Board of Education controversies continue at September 2017 meeting

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Forrest Claypool (above left) managed to ignore the conflict of interest charges brought against him in relation to his General Counsel Robert Marmer (above right) during the September 27, 2017 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Claypool, who was appointed CEO of CPS by Mayor Rahm Emanuel two years earlier after he had served as Emanuel's Chief of Staff, also ignored the cover up of corruption at the school of Cook County Jail.Major controversies continued at the September 2017 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, as Board members ignored charges of conflicts of interest against "Chief Executive Officer" Forrest Claypool and General Counsel Ronald Marmer. The Board members also ignored charges by the CPS Inspector General that members of the Claypool administration had ignored widespread cheating on key "metrics" at the school of the Cook County Jail, including the fact that the Jail school had awarded credit to a student who had been murdered.

And so, the Chicago Board of Education held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at 42 West Madison Street, lower level. There was a lot of concern expressed by charter schools about what the charter supporters call "the Board's promise to fund scholars fairly." A number of other parents expressed concern about changes planned at the National Teacher Academy (NTA). Also, many teachers and parents were concerned with the way they were being treated at Nightingale School.

Present at this board meeting were board members Arnie Rivera, Jaime Guzman, Dr. Mahalia A. Hines, and Gail D. Ward, plus Board President Frank Clark. Absent was Mark Furlong. The seat where Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J. once sat was empty. According to the Fall 2017 issue of Loyola Magazine, Father Garanzini has accepted "a visiting research faculty position at Fordham University" and will move to New York City "to focus on his expanding global responsibilities as secretary for higher education for the Society of Jesus, including the launch of a new International Association of Jesuit Universities.". Also present at this meeting were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forrest Claypool, Chief Counsel Ronald Marmer, and Chief Education Officer (CEdO) Janice Jackson.

The monthly meeting began with the usual "honoring excellence" session. Hispanic Heritage Month was recognized with performances in which students from Calmeca Academy performed in a Mariachi Band and a Folk Dance group from Solorio High School sang and danced. The principal of Kenwood High School was also honored.

CEO Claypool led off the meeting with various remarks,. He said that schools will be held harmless when enrollment drops, schools that increase enrollment will receive funds, Principal Lee Mason at Joplin School tracks students from outside boundaries, Sumner School is more than a hundred years old, attendance on the first day of school was 94.8%, and many "Dreamers" at Solorio School are dedicated and among the brightest. He also said that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students are welcome in our school because "our schools are sanctuaries" where "students will feel safe and valued."

The first presentation given was about the modifications to the School Quality Rating Program (SQRP). Topics covered were elementary ratings, high school ratings and an appendix. An elementary test of English language usage will show Elementary Language (EL) Progress on ACCESS. It was stated that national norms will no longer apply, but instead new norms will be in place next year. The appendix updates changes in last year's SQRP.

Next, Liz Kirby, whose latest title is "Chief of Strategy," gave an academic data presentation on performance in 2016-2017. She said the Board was pleased overall and that there was an increase in growth in reading and math in grades 2-8. There will be new (and what she called "rigorous") assessments in grades 9-11 on the PSAT/SAT which replaced the ACT. Individual help will be available through the online Khan Academy partnership, she said.

Remarks were made by various board members and CEdO Jackson. Dr. Hines wanted to know, "How do we know why the kids are not performing?"

After this, Board President Clark noted that the Board is seeking an applicant for the 2017-18 Honorary Student position. The applications deadline is October 2 at He also stated that the public can visit for answers to questions or to schedule a meeting with a board member.

Board Secretary Estela Beltran announced the next Board meeting will be Wednesday, October 25, at 10:30 a.m. at the Loop office, with public participation sign-up beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, October 23, and ending at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 24, or when all slots have been filled.

Public participation began at 11:40 a.m. with elected officials.

Alderman John Arena of the 45th ward started off by thanking CEO Claypool for the Hold Harmless policy. He then went on to give a quick list of schools in his ward that need infrastructure improvements. He also mentioned the loss of funding being experienced in his ward and the need to inform the parents why the cuts were being made. He said that the Local School Council (LSC) can do this, that they are are good vehicle for sharing info.

