BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education's May 2017 meeting

The Chicago Board of Eduction continues to meet only once a month despite all of the important decisions that have to be made at each of its meetings. And so, the Chicago Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, at its headquarters at 42 West Madison Street, Lower Level. Some issues were the new Science requirements for high school, money that the Board will borrow, vendor contracts, the filthiness in schools, a CTU no-confidence vote in CEO Forrest Claypool, bullying, prom fees nowadays, the supposed need for a new high school in Chinatown, and the threatened closure of the Seward Branch.

All Board members were present: Mark Furlong, Arnie Rivera, Jaime Guzman, Dr. Mahlaia Hines, Gail Ward, Rev. Michael Garazini, 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.

On the agenda, the Honoring Excellence portion of the meeting indicated that tribute was paid to CPS Student Advisory Council members and 2017 IL School Counselor Awards Recipients.

Concluding his CEO Report, Forrest Claypool used some of his store of dying metaphors by saying "Governor Rauner wants students to get by on bailing wire and chewing gum."

Next LaTonya McDade and Alan Mather spoke about three changes to a proposal for high school students that was recently proposed.

First: Before a student can exit high school, the student must have "concrete post-secondary plans." How this is to be explained will be taking place beginning in the 2017 -2018 school year in the city's high schools.

Second, the requirement for three years of science still includes biology, but the other two required science courses henceforth must be physics and chemistry. But these requirements will not go into effect in 2022, if approved. According to the speakers, other cities are also researching this change in requirements. Other courses, environmental science for example, can be taken as electives. All teachers will be supported with curriculum and training and resources. One college counsellor per network will be provided.

Board member Gail Ward said she was "thrilled with the increase in rigor." CEdO Janice Jackson assured the Board members that proper certification will be a priority. LaTonya McDade said that students with a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math ((STEM) degree receive high wages and that all students will be encouraged to take four years of science.

Third: In addition to science requirements, students will be required to take a pass or fail, non-credit, "financial education" course. This course can be embedded in another course. The City Treasurer has supported this financial education course.

For months CPS finances and financial claims had been headline news. The issues finally came before the Board. Next, discussion centered around two loans that the Board of Education is asking to have approved. Ronald DeNard, whose title is "senior vice president of finance," explained the two loans. One, a "grant anticipation block grant" loan will be sent out to bid. The pension payment will be made from this. DeNard said we are the only school district in the state that has to take money out of the state dispersal for pensions.

A working capital reimbursement bond is also being worked on for FY 18, which begins on July 1, 2017.

Board member Rev. Garanzini wanted to know the consequences of not voting in favor of this. He was told this amount will bridge us till property taxes come in. In addition, Board President Clark asked, "Will we run out of money if we don't pass this?" DeNard replied, "Yes."

Board President Clark then reminded everyone to go to the Board's website to ask a question with a 24-our response or to schedule time with a Board member.

Next, Board Secretary Estela Beltran explained the rules for public participation and announced the date and place of the next Board meeting. The next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 28, at 10:30 a.m., at 42 West Madison Street, Garden Level. Advance registration for the meeting will take place beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, June 26, and end at 5:00 p.m., on Tuesday, June 27, or when all slots are filled.

Three public officials spoke first. A spokesperson for Illinois State Representative, Theresa Mah, District 2, spoke against the closure of the Seward Branch. She said the Branch, scheduled to close in 2018-2019, was needed to accommodate student population. She added that nine classrooms are used at the Branch and the basement is used for lunch. She also said that Back of the Yards was targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

CEdO Jackson remarked that other parents from Seward will speak today. Board member Furlong asked about diverse learners meeting in closets. CEdO Jackson said it hadn't happened yet. Board President Clark added that it's not going to happen today.

After that, Michael Brunson, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Recording Secretary, addressed two issues. He said the CTU collected referendum votes:14,500 voted no confidence in CEO Forrest Claypool and 150 voted confidence in him. In addition, he said that the separate but equal schooling push is targeting experienced teachers and going after union activists and there is a cynical lawsuit for more money.

Next, he stated, "Mr. Claypool, here are the charges." In the fall, a student attacked a teacher, another teacher was attacked, a window was busted, a teacher was hit by a student, objects were thrown at a teacher, parents were physically and verbally assaulted by children (not their own), there is constant fighting and carrying on in the halls, and there are sexual innuendoes toward educators. He said that CTU members should not have to teach under these circumstances, which I have already asked about and which have been reported. He demanded, "Make sure something is done NOW!" He added, "I will be around a little longer."

