Chicago Board of Education meeting of April 26, 2017...

Flanked by the latest group of people he appointed to head Chicago's public schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on April 28, 2017 that the city's schools would not be closing on June 1, despite months of claims by CPS officials that there was no money to keep the schools open after that date. Left to right above: Board President Frank Clark (a former Commonwealth Edison executive who headed the committee that orchestrated the closing of 50 schools in 2013); Emanuel; "Chief Education Officer" Janice Jackson (who had been principal of Westinghouse prior to her 2015 appointment to head the city's school's "education" activities; and "Chief Executive Officer" Forrest Claypool, whose most recent public sector work had been as head of the Chicago Transit Authority. Under mayor control, Emanuel has the power to appoint the top executives of the city's school system and the seven members of the Board of Education and is not required to explain why those without education experience or credentials are better to run the schools than thousands of others who do.The regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education took place at the Board's Loop headquarters during the working day on April 26, 2017, beginning at ten thirty in the morning. Two of the Board's seven members (all appointees of Mayor Rahm Emanuel) were absent, with no explanation as to why they were not there despite the looming problems facing the third largest school system in the USA.

The meeting took place on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at its headquarters on Madison Street between State and Dearborn. Two Power Point presentations took place at the beginning -- presenting a simplified high school enrollment process and how "restorative practices" lower the numbers of suspensions.

The following Board members were absent: Mark Furlong and Dr. Mahalia Hines. Present were Arnie Rivera, Jaimie Guzman, Gail Ward, Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S. J. and Board President Frank Clark. Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forrest Claypool, Chief Counsel Ronald Marmer, and Chief Education Officer (CEdO) Janice Jackson. No one explained the absences, despite the fact that the schools were supposedly facing a financial "crisis" that was going to force a June 1 end to the school year.

The agenda listed the following items in the "Honoring Excellence" part of the meeting:

-- Chess Champion student from Charles W. Earle School

-- CPS Teacher Recipients of 32nd Annual Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Leadership

-- Principal Awardees

The Chief Education Officer's report followed. CEdO Jackson announced that students are still doing well on the ACT which she said "measures high school readiness for college." Not noted was that the ACT will not be used in Illinois in the future, it having been replaced by the SAT.

Board President Clark said that the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has improved "across the entire state" for the ACT and "Without us," he stated, "there would have been a decline" in Illinois.

President Clark added that a Cook County judge will decide on the merits of the CPS claim that Illinois school funding is racially discriminatory. He expressed gratitude that the court is making this a priority because ending the school year early would be what he called a "tragedy." He said there will be an update after the ruling (see photo at the top of this story), which is expected on Friday, April 29. CPS officials continue to claim that unless the schools get more money from Springfield schools will have to close early in June.

CEdO Jackson reported that a number of CPS schools were listed in the top five of top high schools in the United States according to the annual rankings by U. S. News and World Report. The top five were Northside College Prep, Payton, Jones, Whitney Young, and Lane Tech. Gwendolyn Brooks was also listed in the top 6-10.

Then CEdO Jackson and Tony Howard presented information in a handout and Power Point presentation about applying to high schools. The handout said the core principles of the new process are a common application (online or on paper) with all high school options where students rank school and program choices based on preferences and a matching process provides students with their highest possible choice. Among other planned assistance, school personnel will be trained to help parents and students with the process and a public website wil be launched in May. The benefit for parents is they will have access to school and program information in one place and students will receive a single best offer to their highest ranked choice for which they are eligible and which has a seat available for them. Students selected for selective-enrollment will receive two offers.

Board Member Ward wanted to know, "How is the highest possible choice determined?" She was told preference, capacity and then a lottery. CEdO Jackson also said there will be no using of student behavior to decide enrollment. She then said that if charter schools want to be part of the process, the charters are required to sign a memorandum of responsibility. She added that she can't figure out why charters wouldn't want to be part of this, there will be an aggressive campaign around the new simplified high school application process, and public libraries will help. She mentioned that everyone has anxiety about this, neighborhood schools will still be "default schools," while charter schools are expressing fears that autonomy will be taken away from them.

Next CEdO Jackson and Justina Schlend, "Executive Director of Social and Emotional Learning" (SEL) and a professor at Harvard, presented information that SEL, which uses restorative practices is intended to be the culture of the school, not an add on. Data showed there has been a record low number of suspensions last year and the equity gap in discipline has been somewhat narrowed through the years. CPS is partnering with Lurie and Children's Memorial to deal with training, immigrants, and adult skill building.

