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How CPS sabotages the city's real public schools... Kelvyn Park HS being starved of resources

As Chicago debates another round of school closings based on another presentation of questionable "data" by those currently leading the school system, underlying much of the debate is the fact that for more than a decade those who run the school system have been systematically sabotaging the city's community elementary schools and neighborhood high schools by depriving those schools of the staff and resources they are supposed to receive -- by both law and morality. Kelvyn Park High School, a general high school on Chicago's northwest side, is just one of dozens of examples. Perhaps the most important difference between Kelvyn Park and other general high schools is that staff, parents, and students from the school have been actively protesting against the sabotage for several years, while the Board of Education cynically continues policies which deprive the school's students of their rights year after year.

Have you ever had a feeling that someone near and dear was on a train headed for a certain train wreck and there was nothing you could do to stop it? That is how people feel when attending the Chicago Board of Education meetings, which I have been attending regularly (often in the "holding room"). The only difference is that instead of a family member it is a whole school system heading for certain destruction and, despite many warnings, the powers that be are not fazed by it.

The "train wreck" is the feeling that one gets when talking to Jerry Skinner, a teacher and Chicago Teachers Union delegate at Kelvyn Park High School, 4343 West Wrightwood Ave.

An example is that the school has had six principals in four years. “We feel that it is administrative instability that has caused the problems at Kelvyn Park High School,” Skinner told Substance. Since June of 2009 Kelvyn Park has had six principals; at least two with no prior experience as high school principals. With each new principal came changes to staff, curriculum and programs.

Two years ago, Skinner said, “There were thirteen security guards at our school. We now have six security guards. The security guards are overworked. This year we have more students than the CPS Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) budget projected. We were supposed to get three and one half more education support staff and one more teacher according to the 2013 school budget. Instead of receiving more staff, CPS has been cutting staff at Kelvyn Park. When the school year started, four of our experienced teachers did not have jobs. Our principal was not fighting for them. The principal claimed the firings were caused by enrollment drop, but we gave her the CPS FY13 budget which shows that KPHS is at projected enrollment and that staff numbers were to be increased."

According to Skinner, Kelvyn Park is now 20 positions short of what the FY13 budget says the school should have.

Certain positions and individuals appear to have been targeted for termination: a PSRP bookroom manager who is just four months short of have been employed 20 years and has 185 banked sick days for which he will no longer be compensated; a veteran Art teacher who is also the school’s CTU associate delegate and two other veteran teachers (one Art and one P.E.).

For over a month, the Kelvyn Park staff and students mobilized and advocated for these teachers, saving two of their positions, but two Art teachers were dismissed. Then, beginning on October 11, 2012, the three remaining art teachers were made to cover the classes of their fired colleagues during their prep periods. Kelvyn Park is one of many high schools that are currently hearing from CPS that there are no substitute teachers for them.

No Programmer

One of the most pressing problems at Kelvyn Park High School is that this school year there had been no full-time programmer hired until mid October. In August a P.E. Teacher who had worked four years as programmer for the school offered the principal his help but received no response to his offer.

Instead, the principal hired outside consultants to do program students’ classes. The lack of a qualified programmer has created massive problems with student programs (especially with the programs of seniors and special education students) from the first day of school.

By October 23 of this year there had been over 4,500 program changes, compared to about 800 last year. One student had his program changed eleven times. Non- special education students were placed in special education classes, while special education students were placed in regular classes. Many classrooms are filled with different grade level students with the teacher teaching two or more different courses in the same period. On October 29, 2012, every special education teacher had his or her schedule changed, causing serious disruption to the special education students.

RESOURCES

Students were not given school IDs at the beginning of the year. On October 10, 2010, a student from another school was found in Kelvyn Park during school hours. He was able to enter the building undetected because there were no school IDs to verify whether he was or was not a Kelvyn Park student. Many classes have no textbooks (particularly English classes). Many classes are still being taught by substitutes because full-time certified teachers have not been hired.

Computer -driven records of book assignments have not been kept. A boys' dean was not hired until the end of October. When these issues were brought up at LSC meetings, the CPS Office of Local School Council Support sent Mr. James Deanes to defend the principal’s position.

Given all of these the problems, it is no wonder that Jerry Skinner and other teachers at Kelvyn Park feel that their school is being “set up for failure.”



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