BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education's June 2018 meeting

The monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education was as tumultuous as such meetings have been lately, with the Board continuing to hold fast to its policies as much as possible, despite widespread criticisms from across the city. Shouts of "Lock her up" (not in reference to Hillary Clinton) by student protesters could be heard in front of the Chicago Board of Education before its June 27, 2018, monthly meeting at 42 West Madison Street, Chicago. Inside speakers and observers were overflowing the overflow room. The magnetic topic drawing in many of these individuals was the amending of the Board Policy on child abuse, child neglect, and inappropriate relations between staff and students, in response to a recent investigative article in the Chicago Tribune.

The following Board members were present for this meeting: Mark Furlong, Alejandra Garza, Dr. Mahalia Hines, Gail Ward, and Board President Frank Clark. Absent was Jaime Guzman. Also present was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Janice Jackson, Chief Counsel (CC) Michael Moriarty, Chief Education Officer (CEdO) LaTanya McDade and Chief Talent Officer (CTO) Anna Alvarado.

The agenda indicated that the "Honoring Excellence portion of the agenda recognized State Seal Biliteracy Recipients.

CEO Dr. Jackson reported that the proposed amendment on child abuse would involve retraining and rechecking of staff. She concluded, "These problems are pervasive in America culture."

Board President Clark asked for an explanation of "grooming."

CEO Dr. Jackson said that this would be explained later in the upcoming report.

Chief Education Officer Mc Dade announced that Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis would retire.

Then she reported that Chicago Public School (CPS) students are showing "outstanding growth." Answering criticisms of CPS bureaucracy, she also said that the goal of CPS "networks" is to support the needs of each school. She then announced that four new networks for high schools would be established; elementary networks would remain the same. She added that today, changes in CPS policy regarding sexual abuse would be covered.

Matt Lyons shared a power-point presentation on the Policy of Reporting of Sexual Abuse.There are nine components of the revised policy. Mr. Lyons named the highlights: definitions, texting, time alone, crossing physical boundaries, touching, hugs, and giving gifts. He stressed that it was important to know that the policy involved a pattern of behavior, a collection of behaviors.He stress what mandatory reporters must do when suspecting child abuse: notify the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) first; notifying the principal is not sufficient.He went on to explain other aspects of the proposed amendment, including grooming.

Board President remarked that this policy is focused beyond teachers and involves other employees as mandated reporters, volunteers and vendors, for example.

Mr. Lyons concluded by explaining the proposed procedures involved and the penalties that would be put in place.

Next, Chief Operating Officer (COO)Arne Rivera, reported on the current status of facilities, "blitz" inspections, and plans for the future.

After that, a report on the proposed amendment regarding competency-based learning was given by Alan Mather and Anna Alvarado, Chief Talent Officer (CTO).

Remarks were made about the Janus decision just handed down by the Supreme Court.

CTU Vice-President Jesse Sharkey spoke next about the retirement of CTU President Karen Lewis. He asked the Board to vote YES on funding for 20 sustainable community schools and he said that the CTU does not support a change in the attendance policy. He talked about the child sexual abuse scandal and mentioned his own two children in the CPS system. He mentioned that teachers go into the profession to serve and protect children and he added that "see something, say something" is not clear from the point of view of the teacher.

Board President Clark agreed. He also said the key word is to communicate.

The first public participant to speak was Jenny Biggs, of Raise Your Hand (RYH) who was concerned that students were questioned about allegations of sexual child abuse by staff, without a parent present. She asked how it was possible higher-ups did not know more needed to be done. She asked everyone to join concerned people in Springfield to press for an elected school board.

Cassandra Cresswell if RYH spoke of the exposure of student data and student ID numbers.

Sebastian Parker, Decatur Classical School, talked about the need for expansion at the school which was K-2 originally. Sixth graders must go to 7th and 8th grade at another school, so there is a need for the school to expand to include 7th and 8th grades.

Margarita Leonard also requested expansion at Decatur to include 7th and 8th grades.

Public official Tom Tunney, 44th Ward Alderman, said that the Courtenay Child Parent Center on Magnolia was now a vacant drug-dealing blighted building that should be sold.

Jonathan Willliams of the King College Prep Local School Council (LSC) said many King LSC members had not completed proper training. They extended a principal contract, offering the position to the principal of Robeson, and creating a conflict of interest.

