At huge Chicago City Hall press conference... Duncan lies about impact of ‘turnaround’ on Chicago’s Fenger High School

Speaking to a press conference that consisted of more than 80 reporters from around the USA and from other natioins, U.S. Secretary of Education continued to lie about the impact of his policies of so-called “turnaround” on Fenger High School. Chicago's Fenger High School (located at 11220 S. Wallace Ave. in the city's South Side African American ghetto) has been the focus of international news attention since the September 24 murder of Fenger honor roll student Derrion Albert after school on September 24, 2009. The Albert murder and the subsequent international outcry after a video of the murder was broadcast internationally brought Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to Chicago for meetings on "youth violence."

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (second from left) stands waiting to speak at a packed City Hall press conference in Chicago on the issue of school violence. At the podium gesturing is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who hosted the press conference in his fifth floor office at Chicago's City Hall. Behind Daley is U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who accompanied Duncan to Chicago to deal with the "crisis" of youth violence that became a national scandal following the beating death of Fenger High School junior Derrion Albert on September 24, 2009. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.There were three speakers at the press conference. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley read a prepared statement and then took questions. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke. And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan read a prepared statement and took questions.

During the question-and-answer session at the press conference, one Chicago reporter got in a question about “turnaround.” Specfically, the reporter asked what Duncan's response was to people who said the chaos at Fenger this year was caused in part by Duncan's policy of so-called "turnaround."

Under “turnaround”, which Duncan is proposing for 5,000 (supposedly "failing") schools across the USA, everyone on the school’s staff is fired if the school has low test scores. Duncan began applying "turnaround" in Chicago four years ago, based on corporate models that he followed for many things. Under "turnaround" nothing matters, including circumstance such as poverty and drug gangs, but test scores.

While he was Chief Executive Officer of Chicago’s 400,000-student public school system, Duncan subjected more than a dozen schools to “turnaround,” including six high schools (although in some cases it was not yet called "turnaround"). At all of those schools, the majority of teachers were fired, and replaced with a cadre of teachers who had supposedly been trained in “turnaround” methods.

Prior to his appointment as U.S. Secretary of Education by Barack Obama in December 2008, Duncan had prepared a proposal that Fenger High School be the only high school to face “turnaround” during the 2008-2009 school year. Duncan’s proposal was carried through by his successor, Ron Huberman, who ignored the moving testimony of a lengthy hearing and proposed to the Chicago Board of Education at its February 2009 meeting that Fenger be turned around.

In June 2009, the principal and the overwhelming majority of the teachers and other staff at Fenger were fired. The student population remained the same. A completely new group of teachers and a new principal was brought in to the school. Most had little experience with schools like Fenger.

The result of “turnaround” was chaos inside the school from the opening week of school. Students complained that the novice teachers and principal didn’t know what they were doing. Things came to a dramatic head on September 24, 2009. In the morning, a student fired shots outside the building. In the afternoon, a massive gang fight a half mile from the school on 111th St. resulted in the brutal murder of student Derrion Albert.

When Arne Duncan was asked whether “turnaround” had helped cause the chaos at Fenger, he said “No.” Then he began to talk about how there were more than 400 students from the Altgeld Gardens housing project attending Fenger, ignoring the fact that Duncan’s turnaround policy is what had destabilized Fenger from the inside. Neither Duncan nor the mayor allowed any follow up questions clarifying Duncan’s lie about turnaround. Turnaround was not about the students from the Altgeld Gardens housing project. It was about firing teachers at challenging inner city schools because test scores are low.

Duncan, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and Mayor Daley left the press conference by a back door and left the building by a back staircase. In the process of leaving, they avoided a large crowd of African American community activists that was protesting outside the mayor’s fifth floor office. One of those snubbed during the press conference was the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had previously supported Daley and Duncan’s corporate “school reform” policies. Jackson was among the community activists who spoke critically about the day’s events to the press following the quick exist of Duncan, Daley, and Holder. 

Final edited version of this article posted at October 10, 2009, 5:00 p.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article 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. 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.


