BOARDWATCH: MARCH 2018 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education hears about problems in Chicago high schools, ignores pleas of students, parents and teachers...

Sharon Schmidt (above left) brought four of her journalism students from Steinmetz High School to the March 21, 2018, meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. She spoke against the Board's plans to build a new high school building, at a cost of at least $75 million, in the Dunning Reed community, when Steinmetz has a great deal of room. Third from right is Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36), who also spoke in support of Steinmetz and against the Dunning-Reed plan. Substance photo.The Chicago Board of Education (BOE) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at its headquarters at 42 West Madison Street, lower level. Present were board members Mark Furlong, Alejandra Garza, Jaime Guzman, and Gail Ward. Also present was Board President Frank Clark. Absent was Board Member Dr. Mahalia Hines.

The meeting began with the "Honoring Excellence" segment, honoring various groups:

— The Marshall High School Girls Basketball Team (Lady Commandos) won this year's State Championship.

— Orr High School Boys Basketball Team (Spartans) won the year's State Championship for the second year in a row.

— The agenda also indicated that CPS High School Students who "received a Perfect Score on Advanced Placement on Spanish Language and Culture/Research" were recognized, and Whitney Young High School Students who received perfect ACT (college-readiness test) scores were also honored.

Announcements were made that Brown Elementary, Claremont Elementary, and Jungman Elementary will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) schools, and

Over Spring Break, students will be able to receive free meals.

In her CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Report, CEO Dr. Janice Jackson reported that school budgets will be available in April, based on 20th day enrollment. Additional funding will be provided if there are more students on the 20th day than in the 2017-2018 school year. Smaller schools will receive more staff and resources. Reference was made to GO-CPS, a universal enrollment plan. High School offers will be sent out on Friday, March 30. Two principals passed away recently: Michelle Van Allen of Marcus Garvey School, who went from student to teacher to principal at the school, and Robert Crosston, principal of Jenner Elementary.

Next, an announcement was made that applications for the 2018-2019 school year honorary student school board member were being accepted at The deadline for applications is April 6.

The next Board meeting will be Wednesday April 25, at 50 West Madison Street. Advance registration to speak and/or observe will take place starting at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, April 23, and ending at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, or when all slots are filled. The rules for public participation were then explained.

First to speak was Jackson Potter, a staff member at the CTU (Chicago Teachers Union). He began by singing a little of "You've lost that loving feeling" to the Board. He spoke of school closings that targeted brown and black students. He remarked that the spirit of the school code had been violated when the Board closed those four schools in Englewood. He mentioned the ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) hearing and the new specialist former CEO Forrest Claypool had hired, the denial of services, and staffing issues in the district, too, since 2011. He indicated that music, art, library, and social workers had decreased. He also talked about the many years of cuts and compared actions for improvements to the inadequate watering of a plant that had gone too long without sufficient amounts of water. He added that the mayor should use the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) surplus for the schools. He spoke out against the network chiefs who require more paperwork of teachers and said the Board needs to put a brake on this. He made a comparison to the onerous requirements of the healthcare system and stated that the love and joy of teaching had been killed. He concluded that we need to rein in the network mandates that are affecting morale.

The first public participant to speak was Maria Avila, who spoke in translated Spanish about the janitorial contract at SEIU (Service Employees International Union). She said she had worked in CPS (Chicago Public Schools) as a "floater" for three years. She was required to clean 40 classrooms and clean 90 toilets. She asked for more janitorial staff to clean the schools now. She added that a contract was being negotiated with the negotiation team with a private contractor, the Building Owners Management Association. She concluded that staffing and materials were inadequate.

Board President Clark told her, "You are being heard."

Next, Tyrone Chatman accompanied by Judith Jenkins, also of SEIU, explained why the work custodians do is very valuable. It was mentioned that too many custodians have to work alone and buy their own supplies. Additionally, supplies, staffing, and sick days are the contractor's responsibilities, not the custodian's.

Alderman Gilbert Villegas (above at podium) challenged the Chicago Board of Education's plans to build a new school at Irving Park Road and Oak Park Ave. on the city's Northwest Side. Nearby Steinmetz High School is currently underutilized, in part because Taft High School has deliberately overcrowded itself by taking students from outside its attendance areas. (Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt).After this, Alderman Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward, arrived. Villegas spoke about the relationship between the newly proposed Dunning-Read school and Seinmetz College Prep High School on the Northwest side. The proposed school, as a freshman campus of Taft, would take even more students from Steinmetz. He stated that CPS hasn't done a good job at "reining in" the principal at Taft High School, who is getting more students for Taft from the Steinmetz area. He noted that the under-enrollment at Steinmetz needs to be addressed. He added that the Dunning neighborhood has been singled-out as the number one neighborhood in the country by Redfin. He finished by saying that an Academic Center at Steinmetz would increase its enrollment.