Caleb Mitchell, also of King, asked that the vote for the transfer of the Robeson principal be canceled because consideration was not given to concerns of him and others. He said they were called thugs and a bunch of animals. Although they talked to the LSC, they were not listened to and were powerless to stop the LSC attempts to sabotage King.

Brian Mullins, of King, said it was time for accountability. He asked the Board to consider their issues and concerns and look at this again before making a decision.

Marsha Donegan asked that a key change be made as to how the LSC operates because a clear path for children is needed. She also asked that an interim principal be placed at King.

Jazz Dunn, a Junior at King, said that decisions were made that weren't addressed to everyone and that state policy was ignored as well and added that CPS has not valued my education.

Board Member Dr. Hines said that our heart goes out to you, we do value you, but LSCs are elected and are governed by the state. She added that if you want a change, go to the state.

Jordan Dunn of Jones College Prep remarked that LSCs are making decisions on their own and misusing powers.

Jill Dunn of King then asked that the Board not make a certain person principal.

Tineeka Reed, a parent and former student at King, stated that the training for being an LSC member must be completed in six months, the Board shall monitor for compliance, the LSC position must be vacated if training is not done in six months, and if multiple members failed to comply. She added that the Board can nullify votes of the LSC. She told the Board that it is within your power, but you look the other way.

Board President Clark told them that there would be a new LSC in July and you will be empowered in just a few days. He said a new principal was coming to King and that the principal that was leaving did not have the contract renewed. He affirmed, "You are in power now, exercise your power. Work with the new principal."

Sharon Schmidt, of Steinmetz High School, said that the school had a great year and that the Board can read about the school in their own newspaper, The Steinmetz Star, She said it presents highlights of the year, the field trips, the foreign students, and the great sports. She then went on to say that Mayor Emmanuel and the alderman were building a new school that would affect and harm Steinmetz. She said that Bridge, Canty, and Dever schools will be voted on to be removed as feeder schools to Steinmetz, She said 194 students in those feeder schools will be directed to the new school instead, which would result in segregation at Steinmetz. She handed a list to the Board.

Susan Fila, Vice President of Operations for Ombudsmen asked for a one year extension and outlined the services provided.

Igbazenda Tighil, of Ombudsmen, enumerated the services provided and stressed that students get their high school diplomas and make something of themselves.

Alexandra Dakession, of Ombudsmen, highlighted the students who attend from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. She said that they use restorative practices.and mentioned the 193 graduates. She asked for a renewal of their contract.

Tasha Rider shared a story of a student who got a scholarship and could not decide to accept or to stay and help his family. She said that we helped him to accept a scholarship at a four-year college.

Board President Clark said that we have not heard complaints about Ombudsmen and we value your work.

Jeremy Hernandez of Pritzker College Prep Class of 2018 and a student at University of Illinois Chicago UICI) next, said that the gym is too small, the stage in the cafeteria and the hallways are used for gym classes and our teachers are creative.

Davis Martinez, a graduate of Pritzker and now at the University of Illinois, said that because gym classes cannot fit in the gym, gym classes are held on the blacktop in Spring or Fall, He mentioned that it is hard to find a place to practice baseball. He reported the difficulties of accessing sports in limited spaces.

Andrew Wetmore, a Health and Physical Education (PE) teacher at Pritzker, also told of the challenges of using spaces for sports. He mentioned a leaky ceiling, screws in the floor, and that the one field that is available needs improvement.

Helen Stangle, of Acero Schools, spoke of the achievements at Acero and added that the growing budget insufficiency was a concern.

Freddy Ortiz told the Board that Intrinsic School helped him to get in his comfort zone and named his accomplishments there. He said he planned to attend Brown University for engineering.

Joseph Rivera, another Intrinsic Alum, said that the school had changed him. He used to get Cs and Ds and now gets straight As. He plans to attend a Connecticut College on a full scholarship.

Maria Owens said that the Grand Crossing community has too many charter schools and underachieving charters.

Mary Long, whose only child was killed at Hirsch High School recently, said the school had gone from Level 3 to Level 2 and is organized now. and the dropout rate decreased. She said funds were needed for various needs.

