Daley, Huberman, Duncan were squeezing out Michael Scott in weeks before Scott's death
Six days before the body of Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott was found at the Chicago River near the Merchandise Mart and the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza building (which houses, among other businesses, the Chicago Sun-Times), Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman held a rare press conference at the Board of Education's headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago.
The press conference was to unveil to the public the CPS plan for the schools now that Chicago is no longer required to follow federal desegregation guidelines. Among those standing before the cameras were Huberman, a protege of Mayor Richard M. Daley who had been appointed CEO in January 2009 despite the fact that he knew nothing about Chicago's public schools (Huberman's most recent job had been as President of the Chicago Transit Authority) and five other people. Standing arrayed behind Huberman for the TV cameras were a young white guy who was introduced as Chicago's newest authority on diversity; Chicago's "Chief Education Officer" Barbara Eason Watkins; Walter Burnett, one of 50 Chicago aldermen; Chicago Public Schools General Counsel Patrick Rocks; and the "Vice President" of the Chicago Board of Education, Clara Muñana.
Missing from the spot he had held for years as the President of the Chicago Board of Education, Michael Scott. No reporters asked why Scott was being excluded from major media events arranged by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and his most important lieutenants.
Five weeks before Scott's death, on October 7, 2009, one of the largest press conferences in Chicago history was held at the office of Mayor Richard M. Daley at Chicago's City Hall. The reason for the press conference was to answer question about the brutal murder of Fenger High School junior Derrion Albert, whose brutal beating death five blocks from the school on September 24, 2009, had made international news because it was videotaped while it was taking place, the video then being provided to Chicago Police, Fox News, and finally, internationally via You Tube. During the most heated controversy over the Derrion Albert death, the mayor of Chicago and his top aides were in Copenhagan, lobbying for Chicago to get the 2016 Olympics. The October 7, 2009 media event at Daley's office was unusual for several reasons. One of those was that Chicago Police were told not to demand Chicago Police press credentials from reporters arriving to cover the event. Usually, the mayor's media events are not only carefully scripted, but ruthlessly controlled. Only reporters who carry official "Chicago" press passes are allowed past the police cordon that is generally with the city's mayor. Because a large number of reporters had come to Chicago not only from across the USA, but from around the world, Daley had ordered the tight policing of the press to loosen for one day.
Inside the press conference, Daley arrayed the usual "diversity" background (which Substance has called "Richie's Rainbow") behind him. In order to get the right colors to show off Chicago, Daley's staff had brought seven aldermen up from the City Council chambers where they were meeting three floors below. The aldermen (from among 50 potential candidates) were John Pope (white), Latasha Thomas, Anthony Beale, and Carrie Austin (African American), and Ray Suarez, Ariel Reboyras, and Roberto Maldonado (various Latinos). All stood behind the mayor and former Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan (now U.S. Secretary of Education) during the media event. The TV cameras are always going to show Chicago's diversity whenever Mayor Daley is on camera.
But for those who looked carefully, one person was stashed in a corner and the most prominent African American public school official was not even in the room.
Daley's protege, current schools CEO Ron Huberman, was almost off camera. Daley's longest serving education lieutenant, Chicago School Board President Michael Scott, was not even in the room.
During the hectic months following the election of Chicago's Barack Obama as President of the United States, one of the focal points of public attention became Chicago's public schools. Within six weeks of his election, President Obama announced that he was appointing Chicago's public schools "Chief Executive Officer" Arne Duncan (who had been plucked from obscurity in June 2001 and made head of the nation's third largest school system by Daley) to become U.S. Secretary of Education. By December 16, 2008, Duncan was pictured on Page One of The New York Times sitting smiling in a classroom at Chicago's Dodge Elementary School, which was about to become the poster child for an Obama administration national program: school turnaround.
In January 2009, Mayor Daley announced that he was once again passing over hundreds of experienced educators to appoint a protege, then Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman, to head the school system which Duncan had headed until Obama beckoned Duncan to Washington. Like Duncan before him, Huberman had not teaching experience or credentials to work as a teacher or administrator in any public school in Illinois — except Chicago. Under a peculiar law (the "Amendatory Act" of 1995), Chicago has been massively deregulated, with the mayor given dictatorial control over the city's 600 public schools. In January 2009, Daley appointed his third Chief Executive Officer, again a white guy with no teaching experience and no Illinois administrative certification. Although the city's propaganda machinery again cranked out narratives about why Huberman was the perfect person for the job, the storms were everywhere.
One of Duncan's legacies to Huberman was a so-called "Hit List" of public schools slated for closing for various pretexts. Since the early part of the century, Duncan had dutifully carried out a privatization program called "Renaissance 2010" on Daley's behalf. For the seventh time in seven years, Chicago was scheduled to be treated to a series of public "hearings" on why certain public schools were to be closed, usually to be turned over to privatized operators within a few months after the closings. Unlike most previous years, however, every hearing and every public event was being met with massive resistance and protests that filled the sidewalk outside the headquarters of CPS, which is four blocks south of City Hall, where the mayor's office sits on the fifth floor.
But in order for Daley to get away with the continued closing of public schools, he had to organize a united front, particularly in Chicago's black community, where the majority of the schools that had been closed (and the teachers and principals that had been fired) by Duncan had been located.
For example, six high schools had been closed by Duncan during his years as CEO, all because they were ostensibly "failing." Englewood High School, whose alumnae include Lorraine Hansberry, had been dumped and turned into a highly publicized charter school (the all-boys "Urban Prep") three years earlier. Collins High School on Chicago's West Side had been closed and turned over to a charter school (North Lawndale College Prep) and a corporate "turnaround" training center (the Academy for Urban School Leadership). Orr High School, which supposedly was a masterpiece of "small schools" was abruptly declared a failure by Duncan in 2008 and subjected to so-called "turnaround." So was Harper High School, whose teachers noted that because of the closing of other South Side schools they had a population that included an unheard of 20 percent homeless students and 30 percent special education students (while the charter schools that were replacing the public schools were systematically excluding special education students with Duncan's blessing). As early as 2004, Duncan had slowly shuttered both Austin High School (which served the city's largest African American community) and Calumet High School (which served an large African American community on the city's South Side).
By 2009, the results of Duncan and Daley's "Hit List" were becoming all too obvious to most people in Black Chicago, the town once dubbed "Black Metropolis" by sociologist St. Clare Drake. Black schools were being closed and privatized and black teachers were being fired and replaced with young white teachers who supposedly understood the best practices by means of which ghetto schools would be "turned around" as if by a miracle.
TO BE CONTINUED
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