MEDIA WATCH: Daily reporters get some of the 'turnaround' story right following Chicago Board of Education's hypocritical vote... 'Done Deal!' now in its tenth or eleventh year finally getting the detailed attention it has always deserved... CPS 'Communications' staff get AUSL's name wrong!

Despite the ongoing attempts by the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education and the administration led by CPS "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett to manipulate the news media, evade holding open press conferences, and play to every tune pounded out by the mayor who appointed them, reporters for most of Chicago corporate media did a credible job covering the tumultuous meeting of the Chicago Board of Education on April 23, 2013.

Chicago "Chief of Chiefs" Denise Little (above, testifying to the Board of Education's April 23 meeting) gave the report on behalf of "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett to the Board portraying the need to subject three elementary schools to reconstitution and then turn them over to the private Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Board of Education members had the pre-determined reports from the six hearings that had been held against the three schools in report form by the day of the meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.By far the most dramatic and best coverage came surprisingly from the Chicago Sun-Times, which seems to be breaking away from its slavish Rahm Emanuel version of current events on alternate days. In addition to picturing one of the more ruthless examples of the suppression of free speech in a front page photograph (security guards forcibly stopping a local minister from speaking in support of Gresham Elementary School), the Sun-Times main story on the vote of the nation's third largest school system to subject three more elementary schools to so-called "turnaround" took on the story and got the facts to its public. Other coverage was also improved, although incomplete (and in the case of the Tribune, marred by the usual editorializing inserting CPS propaganda claims into the story).

From a journalistic point of view, the propaganda story released by the CPS "Office of Communications" after the Board's vote managed to get the name of the "turnaround" specialists to which the schools were going WRONG. According to the CPS press release: "Beginning this summer, these schools will be managed by the Academy for Urban School Learning (AUSL), which has a demonstrated track record of success in turning around some of the Districts most challenged schools, improving academic opportunities for more than 17,000 students in the past five years..." As almost all reporters know, AUSL is the "Academy for Urban School Leadership."

Only five members of the Board of Eduction were present for the tumultuous meeting. Mahalia Hines and Deborah Quazzo were not there, and one member actually voted against the proposal to "reconstitute" the three schools. Board members are devoting more and more time explaining their slavish subservience to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's agendas, as many of them actually have to return to homes and workplaces in the communities.

Chicago Board of Education member Andrea Zopp (above, just prior to the April 23, 2014 meeting) has long approved of the Board's tightening the noose against public protests against the Board's proposed actions, including the lies about the four percent raise (June 2011), the closing of 50 real public schools (May 2013), and the most recent vote to continue to fraudulent AUSL "turnaround" attacks on the city's real public schools (April 2014). Zopp's votes have done more to injure veteran teachers and communities across Chicago's African American ghettos than those of any other "Black Community" leader in Chicago history. Substance is not the only group that notes the irony of Zopp's status as CEO of the Chicago Urban League, which has been completely discredited by her woirk, words, and votes. Substance photo by David Vance.SUN TIMES STORY BELOW HERE:

Despite pleas, CPS hands three schools to private operator


[Updated: April 24, 2014 2:24AM]

Supporters from three Chicago public elementary schools selected to have their entire staffs replaced pitched one last, passionate stand Wednesday but all for naught.

A second-grade teacher at Gresham Elementary School, 8524 S. Green St., lamented giant class sizes in her room and others.

The Local School Council chair at Dvorak Technology Academy, 3615 W. 16th St., pleaded for stability. And the mother of a special education student at McNair Elementary School, 4820 W. Walton St., cried that the program her son needs wont be available any longer.

Their mantra was the same: If we had the same extra money CPS is about to give to the Academy for Urban School Leadership an extra $300,000 in startup money plus $420 per student, per year for five years youd see results from us too.

And Pastor Clarence George, who said he has a daughter and grandson at Gresham, was outraged by the proposal. He said students like the way things are now.

You asked for the faith-based to be a part of whats going on in the community. You asked us to help you, but you dont listen to us. ... We are saying we dont want a turnaround school.

For a moment, it seemed their begging worked.

Board member Andrea Zopp, whos also president of the Urban League of Chicago, wondered why CPS wouldnt grant McNairs new principal, finishing her second year in charge, some time to turn the school around herself. Vice President Jesse Ruiz and Carlos Azcoitia also had tough questions about funding and student suspension rates. Even David Vitale, the board president who had been chairman of AUSLs board until 2011, told Greshams principal her proposal to fix the school from the inside mimicked an existing CPS program that bolsters struggling schools.

Still, in the end, the board approved turning all three schools over to AUSL.

