A report on controlling cockroaches was more important than dozens of parents who spent the day waiting in vain to speak to their school board... Chicago Board of Education again dumps dozens of parents from speakers' list

For the second time in three months, the controversial President of the Chicago Board of Education, Michael Scott, abruptly snubbed more than 100 parents, teachers and community leaders who took a day off from other activities to attend the Chicago Board of Education meeting and speak out about issues of concern to them.

At 11:00 a.m. on October 28, 2009, Substance counted 114 people sitting in what CPS calls the "holding room" on the 15th floor of the Chicago Public Schools headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago. The "holding room" is where CPS officials place parents, teachers and other members of the public who come to Chicago's downtown to testify and participate in the monthly meetings of the city's school board. Because of restrictions placed on the time that "public participation" takes place by Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott, most of the people who began the meeting in the "holding room" were sent home after Scott declared public participation over at 1:00 that afternoon in order for the Board to hear reports from administrators on topics such as cock roach control. Like the majority of children in the schools system, the people relegated to the "holding room" are mostly working class, many of whom take off from work to try and participate in the supposedly public meetings of their school board. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Once again, Scott, who controls the length of the Board meetings, allowed precisely two hours for public comments, stranding dozens of parents and teachers (perhaps as many as 100) when he abruptly terminated the Board's public participation at 1:00 on October 28, 2009, and gavelled the regular business meeting of the Board to order.

Scott had made a similar decision at the August 26 meeting of the Board, stranding a large number of people who came to speak. Although he claimed that his staff contacted the people who had been excluded to speak first at the September 23 meeting, like many things Scott says in public, it was not true. Several parents and teachers who had signed up to speak at the August Board meeting told Substance they were never contacted to speak at the September meeting.

While more than 100 people are forced to watch the public meeting of the Chicago Board of Education ten floors away in the so-called "holding room" on the 15th Floor of CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago, Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott (above, under the great seal of the Board of Eduction) and the members of the Board try to prevent the discontent across the city from being displayed on the Cable TV broadcast of the monthly meetings of the Board. Above, Scott and Board member Traiq Butt, both appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, during the Board meeting of October 28, 2009. Substance photo by George Schmidt.When Scott banged his gavel and ruled that public participation was concluded on October 28, there were at least 21 parents and teachers who had signed up to speak who were excluded not only from the meeting, but also from airing their grievances to the Board because of Scott's unilateral rulings. For two years, under previous Board President Rufus Williams, the Board would extend the time for speakers if a large number of people had taken the time to come downtown to participate in the important public event. Scott ended that practice when he returned to the Board after Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley dumped Rufus Williams abruptly in January 2009. Scott resumed his post at the Board in February 2009 upon appointment by Daley and was selected Board President by the members of the Board that same month.

A busload of parents and children from J.N. Thorp Elementary School (8914 S. Buffalo) waited patiently for more than four hours from the time their speakers signed up until Michael Scott cut them out of public participation so that the Board could hear a report on how it was going to control mice, rats, and cockroaches from one of its hundreds of administrators. The Thorp parents are opposing a plan endorsed by Scott to close their schools and turn it over to a group of so-called "educational entrepreneurs." The Thorp parents have been organizing for months in opposition to a plan, supported by the Board members and the Board's massive "Office of New Schools" to close Thorp and turn the building over to a charter school supported by powerful business and political interests in South Chicago. The Thorp contingent to the October 28 Board meeting planned to warn the Board of Education not to approve a plan, set to be before the Board at its November 2009 meeting, to destroy their school as the Board, under Michael Scott's leadership, destroyed the nearby South Chicago Elementary School last school year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Instead of hearing from parents about problems in their schools, Scott and the Board sat smiling while they listened to presentations from CPS bureaucrats on such subjects as minor changes in the system's policy on student retention and how the school system is going to control mice, rats, cock roaches and other vermin.

Following the presentations, the Board went into executive session while those who had taken the day to speak about the problems facing their children and their schools headed home, in some cases after having paid a small fortune to park in the expensive privatized parking lots of Chicago's Loop or ride buses back to the schools that had sent them downtown after careful planning and preparation.

Michale Scott's Seating Chart

When Michael Scott began the Board meeting at a little after 10:30 a.m. on October 28, the main meeting room of the Board (known as the "Board Chambers") was filled with people. Half of those people were Board employees, who filled seats marked "reserved", on the one hand, and other seats that were meant for the public, on the other. The Board chambers are on the fifth floor of the Board's headquarters building at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago's Loop.

Prior to each Board meeting, someone from the Board places 'Reserved' signs on as many as 50 of the seats in the section of the meeting room supposedly available to the general public. The largest number of Reserved seats in the general section of the Board Chambers are designated for specific individuals from the Board's vast bureaucracy. Two dozen of these people are arranged carefully directly behind the speaker's podium which is set up in the middle of the room, facing the Board members, at the railing.

The result of this careful placement of highly paid Board staff is that a TV viewer watching the re-broadcast of the meeting on Chicago CAN Cable TV sees a row of smiling people who never look critically as events unfold. These individuals also are seated, deliberately, in an arrangement that Substance (in another report) as called "Richie's Rainbow". [See, for example, the Substance report on the arrangement of the aldermen behind Richard Daley and Arne Duncan at the October 7, 2009, City Hall press conference on 'Youth Violence' at http://www.substance articles.php?page= 925§ion=Article]. "Richie's Rainbow" is created by making sure that the people standing in TV camera range will show a kind of faux diversity: an African American male, for example, is likely to be seated beside a white female, who in turn is seated beside an African American female, who is seated beside a 'Latino' (looking) male; etc., etc. CPS spokesmen have refused to tell Substance who actually makes up the elaborate seating charts that determine which CPS staff sit in camera range during the monthly Board meetings, despite repeated requests. The Board chambers are locked prior to the Board meetings, and when they are opened on the day of the meeting (generally, but not always, the fourth Wednesday of the month) the seating chart has been completed and as many as 60 seats — in the 'public' section of the large room — are taken. 

Final edited version of this article posted at October 30, 2009, 11:00 a.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 29, 2009 at 11:04 AM

By: chicagomom


Well, maybe if some of the regular egomaniacs who feel a need to constantly expound for the cameras at the board meetings gave others a chance, there might be more time. I personally think rodent control is more important than much of the drivel. He has a meeting to run and there is 2 hours set aside for public comment.

Also, for those who paid a fortune to park, the CTA and Metra is very accessible to 125 South Clark.

October 29, 2009 at 6:46 PM

By: dear mom

no really mom

do you watch and see and hear how Michael Scott wastes a lot of time talking back to the people who present--he engages them in long detaILED conversations which should be done at a later time--on HIS time, not the publics. Scott, if you view a real transcript or a real tape, is much more of a time waster and it is done on purpose too! he needs to be quiet and listen, then when he wants more info, take a number and use those $$ paeons he has to call and get further info,. this is the oldest trick in the book, how he prolongs these meetings.

October 29, 2009 at 9:08 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired Teacher

I used to go down to the meetings once or twice a year when I was teaching and I never recall a previous administration abruptly ending public comment in this session. Almost everyone who signed up to speak in the past was always allowed to speak as long as they were willing to be patient.

I hope Scott changes his practices.

October 30, 2009 at 10:50 AM

By: Retired Principal

CPS Board Meetings

The Board members should not be allowed to make comments or ask questions until all speakers who have signed up to speak have spoken. This will help to stop the filibuster led by President Scott to waste time during the two hours of public participation!

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