BOARDWATCH: Hypocrisy of all seven members of Rahm's Board of Education on lurid display as the Board members circle around to defend their conflicts of interest even as Chicago voters go more than 80 percent for an elected school board!

"I pay for my own lunch, and sometimes I have to buy for others, too," Mahlia Hines stated at the end of another meeting of the Board of Education of the nation's third largest school system. Hines, who briefly served as a principal in a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) school, was complaining about how some members of the public were picking on the Board members -- all of whom have been appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Hines was trying to change the subject from the fact that companies owned by Board member Deborah Quazzo had more than tripled their business with the Board since Quazzo was appointed to the Board by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in June 2013.

Chicagoans who had been voting by a four or five-to-one margin in favor of ousting the current mayoral appointed Chicago Board of Education and replacing it with an elected school board were treated to several whiney tirades from the seven members of the Board at the Board's January 28, 2015 meeting. Mahalia Hines (above) told the public that the Board members are doing all they do for the good of the children of Chicago, uncompensated for their Board works. She waxed lividly as she said in public that she was even forced to pay for her own lunches on the days the Board met. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Hines added that she also had to pay for her own parking.

Board member Henry Bienen, the sententious plutocrat who was once president of Northwestern University weight in by ignoring the remarks of Chicago Teachers Union Organizing chief Norine Gutekanst, who had spoken passionately about teaching and what he students had created when she was a teacher at Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen. Instead, like Hines, Bienen changed the subject and attacked Gutekanst, calling her a "Luddite" for challenging the decisions of the board (and some schools) to purchase computer learning programs from the Quazzo companies.

And so it went, down the line at the second meeting of the Chicago Board of Education to be hosted in their new "chambers" in the former Sears store at the corner of Madison and Dearborn in Chicago. It was clear from the design of the "chambers" that the Board members had worked carefully with architects and other planners to undermine the ability of the public and the press to participate in Board meetings, so the hostility of the Board's members to the truth was far from surprising. Despite the fact that the space was available to create a meeting room at least as large as the Board's two predecessors (at 1819 W. Pershing Road and at 125 S. Clark St.), the Board cut off most of the space, leaving the "public" and press squeezed into 25 rows each of which has four seats. TV cameras are squeezed into a corner so that they can only take video of the Board members or the back of the heads of speakers, most of whom question the Board policies and actions.

The cramped (long and narrow) "chambers" of the Chicago Board of Education in the old Sears store now occupied by Chicago Public Schools were deliberately designed to ensure that the press and public were kept at bay during Board meetings. A massive Orwellian screen (the projector for which can be seen in the photo above) dominates on side of the meeting room, while CPS officials take up as many of the 100 seats for the public and press that are available (the smallest number in history). Media cameras are squeezed into a corner making it impossible to video or photo speakers, but forcing attention to the "front" and on the Board members, as in the photograph above. In the photo above, six of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education can be seen in the rear: Left to right, Henry Bienen, Mahalia Hines (half hidden behind the computer), Jesse Ruiz, David Vitale, Andrea Zopp, and Carlos Azcoitia. Beside Azcoitia but not in the above photo is the controversial Board member Deborah Quazzo. In the front above are the two student Board members, the monthly "Student Shadow Board member" (in January, Steinmetz High School student Emily Santiago) and the Student Board Members for the 2014 - 2015 school year, Carlos Diaz of Curie High School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But the main item on the minds of the Board members was the fate of Deborah Quazzo. For more than a month, her ethical lapses had been in open public debate, but she had refused to resign, and her fellow Board members arrived on January 28 scripted to defend the actions of the multi-millionaire who had succeeded the billionaire Board member, Penny Pritzker.

One by one, five of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education spoke in whines during the final ten minutes before the Board went into executive session and the Board's security people forced the public and reporters to leave the tiny "Board Chambers" and try and find someplace comfortable in the huge hallway outside the locked doors. For the first time in the history of CPS, the Board has housed its central offices not in an office building, but in converted retail department store. With escalators instead of elevators and a large amount of the square feet the Board has useless for the usual functions of running a major school system, the latest movement of the CPS Central Office to the old Sears store space at Madison and Dearborn in downtown Chicago is causing many critics to re-name the place SEARSTOWN-CPS in honor of its roots.

But as usual, the seven appointed Board members were delivering their angry retorts to the members of the public who had just spent two hours reminding them that they are failing their duty to the city's 400,000 public school students, while slavishly following the whims of the city's multi-millionaire mayor and his (often) billionaires backers.