Two of the seven board members were absent, but four votes still were required to approve or deny a measure. All five members present voted to turn around Gresham, according to CPS spokesman Joel Hood, and Zopp cast the lone votes against changing McNair and Dvorak.

All but Azcoitia voted to hire AUSL; he abstained because he works for National Louis University which partners with AUSL for teacher training. Vitale did not abstain, Hood said, because his ties to AUSL are in the past.

About 1,250 students and 147 employees are affected, including 76 teachers. Staff down to janitors and lunchroom workers must reapply for their positions, according to the district.

A year after the board voted to shutter a record number of schools, CPS network chief Denise Little testified about the difficult but necessary recommendations to turn around the schools. She said AUSL, which already manages 29 schools serving 17,000 students, had some of the best growth on standardized test scores district-wide in three of its schools in their first year of AUSL management. Most of its elementary turnarounds outpaced the district average since AUSL took over, she said.

The three schools now slated for turnaround have been on academic probation for a significant period of time, with standardized test scores and attendance rates far below the district average, Little said. She did not mention that all 22 schools AUSL turned around also are on academic probation.

AUSL supporters also testified about their fears before their schools were changed but then their children were given extra help.

AUSL provides all the supports that I need to make sure that our babies get all the things they deserve. Its their birthright, said Pamela Creed, principal of Fuller School of Excellence in Bronzeville, which turned in 2012.

Greshams feisty principal, Diedrus Brown, said her school made gains when CPS allotted more money, progress that then dipped when the money went away.

You destabilized our school, she said to a cheering crowd. Im asking you to stabilize our school again. Give us some of the money you have already earmarked and our scores will go up. Its been proven, this money. You know what AUSL gets in terms of finances. Give some of that to the neighborhood schools. Its Chicago Public Schools, not Chicago private schools.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis asked the board, which is appointed by the mayor, to consider the culture in the three schools she said theyd be voting to destroy. And she, called again to replace them with an elected school board.

Nearly a year ago we witnessed thousands of parents, community leaders, clergy, educators and students begging to be heard as the Board destroyed nearly 50 schools, she said in a press release. Today parents, administrators and teachers were forced to beg the Board of Ed for the right to a future only to be slapped down and have their cries fall on deaf ears.

Lisa Russell, a parent Local School Council member at Dvorak, said CPS officials waste a lot of peoples time.

They knew this is what they wanted in the beginning, she said. To me, it was already a done deal.


Three city schools handed to private group for 'turnaround' By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Tribune reporter, Tribune reporter [10:23 p.m. CDT, April 23, 2014]

Three more under-performing Chicago Public Schools will see their staffs let go and operations will be handed over to a private group as part of a turnaround.

Chicago's Board of Education listened to impassioned pleas for more funding and calls for a second chance before turning over three failing schools to a private operator, the Academy for Urban School Leadership, which conducts staff overhauls or "turnarounds."

Gresham Elementary in the South Side's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, McNair Elementary in Austin on the West Side and Dvorak Math Science Technology Academy in North Lawndale will all see the ouster of their staffs everyone from the principal to the lunchroom worker at the end of the school year.

AUSL, which runs 29 other schools in the district, will then hire new staff for the schools and train them before reopening in the fall for the same group of students. AUSL is not a charter school, but is similar in that it is given autonomy by CPS over how to run its schools. AUSL schools hire teachers who are members of the Chicago Teachers Union.

[The three city schools handed to private group for turnaround: Gresham, 8524 S Green St, Chicago, IL, 60620; Dvorak, 3615 W 16th St, Chicago, IL, 60623; McNair, 4820 W Walton St, Chicago, IL, 60651]

Gresham Principal Diedrus Brown and parents from the other two targeted schools urged board members to give their neighborhood schools the extra money budgeted for AUSL. Community activists and educators complained that the schools had been starved of resources for many years, leading to failure. But under AUSL, each turnaround school will get an additional $300,000 next year and $420 more per student each year, for the next five years.

Brown said Gresham's scores climbed by about 20 percentage points when funding to the school was increased, only to drop again when the district began cutting school budgets.

"You destabilized our school for the past two years by taking money away," Brown said. "I could've told you scores were going down. I'm asking you to stabilize our schools again. Give us the money and our scores will go up."

She reminded board members that the district was named Chicago Public Schools, "not Chicago Private Schools."

With last year's closings of nearly 50 schools, and more privately run charter schools added this year, critics are worried CPS is depriving poorly performing neighborhood schools of funds and investing that money instead into private models.

