BOARDWATCH: Protests ignored by Chicago Board of Education at its final meeting of the 2016 - 2017 school year...

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Forrest Claypool (left) continues to follow the party line dictated by the man who appointed him, Mayor Rahm Emanuel.Protests both inside and outside the Chicago Board of Education's Loop headquarters didn't stop the seven members of the Board from approving the agenda that was placed in front of them at the Board's final meeting of the 2016 - 2017 school year. In addition to borrowing more money at unprecedented rates, the Board also approved several controversial policies.

The Chicago Board of Education (CBOE) held its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, at its headquarters at 42 West Madison Street, Lower Level. Many people spoke in support of Sarah Chambers, Special Education Teacher at Saucedo School who was fired. Security and safety issues, health and cleanliness issues, and Senate Bill One were also major concerns.

The following Board members were present: Arnie Rivera, Jaimie Guzman, Dr. Mahalia H. Hines, Gail Ward, Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S. J. and Board President Frank Clark. Mark Furlong was absent. Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forrest Claypool, Chief Counsel Ronald Marmer, and Chief Education Officer (CEdO) Janice Jackson.

As always, "Honoring Excellence" announcements led off the meeting. At Fenger High School, 100% of the seniors have been accepted into college. Melinda Wilson, of Curie High School, was honored for receiving an award as National Dance Education Teacher of the Year. 35,000 students will receive the State Seal of Literacy, indicating proficiency in English and another language. High school students have demonstrated proficiency in French, Polish, and American Sign Language, and elementary students have mastered Chinese and Spanish.

CEO Claypool's report followed Honoring Excellence. After noting that he had attended some graduations, at Edison Elementary and at Williams High School, he spoke of unequal state funding with the governor holding students hostage. SB1 was passed, a compromise on school funding, but, he claimed, "a major step forward." He said the governor will veto it despite getting most of what he wants. $500 million less will go to Chicago students based on enrollment while hundreds throughout the state will receive more. He said the governor is the hold-up and is backing another plan, taking from Chicago to give to wealthier districts. CEO Claypool asked all to call Governor Rauner and ask him to sign SB1.

Next, Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson enumerated what she called this year's highlights. At Lindblom High School, three young women will be attending Harvard, Stanford, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). One student will go to Yale. A student at Westinghouse High School won the Chick Evans Scholarship.

Next, she talked about some policy changes coming next year:

-- A common application process for high school.

-- Every Student Concrete Post-Secondary Plan

-- Whole Child Arts/Language, etc. No Cut Score

-- A three year vision for Chicago Public Schools.

After these announcements, Jadine Chou, Head of Security, presented a follow-up on last month's safety issues at a few schools. Chou stated that the Organization Mission of Safety and Security is to be more pro-active, not just responsive. She informed all that out-of-school suspensions and expulsions had been reduced. She said there were fewer serious incidents, security officer training had been overhauled with officers training officers, and that the whole security staff will be trained in dealing with racial bias.

Next, she presented information about "Safe Passage." She said that 142 new schools will be covered by Safe Passage and that there had been a reduction in crime along the Safe Passage Routes during the program's operational hours. Then she said that a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Auditorium Transformation Jobs Program would be initiated following today's closed session vote. She explained that students involved in the criminal justice system and students with serious problems would go into CPS schools and renovate the auditoriums.

Finally, Chou talked about follow-ups on last month's Board meeting. At Carver Elementary, additional security and social/emotional supports will be put in place. Parents who reported bullying of their son are comfortable with the action plan. Aggressive student behavior will be de-escalated. At King High School, individual concerns will be handled on an individual basis.

Board Members Ward and Hines expressed thanks for Safe Passage and for Chou's report. Next, Chou answered some questions from Board members. She said the Auditorium plan will provide for 300 more students and continue year round. She mentioned that the students like the program and make new friends. She said that no student has been shot or injured along Safe Passage routes during student hours.

After Board President Clark asked about tracking of students to determine if they finished college, CEdO Jackson explained that tracking had begun in 2011 and now other viable post-secondary options are being looked at. She said that a better match and fit of college-bound students and the colleges they choose will help the students to graduate from college.

Once again, Board President encouraged attendees to use the Board website for information and appointments with Board members.

Board Secretary Estela Beltran announced that the next Board meeting would be Wednesday, July 26, 2017, at Board headquarters. Sign-up for public participation will start Monday, July 24, at 10:30 and conclude Tuesday, July 25, or when all 60 slots have been filled. Next, she explained the rules for public participation today.

