Sections:

Article

BOARDWATCH: October 26, 2016 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education

Chicago Public Schools 'Chief Executive Officer' Forrest Claypool (left) and General Counsel Ronald Marmer (right) during the October meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by David Vance.When the Chicago Board of Education began its monthly meeting on October 26, 2016, few members of the 'public' knew that there would be only one more meeting of their local school board between Halloween and the New Year.

At the regularly scheduled October meeting of the Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday, October 26, 2012, at the Loop Office on Madison Street, the Board members heard optimistic projections about the anticipated approval of the "Tentative Agreement" (TA) on the Chicago Teachers Union contract and reorganized its meetings to deal with budget changes that will be necessary if the TA is approved. The Board announced that it will not meet during November 2016, and will hold one single meeting in December to cover two meetings. One December Board meeting on December 7th would take the place of the November 16th and December 21st Board meetings, the Board reported.

In addition, the Board budget (officially approved at the August Board meeting) will be modified after the Board-Union Tentative Agreement (TA) is passed by members in the schools.

This meeting began with a school choral group; one of their selections was Lady Gaga's "Baby, I was Born This Way." The choral group had also performed toward the end of this season in "American's Got Talent."

Present at this Board meeting were members 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 Hines. Dr. Hines arrived later in the meeting. Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forrest Claypool, Chief Education Officer (CEdO) Janice Jackson, and Ronald L. Marmer, Chief Counsel.

CEO Forrest Claypool began the meeting by reporting that a Tentative Agreement (TA) had been reached with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). He thanked the teams and everyone for "putting students first." He said that averting a strike had allowed scholarship applicants to get their applications in on time, sports activities could take place as scheduled, and homecomings would also take place as planned. He went on to say that a revised budget would be presented to the Board after the TA was approved. He added that two additional public hearings would occur. He also mentioned that the new elementary school sports program would be approved today. He remarked that sports participation improves academic performance.

Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson announced that October is "Principal Appreciation Month" and asked everyone to thank a principal. On another topic, she said that Computer Science has been a graduation requirement since last year, 700 teachers were being trained, and the School Action Guide had been published and was open for public feedback.

Randy Ernst, new Sports Director for elementary sports, said that students would no longer be cut from the team. He reported that attendance and academic performance progress were necessary when students take part in sports. He added that grades 5/6 sports teams would be separated from grades 7/8 sports teams. In addition, games would be moved to Saturdays and weekends in general. A short video was shown of success achieved by an eight-week program in the Winter and Spring. He noted that student athletes were more likely to attend college.

Board President Frank Clark added that CPS is getting "better" and that academics "have steadily improved" -- a positive trend. Then Clark asked everyone to keep using the CPS website cpsboe.org to arrange meetings with Board Members during office hours. He said that after the TA vote takes place, the budget will be modified. Clark then went on to inform everyone that the November Board meeting and the December Board meeting will be consolidated and take place on December 7 instead. In other words, there will be no Board meeting in November and the early meeting in December as the only meeting between Halloween and Christmas. No one on the Board asked why other important business wasn't worth public meetings.

Board Secretary Estela Beltran then repeated that the next Board meeting will be December 7 at the Loop office. Sign-up to speak will take place starting 10:00 a.m. on Monday, December 5 and end on Tuesday, December 8 at 5 p.m. or whenever all sixty slots are filled.

She then gave directions for public participation at this meeting.

Since no elected officials or union leaders were present to speak first, public participation began with Joan Hallagan, owner of Hallagan Business Machines, an office supplier. She said that they were no longer the vendor for CPS. Their small business would now be shut down and she wants to Board to reconsider.

Board President Clark said we don't normally allow vendors but we have allowed that this time. Joan Hallagan said that 85% of their business was with CPS. Clark replied, "That's risky." Hallagan answered that the Board had not allowed small business participation.

Next, Tim McCaffrey, of Decatur Classical School, told of the challenges facing Decatur because of overcrowding: the children eat at their desks, Physical Education is also at the desks, and Special Education service takes place in the halls, affording no privacy.

He said that there is a single adult washroom, they do not have seventh or eighth grade, and that the building was not suitable. He added that he thought we would be in Rogers Park, but the alderman put that on hold. He said that there were schools in Rogers Park and Andersonville that were underutilized and asked why they couldn't help relieve the overcrowding at Decatur.

Jeff Jenkins, a parent and Local School Council (LSC) member at Coonley Elementary School said he received a Noble School postcard sent to his eleven year-old son with their home address on the card. The post card was inviting his son to attend the Rowe-Clark campus of the "Noble Network" (that school is named after Rowe and Board President Frank Clark).