Board President Clark said that we need more details and we want to talk to you before you leave. He added, "We don't share your conclusions about CEO Claypool." He remarked that improvements are real under CEO Claypool and we support CEO Claypool.

CTU Recording Secretary Brunson replied, "You're going to go down with the ship."

CEO Claypool interjected, "Give me the addresses of the 150 and I"ll send them thank-you notes.

Next, Bill Iacullo, President of IUOE (International Union of Operating Engineers) Local 143, spoke about the Aramark/Sodexo contract that was to be voted on. He said that they will massage and cut services. He remarked that you have 150 years of documented proof of inservice services by Local 143. He added that you have a moral obligation to the students first, not the vendors. He informed all that $1/2 Billions was being awarded to a profit-making vendor and students will be paying for outsourcing. Under the School Finance Authority, he said, this would have been an unnecessary expense. He implored them, "Do the moral thing, table the contracts." He added that less money would need to be borrowed because of unnecessary outsourcing. He declared, "The schools are dirty." He said employees will be working for the vendor, not you. He observed, "Lincoln Park is filthy." Eight or nine persons are cleaning the building instead of 14; it's not the fault of the janitors. He added that Aamark/Sodexo cannot make a profit unless they make cuts and the kids deserve a clean environment. He reminded the Board, "You don't have to approve; please reconsider."

A staff member said that the use of vendors is revenue neutral, denied cleaning takes place before the Board comes to visit, and said the bathrooms are not filthy.

The first public participant to speak was Soo Lon Moy of the Chinese American Museum of Chicago, a retired Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher and a product of Bateman School and Roosevelt High School, who taught at Haines and Healey. Soo Lon Moy spoke about high school options for the South side and said there was no CPS high school in Chinatown; some students went to Bogan or Curie or Kelly. Soo Lon Moy asked CPS to explore the option for high schools in Chinatown.

C . W. Chan reported on a survey of 800+ respondents in Chinatown in Spring of last year and stated education was a key component of immigrant integration.

Ricardo Torres, a Northwest side resident, a CPS product of Kelvyn Park High School, and a parent of two children, supports his daughter. He asked the Board to look over the document he provided regarding an addition to her school.

Jennifer Soble said she has a daughter in Kindergarten at National Teacher Academy, which will be Level 1 next year, has an attendance rate or 95% or better, and is a CPS success story. She said that in April the boundary will be expanded and this will create underenrollment. She asked that National Teacher Academy not be closed and that the boundaries not be moved.

Audryey Johnson was born and raised in the National Teacher Academy community and asked the Board not to move the border line. She remarked that the children will have to attend another school.

Mary Hughes, of the 19th Ward Parents for Special Education who has an autistic child, had special education concerns. She said Mount Greenwood is adjacent and there were 56 incidents in the neighborhood. She talked about scheduling at "Ag." She added that the Extended School Year (ESY) is four weeks.

CEdO Jackson informed all that Mary Hughes has been in contact with the Office of Diverse Learners. She said that when school is in a construction site, it is in the best interest of students that they not attend there. (Mary Hughes kept trying to add information.)

CEdO Jackson added there would be no summer school there this summer.

Cesar Dominguez, of Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) said the graduation rate for 2016 was 73.5%. He remarked that 3% of schools were once charter schools and today charter school enrollment is 25%.

Jose Alonso, a graduate of Seward School, asked CPS to save Seward Branch. He said the children marched in celebration of the Seward Branch. He remarked that diverse learners would be taught in a closet at the main building of Seward if the Seward Branch is closed. He asked the Board to keep the Branch open.

Alma Sigla, a Seward alum, said the children were asked to write letters about closing the Seward Branch. The letters spoke of the loss of computer classes, art, library, and so forth.

Angeles Cruz Rios, spoke in translated Spanish. She said she was the mother of four and was concerned about the closing of Seward Branch. She added that the International Baccalaureate (IB) certification will also be affected and diverse learners wil be taught in closets. She added, "We don't want guns, we want tools for our children."

Juanita Ramirez, also spoke in translated Spanish, sobbing while she spoke. (At this point, CEdO Jackson said no decision had been made.) She said services would be in a closet, the classes were overcrowded at the Seward Main Building, and she was afraid for her child.

