Only in Chicago... The dramatic meeting of the Chicago Board of Education for December 14, 2011 (including the complete words of the now famous Mic Check that stopped Chicago's corporate Board of Education from meeting for nearly three hours)

"O.I.C., Only in Chicago," would be the probable comment by Sister Grim, columnist for Substance News, if she had witnessed the uproar at the the regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, at 125 S. Clark Wednesday, on December 14, 2011. This meeting was reminiscent of the Chicago City Council meetings that took place back in the 70s following the death of the first Mayor Richard Daley when the televised contentiousness went on for hours and included Alderman Richard Mell standing on top of a desk to make his point, or the meetings of 1983 and 1984, when Harold Washington was challenged by a coalition led by Dick Mell, Ed Burke, and Eddie Vrdolyak. In those days, it was called "Council Wars" and led to a very funny comedy skit.

Parent and KOCO members Adourthus McDowell (standing in yellow jacket) began the Mic Check during the December 14, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In December 2011, maybe it will eventually be called "School Wars."

The night before the December meeting, dozens of people had camped out, in a freezing rain under tarps and in sleeping bags, to be able to line up at dawn to sign up to speak to the Board about the latest Hit List, the list of schools slated for closing, phase out, and turnaround.

And, as is traditional for the holidays, prior to the December meeting singers from a public school do some holiday music. This year, the singers were from Kelly High School, and the music a French holiday song. Their teacher introduced the song and noted that both Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis spoke French. Lewis smiled. Brizard told everyone "I was raised with that song..."

But the smiles didn't last long. The regular meeting began at about 10:43 a.m with the usual announcement of rules of participation by Estella Beltran, Board Secretary, and David Vitale, Board President. Next, Vitale welcomed everyone and announced that the next Board meeting would take place on Wednesday, January 25, 2012, here at 125 S. Clark Street. Despite a growing clamor to have Board meetings in the community, and during hours when working families could attend, the Board continues to meet during "bankers hours" and at its Loop offices.

Roll call indicated that only five Board members were present — Member Dr. Mahalia A. Hines, Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, President David Vitale, and members Penny Pritzker and Andrea L. Zopp. Absent were Henry S. Bienen, who showed up after the end of the closed session that was prematurely called, and Rodrigo A. Sierra, whose identifying sign was missing from his desk. Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jean-Claude Brizard, Chief Education Officer (CEO) Noemi Donoso, Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks, the Honorary Student Board Member Jessenia Martinez, and more than 25 executives, most of whom were not working for CPS the last December Board meeting.

After roll call, recognition of the May Academy Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Soprana Campana, took place. followed by Kelly High School students singing a French Christmas Carol. Their teacher, Mr. Eric Skalinder, indicated that both Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis and CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, spoke French.

After the song, the business portion of the meeting was supposed to begin with another Power Point from the administration. Flanked by "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley and "Chief Portfolio Officer" Oliver Sicat, CEO Brizard began his presentation, as the title page — "FY12 Capital Budget Proposal" was flashed on the monitors. The Capital Budget plan was supposed to be one of three presentations. They were supposed to be followed by two hours of public participation

When the Mic Check began, a half dozen security aides lined up in the at ease position flanking CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and CAO Tim Cawley, who were poised to present the Board's Capital Development Power Point. Their plan, which was developed with less input than most of the plans that have evolved since mayoral control began in 1995, demonstrated, among other things, that the Board sabotages schools that are facing closure until it is time to give them over to outfits like AUSL (where Cawley worked before being appointed to one of the five most powerful positions in CPS), at which time, as even the Chicago Tribune noticed finally, CPS pours hundreds of millions of dollars into sprucing the buildings up for their new owners or occupants. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Just as Brizard was beginning, a loud "Mic Check" began, led by Adourthus McDowell, A CPS parent and member of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO).

These are the words of the Call and Response shout-out supplied by one member of the group who participated in the massive action inside Board chambers:

"Parents, teachers, students and communities reject CPS failed reforms.

We now know that only 18 percent of the replacement schools perform well.

Most of those are selected enrollment schools run by CPS.

Nearly 40% of the new schools are performance level 3, CPS' lowest rating.

