Board of Education president responds to Substance: "George Schmidt was a great man"

Like so many who spoke at the June 26 Board of Education meeting, I said I was hopeful because of Mayor Lori Lightfoot's newly appointed board. I had signed up to speak to offer two suggestions to the new board, but then I heard them addressed throughout the meeting by other speakers and Board President Miguel Del Valle. So I changed my speech and began speaking about Del Valle, who I had first covered in the March 2000 print edition of Substance when he (as an Illinois state senator) spoke out in favor of the union custodians whose jobs were being privatized by Mayor Daley's appointed CPS administrator and board, then led by Paul Vallas and Gery Chico.

Substance editor Sharon Schmidt speaks at the June 26 Board of Education meeting. I brought Del Valle a copy of that issue of Substance and referred to my husband George Schmidt's editorial in the February 2011 issue, online here, in which he endorsed Del Valle for mayor.

I said, "George died in September," then I started crying. I didn't know that was going to happen, but It didn't surpirse me. I loved and admired George so much; the loss is so painful. Another person in that meeting room had cried immediately when he learned George died. When I entered the chamber prior to the meeting, one of the Board security asked me, "How's the big guy?" When I said he died, this strong man immediately wept.

I finished speaking for my two minutes, saying how much George inspired me and others to tell the truth and work for racial and economic justice in the schools. I said that we have continued to publish Substance, which George began in 1975. I said I'd planned to suggest two things – giving the most to those who have the least and moving the Board meetings to afterschool hours held in the schools – which had both been discussed by others, so I'd quickly suggest a few other things.

In my last 15 seconds I suggested the board needed to look closely at wasteful spending on the networks and outside consultants, adding as an example that the "Annual Regional Analysis," which CEO Janice Jackson touted in her report as an example of CPS transperancy, was really created by the Renaissance Fund's Kids First Chicago, a pro-charter group.

When I finished my testimony, Del Valle said he was glad to know we're continuing to publish Substance. He said he had learned a lot from George Schmidt. "I always read his publication," Del Valle siad. "He was a great man." Board member Dwayne Truss also offered words praising George's work and shared his condolences, adding, "I miss him."


July 6, 2019 at 11:03 PM

By: Theresa D. Daniels

Heart-tugging Meeting

I just have to say that you really know your stuff, Sharon, to be able to change your speech and address so many different topics. I love how George was remembered here; how touching. He deserved the tributes.

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