Board President Clark mentioned that he went to Hirsch when it actually was overcrowded, but the Hirsch membership has been declining for a long time, (He was told the membership is under 100 students in a school with a capacity of 1200.)

Robert Lamont, of Veterans for Peace, told of remembering Harper High School and printing "Will War Never End?" He said he gave the Board a copy months ago. He quoted Tolstoy from "A Manifesto for Waging Peace." He asked the Board to remove Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

Samay Gheewala, of Patrick Henry School, said the school had been at capacity for many years now and will be converted to a full-day pre-school. He informed the Board that they needed more teachers and resources.

Carolyn Lewis of the Courtenay Child Parent Center (CPC) said the building had been closed since 2015 and that the cost of repairs was greater than the value of the building. She also said it attracts crime and the ugly little yellow building is an eyesore. She added that the $40,000 spent in the past and the $15,000 spent this school year was wasted.

Susan Hickey, Retired CPS Social Worker, told about a student who had been abused in the past and the student was sent back to the student's home because Social Worker Hickey was absent that day. She told the adult that you were the first person who spoke to the student and if the student was harmed, you will need to report this. The student told a judge what happened. The student said he told the truth and the judge believed him. She provided a hand-out.

Martin McGreal, of Pathways in Education, spoke in support of the Alternative Learning Options Programs and thanked the Board "for providing opportunities for students who struggle in traditional environments." He told of 1000 students now contributing and told of work being done in other states.

Krista Alston, of Dunbar, spoke of a program for 7th and 8th grade students that allows students to explore high school before high school.

Rikki Jones, retired CPS community representative at Dunbar, said she was working hard to change the dynamics at Dunbar which has a great principal. She added that we need CPS support.

Louis Pyster, retired CPS teaacher, asked CPS to find the person at CTU to take calls about dirty buildings and staffing. He remarked that he worked for Debra Lynch. He added that if Jesse (Sharkey) wants communication, let him step up with communication. He mentioned that school nurses had decreased and more are needed. He added that librarians, clerks , African-American teachers, Latino teachers, Bilingual teachers and Asian-American teachers are also needed.

Mariana Reyes,, of Luther Burbank Elementary School, said that UNO (charter school) opened a few blocks away and Burbank lost 112 students and enrollment is down since then. She added that we don't need another new school in Belmont-Cragin. She asked the Board to invest in neighborhood schools.

Yuliza Soto, of Prosser, told of negative conditions at Prosser, that a teacher was let go and that there are larger class sizes.

Sandra Diaz, of Tonty School, told of the lack of space, over-crowding, lack of a lunchroom, lunch in gyms and classrooms which attracts "critters" and bacteria. She said we want help with needed expansion and we need adequate space to learn and grown.

Ron Milner came in 60 miles from Sycamore. He was born in Chicago, lived in poverty at 38th and Ellis and went to Dunbar High School. He said that he is now in the corporate world and is the only African-American sales rep. He added that he has a wife and daughter, $300,000 house and a $250,000 portfolio.. He is a vendor who has taught a workshop on stock market lessons at Fenwick High School in Oak Park.

Angela Williams, a former Skinner Elementary student, needed home-schooling because of the stress of being bullied. Her mother, Angela Butler, was allowed to speak even though she had not signed up to speak. She remarked that individuals cannot speak two months in a row. She spoke of the terrible conditions her daughter, Angela Williams, had endured. She added that she was tired of being ignored.

Board President Clark allowed her to speak aat length and thanked her. She was later invited to speak with Board personnel after the end of the meeting.

Board President Clark then asked Board Member Dr. Hines to read the motion that allowed the Board to go into closed session.

Reply Reply All Forward


July 5, 2018 at 9:02 AM

By: Jo-Anne Cairo

June Boad Meeting

Thank You, for the latest news update on CPS. It was nice to see names of several people I know. The sad thing about that is their comments were allowed to be heard by the Board but it's like talking to your pet, the Board will do nothing. The board will just spend more money, for more useless investeigations that don't HELP the Students.

July 5, 2018 at 2:32 PM

By: Marybeth Foley

Robert Lamont correction

Robert Lamont of Veterans for Peace told the Board he gave them the book Will War Never End by Paul K. Chappell months ago. A Manifesto for Waging Peace is on page three. He also mentioned Tolstoy who wrote War and Peace.

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