We see through the sound-bites.

You have betrayed the public trust.

You have failed Chicago's children.

You pray at the altar of greed

And dare call it education.

We value people over profit.

Every life is precious.

Our children are not product.

But look at what you've produced

Children have died

Literally and spiritually

As a result of your policies

You have produced chaos.

Mayor Emmanuel you should be ashamed.

Brizard, you should be ashamed.

You should both be fired.

Stanford University says you have failed.

The University of Chicago says you have failed.

The Chicago Tribune says you have failed.

Most importantly, the people know you have failed.

The definition of insanity is to repeatedly do the same thing and expect a different result.

These are our children, not yours.

These are our children, not yours.

We are taking our fight to the mayor!

We are taking our fight to the courts!

We are taking our fight to the schools!

We are taking our fight to the streets!

These are our children, not corporate product.

These are our children, not corporate product.

These are our children, not corporate product!"

On a signal from Board President David Vitale (above right, with eyes closed), Board member Mahalia Hines (above left) began reading the script of her motion for the Board to recess into Closed Session. Within a minute, the Board and the millions of dollars worth of newly minted "Officers", "Chief Officers," and other corporate executives hired by the Board since June had marched out of the room, leaving all the seats beyond the railing empty. (The majority of those now holding executive jobs at salaries above $150,000 per year were not working for CPS one year ago, and most, whose training comes from corporate America, have never taught one day in a public school classroom in Chicago). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Each time the complete Mic Check (call and response) recitation ended, the packed chambers resounded again with the repetition led by another individual, possibly eight in all, including a member of Stand Up Chicago, and Accion Ahora, and Debby Pope, retired teacher and CORE member. Meanwhile, Board Member Hines made a motion to go into closed session and the Board members hurriedly left. While this happened, security guards removed some of the chanters from the Board chambers, but the chanting went on.

Jackson Potter of the CTU commented that the message had been received and added, "Well done, well done!" He then asked the group to allow others with important messages to speak.

After the members of the Board and their highly paid administrators "scurried" out of the room, many of those who had been pushed out were in the halls. Above, teacher Cathy Cunningham-Yee (right) stands outside the locked doors of the Board chambers with Sun-Times reporter Kate Grossman (whose press pass is clearly on display) while CPS officials claim that no one would be allowed to return to the room if they left. An attorney and reporters finally convinced CPS officials that they could not legally bar reporters from moving in and out of the locked room as the story unfolded in various locations, but they kept out most regular citizens, including Cunningham-Yee, until the Board returned and resumed its public meeting almost three hours after their initial retreat. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.CTU Vice President (VP) Jesse Sharkey then asked the scheduled public participation speakers to continue, telling the group, "We know they'll be back. In the meantime, we'll take testimony." Two remarks that were heard were, they are "not letting people into the room," and "It would be an opportunity to say what you want to say. When the Board comes out, we'll start over."

The television monitors were turned off when CTU VP Sharkey said, "Okay, here we go."

First to speak was Sharise Lee, a parent and Local School Council (LSC) member at Wendell Smith School. She said that from 2003 to 2011, Smith had tripled its performance and was on the path to success despite challenges. She added that now is not the time to break up parent and community groups.

At this point, the television monitors were turned back on.

Carmen L. C. Palmer said that testing by CPS was designed to destroy schools and that the Board needs to provide for other children the same as they want for their own children.

Patricia Breckenridge, a 16-year veteran teacher, spoke of the average wealth of more than half of Americans. (Someone nearby could be heard remarking, "Would you conclude" followed by laughter. Public participants are asked to limit remarks to two minutes and are asked at one minutes and forty-five seconds, "Would you please conclude..." One of the points of the People's Board was that people should be offered more time to complete their remarks. (This has especially become true as the executive officers of the Board know less and less about the city's public schools...). Ms. Breckenridge added that you must stand up to the 1%, and asked, where's the economic crisis if the 1% has mercy on the 99%?