In Dvorak's case, the AUSL takeover of a fifth North Lawndale neighborhood school means 68 percent of the community's schools are now privately managed.

Testimony by parents whose schools were turned around by AUSL parents drew "boos" from opponents. One parent's praise of AUSL's student trips to food and entertainment venues like Dave & Buster's and Medieval Times particularly irked some parents.

"Those are places we as parents should take our children," said Candace Stigler, a parent of two at Dvorak. "What does that have to do with education?"

Board President David Vitale said two of the underperforming schools had received additional resources over the years but improvements were not sustained.

"It's not like this district in the past hasn't provided additional funding to try to help improve these schools," Vitale said.

During the vote, Vitale, who chaired AUSL from 2009 to 2011, did not recuse himself. CPS spokesman Joel Hood said there was no conflict of interest because Vitale was no longer on the AUSL board.

Board member Andrea Zopp voted against two of the turnarounds. She pointed out that McNair saw scores moving up until last year and that Dvorak's new principal had also seen signs of success. She asked if CPS officials were aware that turning Dvorak over to AUSL would mean that a sizable share of North Lawndale schools would now be privately operated.

While AUSL and CPS praised the turnaround schools for seeing higher than district growth in standardized test scores, CTU President Karen Lewis said those successes were "short-lived." She said three more AUSL schools would mean the transfer of "schools' authority to a politically connected business organization with ties to City Hall."

But the Rev. Clarence George, who runs two ministeries in the Gresham community, had the line of the day. He warned schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett that her predecessor, Jean-Claude Brizard, had resigned after a year under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"If he can turn around Mr. Brizard, he can turn around you," George said.

Meanwhile, CPS released few details on plans to add air-conditioning units at all schools. Hood said 44 schools still do not have air conditioning and another 162 are partially equipped. District officials could not explain where the cash-strapped district would get the $100 million needed for the capital project.


From: Office of Communications, CPS Date: Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Subject: CPS Approves Turnaround of Three Elementary Schools for Next School Year

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620


Facebook: ChicagoPublicSchools

Twitter: @ChiPubSchools


CPS Approves Turnaround of Three Elementary Schools for Next School Year

Schools will Provide Targeted Supports to Struggling Elementary Schools in Austin, Gresham and North Lawndale Communities

CHICAGO The Chicago Board of Education today approved Dvorak Technology Academy, Ronald E. McNair Elementary School and Walter Q. Gresham Elementary School to implement the proven turnaround model in School Year 20142015 (SY 14-15). The vote today comes after Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett recommended the turnaround process to elevate these three chronically underperforming schools, continuing the Districts effort to strengthen neighborhood schools and provide high-quality options for students and their families.

"CPS is committed to ensuring that all of our students have access to a high-quality education and strong school leadership that will provide them the foundation necessary for academic success. said CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett. We do not take a decision to bring systemic change to a school lightly, but when change is in the best interest of our students, we will not waver. We will continue to work with these school communities to ensure a smooth transition that will put these students on a path to be 100 percent college-ready and 100 percent college-bound.

After announcing its recommendations in March, CPS held a series of meetings to engage the three school communities around this process. Feedback was collected and reviewed from two community meetings and a public hearing prior to todays Board vote.

The District has a thorough review process to determine which schools might benefit from AUSLs proven turnaround approach. This year, the District looked at almost 50 schools that had a Level 3 rating in each of the last two years and were currently on academic probation. In making its final determinations to the Board, CPS sought input from current and past Network Chiefs regarding each individual schools principal and staff, the quality of its academic program, the schools culture, and its academic performance data compared to other low-performing schools within its Network and across the District.

Beginning this summer, these schools will be managed by the Academy for Urban School Learning (AUSL), which has a demonstrated track record of success in turning around some of the Districts most challenged schools, improving academic opportunities for more than 17,000 students in the past five years.

For more than a decade, AUSL has improved schools from the ground up, demonstrating increases in school attendance rates, academic growth and engaging school environments that put student on a path to success. AUSL currently operates 29 schools and teacher training academies throughout CPS in neighborhoods such as Austin, Dunning, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, and South Shore.

Turnarounds have a laser focus on driving student learning and improving achievement immediately, providing additional academic support in core subjects, implementing a high-quality instruction aligned to the Common Core State Standards and setting transparent goals for schools, staff and students to reach. The turnaround process will bring highly qualified staff, including union teachers, who are specially trained to help meet the specific needs of the children at low-performing schools.

