get them to cluster programs. She mentioned that the principal's manual requires that Special Education Classroom Aides (SECAs) must log in every 15 minutes to indicate what their student is doing. She said that you can't be on a computer logging in every 15 minutes; it is not realistic at all. She added that in the 117 page manual for principals, there are a lot of things against federal mandates.

Next, Troy LaRavierre, President of the Chicago Principals Association (CPA), followed up on Sue Garza's theme. He said that less than 20% of principals felt the funding was adequate. He also said that Special Education was being sacrificed for General Education; one or the other was being sacrificed. Assistant principals, clerks, and security personnel were being taken away because of inadequate funding. He added that principals want support and resources. He also said that budget survey results will be shared.

William Iacullo, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143 (IUOE 143), said he was not asking for money but to save money. He said he doesn't agree that Integrated Facilities Management Program (IFMP) money can be used for other needed purposes but feels that it should be reconsidered to save money. Regarding privatization of engineers, he said that new taxes will not be realized by that fund. He added that if you are determined to fund IFMP, keep CPS engineers and that that precedent was set with custodial workers, so do the same for engineers. He said engineers will be working for vendors if privatized, but if you keep us as CPS employees, we will be loyal to you If privatized, we wil be loyal to the vendor. He also mentioned that engineers have been servicing schools since the late 1880s and have been a union since 1902.

Next, public participants began to speak.

Jennifer Biggs, a Raise Your Hand (RYH) Board member, said we will lose 306 additional schools because of the enrollment drop. She spoke of other demands: a larger Tax Increment Financing (TIF) surplus, canceling Obama Prep, funding existing schools, and the 13 or so charter schools that are scheduled to open.

Cassandra Cresswell, of More Than a Score, spoke of what Governor Rauner wants, which student tests will be given, and the fact that next year might be the last for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test.

Melissa Fortune, of Ebinger Elementary in Edison Park, which is overcrowded, said Ebinger was passed over for an annex and that to say that it was bursting was an understatement. She said administrators now use a tiny office, there is no longer a teachers' lounge, and the cafeteria will become a classroom.

The next two speakers were from charter schools. Melinda Contreras of UNO Charter School Network (UCSN), said she has three children in charters and is happy with their achievement. She said the charter school budget has a huge shortfall and is concerned that charters get short-changed. She added that there are caps on charters being considered and that CPS must abandon this and not do this. Maricela Lozano, of UCSN Santiago Charter School, spoke in Spanish which was then translated. She has two children in Santiago and is pleased with the school. She asked that CPS continue to support it. She said she is concerned that charter schools get short-changed. She reminded everyone that charter schools are public schools.

Then, Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, spoke. She said she had never been in this new CPS room. She asked, "Have you heard, UNO teachers are going on strike?" She said she was here to keep the lines of communication open. She mentioned the Special Education issues, where a 20-page form on a computer must be filled out to get aid for a student. She said that she thinks that may be illegal and wants the Board to be aware of this. She mentioned that CPS gives a whole lot of paperwork when you don't want us to do something. She added that you can find money to do other things. Then, she concluded, "Whatever I can do to help, I will do that."

President Clark replied, "I expect we'll figure a way our to help students."

Next, eleven people began to speak against the merging of schools in the 19th Ward suggested by Alderman O"Shea.

Timothy Noon is against the closure of Kellogg and the merger into Esmond. He said that other options are available and asked that the study be halted. He added that what we want is best for all of our students but not at the expense of other students.

Ayanna Jenkins, of Kellogg, said that plan by Alderman O'Shea is a slap in the face to many. She asserted that kids deserve more and the plan needs to be shut down.

Monica Gross, a parent at Kellogg, related that her autistic son was helped to transition to a new school with an IEP and now Kellogg was being closed so he will have to be bused out of the neighborhood. He wants to continue to walk to Kellogg and this will be traumatic for him. At Kellogg, his grades went up and he is at the top of his class in math. Now he is being moved into regular classes.

Jorie Watson, a parent and also an educator at Kellogg, wants a neighborhood school.

President Clark remarked that nothing yet had been presented to the Board by the alderman.

Another parent said that Alderman O"Shea is the designer of the plan. He named the percentages of each ethnic group at the four neighborhood schools. He remarked that merging schools into one does not keep our Beverly neighborhood diverse. He reported that there is over-crowding at Mount Greenwood.

Kathleen Benson, of Kellogg, informed all that 19th Ward Alderman O'Shea's plan does meet the needs of the neighborhood. She also mentioned traffic concerns and other concerns. She added that public meetings had been held.

Becca Blue, a Sutherland parent, said her son thought that a library was a pushcart because a pushcart was used by the librarian to deliver services since there was no library room at Sutherland. She also said that they had a cafetorium (combination cafeteria and auditorium) and mentioned other adjustments. She said that Sutherland is a Level One school and that the alderman was alarmed at the decrease in enrollment. She remarked that by CPS standards, we are doing great.