Mariathy Hardaloups , of Marquette Elementary, said Marquette teachers work harder in over-sized classes and have spent 10-25 years teaching, while acquiring master degrees, plus taking additional courses. Yet, the Board is bringing in younger, less-experienced teachers, who leave charter schools after five years. She told the group that the Board was changing passing levels, making it difficult to raise scores to the new level. She concluded that it's time to listen to parents and the community and not create a two-tiered system of haves and have-nots.

Angela Dillon, of Marquette Elementary, said Marquette was to be turned around. She remarked that AUSL was getting the sources and funds that Marquette should have been getting. She added that AUSL could expel Tier 3 students and that 100 students at AUSL were forced to leave because of discipline issues. She asked the (missing) Board, "Let's refocus our attitude and do what's right for the students" and concluded, "Thank you for not being here."

Lilia Rivera attended Marquette Elementary (and a graduate of Gage Park High School) spoke, attributing her success to the two schools. She asked, "How can we stand by and watch the future of every student at Marquette be destroyed?"

Next CTU President Karen Lewis spoke of the fifteen years of school closures, turnarounds, charter school expansions, and the devastating effect of these. She said that this Board proposes more of the same. She remarked that it was unwise to require students to cross competing gang territories and that our students deserve a 21st century world-class education not accompanied by the destruction of the schools, which are the anchors of the communities. She added that it was a marketing ploy for the Board to give money to private operators. She said that the Attorney General should question the awarding of contracts to charter schools.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey then said he wished the Board would come back. He added that he knows that when experiencing a hard day in front of his class, a real teacher knows that "You can't just take your ball and go home" as the Board had just done. Many people laughed, as veteran teachers confronted what many considered the cowardice of the Board members and their hand-picked executive staff.

Crane High School teacher Jason Cooper spoke twice. During the People's Board meeting, above, he described the importance of Crane High School to the empty seats following the Big Scurry. When the Board returned, he repeated his remarks to the members of the Board and bureaucracy who showed up, although not all bother to pay attention when mere teachers speak (see the next photograph). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The next speaker was Jason Cooper, from Crane High School, who spoke against the phase-out of Crane. He said that CRANE was an acronym for C - a coalition of parents, students, and community, R - revenue and resources, A - accomplishments, N - numbers don't dictate student success, and E - Education - a great education provided by a hard-working staff.

He added,"I ask the invisible Board of Education, will you support us by investing in our schools?"

Hannah Richardson is a Montessori teacher of children three- to-six-year old at Stagg Elementary, which if the Board votes in February will become a turnaround school. She said she is a doctoral candidate at Loyola and talked about how strong the school's staff is. She delineated the accomplishments of her students at each age level, adding that this is the norm. She finished by saying, "I hope you hear wherever you are. Don't turnaround Stagg School."

Ta Promiee-Benz is also a Montessort teacher at Stagg School. She said that we must respect each other so we can work in harmony. She explained that plants give us oxygen and we give plants carbon dioxide. She said that when she taught her students the unit on the human body, it led to many student questions. Previously, she said, she had spent eleven years at a prestigious private Montessori school and has now spent 1 1/2 years at Stagg. She asked the Board to come see for yourself what we are doing at a presentation breakfast that would take place on January 19 at Stagg. When she told her students that she would be here today to "fight for them", she had to explain that she was not planning to "duke it out." She asked the Board to "save our school, save our classroom."

Community supporters were also there. Erek Slater said he has been here since 5:45 p.m. last night, when he joined the overnight vigil and sleepover on the sidewalk on Clark St. He said he is a bus drive who is a member of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union. He believes that attacks on communities will continue to intensify. He said we can rally around teachers, parents, and communities. He said we are the solution and requested that the Board to keep hands off the schools and our teachers.

Vivian Wallace, a parent at Stagg, asked the Board to reconsider turnaround. She said scores have increased and asked that students continue with the teachers they are comfortable with.

Jacqueline Lee said the chant (recited earlier) is echoed throughout Stagg everyday, so let's not replace something that will last a time, with a temporary fix.

One of the things that had happened during the Peoples Board meeting was that speakers from schools were not forced to "consolidate" their remarks by selecting one or two official "spokespeople" for their group. Traditionally at the Board meetings, in addition to suppressing public participation by the two-minutes rule, CPS officials try to force all groups to limit their presentations to one or two official speakers. CPS officials also pretend that there are always two "sides" to any issues, even if one "side" is represented by only one person.