When he contacted Noble about this, he was told that the eleven year-old son had filled out an application and that Noble had "paid good money for third party vendors" to send out materials. But the child had never applied to Noble. Jenkins said he then contacted the Inspector General (IG) and informed them. IG told him that this was a clear breach of your child's data.

Board President Clark said that the Inspector General (IG) would handle this. Jenkins then asked for a meeting with Board President Clark.

Debra Hass, of Raise Your Hand (RYH), said that CPS has no plan, thousands of children face the trauma of losing their schools, and that 11,000 children were lost to the system last year. She added that charter schools were underutilized and yet seven new charter schools are being considered for approval. She concluded that parents want a facilities plan.

Kayla Niles, of Harlan High School, spoke in praise of Coach Eddie Niles, her father. Kenendy Perry joined in praising him. She said he "changed me and my personality." She mentioned that she got a four-year scholarship because of him. Carla Morris added that Coach Niles supports children, uplifts them, and calmed her daughter down and mentored her daughter. She asked the Board not to deprive Coach Eddie of his position. Michelle Williams, a parent, further stated that her daughter plays basketball at Harlan High School; her grades have improved because of Coach Eddie Niles. She doesn't want to lose Coach Eddie because he is a positive influence.

After these speakers, Eddie Niles said he had been head basketball coach and never violated anyone as coach. He said he was up for termination with the new administration last year. The unsatisfactory rating he received was based on tardiness; he had done nothing illegal. He added that he wants to remain as girls basketball coach. Board President Clark said that the Board will look at all the data.

Then, Lawanda Billingsley, of Englewood, spoke of her three children who are/were Noble charter school students, one at Chicago Bulls campus. She said one son was abused by his father at the age of three; that son now mentors children in a college town. She herself was a graduate of Dunbar High School and did not go to college after Dunbar. She explained that at Noble, college is the end goal. She added, "Now I'm a college grad!"

Italba Osorio, spoke in Spanish which was then translated, about the two Field Schools being merged into one great K-8 school. She said that she supports the project at Field, but mentioned that CPS is now having budget problems. She observed that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream had transformed the merger of Eugene Field and the New Field.

Joe Alter, a parent at the New Field Elementary School, favors the merger with Eugene Field, now Level One. He looks forward to the consolidation of administration. Jane Fredericks asked for the reunification of the Field schools.

Ann Scholhamer, an LSC member at Von Steuben, informed everyone that in August, the school was placed in a pilot program, the "Student Success Collaborative (SSC)" This was supposedly "to solve problems that the school does not have." She reminded the Board that Von Steuben is a Level One school and the microscopic scrutiny of functions caused by the SSC is causing delays across the school. She added that the principal is a qualified expert and the LSC is on it. But, she said, the principal's expertise is being disregarded by SSC and she wants the school to be removed from the pilot program immediately.

A staff member explained why some schools are in the pilot program; some are excellent, some are not. Answering the charge from Von Steuben that the school wasn't consulted, but just put into SSC, he said that the "feedback session was scheduled on short notice." He said that CEO Claypool will "review a fix."

Nellie Cotton, a Curie High School parent, said that her son has thrived there, but that students were in danger because the school no longer has a enough medical services for its large student population. The school has 3000 students, of which 300 have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). A nurse at the school serves 1290 students. An agency (privatized) nurse there did not give the care that was needed when her son's glucose was 55; he could have died. She said she has received no response from any appointed school board member in response to this.

CEdO Jackson apologized and stated, "We will do what is needed," and address the questions you raised and assure that your needs are met. Nellie Cotton continued that it is not just about my child, the ratio of nurses to students is ridiculous. She added that her son was left with the school clerk and taking care of her son was not the clerk's responsibility; there was a lack of nursing care. Board President Clark expressed great concern and remarked, "You also lost a daughter." He added that the actions you described are completely unacceptable. Nellie Cotton replied, "Agency nurses are not acceptable."

Randall Blakey of the LaSalle Street Church and Michele Dreczynski spoke of the merger of Jenner School and Ogden School. Dreczynski said she wants the Board to be aware of the proposal which will make something good better. She explained that because of the isolation of Jenner, there is lower attendance at Jenner. She added that the merger is in the spirit of Brown vs Board of Education.

Seth Limmer, a rabbi at Chicago Sinai Congregation, a congregation since 1861 and now on the Near North Side, said that he is for the merger of Jenner and Ogden. He remarked that we have an obligation to right many wrongs and he wants Board President Clark to support and insure the consolidation of the two schools on the December agenda.

