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Chicago Board of Education in massive manipulation of 'public' during August 26, 2009 Board meeting

Are the Seven Dwarfs are down to six?

Officially, the Chicago Board of Education, Chicago Mayor Daley's rubber stamp, has seven members, all appointed by the mayor (and all corporate, not educational, people).

But before the August 26, 2009 Board meeting, someone had taken down the sign indicating Roxanne Ward's place at the Board table. She was nowhere to be seen last Wednesday, but nobody mentioned her disappearance, at least during anything I heard. I can't imagine anyone stealing her name plaque as a souvenir, so I'm assuming the Board of Education now has five "members" earning those $24,000 a year non receipted "expenses" (Bobins, Butt, Carrero, Davis, and Muñana) and one "President" (Scott) getting that $36,000 per year unreceipted expense account. So they can vote without discussion or debate to approve the mayor's budgets and the mayor's policies...

But that's not why I stopped by here for someone else's fifteen minutes in infamy.

The manipulation of the public records of CPS is getting to be really dangerous. Behind the scenes all that corruption is costing us (those of us paying property and others taxes here in Chi-Town) hundreds of millions of dollars. Basically, just as any crony capitalist kleptocracy from here to Turkmenistan, corruption raises public costs, whether in privatized parking meters or in public school contracts and patronage hirelings. And Wednesday's Board meeting was an orgy of all of the above. Central Asian (or pure Chicago) style. Only the '...stans' do it like us. As in Afghani... Turkmeni... Uzbeki... etc.

But, as we've noted, now that the Chicago Plan has gone national (tomorrow is the last day to comment on 'Race to the Top') the whole world is watching (sort of).

One of the more delightful things about covering the Board meetings is watching Michael Scott manipulate all the "public" faces of the Board.

Wednesday, for example, the Board had 153 seats in the public part of its chambers. That's the area in front of the fence behind which the Board and the Big Shots sit. The really important people site arrayed on the two sides behind the fence, flanking the Board members and protected by at least two security people (usually with a couple of very large Chicago cops off stage, stage right).

Of those 153 seats in the 'public' section of that public place, 59 were carefully marked "Reserved" prior to the meeting. I photographed all of them because when Scott and the Board lie, they lie about everything. (Hope you didn't believe those protestations of true and eternal love on Prom Night -- didn't your Mama warn you about... Oh, forget it. We digress...)

Most of those marked "Reserved" were "Reserved" for specific named Board bureaucrats, who are ordered to

(a) dress pretty,

(b) smile a lot, and

(c) sit in their seats -- smiling prettily -- for the entire time the cameras are on during "public participation".

They are also assigned their seats to reflect the true and authentic diversity of Chicago. As in: White female; African American male; Hispanic female; Hispanic male; African American female; Asian female; etc., etc., etc. You know, why Chicago should get the Olympics and why were dictating how the world should be run now...

One note: There are fewer and fewer African American males to fill those seats, for reasons maybe Michael Scott will someday explain...

Back to the stage managing at CPS.

If you play the tapes of Board meetings going back a year, you always see the same faces in the small portion of the "public" you can see. Now and then they might move Carole Wood (AA(f) or James Dispensa (W(m), or James Deanes (AA(m) out from camera range and replace them with another suitable and well suited AA(f) or AA(m), but generally the same seating chart is used to the same ends every month.

And note: Those 153 seats in the Board chambers on the fifth floor are in addition to the 44 seats behind the railing (for the seven Board members; the attorney and the two CEOs; and the 36 top officials -- mostly nowadays with titles like "Officer," "Chief Officer" and "Chief of Staff" -- who also attend all the meetings of the Chicago Board of Education.

Thus, almost 100 seats in the fifth floor Board chambers every month are filled by design by Board bureaucrats and Board members. And this is before guys like Jaime Guzman and a half dozen others from the Office of New Schools and "Community Relations" (both of which were not cut in the budget cuts by the way) take seats in the "public" section in seats that have not previously been reserved.

The net result is that every meeting more actual citizens (parents, teachers, children) are relegated to the various "holding rooms" (that's what they call them) on the upper floors and prevented from getting to the fifth floor (unless favored by the Board, like the KIPP rent-a-parents last year; or the UNO teachers and others Wednesday) with express elevator service to the fifth floor so they can line up to show "public" support for Scott, Huberman, and the Seven Dwarfs.