Erika Jenkins and Gina Hartfeld, parents at Stagg, said the teachers and administrator at Stagg are the most dedicated on this side of town and show that they are so. They Parents are welcome in the school. The administrator is open to parents and gives us what we need. They asked the Board to add, not subtract, and give to us what you give to turnaround schools. Regina Hartfeld added, don't say our children are toxic.

Pauline Lipman, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke of the CEO of the hotel that pays the lowest wages in the industry. She identified the present speakers as the "People's Board." She spoke of failed programs that the Board would not dream of subjecting their own children to: they are test-driven, have a minimalist curriculum, use a business model, and treat the students like products. She said that corporate persons, CEOs, and Bankers have produced an apartheid system. She added that charter schools are run by corporate interests for the wealthy. She remarked that we need to take control of the process of transforming schools for ourselves and today is a turning point.

Jitu Brown, of the Dyett School LSC since 2007 and KOCO (Kenwood Oakland Community Organization), spoke next. He told the Peoples Board that KOCO a 47-year-old Bronzeville institution with deep roots, and then spoke of schools undergoing probation, retention, social promotion, reconstitutions, reorganizations, and closings during the past 15 years. He said a community based committee has met for the past eighteen months to formulate a plan to transform Dyett. They have met four times with Jamika Rose (the CPS "Chief Officer for Family and Community Engagement) and CEO Brizard, but they have been ignored. He also said the children are not products. He said he was denied access to a parent meeting at 9 a.m. in the morning at Dyett, but now, it is a new day.

Jhatay Travis, of KOCO, is against school actions in Bronzville. She said it is unconscionable to displace students from their neighborhood school. She added that we know you plan to make Price School a selective enrollment school. We do not support turnaround polices. She told the Board, don't tell me you are getting results when you're not educating all the students. She accused the Board of racism and classism, adding that today, what you did is cowardly.

Sylvester Hendricks, who said he is an LSC member (he didn't say where), and an American Legion member, and advocate for parents since 1991, asked all for a moment of silence for Jesus, Malcolm X, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Michael Scott, and students who have lost their lives and become what Hendricks calls "martyrs". He told the Board that it is not okay for you to retaliate against our children. He wants the BOE policy to added mandated participation for high school seniors and those with special needs. He wants them to take part in sports and to be true team members. He added that our children do not need to be punished for the activities of their parents.

Kim Hemphill, of Herzl School, asked why are children at Herzl being served horrible breakfasts and lunches. She said Herzl is sceduled to be a turnaround school. She mentioned that the principal was replaced after one year by a Board-appointed principal. She said parents and teachers want to make Herzl the jewel of Lawndale that is once was. She added that schools similar to Herzl are not being turned around, but Herzl is. She gave the Board the message that, instead of waiting for AUSL to save us, we want resources now without making us turnaround.

Rico Gutstein said he is a professor of Math Education at the University of Illinois - Chicago (UIC), with a PhD in Technology and Information from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and a whose daughter is a CPS graduate. He said that tomorrow we will read that the Board will say that we ruined the Board meeting for public participation. He said Fuller School, another school on what critics are calling the "turnaround hit list", was a receiving school for years every time CPS closed a school in Bronzeville. Fuller had to do with no support and had five turnaround managers with large salaries. He asked, what did those five people do? Why didn't they get extra resources before they were turned around? He wants the Board to stop all closures and turnarounds.

Gutstein also requested that the Board schedule Board meetings at a time that is convenient for people who won't have to camp out here.

Adourthus McDowell, who had led the opening Mic Check in a sonorous voice, was very measured as he spoke to the empty seats during the Peoples' Board. He said everyone makes mistakes and maybe things were overlooked. He said the Board had underestimated our love for our children. Addressing Mayor Emanuel, he said, "You can run but you can't hide." He agreed with the previous speakers and said it takes a real man or woman to admit to mistakes. He said this group would go to City Hall, the Civic Federation and ask them, how can you sit back and let this happen to another generation? He said presently we have two sets of education, one for them and one for us, adding that we are not happy with the current arrangement and we want a resolution to this. He said, we know there's a higher power, there must be some mistake, there must have been some missteps, miscalculations, maybe you didn't know. He said KOCO has a parent patrol on the ground and we invite you back to the table.