Board President Clark said that we are impressed with the community showing up in such numbers and we would never vote for students to end up in a closet.

Dylan Moreno, a former student and 2011 graduate of Tarkington School who now attends Daley College, talked about a teacher he had who is being targeted for removal, the last Black teacher at Tarkington. whose ratings have been lowered year by year since 2006 to force him out. He said there are no new Black teachers.

Aparicio Catalina, of Tarkington School, spoke in translated Spanish about his three daughters who have excelled.

Andrea Tolzman, of Pulaski International School addressed Local School Council (LSC) issues. She reported that eleven families were leaving Chicago or Illinois this summer and people with children are running away from Chicago.

Ericka Boxley of Gary Comer College Prep Middle School, said she is grateful for what Comer does for her daughter. She added that she volunteered there as well and asked for fair funding for the school.

Jackie Baez, of the Belmont Cragin area, and a parent of eleven-year twins who are Type One Diabetic and Hypertensive, is pleased there there is a nurse every day at their Chicago International Charter School (CISC) school. She added that in the neighborhood school, there is overcrowding.

Evelin Echeverria, of the Seward Branch, said the library, computer classes, art would no longer be available at the IB school and accreditation would be at risk. She asked the Board to please keep the Branch open.

Veronica Smith, spoke of the mental health effects of school closings. She stated that the community becomes marginalized and she expects worse. She said under Brown vs Board of Education, education is a right. She added that what would be equal for students is to keep the Branch open.

Lorena Lopez, spoke in translated Spanish, about her two children at Seward. She said that choir, arts, and dance class helps them, and if the Branch is closed, money would be saved but students would be affected. She asked the Board to keep the Branch open.

Consuelo Martinez Lopez, also spoke in translated Spanish, and mentioned "closet." Board member Guzman asked that time be scheduled for him to meet with Martinez Lopez in the Principal's office at Seward. Martinez Lopez has two children at Seward, one with autism and said special education children need more supports. Closets which smell, are confined are hot, and which the children are afraid of, were mentioned.

Leon Barley, of South Shore High School, said the school is going down. He spoke of students riding bikes down the hallway in the school and students wearing saggy pants. He said the principal decided that the students would not wear uniforms. He added that the students are leaving the school, there is a teacher vacancy, and a teacher who was disagreeing with the principal was pressured to change grades. He mentioned the ratings of high schools in U.S. News and World Reports. He related that South Shore High School was a great school and 14% are ready to go to college.

Cheri Barley, also of South Shore International College Prep, spoke about the senior prom. She said that the prom fee was $185 per student. For a couple, the fee would be $370 plus $30 for parking, $400 per couple. She asked, with 160 students attending at $370 per couple, where is the surplus going? She added that parents can't afford the prom at Navy Pier.

CEdO Jackson stated that the prom is a fundraiser of sorts.

Barley added that the prom fee includes a student gift to the school.

CEdO Jackson said this needs to be itemized.

Board President Clark said there should be clarity.

Robert Lamont, of Veterans for Peace, who taught history at Westinghouse High School, asked that Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) be removed from the curriculum and that students and teachers dress in civilian clothes. He said that teaching creates conditions for judgment and judgment requires a moral compass. He concluded if all wore military uniforms, we would militarize the whole country.

Maria Leticia Toribio, a Nixon School parent in the Hermosa neighborhood, spoke in translated Spanish, about the playlot which she says is in bad shape and is dangerous. She mentioned twenty children who were involved in accidents. She informed the Board that we need a rubber mat for the playlot and $60 Thousand more for the playlot.

Maria Margarita Lagunas also spoke in translated Spanish, about the Nixon School playlot. She spoke of a ten year-old child injured there two years ago. The child's leg was cut and there was lots of blood and the child is ashamed of the scar. She repeated, "We need more money for the playlot."

Kimberly Robinson, of Sarah E. Goode Academy, spoke of the discrimination directed at Black students. She said the school is slanted toward the Latino culture. She mentioned "weed" brownies by Latinos. She said there are no grievance counsellors. She told of a student who was pushed out and 12 fights that took place since then. She related that Blacks students held a "sit-in" in the office. She also stated that when she called about a field trip, she was put on hold for thirty minutes. At this point, she was told a staff member would assist her.