October 7, 2009 at 6:22 PM

By: Zeta

A Moratorium on School Expulsions NOW!

Today several displaced teachers and I visited Fenger High in hopes that Arne Duncan would come. Of course he was too busy enjoying the comforts of the 4 Seasons Hotel on the Gold Coast. He was too much of a celebrity to come and face the nightmare he has created at the Fenger High School.

At Fenger, we witnessed a large presence of police officers and detectives patrolling the neighborhood and even saw parole officers questioning 14 year olds. When one young man said he didn't have car fare to get home. The parole officers made no attempt to help but continued to question the boy and his sister. After about ten minutes we walked over to ask what was going on. The child pulled out two expired bus cards and said he was trying to go home but couldn't. When I gave the students $5.00 and told them the go home the parole offices let them go. The children turned around and said'" God Bless You". We answered back, " We love you, go home'. They smiled and left.

Now we know that these children are children of children I want get into that.

The question is, where is the love and concern for our children? Why are they targets of the police, parole officers and ultimately the "BIG WIGS" at central office who only see them as a way to make money.

After we left Fenger we went to visit Carver Military School. It is the school that was closed in Atgeld Gardens which created the transfer of 400 students to Fenger. Carver about twice the size of Fenger, has 1/5 of its building occupied. Students like Derrion Albert would have been attending there instead taking 3 buses to get to Fenger everyday. Also he would have been in a community he was familiar with and would most likely be alive today it he would have been accepted there. However, we all know that this was not the case and Derrion was murdered. So we know it’s not about the children, it’s all about money .

Isn't that what they all want? These poor kids are tied to federal dollars. Mayor Daley

And the politicians all know that. That's why they want to turnaround these schools where poor children live. They use the federal dollars to line their own pockets while the "Mis-education of the Negro Part Two" takes place.

To add insult to injury, TOO MANY (NOT ALL), Middle class African American Buppies spend many hours trying to find was to eradicate or eliminate poor black children. They are an embarrassment to them. They target these children, harass them, label them and eventually expel them from CPS.

The result of that is that you have large numbers of African American children who have been kicked out of main stream America and they are angry. The only people who welcome and accept them are gangs. Now you have gangs of unfocused angry children with nothing to do roaming the communities terrorizing everyone. Also, who can they attack? A hard working Honor Roll student who has been accepted by the mainstream culture. So they take out there frustrations on them.

Add to all of this the Mayors turnaround madness and it all works like a charm!

Let's Review- 10 ways create a Turnaround Murder!

1. Poor African American Children

2. Young irresponsible parents

3. Angry and Mis -educated Black Children

4. Uppity Black Educators (angry and embarrassed by 'Those N...,"

5. Student Expulsions

6. Children left unattended

7. Police Harassment

8. Gang Affiliations

9. Turnaround Schools

10. Murder of an innocent African American Child!


October 7, 2009 at 7:01 PM

By: Sick and Tired

Where Are the City's Other Reporters?

The first sound bites that I heard today from the Press Conference were so predictable, I wonder why the players even bothered appearing in person. Mayor Daley's response to the tragedy at Fenger is that this kind of violence happens in OTHER CITIES TOO. Duncan's useless contribution was to announce that Federal dollars will be poured into Fenger High School (read Mayor Daley's pocket). Holder said nothing.

Maybe Jesse Jackson will start remembering his roots in the Chicago political scene. He gained notice because he spoke directly to young black men and women about pride and life and accomplishment.

Everyone's behavior is shameful.

October 8, 2009 at 9:07 AM

By: Jean Schwab


I've found at my school that lies are common. Some staff do it to protect their jobs and get along,forget about whether the truth will help the student. The lucky teacher does not have to face this at all. I had a lot of problems with this and that is why I no longer teach there. I was outspoken about various issues such as TAP and how my Special Education students were being treated. I've noticed that some of my issues with Kartheiser have been resolved since I left and someone she chose in my position as I had predicted. There are consequences that go along with the truth and that's why so many do not stand up and express themselves.

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