A casual observer, of which there may be a few following the antics of the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education, might ask why these powerful people are so defensive, arrogant, whiney, and smug -- all in the same morning and early afternoon. And so it was when the Board of Education of America's third largest school system met on January 28, 2015, even as biased an observer as this reporter (and I've been trying to cover the Board for the past 40 years or so) was a little surprised that the Board members didn't at least try a bit of humility. After all, both polls and votes of the people of Chicago are showing that four out of five (possibly even more) people wants these severn people ousted from power and replaced by an elected school board.

After refusing to resign despite several conflicts of economic interest, Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo (above during the January 28, 2015 Board meeting) sat silently, occasionally showing that "deer in the headlights" look. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. But there was no evidence at the January 2015 Board meeting that the members of the Board cared about democracy. Instead of accepting, for example, the resignation of Board member Deborah Quazzo, whose conflicts of interest have been repeatedly exposed in the corporate media, the Board members lined up almost all of them to praise Quazzo and smugly and arrogantly put down the critics of the venture capitalist whose insider dealings have been in the news now for four weeks.

But the most arrogantist education leaders in the USA didn't stop with their smugness on the Quazzo issue. They also tried to ignore one of the candidates for mayor, Cook County Commissioner Jesus Chuy Garcia. And they tried to belittle speakers who challenged their policies and practices -- again stating, on the public record, that the Unmagnificent Seven have access to some group of "real facts" that somehow contradict the facts the a million school children, families, and taxpayers are seeing more and more of every day.

Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale almost said 'Chuy Who?' when he was challenged by Chicago Teachers Union staff coordinator Jackson Potter to explain why Jesus Chuy Garcia (above left, at podium and on the screen that now dominates the Board of Education's meetings) had not been recognized to speak at the beginning of the meeting. For more than a dozen years (and possibly for decades), the Board members have always given public officials the right to get to the front of the line and speak to the Board -- until January 28, 2015. Not only did Board President David Vitale ignore the mayoral candidate and elected official who was seated dead center in front of him, but Vitale also had the Board secretary, Estela Beltran, set the two-minute timer on Garcia's remarks, an also unprecedented insult to an elected official (many of whom have been allowed by Vitale to go on for five minutes or longer). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Garcia had arrived early and was hard to miss, since his photograph was the Chicago newspapers following the candidates' meeting with the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune.

One of the reasons for the Board members' whiney fury was that a growing movement of people in Chicago has been demanding the resignation of Board member Deborah Quazzo, a multi-millionaire self-described "venture capitalist", who was appointed a year ago to replace outgoing Board member Penny Pritzker, a billionaire.

The day before the Board meeting, a coalition of community groups had picketed in front of the John Hancock Building on Chicago's "Magnificent Mile", where Quazzo's firm has its offices.

According to CTU press release:

Educators, Parents, Activists Call for Quazzo�s Resignation From Board of Ed due to conflicts of interest


The initial reports on the profitable investments of Board member Deborah Quazzo in companies doing business with the Board and with the city's public schools came in the Chicago Sun-Times (above) on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2015. By the New Year, the Sun-Times had editorially called for Quazzo's resignation. By the January 28 meeting of the school board, the Board members spoke as if the issue were that the public had been unfairly picking on Quazzo, whose feelings had been deeply hurt by all the unfair publicity.CHICAGO�The Chicago Teachers Union will join parents, educators, activists and other concerned citizens in a Tuesday morning picket against Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo, as companies controlled by the venture capitalist have been paid nearly $3 million by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) since her appointment to the Board by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Union believes Quazzo�s seat on the board represents an unethical conflict of interest and has elevated its campaign for an elected representative school board (ERSB).

Mayor Emanuel denounced Chicagoans' overwhelming support for an ERSB by suggesting that the 60,000 registered voters who signed petitions to have the issue placed on a ballot in 37 wards are part of a �trick.� If there is any sleight of hand, it is in the fact that it is highly unusual for a public official to profit from businesses over which they have direct oversight authority. According to published reports, Quazzo has called for �an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards.� A firm she owns has stakes in education technology companies working to displace teachers. Since joining the school board, Quazzo has invested her own money in companies that sell curricular materials to public schools in 11 states on a subscription basis.

WHO: CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, parents, activists and others who are demanding an elected representative school board.

WHAT: Informational picketing at GSV Advisors, a private investment firm owned by Deborah Quazzo, which has received nearly $4 million in public dollars since Quazzo was seated by Mayor Emanuel on the Chicago Board of Education.

WHEN: Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 10:00 a.m. (Press Availability)

WHERE: John Hancock Building, 875 N. Michigan Avenue (GSV Advisors, founded by Quazzo, has offices on the 35th floor of the building.)