Christopher Steinmetz, of Sutherland School, claimed that Alderman O'Shea's plan was inaccurate and misleading and cherry-picked. He also claimed that the plan was based on census data and that the school was not an unstable under-utilized school. He remarked that flaws with the alderman's data will result in an over-crowded school.

Jeffrey Pinzino, also of Sutherland, spoke of the proposal to close black majority schools. He said it was an unacceptable plan for a city such as Chicago. He continued, "Send the plan back to the drawing board for a plan to have integrated schools.

Emily Lambert, of the 19th Ward, said that the alderman's plan was not a done deal. She told the Board that we will visit every month till the proposal is off the table. She added that there are lots of data problems with this and somebody should talk to the alderman; the alderman seems intentionally not to be listening to us.

President Clark informed the parents that this issue has not come before the Board. He told them that we listen carefully to the public and are impressed with your turnout and thoughtful comments.

Michael O'Doherty, a Kellogg parent, said that the school is Level One and very diverse. He remarked that the Kellogg students' photos should be in the lobby of this building. He informed everyone that he grew up in the west coast of Ireland where everyone looked like him. He said that his children will have a head-start in life because of the diversity at Kellogg.

Christine Palmieri, a parent of a third-grade Special Education son at Blaine, said that her son wants to drop out of school. She told the Board that her autistic son has been provided with a Global Positioning System (GPS) device so that he can be tracked. She asked, "Do you wait till a child drowns before you put a lifeguard there?" She added, "Our children deserve to thrive in school. Fund Special Education."

Responding to President Clark, CEoD Jackson said that we will follow up with the principal to appeal for more resources.

Cesar Dominguez, of (Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) charter school, remarked that more students are going to college because of charter schools and that 25% of high school enrollment is now charter schools.

Next, four parents concerned about Field School spoke.

Anne Gill-Bloyer, of Rogers Park, spoke of the new Field School. She said that the response to merging the schools was negative and that the alderman is not considering an alternate plan. She stated that there is no response from the alderman. She commented that the new Field School was a high-performing school. She presented a petition that had been signed by the parents.

President Clark told her that she should get a response.

Deanne Straughn, a proud parent of her neighborhood school the new Field School, applauded the principal and assistant principal.

Maria Olivera, spoke in Spanish which was then translated. She said that she has children at the Field School that is facing closure. She said that it lost students, budget, and teacher. She asked that her community school not be closed and asked for the creation of a fourth grade at Eugene Field School.

Maria Delia Sandoval, also spoke in Spanish which was translated. She said she had been in Rogers Park many years, and that the new Eugene Field School was emptying our school. She stated that the alderman wants to merge schools.

Bernard Kelly, a retired Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer and a Julian High School graduate, said that he is a strong proponent of CPS. He added that his only child who went to a charter school, Ellison Chicago International Charter School (CICS), was getting a great education there.

Mona Hicks, worked at CPS and is now working at a charter school, Ellison CICS, in the Auburn-Gresham community.

President Clark thanked Officer Bernard Kelly for his commitment.

Sarah Horn, of Legal Council for Health, said that Special Education preschool students no longer have busing and that this is against Federal rules. The children who could not obtain busing have had their slots replaced by other Special Education children. She added that CPS is assigning children to schools and then denying them transportation and that Federal law was not being followed.

Responding to President Clark, CEoD Jackson said that Patrick Baccellieri, Chief of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, will respond.

She added that she was happy to have an additional conversation about this and can talker to the speaker after the meeting.

The next three speakers praised charter schools. Myisha Shields thanked the Board for the opening of the new Noble Charter School, Mansueto School. Celeste Sutton said she grew up in Englewood and was a CPS graduate. She stated that she had to make tough decisions and had to consider safety first because the gangs were recruiting children as young as sixth grade from the neighborhood school. She continued that her children are now at Johnson College Prep charter school, are thriving there, and are currently on the honor roll. Constance Ford, of Butler College Prep, a Noble charter school in the Pullman community, said her daughter thrives there.

Erin McDuffie continued the conversation about 19th Ward Alderman O'Shea's proposal. She spoke of the percentage of black students at each school. She stated that the alderman's plan will have a negative effect on the schools. She added that CPS was sued for closing black or mostly black schools (50 schools).

Board Member Turner said she lives in the 19th Ward and wants to chat off line.

Erin McDuffie agreed.

Susan Reynolds, a Special Education teacher at Langston Hughes School, said her students functioned at levels from four months to 24 months and that most were in diapers. She asked the Board to stop the Results in Education for All Children (REACH) program performance task insanity. She affirmed that it was an unfair waste of time and ridiculous to use these tasks to assess students. She added that her assistant must log every minute with each student.

