Stop the sentimental silliness about Michael Scott... Hood News video shows how Chicago worked while Arne Duncan and Michael Scott served Richard M. Daley to destroy Collins HS and privatize dozens of Chicago public schools

Perhaps it's true that people should try and speak only good things about people who have passed along in a shocking way.

The Collins High School sign on the night of the massive community meeting to protest the Duncan and Scott administration's plan to close Collins as a public high school. One of the key figures in Mayor Daley's program to close and privatize dozens of Chicago public schools was Michael Scott, who as President of the Chicago Board of Education played Daley's divide-and-conquer game in Chicago's African American community while Arne Duncan took the scripted plans from the planning stage through implementation. In February 2006, the Board of Education, with Scott as chairman, vote to close Collins by freezing 9th grade enrollment. By 2009, Collins had been ended, with the newly remodeled "campus" being give away to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But while Chicago gets ready for the Michael Scott memorial at the University of Illinois (November 22, 2009), everyone should at least take a look at the video of just one of the backroom deals that Arne Duncan and Michael Scott did during the years they were closing more than 60 Chicago public schools and privatizing them under the program called "Renaissance 2010."

The video of Scott, Duncan (now U.S. Secretary of Education), Congressman Danny Davis (still Congressman Danny Davis), and (still) Illinois State Senator Ricky Hendon meeting in the back room of Edna's Restaurant on Chicago's gritty West Side tells more about the way Chicago's school politics worked in those days (in this case February 2006) than most college "political science" textbooks. Others at the back room meeting were Scott's lieutenant Greg Minniefield (who kept himself off camera) and one of Danny Davis's aide.

And, of course, Arne Duncan, who smiled a lot but tried not to say anything at all while the cameras were on.

"Hood News" is still in business, although they've never received the kind of recognition (or funding) that would have gone to them had they been willing to stand up for Mayor Daley and Michael Scott, rather than stand with the 1,000 students and teachers of Collins High School on the West Side whose lives were being destroyed by Scott, Duncan, and the others depicted in this video.

You can catch the video now at

By 2009 (above) Collins was no longer a public high school open to everyone in the community, but contained two selective schools. The "Collins Academy" is operated by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), while "North Lawndale College Prep" is a charter school the excludes most community students through a series of complex admissions and behavior rules. One of the ironies of Michael Scott's life was that Scott's mother was one of the leaders of the community protest movement that forced the Chicago Board of Education to build Collins as the "school in the park" in the early 1970s. Collins was opened as a general public high school in September 1976 and destroyed when Scott and Arne Duncan voted to close it for what they called "underperformance" beginning in 2006. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Along with a good article from the time by Chicago teacher and Substance staff writer Jesse Sharkey. Thanks to Schools Matter for giving this video another lease on life.

Anyone who thinks "Race to the Top" is about making the schools better should consider how Chicago did its school closings back in the day when Arne Duncan was cowering as the Hood News team burst into his backroom breakfast. To repeat, here is the Jesse Sharkey article that has now been posted, with the three Hood News videos, at Schools Matter:

Breakfast at Edna's (Backroom), Starring Arne Duncan and Chicago's Top Political Posers

Today we go the vault of golden oldies to remember the good ole days in Chicago, when Daley's henchmen played out their well-rehearsed Kabuki roles aimed to preserve their relationships with their constituencies while actually stabbing them in the back, or in the backroom, anyway.

A backroom deal in Chicago?

By Jesse Sharkey, Socialist Worker, March 10, 2006 CHICAGO ACTIVISTS opposed to a school-closing plan broke in on a backroom meeting that they believe was aimed at sealing the deal. Top school officials were found at a popular West Side restaurant Edna's--across the table from U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and state Sen. Ricky Hendon, whose districts include Collins High School, one of the schools slated to close.

Last month, the Chicago Board of Education (CBOE) voted unanimously to close four Chicago schools as part of its citywide privatization plan, called Renaissance 2010. The closings, announced a month earlier, aroused an outpouring of anger at the four high schools--Frazier, Farren, Morse and Collins--and the surrounding communities, all poor Black neighborhoods.

Davis and Hendon were among the most militant-sounding critics of the closures plan. At a town-hall meeting against the Collins closing, Davis and Hendon both denounced the city's plan as racist, and emphasized their long connection to the North Lawndale neighborhood. "We're going to show them how we fight," Hendon told the cheering crowd.

Several days later, at the CBOE hearing, Hendon threatened to cut off funding if the Collins closure went through. "You're not going to see a penny," he told Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan.

But Hendon seems to have been sending a different message behind the scenes. Last month, neighborhood activists spotted Hendon, Davis, Duncan and CBOE President Michael Scott in a back room at Edna's. Scott is also a local real estate developer with substantial business interests in the gentrifying West Side neighborhood.

After being alerted about the gathering, reporters from a local public access show, Hood News, burst into the room, with video rolling. "Is this the sellout crew?" the reporter asked. "Is this a secret meeting about Collins High School?" Ricky Hendon told the reporters, "Kiss my ass!" while Davis went for his cell phone and called police.