The first to speak was Chicago Teachers Union President (CTU) Karen Lewis. In recognition of the honors given to language learners today, she greeted the Board by saying "Bon Jour." She mentioned that she had learned three languages, French, Italian, and Latin, and took part in World Languages in fourth grade. She went on to say that SB1 isn't enough and that we need to do more. She said that short-term borrowing will result in CPS paying back $350,000 per week because of the interest costs. She enumerated all the things the Board could have for that money. She went on to say that we cannot continue down this road of perdition, you're not going to get help from the governor. She stated that the corporate head tax should be reinstated and said that Chicago is #1 in corporate relocation. She added, you've cut to the bone and we're ready to work with you.

The first public participant to speak was Pam Witner, of Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), who said charter schools can request amendments. She said that some schools want to go from K-5 to K-6. Without an amendment, some students will need to look for another school. She asked for Board action to allow for the charter school amendments.

Next, Ren Li, a Chinatown mom, whose son graduated from Whitney Young gifted program eight years ago, had wanted a neighborhood high school for him but he couldn't attend one. She said that they had wanted a neighborhood high school for 40 years and asked the Board to please give us a chance.

Darek Lau, a "rising senior" from Whitney Young, was raised in Chinatown and was the son of immigrants. He tried to assimilate and joined the Asian-American group at Whitney Young High School. He said he supports a neighborhood high school for local elementary schools.

John Jacoby, Vice-President of "Prairie District" and on the South Loop Local School Council (LSC), said he first talked about a change in South Loop boundaries years ago. Now that the school has been turned-around, it has become one of the best schools, despite being overcrowded. He asked the Board to solve the overcrowding and fully supports the plan to expand South Loop.

Christina Hall, of Greater South Loop Organization, talked about new housing being planned with the New South Loop being larger and more complete. Her group supports a new high school for the area. She mentioned that National Teachers Academy (NTA) is more low-income. She also said there was a lack of transparency by CPS.

Lisa Ivy, whose son David is at Joslyn Charter School, wants expansion of the school and asked that the Board consider this at their next meeting.

Elisabeth Greer, parent of a "Rising Second Grader" at NTA. said the building should not be converted into a high school. Her t-shirt said "I love NTA." She mentioned that the school is 80% African-American and 80% low-income. She said that 16 Chicago schools with populations similar to ours have reached this level of achievement. She invited members of the Board to the school on July 10 at 5-7 p.m.

Niketa Brar wanted to know if NTA should have been taken over and given to higher incomes. She is on the LSC and has worked in government. She felt that the plan for the school was poorly thought out, a done deal, and had a pre-written outcome.

Aiko Hibino, quoting statistics, said that a school is less likely to be strong in the five essentials if it is in a low-income area. She said she doesn't want NTA closed. She said it is serving economically disadvantaged students, yet it is succeeding.

Latasha Watkins talked about the investment in Dunbar High School. She doesn't want NTA turned into a high school. She quoted some statistics and asked for a response from CEdO Jackson and CEO Claypool.

CEdO Jackson replied that $12 Million in Capital was invested in Dunbar High School last year, three meetings were set up, and this is not a done deal until voted on by the Board. She claimed that CPS has been "very transparent" as the discussions of South Loop and the National Teachers Academy have taken place.

Another person wanted to speak for Joseph Kurstin at this point, but was not allowed to because he had not signed up for public participation.

Marguerite Baran praised the engineer at Hitch School. She said that it was 85 degrees in classrooms, the Air-Conditioning (AC) control panel was broken, and there was no Plan B for broken AC, there was only one vendor and the broken part was available from only one vendor. She said that the engineer, Pat Kelly, shouldn't have had to spend the last two weeks on the broken AC. She relayed that he fixed the AC manually and solved the problem himself despite having to service other schools as well as Hitch.

The CPS Chief Administration Officer, Jose Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta, stated that he was "sorry for what you had to go through." He said that some systems were more modern and that he was pleased at the Engineer's actions. He said his department was able to provide overnight chillers and asked to have the principal contact me directly next time. After the speaker voiced a question regarding the contact, the Chief Administrative Officer told her he would speak to her in more detail outside.

Next, Isaac Krantz-Perlman spoke about overcrowded classrooms, some aggressive students, no substitutes for aides like him, and CTU Special Education (SE). He stated that Sarah Chambers, who was fired from the Board, could not be here because she cannot be on Board property. He then related tragic happenings to students whose aides were pulled to be used elsewhere in the school: Rosario Gomez drowned at Kennedy High School because his one-on-one aide was pulled from his classroom and another student wandered out to the parking lot and could have died.