Next, Maria Moreno, Financial Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) mentioned the 38 Head Start assistants who had been terminated; 99% were women of color; eleven of them were now back at their jobs. She then went on to talk about her former school, Nightingale, and its principal. She said that she was the school delegate when the principal first came to the school. Ms. Moreno then listed various ways the teachers had been mistreated by the principal and the fact that this kind of treatment was still being experienced at the school today. She asked for a thorough investigation.

The first of the public participants to speak was Marguerite Baran, parent representative at Hitch Elementary. She stated that principal appeals were being denied and CPS needs to tell us why. She asked for more transparency. CEO Clark told her that "Liz (Kirby) will help you."

Mary Hughes of Raise Your Hand (RYH) and Director of the 19th Ward Parents for Special Education said that Individualized Education Program (IEPs) were being denied for some and bus service was being restricted. She asked for elimination of the middle management position.

Next began the repeated theme by various charter schools of asking CPS to keep their promise to fund the charter schools fairly.

Armando Prado , who was born in Chicago and lived in Back of the Yards stated that theme. She said that two of her children at Rowe charter school have special needs.

Aracely Madrigal said she never learned about "Brown vs Board of Education" until she was an adult, but said her son at Rowe charter school had learned about it in elementary school. She also asked the Board to fund all schools fairly.

Sarah Youngblood Ochoa, whose son is doing well at Rowe charter school, repeated the request for the funding of students fairly.

Rebecca Hall, with two sons in Noble school, told of the teachers doing extra outside of school hours, also asked for fair funding for all.

Enriquez Dominguez, of a high performing Acero charter school in Gage Park, said that charter schools receive 75 cents on the dollar in funding and that charters deserve the same funding as regular CPS schools. He said that this Acero school serves primarily Hispanics. He asked the Board to keep its promise and fund charters fairly.

Norma Rosario, who stated that she is proud of her daughter in eighth grade at Acero charter school, said that charter schools don't receive the same funds as other public schools. She remarked that charters get 75% of what CPS schools get.

Veronica Bedoya, a charter school parent with a daughter and a son at David Speer Academy, asserted that "my children are not less than CPS students."

Crystal Watts explained that the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) children suffer limited resources every day and asked for "equal funding for every child."

Alice Epstein, of Chicago Classical Academy charter school, asked for approval of its application for the South Loop charter school serving grades K-5 beginning in 2018.

Nicole Johnson, a ten-year resident, said that we are committed to staying in the city. She has twin boys and asked that the Board give us options for education in our neighborhood (Chicago Classical Academy in the South Loop).

Next, Jennie Biggs said that RYH had filed a space utilization report and that CPS must comply with the law. She stated, "We know that more school closings are on the horizon." CEO Clark replied that there will be information on the website around the end of December.

After this, a number of parents zeroed in on the South Loop situation.

Veronica Schmitt mentioned that the decision about South Loop was a highly political decision, that it had been misrepresented, and that an apology was needed. She said that the site near 21st and Michigan was near the Hilliard Homes.

Cheryl Kennedy, of South Loop, asked "Why does CPS want to dismantle NTA?" She questioned new construction during a financial crisis. She asked the Board not to turn NTA into a high school.

Anika Mattheews-Feldman, asked about the 2005 boundary change to shrink NTA boundaries which shifted low-income students out of South Loop. She warned that NTA will be closed to follow the mayor's direction and that there was no transparency.

Nadiah Mohajir said the mayor and others met to plan to close NTA Elementary. She said a Racial Equity Process had been requested. She added that CPS failed to respond to this request and that African-Americans were being deliberately excluded.

Cathy Nieng, of South Loop, remarked that our future development is dependent upon how you, CPS, will vote. She added that turning NTA into a high school is a band-aid. She asked for a Racial Equity Analysis and asked the Board to vote no to shutting down the needed NTA.

Wendy Miller, with two fourth-graders at NTA, said the proposal was not in the best interest of the students and asked the Board to vote no and do better for the community.