None of the participants would tell reporters what was on the agenda for the secret meeting. It is illegal under the Illinois Open Meetings Act for multiple elected officials to meet about policy in secret.

But it soon became clear what deal had been made when the board announced that Collins High School would close as planned--but only for one year, according to the board.

Hendon and his supporters hailed this as a victory, but the board had only ever planned to leave Collins closed for a year. Under Renaissance 2010, the board's scheme is to reopen closed schools as new charter schools, with new students and nonunion teachers.

Far from a victory, Hendon's deal gave the board exactly what they wanted--while delivering nothing to the teachers, parents and students in the neighborhood he and Davis pledged to represent.

More to come... Please add your comments after you've seen this exciting video from nearly four years ago (February 2006) when the men in the video were determining the fate of Chicago's George W. Collins High School behind closed doors in the backroom of Edna's Restaurant. 

Final edited version of this article posted at November 21, 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.


November 22, 2009 at 11:41 AM

By: zeta

My People Perish fo Lack of Knowledge!

Today I am mourning the death of Michael Scott, not for what he was but for what he could have been. M. S. A smart intelligent A. man that could have been like Malcolm or even Martin but chose to sell out to thee "powers that be".

I remember when M.S. came to Williams when it was closing. (Williams was a beautiful state of the art school before the turnarounds started. We had science labs, two computer labs, five computers in every teacher’s classroom, it was impeccably kept, handicapped accessible and had a new lunchroom. Things were great at Williams; we even had a Saturday School program.) However, Michael looked me and two other teachers in the eye and said, "I'm so sorry, I had no idea this school was like this, I wish I had visited it before I signed on to close it". This was how Michael Scott operated. He did what the Mayor wanted him to do no matter how much it hurt his own people. Now he is gone. What will the mayor do now?

It reads like a marvel comic book passage...,

"Out of nowhere, like a speeding bullet (no pun intended) here comes another "SELL OUT MAN" REVEREND SENATOR MASTER MIND PIMP DADDY MEEKS to the rescue....,

It's ironic that the Mayor has a new stool pigeon and African American flunky. He has a bigger mouth and is moiré vulgar and hates teachers. (Especially African American teachers). Daley must feel like he has died and gone to heaven.

Just when he looses his ACE, here comes another one better than the other one.

A picture is worth a thousand words,

Please Look at the Cover of this Chicago Defender.

Chicago Defender Cover 05JAN07.jpg

This was taken in 2007.

November 22, 2009 at 3:25 PM

By: Jean Schwab

M. Scott

I agree with John K. We have to look at the total Michael Scott and what he actually did, not just what people are saying about him.

November 23, 2009 at 12:25 AM

By: To Zeta

Displaced CPS Employee

Zeta, as always, you are "right on time," and in response to your question, "What will the mayor do now?" the mayor will continue using the same ole shuffling, tap dancing house negroes and field hands he has used since Day 1 to keep Jim Crow alive.

November 23, 2009 at 3:41 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Scott -- Chicago's segregationist in chief

I decided to forego the pleasure of covering the Michael Scott memorial at the University of Illinois at Chicago, but did watch most of the speeches later, thanks to the ABC news videos provided (more than one hour's worth on the Internet).

It reminder me of a story Grady Jordan told. A woman was at the funeral for her husband, and after listening to all the eulogies and other good words spoken interrupted the event and went up to look in the casket one last time.

"Is anything wrong?" someone asked.

"No," she replied. "After hearing all that, I just had to be sure we were talking about the same person."

Substance is going to remember the Michael Scott we knew from Chicago's public schools by publishing, first in our print edition, the photographs of every school that CPS closed under various pieces of "Renaissance 2010." Michael Scott could only get away with that much destruction because he was African American, and the bulk of that destruction -- including all the high schools he destroyed -- were segregated in the African American community.

Let's make that smaller (high schools) list:

Austin High School (2004)

Calumet High School (2004).

Englewood High School (2006)

Collins High School (2006).

Orr High School(s) (2008). The planning was begun under Scott, even though Rufus Williams was Board president at the time.

Harper High School (2008). The planning was begun under Scott, even though Rufus Williams was Board president at the time.

Fenger High School (2009).

If any white person (especially Richard M. Daley or Arne Duncan; now, Ron Huberman) had tried to do a tenth of what Michael Scott got away with in the destruction and privatization of African American schools in Chicago, the roof would have gone off this city.

I knew Michael Scott for more than 30 years, and was one of the few people to tell him to his face that I thought the things he was doing were criminal and would earn him a place of ignomy in history.

That's precisely what lies ahead, and we will do part of that work by accurately reporting (again) what Michael Scott did.

Yesterday's memorial service is now part of the record.

And the final question still remains: Do you believe that Michael Scott committed suicide? Not one person I've asked that question to has answered "Yes."

November 23, 2009 at 9:05 AM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher


I agree with you. I haven't found one person who thinks Scott committed suicide. I was talking to a police officer and he said he wasn't surprised. He indicated that Scott was involved with "questionable characters." I don't know if we'll ever really know but he did so much harm that any number of people could have taken him out of the picture.