After these reports, Timuel Black, who is now 98 years old, was allowed to speak first because he had to leave for a doctor's appointment. He said, "I used to be your age and someday, you will be mine." He said he is an alum of DuSable High School and supports it because it was so inspirational to him. He said that breaking the school down into small schools has changed that. He added that he taught in CPS, was an administrator, and worked in the city colleges.

Board Secretary Estela Beltran announced that the next Board meeting would be Wednesday, May 24, 2017, with sign-up for public participation taking place beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, May 22, and ending at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, or when all slots are filled. The rules for public participation were explained.

First to speak were public officials and union officials: Alderman Sue Garza, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Vice-President Jesse Sharkey, and Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA) President Troy LaRaviere.

Alderman Garza said she was here to ask about parent concerns regarding the last day of school. She mentioned ten revenue options that are on the table. She said there was money in a rainy day fund from the sale of the Skyway and the parking meters. Then, addressing Justina Schlund, she suggested that Ms. Schlund look into what is happening at Saucedo Academy where Sarah Chambers, Special Education Teacher, has been suspended. She said that because principals can't readily suspend kids, suspensions were down. She noted that one student who had a machete in school was not suspended -- and stated that every move has a consequence. Because principals were not suspending, the statistics were "baloney."

CEdO Jackson stated her disagreement and expressed her opinion that the statements by Alderman Garza were inappropriate.

Alderman Garza responded that she respected her for saying that, that everything you do you're doing is from here, not from outside. She said that kids are not getting wrap-around services, social worker case-loads are too big, and we need to come together to fight for what's right for these kids.

Next, CTU Vice-President Sharkey said that privatizing in the schools was not good. Citing the privatization of custodial work under Aramark, he said the schools were dirtier. He added that there were Special Ed cuts and one school has 62 students with two Special Ed teachers, one of whom is also the Case Load Manager. He referred to HB 3393 and advocated for revenue for the schools, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds for the schools, and a corporate tax. He mentioned that staff was demoralized and they talked of leaving the system. He said that this system is worth fighting for and CPS must advocate in a way that is most effective.

Then, Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA) President Troy LaRaviere spoke of inequitable expulsions and the survey of 600 public school principals. He said that CPS has changed the way they did CPS. He gave examples at two schools. He stated that there has been unresponsive neglect, vexatious documentation that worries and annoys principals, illicit self-denial not permitted by law with denials based on reasons not permitted by law, and others. He addressed CEO Claypool and said that you are accusing the state of discrimination and addressed CEdO Jackson and asked what is it like to be a principal and to be subjected to this process?

Instead of allowing him to finish, Board President Clark asked LaRaviere to "wrap it up" and "please conclude" as if the head of the principals was not welcome to speak when he was exposing CPS lies about suspensions and discipline.

The first public participant to speak was Eugene Henry, retired from CPS after 34 years and a DuSable High School grad. He said that the school was turned into three small schools to prevent it from being closed. He asked for consolidation, landmark status which he felt was due and ONE DuSable High School.

Maria Moreno, a Saucedo student of suspended teacher Sarah Chambers, told the Board, "You took away my teacher; we had a special bond; she really helped me; we don't focus as well without her." She added that the Gay Student Alliance (GSA) helped students and that Ms. Chambers didn't just think of her job as a job. Then, twelve Saucedo students walked in.

Peter Moreno, father of Maria Moreno, said that my daughter learned so much more from Sarah Chambers than I believe she would have. She brings out the potential in students; we need teachers like Sarah Chambers.

Board President Clark asked if these were all the students. They replied, "No, there's more. It's a large group."

Angie Chavero told the Board that now they have subs and just sit and read books. She said her daughter colored her hair and was reprimanded by Noble with an in-school suspension. Sarah Chambers fought for her rights. She regrets putting her daughter in Noble.

David Gervacio also spoke in support of Sarah Chambers and said if it's not broke, don't fix it; the kids are doing good in school. He said that every child should have an equal opportunity to a good education. He added, these are good teachers.

Board President Clark told the group that you have strongly held convictions about this teacher; you have been very respectful and thoughtful.