Rousemary Vega, was escorted in by security after being detained by security outside the Board chambers. She said she had been banned from the Board for three years and asked, "How much taxpayer money was spent on keeping me silent?" At the Board, she said she found a change in looks, location, and people, but not change of heart. She compared Board member Mahalia Hines and Board President Frank Clark to former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Jennifer Jones, a parent of two, said CPS has to take a loan which will add $1/2 Billion of debt and this money will be a quick temporary fix. Meanwhile, she said, "You ignore the need for sustainable revenue." She asked, "What about future funding? Cut Central Office expenses. We need sustainable funding options today."

Board President Clark replied, "We continuously discuss this and we don't feel good about continually borrowing."

Bridget Menoni, of Skinner School, is the parent of a second-grader, Joey, who feels hated and bullied by all the students on the bus. She related examples of how he had been treated. She said she feels angry about the bullying policy and stated that the victims are not protected the same as the bullies. She spoke of bullied students who had committed suicide.

Board President Clark asked her to talk to the head of security.

Lynn White, chair of the LSC at Lindblom, said that students there are going to good colleges, which she named. She said that Lindblom is not on U.S. News and World Reports list, but is excluded because she was told there is no current data, which is not correct. Previously, she added, Lindblom had been listed every year, but not this year. She stated that the school with a Black population is one of the state's highest performing schools. She added, regarding cleanliness, that the physical structure at Lindblom is filthy and asked the Board to fix this.

Keith Kysel, a substitute teacher and an adoptive parent of a Murray Language Academy student, asked that the Board get rid of disruptive students. He also spoke of the policy of enrollment of siblings in a school. He mentioned that all the siblings have to be under the same roof, but if some are adopted, not all are under the same roof, but all are still siblings. He referred to House Bill (HB) 3436.

Board President Clark addressed disruptive students and said that now fewer students were dismissed and charter schools were said to be overly-strict.

CEdO Jackson related that she had texted Human Resources (HR) who told her that the comment that there were no Black teachers at Tarkington since 2006 was not true.

Grace Dawson, of the DuSable High School Alumni Association, wants the school at 2934 South Wabash to be declared a landmark school and be returned to one DuSable school with one principal, not three schools,.

Alice Brown, also of the DuSable High School Alumni Assocatiion, wants one school with one name, DuSable. She said the school has been landmarked by the city and had a 1934 opening. She related that it was named after the first non-native settler of Chicago. She added that one school will cost less than three schools.

Patrick Jones, a Special Education at Jose de Diego Community Community Academy, resigned a week ago. He was concerned about the "issue that affects the safety of our students and teachers... the lack of protocol and training to help manage aggressive/violent behaviors in our schools." He spoke of the lack of safety in schools and said he taught for six years at residential schools and learned how to act when a students attacks.

Anthony (Tony) Soliz, of More Than a Figure (MTAF), not yet graduated from college, is trying to obtain extra curricular funding for low-economic students. He asked for a name to contact for collaboration with CPS.

Cathy Dale, of King High School, on the LSC since 2003, said that two phenomenal Black teachers in Math and Engineering are being pushed out by the current principal. She related that the principal had called police on Officer Gale. She mentioned that she herself was escorted out after a protest. The police were called and she was removed from the school and threatened with arrest. She stated that King High School is in crisis and wants action. She added that she did not select this principal and that someone is going to get hurt with daily fights.

CEdO Jackson said she was aware of this and saw her pictures.

Board President Clark said that this will be addressed appropriately and we will look into it.

Tom Odonnell talked about the scarcity of resources.

Anthony Tramil, on the LSC for 25 years, a CPS product who went to Lindblom and the University of Illinois, and served as a firefighter before retiring, mentioned that Mr. Dunlap was a great teacher and Darnell Hall has a Do Not Hire (DNH) on him and that the DNH needs to be removed.

Kisha Boyland, of Tarkington and a product of CPS, said her son was having a difficulty time until one Black teacher, Ms. Reisner, was hired and with her team, turned her son around and gave him all the help he needed. She said she loves Tarkington and hopes it can be made more diverse.

The last public participant, Krys Holliman, of Tarkington and a Bogan graduate, said that her daughter may test out and go to Lane Tech for seventh grade and then Northside College Prep. She said her daughter wants to go to Harvard majoring in Medical Science.

Board member Ward then congratulated the Honorary Student Board Member and at 2:13 p.m., Board Member Mahalis Hines read the motion that allows the Board to go into closed session.


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