November 23, 2009 at 10:03 PM

By: zeta

Scott's Memorial

I did attend the memorial for Michael Scott. It was interesting and I was relieved to hear people say that he did many things for the community. As I sat there wondering, where the disconnect was with teachers.

What was it that he felt about teachers that would allow him to not give the same consideration to us that he gave to the communities and parent organizations that he served.

As I pondered and wondered why the Michael they talked about (and I believe their experiences were real) was so different from the Michael I knew.

I do believe that he tried to serve the community and help others. Many came to testify that it was so. However, Michael's relationship with the Mayor superseded everything ultimately costing him his life.

Anything that the Mayor wanted he would do. The Mayor didn't like African American educated people and certainly didn't like the fact that they were making a decent salary.

He obviously convinced Michael that teachers were no good, especially teachers that teach under privileged children. Michael took the cue from the Mayor. He was the front guy, fall guy and scapegoat.

What an incredible price to pay for such loyalty.

November 24, 2009 at 12:20 AM

By: John Whitfield

Michael Scott, Harold Washington, Al Raby deaths...

Is it okay for me to remember Harold Washington who mysteriously(?) died almost 2 1/2 decades ago?

And Al Raby who very mysteriously died exactly one year after Harold did?

And now Michael Scott?

The same time of the year.

Were two of the above trying to tell us something?

Possibly about Harold's death?

Remember Michael Scott also worked for Harold.

November 24, 2009 at 1:06 PM

By: Gale


I am also befuddled by Michael Scott. Watching the praise heaped on him after his death made me see that there were those who felt he was "there" for them and those that believed he was striving for change. It sems that he was able to affect positive change for so many when he wished to.

I never saw that side of him at BOE meetings. Having appeared before him 4 times, I was met with disbelief, hostility and indifference. I and others were there month after month advocating for their children's schools, and public education as a whole. I saw no evidence that Michael Scott cared for anything other than the Daley agenda and keeping the peasants like me in line.

He and the rest of the board members did everything they could to support abusive principals, belittle teachers, and sell off public schools one by one to corporations.

If you appeared before him praising the party line he was most pleasant. If you reported real problems to him, he was first and foremost leading the charge to disregard you. He certainly did not value the public input as evidenced by his rebuffing of those wishing to address the board month after month when there would be too many to speak within his 2 hour policy.

I am quite frankly surprised that groups like PURE find praise for M.S. He was not concerned with the views of parents and I fail to see what he did to promote PUBLIC education in Chicago.

It could certainly be said that anyone whom Daley would appoint would have to spew the party line to keep their position, so perhaps it is unfair to target Michael Scott in particular, but I find it hard to respect someone who will do what is politically expedient and not what is right.

George-remember that it is not just the schools affected with kilings and closings that can be attribtued to Michael Scott. Certainly the principals at Gunsaulus, Prescott, and Field among others owe a tip of the hat to M.S. for protecting them too.

November 24, 2009 at 2:52 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Truth about Michael Scott in Substance letters and comments

I'm preparing the truth about Michael Scott which will be published both in print and on line over time. We have nothing to be but patient.

One of the most interesting things is that we are hearing from more and more parents who tried to bring real problems to the Board only to be met by the rudeness from Scott that Gale narrates above. Whatever, the issues, Scott was always saying "There are two sides."

What he meant was there is the side of the majority of the parents and the side he could befuddle and finally pay off to be on his "side." The most dramatic examples of this came through the TACs and the mail order parents who go around praising the last "reform" and the next one. More than one of those woke up one day, too late to recover her reputation, to learn that that job she was promised for getting up and praising (fill in the blank: renaissance; Renaissance, turnaround, Turnaround, military acadmies, etc., etc., etc.) ran out once they moved on to a new mail order bride (or, in some case, groom).

It was all very cynical, and very sad. The majority of parents who brought real problems to the board, over and over and over, were screwed from the beginning until the end. Schools like Prescott, Gunsaulus, Field, and others had one kind of problem that Scott was covering up for (the mindlessly ruthless principal).

Other schools, like Gallistel and Reinberg and Haugan, were set up for another kind of screwing.

And it all went back to those Michael Scott smiles and those Michael Scott one liners: "There are two sides to everything..."

The truth and the side the Daley people rented (they usually didn't pay full price) long enough to push through their latest party line.

Whether it was giving away a $24 million CPS/Park District building to Aspira (for the "rental" of $1 per year, approved again yesterday) or destroying Collins so that North Lawndale Charter High School could murder a few kids through complete negligence, if you looked behind the curtains, it was the same wizard playing the organ and trying to baffle the masses.

The amazing thing was that it was going on for so long at such an enormous human price...

And that the tears today are in some cases as real as the lies that were told all those years.

November 24, 2009 at 3:51 PM

By: kugler

Only One Side Not Two

there is only one side in life and that is the right side.

in government it is to represent and protect the interests of the people. Niether of which scott did.

scott only worked for himself and daley. which one was first we will never know.

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