Robert Lamont, of Veterans for Peace, thanked the Board for access to staff and said that now he is in contact with the head of Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

Martin Ritter, a Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) organizer, referred to Eddie Niles and explained that sports should be expanded. He also said that there is progressive revenue that CPS should pursue. He applauded the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds and the moratorium on charter schools and the elimination of the State of Illinois Charter School Commission. He thanked the Board for its hard work.

Cheri Barley, of South Shore International College Prep, said that South Shore parents have been disrespected by the current administration, parent involvement is low because of this and student morale is also low. She explained that the student enrollment is 596 while it should be 1200. She added that parents are considering transfers. Board President Clark remarked, "That's less than half full" and wondered why.

Sydney Brooks, LSC President, said there had been no meeting at his school with the principal since the LSC had been elected. He said the LSC had been disrespected and that the LSC voted to meet on Saturday in the morning. He said he had to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to get information about the budget. He finished by saying that the LSC had not seen the budget and had not signed it.

John Murphy, parent of three daughters at Ebinger, praised the school which has a 152% utilization rate. He said the school is overcrowded and the mayor knows this. He observed that the school needs a long-term solution.

Janet Torres was listed as a senior at Wells High School which has 12 charter schools within the Wells boundaries that are draining resources. She wants the expansion of charter schools stopped.

Rodolpho Saucillo was also listed as a student at Wells Community Academy High School. His explanation was that he used to go to Rauner College Prep but didn't like the discipline at Rauner so he switched to Wells. He wants CPS to support our public schools and stop the expansion of charter schools.

On the other hand, Adrienne Walker supports charter school renewal.

Leticia Almanza, on the LSC at Peck Elementary, expressed the wish for a principal to be appointed who has large school experience. She said that she does not support the appointment of Martin Anderson at Southwest Middle School and asked for CPS's support.

Anne Desmond, a 15-year veteran teacher at Peck, expressed gladness that they were finally getting a new school with a library and a cafeteria. She declared thanks for the Board's response to overcrowding. She remarked that the merger of two schools sometimes is troubled. CEdO Jackson explained that she visited the school and this teacher's classroom last month.

Board President Clark remarked that the teachers don't want the interim principal who is being sent to the school. CEdO Jackson informed all that Alderman Quinn involved the community and asked for a new school. She said she was surprised at your representation after the engagement of the community; I have worked with this group. Board President Clark said that the first choice principal declined the position. Kamau Hester of Peck Elementary spoke well of the involvement of the Board. Board President Clark remarked that your goal and the CPS focus are the same. CEdO Jackson added that the Anderson plan will assuage the concerns of the community; we have the same goal.

Peck School and Pasteur School students who are in middle school will go to the new school, Richardson Middle School. K-4 students will remain behind at Peck and Pasteur.

Guillermina Valdez, of the Uno Schools Charter Network (USCN) was glad for the agreement at the charter school but expressed parent concerns. She said that USCN is out of touch and we are frustrated with leadership. She mentioned two concerns: that the school council be informed who will lead and that the parents will select who is to serve on the Board (a charter school elected school board). She said that she wants a stake in the election process and not have the members of the school board hand-picked by the CEO, she is unhappy at not being informed of the firing of the computer teachers, and she remarked that the students need computer expertise since they must take tests on computers. She added that some students do not have computers at home.

Melissa Myers, mother of a fourth-grader at Keller School in the 19th Ward whose Alderman is Matt O'Shea, said his proposal had been scrapped and the omission of Keller leaves the parents miffed. She wants to know what the "potential options" are. She remarked that Keller should not have been put in the mix. She said Keller was a Level One school. She asked that Keller not be moved.

Leroy Palmer, of Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Avalon, wants the charter contract renewed.

Mary Hughes, of the 19th Ward Parents for Special Education spoke of inadequate clinician levels. She told the Board that she went to the RYH meeting last night. There was a panel of speakers and the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS) was unrealistic. She said that the Special Education Teacher requirements keep the teachers from working with the children and that the children are not meeting Special Education minutes.

Jelani McEwen, director for INCS charter schools said that there is no Level Three charter school in Chicago this year. He added that he is unhappy with the moratorium on charter schools.

This concluded public participation.

Board Member Gail Ward added her thanks to principals.

Board Member Dominique Jordan Turner gave a shout out to CEdO Jackson for her work with Peck.

Dr. Hines read the motion allowing the Board to go into closed session.



Comments:

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at substancenews.net. We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 3 =