Reluctant principals faced another SNAFU at Brizard-Gering Scab Schools — er, 'Children First' — meeting August 30, 2012

Most of the teachers who had voted for the first Chicago Teachers Union strike in a quarter century were still driving home from the CTU House of Delegates meeting on August 30, 2012, when many of their principals were receiving fresh orders to do the impossible from the incompetent as CPS rushed, once again, to implement a "plan". Fresh from their own version of the “Administrative Olympics” (at which they had to program and reprogram, then “re-reprogram” their schools according to the contradictory edicts governing the “Longer School Day”), 150 Chicago Public Schools principals were ordered to show up at CPS headquarters on the evening of August 30, 2012, for a meeting at which Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard and Chief-of-Something-or- Other (latest title, "Chief Officer of Network Support" according to Board Report 12-0523-EX9) Steve Gering.

Brizard, then Gering, told them that they were going to have to open their schools and figure out how to staff them for what the wordsmiths in the CPS Office of Communications had dubbed the "Children First Plan".

Steve Gering (left) and Jean-Claude Brizard (right) conferred at the time of Gering's Power Point presentation (at the November 2011 Board of Education meeting) on how Chicago was going to find the best principals in the USA and "poach" some from other school districts, according to the Power Point. As of November 2011, Gering was "Chief Officer of Leadership Development" at an annual salary of $175,000 per year. (He had also been awarded a "relocation stipend" of $7,500 and a "retention payment" of $7,500 when the Board approved Board Report 11-0824-EX17 hiring him in August 2011. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. As it quickly became clear to the principals in attendance, the "Children First Plan" was not really a plan at all, but another of the many public relations talking points that had characterized the administrative leadership of the nation's third largest school system since the current Board of Education and top administrators were appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel 16 months earlier.

The principals had been ordered to the meeting by text message, email and phone after Brizard announced to the press that CPS was going to implement its so-called "contingency" plan during the upcoming strike by Chicago teachers.

According to sources who attended the meeting, the meeting began with Brizard going over the thin details of what was supposed to be a plan, then abruptly leaving. Brizard told the group that he had to meet with Secretary of State Jesse White, but didn't say why. The meeting was turned over to Steve Gering.

Neither Brizard nor Gering was in Chicago three years ago, when many of the principals at the meeting were already working in their schools’ offices trying to meet the demands of then CEO Ron Huberman (and Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins), or a year-and-a-half ago, when they were trying to meet the demands of then Interim CEO Terry Mazany (and the Interim Chief Education Officer).

Brizard took office in June 2011 after being appointed (and some say rescued) from his previous job as Superintendent of the Rochester New York school (where he had earlier received a massive “no confidence” vote from the city’s teachers). Gering was in Kansas City at the time, but was brought to Chicago, along with a long list of out-of-towners, by Brizard during the summer of 2011.

By the summer of 2012, Steve Gering (above left) had changed from the "Chief Officer of Leadership Development" to the "Chief Officer of Network Support" (still at an annual salary of $175,000 per year). The proposed budget for the 2012 - 2013 school year did not explain what the "Chief Officer of Network Support" was supposed to do, but in late August 2012 it was apparent that one of the jobs Gering has is to order principals around as CPS scrambles to implement its $25 million "contingency" plan to open schools during the Chicago Teachers Union strike, which begins September 10. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.At the August 30 meeting, the principals were told that they were to open their schools for four hours per day under "Children First."

But, they were told, they may also have been opening those schools for six hours per day, depending.

And, they were told, they would be opening those schools under "Children First" with the staff they had from those schools, except perhaps if they received other staff deployed from the school system's central office, or from other schools. Maybe. Also, they were told, their staff were not supposed to do any teaching, unless they could sort of get away with it without getting caught.

Finally, they were told, some of them might not be in charge of the buildings where they were serving because they hadn't been in those buildings long enough. But that, too wasn't certain.

Neither Brizard nor Gering presented the principals with much in writing, and, contrary to recent CPS tradition, neither of them had a lengthy Power Point to lead the principals through the latest maze of contradictory proposals, regulations, rules, laws, procedures and guesswork that had become the norm since Emanuel's Board took over.

By the morning of August 31, 2012, "Site Leaders" (CPS seems to be reluctant to call them "principals") were sent a two-page checklist of how to prepare for the days of "Children First." The list indicates that the people in each building are expected to issue individual student ID cards for each day of "Children First" and to have a minimum amount of materials available for use by those children who do show up.

Under "Materials/ Equipment", for example, "Site Leaders" are told to (among other things) "purchase name badges for students to wear. The instructions are unusual: "Purchase name badges for students to wear. Supervisors to collect by end of day (ES only; HS to have badges on at all times").

It seems that CPS is intending to bring any child into any building, issue the child (or teenager) an "ID" of some kind, and then expect the building to operate without teachers.

Apparently, CPS expects to get the so-called "Safe Passage" people in certain communities to aid and assist in the scabbing program. "Safe Passage workers" are responsible for children's safety before and after school, with additional burdens placed on police. For example, in the section on the end of the day (called "Student is dismissed..."), we read, "Police and administrators go outside to ensure that there are no conflicts at hot spots around the schools... Safe passage workers monitor students as they go home..."

As of noon on August 31, it was unclear whether the Brizard administration intended to allow any alleged "student" to enter any CPS "Children First" facility and get an ID, at least for one day, without the usual verification of status that takes place. There is also no mention in any of the material distributed so far about how CPS intends to verify that all students have their medical portfolios up to date and vaccines taken care of. While every other school district in Illinois will be checking medical forms and preparing students for their opening classes, CPS will be herding children into about 140 buildings under the "supervision" of volunteers and some administrators and hoping for the best.

Substance is preparing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the details of the "Children First" plan and the materials that Gering and Brizard utilized at the August 30, 2012, principals' meeting. 


August 31, 2012 at 9:00 PM

By: Andrew Pollak

Child danger during 'Children First'?

I hope nothing violent happens inside the schools. It could be a set up for disaster.

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