Rebecca Huffman, of City Year, reported that schools with City Year have a higher number of days attendance and a lower rate of infractions. She added that page 3 of the report delineates the services provided by City Year. She said she wants to continue to be partners with CPS.

Maria Santillan, a 2017 Pritzker College Prep Alum, told how college has helped her. She said she was an immigrant and got a scholarship to DePaul from which she hopes to graduate in 2021. She stated that she is undocumented, a Dreamer, and a first generation college graduate. She affirmed, "I can and will graduate from college."

Eliseo Villasenor told of an exceptional educator, Mr. Dunlap. He stated that everyone wanted him, both his daughters had been taught by him, yet today his job is at risk. He asked the Board to not allow him to be fired. He went on to say that Mr. Dunlap had captivated the minds of students and CPS should interfere so that he gets to stay.

Board President Clark told him that we will nota ignore the personal appeal you made.

Christine Palmieri, a parent of a son with autism in third grade at Blaine Elementary, mentioned that she finally got her son's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) at the end of the school year. She said that the IEP needs to be updated to keep her child safe. Then she asked why teachers like Sarah Chambers are being targeted. She said that we are losing two SE teachers who decided to move on. She asked to meet regarding the SE Task Force and CEdO Jackson replied, "We will be happy."

Violet Starr, told of the 38 Head Start teacher assistants who were cut. She said there were too many cuts. She remarked that they are children now, but they may be your doctor someday. She told the Board, "You're part of the village." She asked the Board to hear our cry.

Sheila Parnell talked about Head Start programs cut by the mayor and those who were laid off on June 20, 2017, two hours after being praised for an outstanding job. She said that Head Start is for low-income families. She added statistics about the number of students in Pre-K, Head Start schools, and the number employed to serve them. She concluded that we are fighting for jobs.

Deborah Benjamin-Koller, a former CPS teacher, with a nine year-old son, concurred about the lack of SE funding. She said ELA and Math are not available at our school. She thought of moving to a cluster school, but does not think this is the least restrictive. She added that her son shouldn't have to be moved out from his home school. She then mentioned the firing of Sarah Chambers and asked that she be reinstated.

Carly Kauffman of Saucedo School teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) and Bilingual and more. She has cerebral palsy and received the accommodations she needed. She remarked that budget cuts slow processes and also spoke in support of Sarah Chambers. She said Sarah's firing was a marker of a broken system.

Tanika Meeks, a charter school parent, advocated for the kids affected by the financial situation.

Kray Butler, whose son Kray Butler, Jr., is in Joslyn Perspectives Charter School, a tier one plus school, wants CPS to approve the expansion of the school and the needs of the school. He said students over-achieve there and all are pushed to do more.

Board President Clark remarked that some sitting behind you believe that charter schools are taking away from regular schools. He added, "You have been heard."

Dwayne Truss thanked the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the Austin community. He asked for a transparent process and for the Board to meet with them at 5821 West Chicago Avenue at 6 p.m. Thursday. He said it will benefit the students.

Joy Clendenning, of Raise Your Hand, spoke of a 2011 law that CPS was out of compliance with. Data is not on the website. Some items are not in the 2011 plan. She asked, "Why wasn't Tax Increment Financing (TIF) money used for a neighborhood high school?" She added that there should be transparent plans and all communities deserve stable resourced schools.

Amaya Lorick, a Rising Senior at Kenwood High School, directed individuals to #CPScleanupthemess. She said that the building needs proper care and that there are not enough custodians. She remarked that the four-minute passing time was not enough time for students to take care of their personal needs. She added that washrooms are inadequate: the toilet flush buttons do not work, the floor is wet, toilet tissue is on the floor, and there are roaches. She asked for action to be taken and that the school be cleaned before the opening of school.

Board President Clark called the conditions "deplorable." Chief Administration Officer, Jose Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta responded after the next two speakers.

Clara Evans said that yesterday Aramark was at Kenwood and the Alderman saw a mouse on the third floor. The HVAC has a broken coil, it is hot on the 3rd floor, yesterday it was 100 degrees in one room on the third floor, and teachers were buying fans out of pocket.

Bricia Gomez's son will attend Kenwood next year. His old school was Tarkington. She spoke of Mr. Dunlap, a one-of-a-kind teacher. She remembers his lessons very well, but her daughter will not have him next year. She said Mr. Dunlap is very hard-working and she hopes he gets his classroom back.