Lisa Clark, said the directive (to close NTA) was coming from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and that CPS was following his directive. She stated that NTA was a successful school and spoke of 30% attendance at a neighborhood high school. She said that Alderman Pat Dowell will work to bring a high school to the South Loop. She also remarked that this decision falls on the Board.

Hannah El-Amin of NTA, told the Board that CPS had been misled and that the plan did not originate in CPS. She said the mayor's office was directing this and that not enough will attend the high school converted from NTA. She spoke of empty high schools nearby and pleaded, "Do not let the mayor do this for political gain." CEO Clark disagreed with her, but supported her right to speak and then quoted Theodore Roosevelt on decisions.

Next, speakers shifted to other topics.

Aleysa Silva of Nightingale School, spoke in Spanish which was then translated. She said she was not afraid of retaliation from the principal; she has seen seven principals come and go. She mentioned that excellent teachers have been forced to depart because of the principal. She said a volunteer parent was told, "Not even God can save you." She said the principal never accepts responsibility and no one can touch her because of her connections. She asked the Board to please investigate what is happening in our schools.

Mariel Estrada, a graduate of Nightingale whose daughter is in fourth grade at Nightingale, was accused of not following rules. She said the principal is ashamed of all parents like her and the parents are fearful of retaliation. She mentioned that the school was experiencing a dictatorship.

CEO Clark said these issues will be addressed.

Maria Pilar, spoke in translated Spanish about Foreman High School. She said she has a special education son and that a bilingual program is needed in this majority Latino school.

Irma Cornier, an LSC representative, also said that a bilingual program was need at Foreman and asked for the return of the Honors Program and the Arts at Foreman.

Johnae Strong, of GEM, wanted to know, "What is the source of funds for the 2018-19 school year?"

Arne Stieber, a grandfather, a veteran of the Vietnam war, and a member of Veterans for Peace, talked about the use of euphemisms to cover death and destruction. He said that ten times more was spent on the military than on education. He added that militarization was deeply embedded in CPS. He asked for the end of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). He pleaded for education, not militarization.

Coretta J. Pruitt and Edward Ford, an LSC member in Englewood, thanked the Board for the new high school in Englewood at the Roberson Campus.

CEdO Jackson said we were going to do a big announcement of this tomorrow and we will be there tomorrow. CEO Clark added, "We support what you are trying to do."

Vianna Little, a graduate of Roberson in Englewood, serves on the Alumni Association. She spoke in support of the new high school on the Robeson campus. She said she is excited about the new opportunity at Paul Robeson.

Catherine Cunningham Yee, of Hanson Park, said a new annex has been needed for ten years. She told of 1400 students at the Level One school. She mentioned a clinic to be built at Fullerton and Central for $1 in perpetuity. She stated that there had been no community input. She told of the demolishment of the field house and asked,"Is a deal going through?" She asked if CPS could commit to relieving overcrowding.

CEO Clark told her, "We listen."

Anabel Ruiz also spoke of the clinic at Hanson Park.

Christina Hayes told the Boar, "We don' t need a clinic; there are other vacant properties and we need the annex and the safety. She said the clinic will draw 37,000 a year. Regarding safety, the group mentioned concerns about the safety of the children so close to a facility servicing large groups of individuals.

James Smith said CPS is a second-tiered system when it comes to black and brown children. He spoke of the disparity of 51.4% white teachers with 10% white students.

CEO Clark told him, "You have interpreted a lot of data; John Scott will talk with you.

Sharon Baker of Dunbar High School wants a seventh and eighth program at Dunbar. She said the proposal had been submitted and she was concerned about SQRP. She spoke of the need to educate students for the world of work as well as college. She said that there was a shortage of construction workers and feels that there is definitely a deficit that Dunbar could be the solution for.

CEdO Jackson told her that we got the proposal for a seventh and eighth program last Friday p.m. and will respond to it by the end of the week.

After a few remarks, Board Member Dr. Hines read the motion permitting the Board members to go into closed session at about 1:30 p.m.