Lori Barrett and her daughter in Special Education were here to tell how her daughter Stella spent months out of school because of health issues, etc. She said that Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he wants to curb violence in the city, but the Board continues to cut Special Education which would help children deal with violence. She asked the Board to help pass the TIF surplus ordinance.

Christina Pacione-Zayas, of Erikson Institute, referred to the new issue of no bus transportation for Special Education students. She remarked that CEO Clayrpool said this morning that transportation would be reinstated and that this should be implemented immediately.

CEoD Jackson told her that the communication you suggest will be out today.

Pam Epley, an Erikson Early Childhood Professor, stated that she was glad CPS was reinstating transportation. She remarked that the more days a student misses, the lower the scores the student has.

Esther Ruis, a Disabilities Coordinator at Erie House, thanked the Board for correcting the mistake of not providing transportation for Special Education students.

Louis Falk, also of Erie House, thanked the Board for reinstating transportation for Special Education students. He mentioned one of his students who needs hours of one-on-one help. Transportation had been denied. Transportation is needed because the school is a great distance from the home.

Amy Cullen, also was concerned about the denial of transportation for Special Education students. She said that many of her students are not receiving transportation and the parents were not able to provide it. Removing transportation meant that Special Education students were not able to be in Special Education.

Kate O'Rourke, an Early Education provider, stated that we are at a pivotal point in history; the Civil Rights movement is not over. She remarked that Special Education is being dismantled right now. She mentioned the hunger strike at Dyett High School. She commented that formerly parents with kids with disabilities were told the kids should stay home. She concluded that we can save the soul of the city; we have a stake in it.

Andres Avila, from Back of the Yards, a school counselor and a CPS graduate, and a parent of three children, studied at Harvard and Concordia University. He wants CPS to look out for his daughters' best interests. He added that there should be a registered nurse in every school and asked that the Board not privatize school nurses.

Catherine Hencheck, of Hanson Park, said she was here on behalf of her 14 year-old son who has epilepsy. She remarked that Special Education was now tied to student-based budgeting. She urged support for the Garza-Cardenas TIF proposal which is still not up for a vote. She said she supports a fair contract.

Kathleen Walsh, spoke of ever-shrinking resources and neo-liberalism, where each person is an economic unit, who is informed, "If you can't make it, too bad." She said that we are a democracy that is supposed to be concerned about each other. She added that we should bring back a nurse in every school; don't privatize them.

Terri Smith said that the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS) policy document ensures that all students with IEPs are funded first. He said that he is a parent of a Special Needs daughter. He stated that he doesn't expect preferential treatment. He asked that the civil rights of students be met. He remarked that the District has committed many legal violations. At an IEP hearing for his daughter, it was disclosed that a hearing device for his daughter was not provided because new management was disorganized; he said that parents need to know their rights.

Donita Lamour, a mother of a three-year old born with a brain bleed, was being given the run-around regarding transportation. Her daughter was placed more than six miles from home. She had been staying at day care because of a lack of transportation. She said she had to take off work because of the transportation issue.

Louis Pyster, a retired high school History teacher, offered some suggestions for the contract proposals. In regard to compensation he suggested the pension pick-up might be 4% instead of 7% offset by a pay raise for all CTU members. He remarked that steps and lanes must be included. He mentioned that steps and lanes were lost last year and you plan to put them back in. He asked the Board to look again at Sick Days and Personal Days because you need a sweetener in the contract to make it more acceptable. He added that libraries that were lost should be restored, and last but not least, there should be a quick response to dirty buildings and special needs. He declared, "Do it now."

Marie Dandie, of pilotEd, a charter school, stated that the CTU is not in favor for many reasons. She remarked that she has her own issues with charters.

Arne Stieber, a Vietnam veteran and a member of Veterans for Peace, spoke of Common Core Standards. He said that Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) can enhance critical thinking skills by talking to Veterans for Peace. He stated that his group was offering to speak to all ROTC students and that ROTC students deserve to hear the full range of positions.

President Clark remarked, " I respect you, but I don't agree with your position." He said that he strongly supports ROTC programs. He continued that the military experience was beneficial and necessary. He stated that we are both veterans who served our country and that he was all for information and dialog.

CEoD Jackson then said that speakers in schools must have the principal's approval. She said that her recommendation is to make clear what the request is and it is more likely to be approved by the principal. She told him to talk to the person in charge of CPS ROTC who had not been approved yet.

Following this exchange, President Clark asked if any Board members had any questions. Seeing none, he asked Board Member Dr. Hines to read the motion allowing them to go into closed session.



Comments:

October 2, 2016 at 10:31 PM

By: Louis Pyster

The Board Meeting

Mary Beth-

Thanks for your excellent report on the Board meeting. Here are three additional points I made to the Board:

1. In addition to restored libraries, more libraries should be added during the life of the contract.

2. The preparation period time for elementary school teachers before the arrival of students without the loss of instructional time should be restored to the contract.

3.The quick response noted in your report would be a joint effort of the CPS and CTU.

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