Over summer break, the three schools will receive targeted facilities upgrades, including: new paint, technology upgrades and new furniture from CPS. These physical improvements demonstrate a new leadership and new standards in place for students when they return in the fall. Leadership, teachers and staff come together over the summer to prepare for the coming year. Before school starts the school team host events, such as back to school picnics and participates in community walks to meet students and families. These investments are a key component of the turnaround method, signaling a fresh start for students as they get on a path to success inside the classroom.

Working in some of the District's most challenging environments, AUSL has had a profound impact on academic performance and school culture. On average, students enrolled in AUSL turnaround schools outpaced the District on the percentage of making or exceeding average growth in core subjects including math and science on NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments. Furthermore, 13 of 16 AUSL turnarounds outpaced the District average on ISAT meets or exceeds growth since undergoing the turnaround process. For more information on AUSL, visit

Chicago Public Schools serves 400,000 students in 658 schools. It is the nations third-largest school district.


Three school turnarounds get final OK

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By: Sarah Karp / April 23, 2014

Tags: CPS administration turnaround schools turnarounds

Two CPS board members had serious questionssome of which went unanswered--about handing over three elementary schools to the Academy for Urban School Leadership. But in the end, the turnarounds were approved at a meeting where opponents as well as supporters of the turnaround model dominated the public participation.. CPS invests heavily in turnarounds, and the big-ticket spending has angered some parents and others, who question why the district is willing to spend the money only when a school becomes a turnaround. AUSL, a non-profit teacher training program, receives $300,000 for start-up costs and an extra $420 per student every year for at least five years. The turnaround of Gresham Elementary was unanimously approved by the five members in attendance. (Board members Mahalia Hines and Deborah Quazzo were not there.)

Board member Andrea Zopp voted against turning around Dvorak and McNair. During the meeting, she was particularly concerned about why the Dvorak principal was being replaced when she had only been in her position for a year and had been trained in one of the premier principal training programs.

Why not give her a chance? Zopp asked.

Denise Little, chief officer of network quality, told her that in conversations with the principals bossthe network officerthey agreed she was not the right the principal to do the turnaround. Little did not elaborate.

Board member Carlos Azcoita asked about teacher stability in turnaround schools, and the level of suspensions. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told him that staff would get him that information, but it is unclear if he received it before the vote.

A Catalyst Chicago analysis of state and CPS data shows that AUSL turnarounds have particularly low teacher retention. Under the turnaround model, all the staff, including teachers, must reapply for their jobs and most are typically not rehired. The analysis showed, however, that the turnover continues in subsequent years.

Other data show turnarounds have high rates of student suspensions. Because Byrd-Bennett did not present the information in the meeting, there was no discussion around it.

Zopp also raised questions about declines in test scores at the three schools. McNair, she said, had been improving and then went down a bit last year.

Annette Gurley, chief officer of teaching and learning, told her that McNair responds well to interventions, but tends to retreat after the intervention is done. It is not able to sustain progress, she said.

Supporters of turnarounds

Public participation at the meeting was dominated by speakers for and against the turnarounds. Supporters of AUSL turnarounds had 11 of the 60 public participation slots, which must be signed up for online beforehand. Each of their speakers was given the two minutes of allowed time.

Shimaya Hudson, whose children attend Marquette Elementary, which was turned around last year, said she originally was skeptical. But after seeing all the changes, I feel good about it, she says.

Hudson said the principal and staff work with the parents and that together they make changes. Other parents said they were happy with all the after-school programs and field trips that their children now have access to at turnaround schools. One said she likes that now you can hear a pin drop when children come into the school.

If there are numerous speakers on one subject, CPS officials often group them and ask them to designate one or two speakers. On Wednesday, they attempted to do this with people speaking against the turnarounds. However, speakers from Gresham identified themselves as representatives of different issues or schools so they would each have chance to address the board.

Board members scolded the people who misrepresented themselves as trying to game the system.

In response to the AUSL parents and principals, those against the turnarounds said that if Gresham, McNair and Dvorak were given the same resources as AUSL, they would have more of a chance to do better.

To the AUSL parents, you have a lot of nerve coming in here talking about all AUSL can offer, said Dion Stone, whose children attend McNair. Our teachers do not have working computers and they have to buy their own printer paper. You have the nerve to compare us to you.

Gresham Elementary Principal Diedrus Brown said her school did well when it got an infusion of money, but then lost ground when it lost money. Give us some of the money you already have earmarked for AUSL and our test scores will go up, she said. Scores go up and down and you dont reduce children to statistics. Dont be a good person doing the devils work.

The board also approved putting International Baccalaureate middle-years programs in five elementary schoolsPeirce, Moos, Ebinger, Seward and Agassiz. Everyone, including CTU President Karen Lewis, applauded the move.


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