Next, Chief Administration Officer, Jose Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta responded that on Monday, a short and long-term plan were created, a third engineer will be added on July 3, custodians will be reallocated from evening to day, an air quality test will take place in mid-July, Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) supervisors will go back to understand the problems, (HVAC) coils and chiller pumps will be replaced in August, pest control visits will take place immediately, a plan of action regarding water leakage will be worked out in August, there will be a focus on interior painting, and an update will be provided.

Board Member Hines responded with thanks and said she visited Kenwood often. She remarked that last year, she tripped over towels on the floor and almost broke her neck. She added that she was disappointed in the current condition and said some classrooms can't be used because they are so bad.

Board President Clark said he was sorry that this didn't get resolved before this, these are deplorable conditions, and mice in classrooms shouldn't be. He apologized on behalf of the Board, said Kenwood is a very good school, and concluded that all children in all schools deserve clean schools.

Imani Williams, of Rowe-Clark will attend the University of Champaign in the fall and major in Business. She said she always wanted to go to a selective enrollment school, but struggled with the tests, so she chose Rowe-Clark. Other activities she took part in to prepare her for college were a summer program at Michigan Tech and a summer job at State Farm.

Rochelle Davis, the president and CEO of Healthy Schools Campaign, said that School Wellness is key. She spoke of a strategy for closing the achievement gap and said that the CPS program is the best in the country. She asked about the State requiring fewer daily Physical Education (P.E.) classes.

Martha Ramirez spoke in translated Spanish about the situation at Jungman School. She wants the schools to be healthier places and said obesity is a childhood problem. She said she is hoping for a better future for Chicago children. She added that she wants healthy foods and activities and healthy lifestyles. She stated that the CPS Wellness policy is the most comprehensive in the country.

Rodger Cooley also spoke about the Wellness Policy and Good Food Policy, stating that Chicago is a leader in the movement despite tight budget constraints. Local produce from local gardens is used and no antibiotic chicken is used.

Dr. Ken Fox, Chief Health Officer, has been a pediatrician for over 30 years and this is his first Board meeting. He said he had learned about the Healthy Schools Campaign and considered them a valued partner. He added that there is no way that we are going to be lowering the standards, and decisions will be based on the many partners and the many voices that we will listen to.

Emily Penn, a school Social Worker, services two schools. She said that some Social Workers service over ten schools and some schools are not covered. She mentioned that there should be one Social Worker for each 250 students, but the ratio at CPS is one

Social Worker for every 1250 students. She remarked that gun violence, etc. affects students who need support. She spoke in support of fully-funded SE and clinician services.

Godfrey Phoenix, a graduate of Perspectives Charter School, asked that the Board continue to fund Perspectives. He once met former CEO Arne Duncan, was a Master of Ceremonies for a Peace March, and wants to be an entrepreneur at a recreation center, Phoenix Haven, which honors his little brother who died. Originally, he wanted to go to Howard University in Washington, D.C. but he couldn't run the facility from there, so he chose to go to Harold Washington City College instead.

Cynthia Barkley-Washington, of Carver, was concerned with safety and said this year was very bad, the worst in the last twelve years. She said her son doesn't feel safe. She remarked that someone is liable to be shot in the school and that this is not acceptable. She mentioned a nephew, 20, who was killed on his front porch. She said that the teachers at Carver are dedicated and most have over 20 years as teachers. She added that she is very active at the school and takes days off from work to volunteer there.

Jadine Chou, Head of Security, said she will met with the principal and parents and handed Ms. Barkley-Washinton her business card.

Rhonda Hopps, CEO at Perspectives Charter School, represents four Level One charters. She said that we can't do something this fall, the time has passed. She added that we need funds and feedback. She also mentioned that two charter schools in the South Loop area are not listed as options.

CEdO Jackson said that neighborhood schools in the area are listed.

Ms. Hopps replied that selective enrollment and magnet schools were listed, but not charters.

Board President Clark said that the budget was creating anxiety and much depends on Springfield.

Jesse Hudson, of Beidler, who is now covered by the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) listed concerns and stands with those not receiving services. She said she stays late to do IEP work.

Elisia Ramirez, spoke in support of Sarah Chambers and wants her reinstated at Saucedo. She mentioned that her daughter got help from Sarah Chambers.

Esther Johnson, class of '68 at DuSable High School, wants the DuSable Campus name to go back to DuSable High School and wants the kids to function as one school. She asked that Bronzeville School and Daniel Hale Williams School be brought together and merge into one name, DuSable High School. She concluded that we don't want two separate schools.

After a few remarks by Board members, Board Member Hines read the motion allowing the Board to go into closed session.