Subscript: Inspector General stays political as school openings loom

It's an old Chicago rule: When in doubt, look for the clout.

Many of those of us who work at Substance and our friends in the schools were hoping that something would stop the massive stalling at 125 S. Clark St. on the question of what to do about the tyrannical principals whose terrorism against teachers has created a kind of professional hell at a small but significant number of Chicago public schools. But "the stall has been all" since the day the problems of places like Field, Gunsaulus, Coonely, Prescott, and a number of others were brought clearly and cleanly to the attention of CPS over the past six months. In each case, there is more to this than meets the eye politically (and less than meets the eye pedagogically).

Prescott Principal Erin Roche will begin a new school year on August 10 when Chicago's "Track E" schools begin classes for the 2009-2010 school year. The only question remaining for CPS about the Prescott scandals is what huge clout can offset so much that's in the books and on the record at this point. Stay tuned or be ruined. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. With school opening (for teachers at least) at the "Track E" schools 24 hours from when Substance publishes this brief story and analysis, it's clear that Barbara Eason Watkins and Ron Huberman are simply lying when they claim they have to utilize what they pompously refer to as "data" to deal with management problems inside Chicago's vast public school system. Last time we looked, one bit of "data" said that "Track E" teachers were reporting August 3. But "data" comes in many forms, some of which is nonsense and some of which can be audited down to the penny. What more "data" can be needed than the financial and other records, say, of Prescott Elementary School Principal Erin Roche, going back several years? Those "data" are already in place. It's just as the "data" were available when the CEOs of all those mortgage companies were cooking the books a couple of years ago. Whistle Blowers tried to tell the money cops that those puffed up popinjays of the plutocracy were making themselves rich — while bringing down the rest of us and their fetishized "global economy" — with their back alley greed. Chicago knew about this stuff from the days of Fort Dearborn.

The rule has always been: Follow the money.

But in Chicago, clout and dollars (actually, now, much larger denominations than the old one and two-dollar bills that once sufficed) go hand in hand. So the formula is never as simple as it would be elsewhere. And with the complete bankruptcy (small "b") of both Chicago daily newspapers, it's a bit more difficult to tease out the facts and then some truth.

Since January, Ron Huberman has purged dozens of executives from CPS for lesser offenses (mostly, from what we hear, for knowing more about how to run schools than he and his CTA executive team knows) than have been committed by some minions who remain in power.

The Huberman purges were power plays. They were not based on any "data" other than shifting clout. For guys like the mediagenic CEO of CPS, all that "data" talk is obfuscation. "Data" are pretext for power plays and political ploys.

By now Huberman (and BEW) know a lot more than they did a few months ago about some of the principals who are bullying teachers and lying to parents at a handful of Chicago schools. What's the problem? Why the wait? Huberman could line up the TV cameras and get into Newsweek by orchestrating that publicity stunt at Julian High School back on April 3. So why the Chicago-style stall? Publicity hounds could always use a few more minutes of TV time. That's if our "tough ex-cop" were really interested in policing — rather than further politicizing — Chicago's crumbling public school system.

Crooked cops are the worst kind, because they undermine respect for institutions while fingering around their hands inside everyone's pockets.

But it's August now, and nothing is being done about Chicago's crooked, mendacious, and kinky principals. So the question drones on. Where's the clout, and what's it worth?

In a few days, the children will be returning to classes at Prescott Elementary School. From that day on (August 10; Prescott is a Track E school) any change in administration will "disrupt" the school year. BEW will have another excuse to do nothing, even though she'll never talk about her real reasons while rattling through those patented sanctimonious non-sequiturs she specializes in. By the time she's done with those unctuous platitudes, you'd almost wish Arne Duncan were back with his canned talking points.

We have our hunches about some of the clout that keeps Erin Roche (and those fantasy thingies from the overhyped "Erickson Institute") in power.

It's pretty exotic, and at its base reveals some of the hypocrisy we face. But we don't have full-time investigators, like, say, Huberman's Inspector General. We're working on it, but time's a wasting.

In a city that can put the Denver Boot on some poor family's car for two parking tickets, you'd think the million dollar office of Inspector General and the ten million dollar CPS Law Department might have noticed some of the "data" problems — present and past — with these kinky principals before July became August and the kids were at Target buying their schools supplies and getting those N.A.N.O. robotic phone calls. Now the children are about to return to their classrooms at the corner of Wrightwood and Ashland. Will the excuses from the two CEOs at CPS continue for another year of mayhem?

We smell a coverup. This big a coverup demands really big clout in this town. Anyone who wants to trace this particular scummy stream of clout to its sources should check out all the ties that grow from Roche's favorite source of patronage teacher hirelings and curriculum contracts. And we're not talking about that meager DePaul University writing thingy or those artistes working on that mural on the east wall... 

Final edited version of this Subscript posted at August 2, 2009, 4:30 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this Subscript in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. Please note also that "Subscript" combined with the Substance logo (the Apple with the fist inside) is a trademark of Substance, Inc. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.