The next public participation speaker was Jonathan Williams, a parent of a sophomore at King College Prep High School, a Level 1+ school, who said he was concerned about the lack of oversight of the LSC (Local School Council). He spoke about the LSC which has gone against multiple state guidelines and the principal's slowness in getting an evaluation from the LSC. He highlighted the violations of state guidelines.

Natasha Dunn told the Board that her son "fell in love" with King High School. She said King's LSC does not represent us and she wants the removal of the principal. She also spoke about wanting the Board to help to intervene with the LSC, abuse of power, and wanting the Board to meet with the community. She spoke of the needs at King: new bathrooms, sinks, doors hanging off stalls, brown water from the faucets, computer lab updates, the gym, and painting. She added that all selective enrollment schools deserve better. Another speaker, Cassandra Bogan, added comments about the need for funds.

Also adding to these comments was Marshan Donegan, a parent of a senior at King College Prep, who said King needs stable leadership and the LSC cannot retain the principal past the original contract.

Arie Conyers, a freshman at King, added comments about the need for investments in the school program and would like the current principal to be there in three to four years. Trevor Reed, a freshman at King, is fond of the current principal and said the LSC has shown severe aggression fo this student. Mia Booth, a freshman at King, said the school is now going through a principal process, the LSC does not listen, and students want the current principal retained. She added that her teacher bought basic calculators for the class. She added that the LSC caused chaos. She said she needs to find another school because of the LSC and her current neighborhood is not as good as the King College Prep neighborhood. She wondered, "Where will I go?"

Cassandra Chandler, an LSC member and a parent of an honor roll student, expressed a great deal of support for the principal at King and indicated displeasure with the LSC. She said the students favor retaining the principal and want the vote over-turned. She added that the LSC should not be able to not renew the principal's contract.

Board President Clark talked about a disconnect between the principal at a Level One school and the LSC vote not to renew the contract. He asked, "Why doesn't the leadership at the LSC want to retain the principal?

Cassandra Chandler informed Board President Clark that nine LSC members were present for the vote and seven voted not to renew. Board President Clark wanted to know why. Cassandra Chandler said they are not looking at true data, the principal has provided clear data that the school is making progress. Board President Clark, once again, referred to the disconnect between the LSC and the principal.

CEO Jackson said this would be referred to staff today to meet with the above individuals. (LSC elections are taking place in April.)

Next, Natasha Erskine, of Veterans for Peace, asked the Board to stop the militarization of CPS. She attended O"Toole Elementary and then the ROTC (Reserved Officers Training Corps) in high school. She said offering of the ROTC program as a gap-year military option as of 2020, is not right. As a parent at King, she said she considers the LSC bogus/poison.

Board President Clark said he would review everything at King. He said, "I, too, served in the military and credit my success to being in the military." He told her, "You have a different perspective and I disagree with it."

Arnie Stieber spoke about the negative effect of ROTC, He mentioned that the Parkland, Florida perpetrator was in the ROTC. He added that youth are indoctrinated with militarism and quoted from Thomas Jefferson regarding this.

Jill Corcoran, a parent of two at Decatur Classical, wants seventh and eighth grades added to the school which now goes only to sixth grade. She said the enrollment is 282 and there is no gym or full-time cafeteria. She told about the good programs at the school, and the diverse school and community population.

Tim McCaffrey, chair of the LSC at Decatur, said, "We have come here for years, we have met during office hours, and the Board came to the school in response to invitations. We hope for a solution."

Nichol Houston said that McDade Classical is among the top ten schools and wants the expansion of McDade to include seventh and eighth grades. Currently, it also stops at sixth grade.

Clarence Carson, of McDade, passed out a packet of material about the seventh/eighth grade expansion. He spoke of an addition that would be built in the back lot behind the current school building and would include more classrooms for the school and 18,000 square feet more space. His hand-out included the cost, a drawing and information about the cramped environment.

Jannah Maguire, a fifth grade student at McDade, also wants the seventh/eighth grade expansion. She said it would allow her to remain at the school she knows and loves.

Board President Clark said that the handout was very comprehensive.

CEO Jackson added that McDade is one of the best in the state and that the new COO (Chief Operating Officer) Arnie Rivera will visit the school.