Graciela Munoz spoke in Spanish which was translated that she has text messages from her mother about Sarah Chambers. She said that Ms. Chambers helped students and that CPS wants to get rid of Sarah Chambers because she speaks loudly about the defects in Special Education.

Adrian Cortez told the Board that Ms. Chambers pushed me a lot and helped me with my high school application. She said that she was now going to a good high school.

Eduardo Delgado, also a student of Sarah Chambers, said that she helped us and "I miss her."

Board President Clark said, "Some here are former students."

After all the Saucedo students had spoken, Pam Witmer, Senior Policy Manager of Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) asked that dollars be distributed in a timely manner. She said that the fourth quarter was stretched out and this creates a cash flow problem when payments are delayed. She added that this was not the first time.

Wendy Katten, of Raise Your Hand (RYH), spoke of a fellow parent, Rosemary Vega, who had been banned from Board meetings. She asked, "What is the double standard here? I've been loud. Rosemary Vega has been banned for the same things."

Board President Clark asked her, "Are you advocating to be banned?"

Wendy Katten continued, "Treat people the same way." She added that Rosemary Vega said her school was closed with 500 kicked out. Then CPS rehabbed the school and put in 600 kids. That's when Rosemary Vega yelled. She concluded, "I know you like when people speak politely. Let Rosemary Vega back in."

Joy Clendenning, also of RYH, mentioned that on Monday, former President Obama told young leaders that here are the people making decisions about budgets. In Chicago, we don''t have the right to elect people who decide budgets. She added, we need to know what this board is going to do, we need revenue solutions, we need information. She also mentioned that TIF funds are being used for unnecessary construction. She remarked that the new high school application roll-out feels quick and asked the Board to not vote today, put it off one more month. She ended by saying, "Things happen too quickly in CPS."

Jeff Jenkins, a parent from Coonley School, said that Local School Councils (LSC) were undersourced and undermined by CPS. He spoke of the finger-printing process and no CPS funds, yet there is access to schools and children. He added that the manual for LSC members is not available and LSC members are encouraged to find each other on Facebook and concluded "Let's work together."

Rebecca Huffman, of City Year Chicago (CYC), who said she was raised in Humboldt Park and served in Brian Piccolo School, talked of reaching at risk students. She mentioned that Spencer Tech got CYC help recently and that the University of Chicago has evaluated their work.

Asia Clark, 23, a product of CPS and Englewood, now with a college degree, works with CYC with students in small groups. She said that she was a bridge for a student and now the student is always in class. She is also a teachers tutor mentor to kids.

Brenda Watson, a CPS graduate whose children attend Noble School, Legacy School and a Catholic School, stated that her experience in charter schools has been wonderful. She added that her grandson in neighborhood schools is not having his needs met.

Christine Palmieri said her autistic child attends Blaine School. She said she objects to the commingling of Special Education and General Funds. She gave details of refuting a change in her child's placement. She asked that Sarah Chambers be put back.

Reyna Delgado whose son is in a charter school is pleased with her choice for her son. She said that her child has grown so much. She added that CPS now needs to get fair funding from the state so that we will have one goal, to have students have good educations.

Yolanda Pitts, parent of three children at Noble Network Charter Schools, praised the charter school and told why. She said that Noble has done an amazing job with her Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) child.

EvAngel YHWHnewBN and a Jim Crow survivor asked all to "kick the k-word habit." She defined a kid as an animal and a child as a human being. She quoted the Golden Rule and said she opposed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan regarding student high school plans for the future. She claimed undue harm on those who can least afford it, descendants of chattel slavery. She asked, "What gives CPS the right to keep students who have earned a diploma from receiving it?" She asked for a response.

Margarita Avalos, of Sawyer School, was requesting urgent resources for her school. She said that there is one psychologist for all the students and one Social Worker. She wants the Special Education students to receive resources.

Patricia Carrillio, whose child is in Special Education at Sawyer, said that last year it took till April to get a Special Education teacher. She said that her child still does not receive all the IEP minutes and that more Special Education teachers are needed.

Claudia Gonzalez, of Uplift Community High School, said that on September 14, 2016, the City Council had changed Columbus Day and there is no notification of this yet. She said Columbus Day should be called Indigenous Peoples Day instead and that native history should be taught. She added that several other states, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota have removed Columbus Day from their calendars. She mentioned that most Latinos have native blood in their veins and they can fully embrace the history of their background. She requested an immediate change to Indigenous People's Day and that teachers be trained.