Erika Clark, a parent of two at Northside College Prep, said my school is not in danger; it has everything. But there is another world at CPS, which is starved for resources, overcrowded, and has no extras. She added this is unfair, unequitable, and a two-tier school system, separated by class, income, and race. She asked, why not give those schools the resources today? She said the Board blames parents, the community, the lunchroom staff and mostly the teachers. She asked the Board not to degrade the teachers. She reminded them that an injustice to one kid anywhere in this city is an injustice to all kids.

Epise Holda, of Cook School, a teacher since 1976, said when the school is on probation for fourteen years, of course, something is wrong. She addressed the Board when she said, did you lower class sizes, give needed resources, etc. She said an investigation is needed into why a school is failing if support and resources were given. She remarked that the Board's systematic dismantling of the school system is an attack on all public service workers. She added that this is nation-wide, not just teachers, but all public workers.

Emilia Pena, a bi-lingual teacher of second grade students at Casals School, told her students that she was taking a personal business day to speak to the Board. They told her to look them in the eye and speak from the heart. She grew up three blocks south of Casals. She said that despite being overcrowded and lacking resources, Casals still made gains. She spoke of the dedicated staff at Casals and asked the Board to give Casals the technology and resources and support it needs.

Maria Dominquez, of Casals, told the Board, don't think because we are poor that we are ignorant. She said that Casals has improved every year since it has opened and is the highest performing school on the turnaround list.

Amarallis Patino attended Casals. She said she worked as a student teacher under her own third-grade teacher. Now that the school is in a new network, they elected a new principal in the last eight weeks who has changed the culture of the school, conducts daily observations, and makes positive comments. She asked that the Board judge us in person, not by what people perceive us to be.

Sharon Herod-Purham, a CPS parent and Casals teacher, said they had been referred to as lower-performing. She remarked that Dulles School and Curtis School had dropped more than Casals. She asked, how can AUSL help Casals and responded, they can't. She said they need a lifeline for themselves. She quoted CEO Brizard as saying that every student deserves an education that prepares them for college. She said that sounds like Common Core Standards. She said Casals was called one of the worst-performing schools despite achievements. She asked the Board to remove the smoked mirrors and put students first. She added that the data doesn't lie, but CPS does.

Catherine Schroeder, of Casals, said the AUSL turnaround was not necessary. She said it was not true that we are the lowest-performing in the city. She told the Board that there were ten below Casals in the Humboldt Park area alone. She added that Casals was outperforming six out of eleven AUSL schools in the city. She outlined six new stragtegies that are being introduced, adding that she believes her school is in the process of turning around.

Claudine Moreno, a teacher at Piccolo, asked the Board to reconsider the turnaround of Piccolo. She said Piccolo was a victim of change. She asked the Board to give Piccolo an opportunity to demonstrate academic growth. She remarked that there were 500+ suspensions last year and only thirty suspensions this year as of mid-year. She said the attendance was now 95% and that the teachers have master's degrees and are National Board certified. She asked the Board to give Piccolo a chance and fund us so we can reach students. She said their acronym is KEY - Knowledge Empowers You.

Jerry Skinner, of Kelvyn Park High School, asked why is Tilden High School being changed to a turnaround school? Is Kelvyn Park next? Then Hancock, Juarez, Julian, and Wells? He asked why the OSI template for instruction had changed four times since September. Now zero instead of thirty is given for an assignment that is not turned in.

In the middle of this testimony, an announcement was made that the "Board is about to come back into the chambers."

At this point, about 1:23 p.m., bathroom permission was given. Previously, anyone who left the chambers during the takeover was not allowed to return to the chambers.

After the Board returned from the Great Scurrying Away, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey asked the Board members to view the video of all the people who had testified during the Peoples Board meeting, since many of them had left. Vitale imperiously refused to do so, and the meeting continued with fewer than one-third of the 92 people who had come still around to speak. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The announcement was made that the Board would move to public participation, two hours would be allowed for public participation, and speakers on the same topic would be grouped together.