Of course, when CPS runs out of hirelings to fill those seats, there are always the "Rent-a-Parent" and "Rent-a-Preacher" programs that Michael Scott and Ron Huberman can count on. More about those programs later. In both cases, use quotations or italics around 'parent' and 'preacher.' Ask some of them for the name of their children (if they claim to be 'parents') or the location of their church or minisiters' organization (if they claim to be savants and divines). Then ask them how much CPS or some other outpost (public or private) of the Daley administration paid them over the last five tax years. IRS kind of stuff. Start with the guy who's now at Orr, who went from demanding an elected school board to being ready to quote on demand by CPS, and who made it into a Page One story in The New York Times within a year after he inked the first terms in the 'Rent a Preacher' program, so to speak...

But back to democracy in action on August 26, 2009.

Michael Scott was ruthlessly enforcing the "two minutes and two hours" rules except when he wasn't enforcing it, which was whenever someone was speaking in praise of Mayor Daley, Michael Scott, the Board, or their lies.

So when TIME was called, there were between 12 and 20 people who had signed up but who were cut off without speaking. (The reason it's impossible to be precise about that number is that once people sign up, Scott and his spinning the public perceptions elves -- most notably CPS secretary Estela Beltran -- scramble the list so much enforcing that 'two speakers' on each side of each topic nonsense that you really have to pay attention to follow the list of signed up speakers).

But here is my short list (it may be incomplete) of the people who signed up but didn't get to speak:

David Klevatt (Edgwbrook Elementary)

Brian Roa (Senn High School)

Jack Potter (Little Village High School; I think that's Jackson Potter, also of CORE)

Hubert Jackson (Brooks High School)

Dorothy Straughter (Pinacle)

John Straughter (Pinacle)

Elena Rios (Gallistel)

Barbara Williams (Brown Elementary)

Tesenau Fitzgerald (Lavizzo)

Audrey Parsley

Savannah Hawkins (substitute teaching)

Carla Reyes (Civic Federation; Michael Scott announced that you could not substitute, but then allowed another person from the Civic Federation, a woman named Lise Valentine, to speak instead... THE RULES ARE THE RULES EXCEPT WHEN THEY'RE NOT THE RULES BECAUSE WE SAY SO!)

Ernestine Standberry (abstinance)

Philip Edison (Bucktown Community Organization; Scott allowed three Bucktown/ Pulaski speakers based on the "There are two and only two 'sides' to any question policy -- even though Scott knows from his Jesuit training that there are things like the Trinity and beyond)

Doris Matthews

Georgia Williams (Black Magnet School)

Tiffany Harvey (Coonley Gifted program)

Derrick Harris (North Lawndale LSC Federation)

Teresa Fraga (Pilsen Education Task Force)

Those are 18 I counted who waited in line, signed up, waited according to Scott's Rules of Order, and then simply weren't allowed to speak at the August 26, 2009 Chicago Board of Education meeting. Remembers, we're talking about a public meeting of the public body that was about to vote to spent $6.8 billion (operations and capital budgets combined) over the next ten months (we're already almost at the end of the second month of fiscal 2010).

But Michael Scott has to rush to get to the point where he's earning his "expenses" (and related fees, mostly in the private sector) by rubber stamping that $6.8 billion 'budget' thingy.

Well, that's what happened. Unlike some people who play pundit about CPS, I was there -- with a couple of other reporters from Substance as well. The Sun-Times simply wasn't. The Tribune decided there was no news from that meeting fit to print. The best media coverage out of all the events of August 26, 2009, came from the Spanish language stations. Followed by a bit from Chii-Town.

What CPS is trying to do is what cynics in the ruling class called the "Mushroom Philosophy" --

Keep them in the dark and feed them (_____; rhymes with "hit" but can't be written to Catalyst)...

The amazing thing is that considering all the insults and lies that people have to put up with from Michael Scott, Ron Huberman, and that infinite supply of coat holders and seat warmers they put into the Board Chambers every month, the numbers of people who demand the right to be heard at Board of Education meetings continues to grow.



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