She also asked for a meeting at the end of this meeting.

Londyn Butler, also of Uplift Community High School, told of the hardships Native Americans went through and their achievements. She said the City Council resolution needs to be followed up in CPS and CPS should change Columbus Day in all CPS materials.

Helena Mensah, also of Uplift Community High School, said that Thanksgiving plays present a stereotype of Native Americans and after that, it's "Let's go to the Pilgrims." She said the City Council already authorized the change. She mentioned "Columbus Day Sales" and that Columbus didn't even discover America. She said the change would be especially appropriate in elementary schools.

Board President Clark responded, "History is written by those in control."

CEdO Jackson said she was a former history teacher and said valid points had been raised. She added that a Social Studies Manager would come to the school.

Evelyn Solis, Loyola University student, addressed questions to several Board members, Board President Clark and Board Members Jaime Guzman, Michael Garanzini, S.J. (former President of Loyola University) and Gail Ward. She asked that the revenue solutions be supported and demanded taxes. She then asked all the Board members, "Will you fight for students so students can have a prosperous future?"

Sharon Wheeler, program manager of Near North Unity Program (NNUP), said she was here regarding the Jenner/Ogden merger and asked for a review of it.

Michelle Dreczynski, of the Jenner/Ogden Steering committee, told the Board, "Education choice begins with you, not with Betsy DeVos." She asked for a transiton plan to support their efforts.

Ariel Deshazier spoke of the high school selection process and mentioned feeling overwhelmed with the options. She wanted to know if this applied only to Selective Enrollment. She spoke of needing a simpler selection process and mentioned principal discretion. She added that we need more options to choose from, not just stated options.

DeAndre Harris, of Montini Catholic High School, said that all Catholic Schools should hold enrollment on the same day and mentioned being blind-sided by how the process was. He also said that extending time helps students.

Yvette Ramos, of the Belmont-Cragin community and a Noble student, spoke in translated Spanish, about the difficulty of the application process.

Yesseni Martinez, a parent at Orozco said she supports the principal and is not intimidated by the principal. She asked for proof of the principal's misconduct. She asked for the support of the Board regarding budget cuts.

Emma Lozano, a pastor at Lincoln United Methodist Church, an LSC member, a community represent, a CPS product, and a grandmother of two in CPS, also spoke of Orozco School, a Level One School. She spoke of an incident between a parent and the principal. She said negative things were said about the principal. She asked that CPS not pay attention to outside rumors and come to the LSC at Orozco. She also mentioned petitions that were submitted to the Board.

Vanessa Fawley, who said this was her fourth time talking to the Board, spoke of Autism Awareness Month. She said her daughter, in Kindergarten, hates school, locked herself in her room, and eventually got to school at 10 a.m. She asked for training for the staff of autistic children. She said that teachers cannot speak out for students for fear of suspension or firing and asked, "What happened to Special Education advising the Board?" She said that the Autism Speaks staff would come on Personal Development (PD) days but there is only one PD day in CPS.

Aimee Fawket, sibling of the autistic child, wrote a poem about the viewpoint of the autistic child.

Elizabeth Greer, parent of a first grader at South Loop National Teacher Academy (NTA) at Cermak and Clark, said the school was Level Two in 2012 and Level One in 2015 and the principal was amazing.

Veronica Schmitt, parent of a first grader asked that the NTA boundaries not be changed. She added that we need two not one excellent school in South Loop.

Arny Stieber, a grandfather and a Vietnam veteran, said he had vivid memories of children and the effect of war on them. He said the war was in the national interest, but brought massive death and destruction. He added that one of the speakers at a Science conference in D.C. spoke about contaminated water in Flint and was attacked. He added that CPS is the most militarized school system in the world and Veterans for Peace want to put an end to this.

Dariana Walker, Honorary School Board Member, then came to the mic to present her viewpoint regarding CPS military schools. She spoke of her experience in Reserved Officers Training Corp (ROTC). She said it has given her skills to improve in life and that the program at her school is a Navy program.

Finally Dian Palmer, of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, said that students suffer from a manufactured crisis. She said Chicago is a wealthy city but the money stays at the top. She said the Board should advocate adequately for schools. She added that this is the time for individual leadership from the Board if we stand together.

Public participation ended at approximately 2 p.m. The motion allowing the Board to go into closed session was read.