Julio Cintron, #1, a parent and an LSC member, one of ninety people who signed up to speak, spoke against the Christopher House proposal. CTU VP Jesse Sharkey then asked Board President Vitale to watch the video for the first forty-eight speakers. Mr. Cintron apologized for the others actions and said he did not participate in the video. Regarding Christopher House, he said we don't need another school, that there are seven within walking distance. He said 700 petitions were sent in yesterday by parents who don't want charter schools to be opened, and said there was more from the community protesting Christopher House. He asked the Board to take this off the table (Christopher House) because our input was not given. He added that Alderman Mitts knew about this (Christopher House) and did not not tell us. He claimed that she does not support public schools and asked that the Board take it off the table long enough to give us a voice. [The Board later approved the Christopher House charter school without discussion or debate].

Michael Bildires, #2, a teacher at Northwest Middle School, spoke against the Christopher House proposal and the process of publicizing hearings for community input. He had said in a letter to the Board, we urge you to vote against the Christopher House proposal.

Next, Rolando Acosta, who was listed as #68, was called to speak out of turn. He was listed as being in support of Christopher House, but did not speak because he was no longer present.

Diane Molina, a parent in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, spoke against No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and charter schools. She started out in English, but switched to Spanish. Board VP Ruiz translated.

Catherine Cunningham-Yee, a teacher of eighth-grade at Hanson Park Elementary School, mentioned that she could see a lot of pain here. She spoke against Christopher House, which she said had been rejected by the community and was not wanted by the community.

Patricia Breckinridge, #8, who has a master's in Educational Leadership, is a 16-year veteran teacher, a CORE member, and a CTU delegate for substitutes, who spoke to the video previously, repeated her previous statements and asked the Board not to close schools for circumstances beyond their control and to put reading clinics, such as the UIC Reading Clinic, in schools.

It was becoming clear that by leaving, the Board members had ensured that most of the speakers were gone by the time they decided to listen. Speakers #9 to 13 — four people: Earl Kelly Prince, Mariathy Hardaloups (Marquette), Angela Dillon (Marquette), Lilla Rivera (Gage Park HS) — were now no-shows. (Number 13 was marked on the list "VOID. Card not returned").

Jason Cooper, #14, repeated previous statements and stated that he hoped the Board would look at the testimony of those who spoke this morning.

Most of the Very Important People who work for CPS, whether they have every bothered to try and teach or not, try to look interested during public participation, but there are always a number who work on their Blackberries or, in the case of Jamiko Rose (above) their new ipads. Rose, who now holds the $150,000 per year position of Family and Community Relations Officer, has been assigned the job of organizing the Parent and Preacher patronage people who will be deployed to sing the praises of every CPS plans at the upcoming hearings, at press conferences, and during the January and February Board of Education meetings. The three people in the photograph above (Tim Cawly, Jamiko Rose, and a guy named Michael Redina who is not even listed as a CPS employee in the October Position File) are all from outside CPS and have less than eight months experience within CPS, but they hold some of the highest paid and most powerful positions in the nation's third largest school system. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Board President Vitale said the process began in October when the guidelines were established and decision time would be in February. At this point, one Substance reporter began noting which Board members and bureaucrats were hard at work on their Blackberries and ipads while parents and teachers tried to reason with them.

The next no-shows were speakers # 32, 45, 15 to 34.

Emilia Pena, #35, spoke again about Casals School.

Maria Domiquez, #36, repeated her previous remarks about Casals School.

Amarillis Patino, #37, spoke again about Casals School and asked the Board to come visit the school.

Sharon Herod-Purham, #38, repeated that she was against the turnaround of Casals School.

Catherine Schroeder, #39, repeated her remarks about Casals school.

Claudine Moreno # 40, still spoke against the turnaround of Piccolo School. She gave the Board hand-outs and remarked that there had been three administrators in the last five years.

According to one observer, many of these repeat speakers spoke with more confidence the second time around.