Next, Sharon Schmidt, of Steinmetz High School, surrounded by her journalism students from the Steinmetz Star, spoke about the crazy, harmful, and wasteful new high school planned for the area of Oak Park Avenue and Irving Park Road at a cost of $75 million. She mentioned that she asked Alderman Villegs to speak here today. She said the school is not needed to alleviate overcrowding at Taft High School. She added that Taft should stop enrolling students who don't live in the Taft area. She remarked that the northwest side don't need another school and other schools have needs that could be met with the money CPS is spending. She said that Steinmetz is not overcrowded, CPS is shrinking attendance boundaries, and three feeder schools are to go to the new school instead of Steinmetz. She spoke of the loss of 200 students and the loss of teachers. She asked the Board to stop enrolling students at Taft who don't live in Taft's enrollment boundaries. She labeled the movement of the three feeder elementary schools to a new high school as racist and segregationist and said that it would make Steinmetz less diverse.

CEO Jackson said that CPS has made investments in Steinmetz through a partnership with Robert Morris College and a planned field project. She said the Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade would meet with Alderman Villegas.

Deb Hass, of Raise Your Hand, spoke of the ISBE investigation into Special Education. She mentioned that paraprofessional services have been cut in recent years, vendors have been paid $14 million and yet no reports.

Diana Segovia, a Noble Pritzker College Prep alum, who is now in her second year of college at Wright, quoted Cesar Chavez. She said she wants to be an educator.

Patricia Vera, of Noble Golder College Prep, said many schools compete for time for sports at Eckhardt Park. She added that we need fairness when it comes to experiences.

Sarah Rios, of Otis, came to the Board to speak about safety and communication issues. Last Wednesday, she said, a student at Otis brought ammunition to Otis. The student's home was visited and guns were taken out. Information was vague and there were no details because it involved a minor. She went on to say that the second and third grades are not at grade level and the administration threatens parents and teachers. She remarked that the principal needs to be voted out by the LSC.

Board President Clark mentioned the very special steps that were taken and that because of legal issues, we cannot go into specifics. He said all necessary steps were taken and an LSC meeting will be held tomorrow (Thursday). He added that safety plans were put in place after the event.

Mable Jean Simmons, who has two sons as CICS (Chicago International Charter School) Elllison, said CPD (Chicago Police Department) came to talk to the students about who was hit and cruised by the school after school.

Dr. Mona Hicks, a Gresham resident, teaches physics at Ralph Ellison CICS. She said we prepare our students for the future. She added that the school is considered a pillar of the community.

Philip Scopes, a former CPS student, spoke about grading policies, cutting to avoid a tardy, public transportations delays, tardy process delays, policies that need to be thought out, grading, testing, not getting passing scores, stress that leads to truancy and crime. He said he graduated in 1988 from Lane Tech, and graduated from the computer program at the University of Illinois Urbana.

Nadja Nagub-Agha, of Decatur Classical School, said that the pre-school for the school is three miles away. the area around the school is an apartment area, and more space is needed for the children.

Marcelina Pedraza who graduated from Black School and Kenwood High School spoke about George Washington Elementary. She said the carpet is old, the windows are small, there are no window sills, and there are mold issues. She said a new school is needed. She mentioned that the attendance rate is 96%. She added that Sue Garza is their alderman on the southeast side of Chicago.

Sarah Hernandez, a parent advocate who is in the medical field, also spoke of George Washington Elementary School. She said that there is one janitor and not enough supplies. She said she donated garbage cans and added that small garbage cans were also needed by each toilet for small personal feminine items that were being disposed of. She also spoke of the poor quality of food at breakfast and lunch and the reliance on feeding the students burgers, fries and pizza every day. She said this is a health issue.

COO Rivera spoke of troubling issues in the last two weeks of visits.

Mable Payne's child has been bullied at Ariel Academy and she had to file a police report. She said that two girls in the bathroom grabbed five inches of her daughter's hair from her scalp. A safety transfer was suggested and CPS suggested a meeting with the principal. She said the principal said no safety transfer. Mable Payne said her child cannot remain at the school. She added that bullying in CPS schools is out of control. She said she even sat in her daughter's class to help the teacher and students.

Both CEO Jackson and Security Chief Jadine Chou said they were not aware of this situation.

Cassia Jones, a former CPS student, also spoke of bullying issues.

CEO Jackson said the parent had asked for a conference with other family members and was denied the request.

Security Chief Chou said that actions are in place to address these concerns.

Board President Clark said that the focus should be on getting your child back in class. Bullying should not be tolerated.

After a few remarks by board members, Board Member Ward read the motion for the board to go into closed session.


March 25, 2018 at 6:44 PM

By: Marybeth Foley

Dirksen Elementary School

Speaker Nadja Naguib-Agha spoke about Everett McKinley Dirksen Elementary School, not Decatur Classical School.

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