Ernestine Standberry, #42, wanted to know why she can't substitute teach anymore. She told the Board she is a writer, but now she said, apparently you need to be a fully-certified teacher in order to substitute teach. She said she had appeared before the Board before, asking why she could not substitute. Board President Vitale told her that he was sorry they had not responded to her and that they would get back to her.

Speakers #44 to 46 were no-shows.

Kelvyn Park High School teacher Jerry Skinner, above, spoke both during the Peoples Board meeting and later when the Great Scurrying Board Members returned. Skinner tried to explain to the Board members that the attack on Tilden High School, which is slated to go into "turnaround," was a double-cross. Tilden (along with Kelvyn Park and other high schools) was put into a program called "Transformation" under a promise from the Board that "Transformation" was an alternative to "Turnaround." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Jerry Skinner, #47, repeated his remarks asking why Tilden is being turnaround and wondering if Kelvyn Park is next.

Speakers #48 and 49 were no-shows.

Retired teacher Lois Nelson, who had served among other ways as a trustee of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund during her 40 years in the classroom, told the Board its priorities were all wrong, while several of the highest-paid bureaucrats in American public education and two Board members fiercely worked on their Blackberries and ipads. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Lois Nelson, #50, a recent retiree, wanted to know why the Board was calling students "underperforming seats," instead of students. She told them that Joel Hood, of theTribune newspaper, wrote that charter schools are not out-performing regular schools. She recommended that the Board look again at those schools that are being closed and reconsider closing them.

Jesse Sharkey, #51, CTU Vice-President and a parent of children attending Ravenswood and Pritzker Schools, said it takes lots of additional funding for the arts. He said we live in an age of protest. He requested that all people in this room be respected. He mentioned that speakers #6-44 gave eloquent testimony and expressed his hope that the Board would watch the tape.

Speakers # 52 and 53 were no-shows.

Phyllis Lockett, President and CEO of the Renaissance Schools Fund (RSF) who was not listed on the public participation list, spoke in favor of charter schools. She said new charters being planned were LEARN - three schools, NOBLE - four schools, UNO - three schools, and Christopher House - one school.

At this point, CTU organizer Norine Gutekanst addressed Board President Vitale, asking him why Ms. Lockett was allowed to speak when she was not signed up to speak. He responded, "Because I allowed her to speak."

The next speaker, Jill Johnson, told the Board, when you decided to walk out of this room, you showed us much disdain and callousness. She said these people (the Board) are not elected and are not concerned about the schools. She stated that we need a city-wide parent association. She told the gathering in the chambers: Citizens of Chicago, I am proud to stand in solidarity with you.

After she spoke, James Manos, of Occupy Chicago, who teaches at DePaul, led another call and response shout-out. He said, this time we took over a board meeting. Next time, we're going to reopen our schools. He added, "Occupy Chicago stands with you and your children."

Speakers # 57-60 were no-shows.

Gregory White, CEO of LEARN charter schools, told the Board that his groups wants to serve more schools and open more schools. He mentioned that LEARN had found space for a new school at 3021 West Carroll Street with an area nearby for sports.

Speakers #63 to 65 were no-shows.

Speaker # 66, Sister Immacula Wendt, General Superior of the Sister of St. Casimir for Maria, spoke in support of Catalyst Maria.

She said she is excited to be part of this, that they would serve students in grades K-12, and that they now have 204 students with a capacity for one thousand. She said Catalyst Maria would be a school of choice for families.

Gordon Hannon, #67, CEO of Catalyst Schools, spoke in support of Catalyst Maria at 67th and California, adjacent to Marquette Park. He said there were lots of resources. He said the school had been Maria for one hundred years, that there would be no cost to CPS, and there would be no long-term debt to Catalyst.

Next Vivonell Brown, #69, of Woodson Elementary School, compared its accomplishments to Beasley School. She said it was tops in Bronzeville until recently, but was a victim of bad administration. She stated that it was not fair to fire teachers who had nothing to do with the decisions made at Woodson. She remarked that her vision is to go back to where we were, next to Beasley, when we had the Golden Knights, COPE Fine Arts, and new books. She added that Woodson deserves another chance.

Lauryn Fullerton, #70, a native of the south side of Chicago, with Bachelor's and Master's degrees from John Hopkins University, said the Auburn Gresham School is open to any student who completes eighth grade. She mentioned that it will have an International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

Rolanda Acosta, #68, a Board member of Christopher House who wants approval of the Christopher House Charter School was now allowed to speak. He said we have many programs, will add a K-8 school, have built two new schools serving a total of 5000, and have worked with the University of Chicago (UC) to develop metrics. He added that he would like to apologize for all the shenanigans today.

Speaker #71 was a no-show.

Rhonda Kochlefl, #72, of Noble said it is a public school open to all provided we have the seats. She asked for approval for four additional campuses. Board Member Hines told her that you have one of the greatest programs I have seen.

Speaker #4, Luis Ramon, who was not in the room when called, asked to speak. He said he is a parent volunteer at Northwest Middle School. He said Christopher House approached us and wanted to do a community center and then changed to wanting to do a charter school. He said we don't want a charter school and asked that the Board stop using our children as an experiment.

Speakers #73 to 80 were no-shows.

Saundra Caudill, #81, the principal at Bell School, gave the Board a document showing enrollment at the school increased due to the success of the school. She thanked the Board for hearing us regarding Bell's needs for the future.

Speaker #83 was a no-show.

Ronald Jackson, #84, asked the Board, what is the outcome of your investigation into the disrespect shown me. He said my daughter was sent to night school at seventeen. He told the Board, you have not gotten back to me, and asked what are you going to do about this situation. He was told the Board sent him a letter, but it sounds like you did not get it. Board President Vitale told him he would get a copy of the letter and Chief Counsel Patrick Rocks said he would look into the practices of the LSC. Board President Vitale said, we're trying to help you with this.

The rest of the speakers #85 to 92 were no-shows.

Board President Vitale then remarked that we regret what happened today in the way that it happened. He said the disruption was unfortunate and added that much to our regret, we did miss some people and we will prioritize for the January meeting.

The decisions made in the closed session were announced next.

Reports that were handed out to the press, but not presented, were: a fact sheet for Christopher House, a report on Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises, a Portfolio Update, a press release from Becky Carroll at the CPS Office of Communications on the December13th protest at CPS Headquarters, and a news release "CPS to Invest $660 Million for FY12 Capital Plan to Improve Facilities, Drive Student Growth at Schools throughout the City."


December 18, 2011 at 3:32 PM

By: Theresa Daniels

Marybeth Foley's marvelous coverage of the Bd meeting

In reading this, after watching the part of the meeting that CPS broadcast for public consumption, I see that some speakers spoke twice: once without the Board present when the Board had scurried out amidst the protest, and when the Board reconstituted the meeting after two hours. Great coverage of the event by so many on the Substance website. Thanks again, Marybeth.

December 20, 2011 at 2:48 AM

By: Patricia Breckenridge

Thank you for your coverage Marybeth Foley. My first presentation was Associated Press (AP) 2009

AP found that 400 people hold as much wealth at $1.7 trillion as 155 million people put together and in my opinion that's about the whole nation considering unemployable citizens; such as, babies, toddlers, adolescents, etc. $1.7 trillion divided by 400 is about $4,250,000,000 so that's the average wealth of each of the 400 Americans, and the 1%, or ruling class.

Eisenhower's tax rate in the 1950's was 90% during his 2 term administration, so 10% living expenses would amount to about $425,000,000 in wealth while %90 of that wealth, $3,825,000,000 X 400 = $1,530,000,000,000 should go to taxes and our government. Who can not live off of $425,000,000 in wealth and will an extravagant inheritance to their future genteration? Meanwhile US remains in a deficit by not taxingthe 1% at a 90% rate. Hence, the 21st century is not just the Age of Technology, but is a test to find out how loyal the 1% are to the US, their founding forefathers, and Congress who put them in the position to capitalize off of unsuspecting hard working Americans.

We have no more democracy if Congress allows unionbusting by morket policy while dismissing education policy and implementation of the latest interventions to educate our disadvantage and low income Americans.

I have one thing to say. Have mercy 1%.

Americans don't allow unionbusting. Help keep the public sector working class living in a democracy or the right of choice, not a dictatorship and overbearing privatization.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 2 =