MEDIA WATCH: Which Board meeting were you at? The Tribune's meeting was about Chuy being snubbed. But the Sun-Times was all over the 'Quazzo scandal'... But...

Thirty or forty years ago, when Substance began covering the meetings of the Chicago Board of Education and reading the Board's agendas, budgets, and (long after the damage was done) the CAFRs, coverage of the meetings was boring but somewhat comprehensive. By the early 1980s, the Chicago Tribune had a copy editor (Jerry Crimmins) who would call and check a fact or two to make sure that the reporter on the spot had every fact accurately. But that was long ago and far away, and so as the Lucas Museum approaches its landing in Chicago, copy editors no longer exist, and the reporting on the work of the largest public body in the nation's third largest city is unusual, to put it charitably.

For the first time since she was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education nearly two years ago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, multi-millionaire venture capitalist Deborah Quazzo was silent throughout the Board meeting of January 28, 2015. But her fellow Board members, with the exception of Carlos Azcoitia, read carefully scripted defenses of Quazzo and the supposed ethics practiced by the Board's members, even as Local School Council members pointed out that LSC members at any of the city's 600 public schools are forced to agree to ethics requirements that are more strict than those Quazzo is being held to. Substance photo by David Vance.And there are fewer examples (although we doubt they will make the Columbia Journalism Review) than the coverage of the January 28, 2015 Board meeting by the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune. According to the Sun-Times, the Deborah Quazzo scandal was the central (somewhat "only" ) thing that happened at the Board that day. And of course it was the Sun-Times that had broken the scandal about Quazzo's limitless double and triple dealings through companies that do business with the Board. And it is the Sun-Times that has taken the editorial position that Quazzo should resign -- or be ousted. The Tribune, on the other hand, did its story about the fact that the Board members are discriminating against Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who was sitting in front of them but apparently they didn't notice until he was ready to leave. For years (perhaps generations) the Chicago Board of Education members have allowed elected officials and union leaders to jump the line in front of the people who signed up for "Public Participation". Board President Michael Scott, the only one who has ever explained the reasoning for that, by our notes, said that these men and women had important public business to get back to (as if the 50 or 60 plain citizens who had been waiting to speak had nothing to do all day, but that's another story for another time...).

A week after the newspaper exposed the corrupt dealings of Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo, the Chicago Sun-Times editorially said Quazzo should resign from her position. A month after that editorial, on January 28, 2015, Quazzo was still a member of the Board of Education of the nation's third largest school system with the full support of the man who had appointed her, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. So, first the Sun-Times and then the Tribune's versions of what took place at the Board on January 28, 2015. Both were accurate, as far as Substance reporters could note. But there was more than that happening, including a 102 page agenda which the Board voted on after slipping out of "executive session." But anyone who wants to know about that had to either retrieve the Board's complete agenda and then go to the video of the Board meeting, which probably won't be available at until early February.


Quazzo faces critics while colleagues rush to her defense. Posted: 01/28/2015, 05:35pm | Lauren FitzPatrick

Quit, Quazzo, quit, protesters urged Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo on Tuesday, but Wednesday, the mayors appointed board and his hand-picked schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett rushed to her defense.

At the first Board of Education meeting since the Sun-Times revealed that district spending to five companies in which Quazzo has invested tripled since Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her, critics Wednesday addressed Quazzo directly.

Ms. Quazzo, I am sure that you are a fine person, said Norine Gutekanst, an organizer from the Chicago Teachers Union, which has asked Quazzo to resign. But an investor who is heavily invested in education technology has no business making educational and financial decisions for Chicago students, she said as the board secretary cut off her microphone. This is another reason why we need an elected school board.

Board president David Vitale was the first of Quazzos colleagues to defend her.

Board member Quazzo has totally abided by all the ethical rules of this board as have all other board members, he said. Finally, she has stated that any profitability that comes from any companies she has invested in will actually be given back to support the students of the Chicago Public Schools.

Four more board members spoke passionately in support of her before the meeting ended. Only Carlos Azcoitia refrained, keeping his remarks to questions about agenda items.

By the time CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter got to the podium to demand to know why the Board of Education had not recognized Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia to speak at the beginning of the public participation, Garcia had been sitting front and center facing Board President David Vitale for more than 45 minutes and was preparing to leave the meeting. After claiming that Garcia had not asked to speak early, Vitale quickly allowed Garcia to speak. The Board members have now developed a policy of ignoring their critics in the face of the previous policy of allowing elected officials and union officials to speak first at Board meetings. Sitting in the background above was CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson, who was ignored for a longer time than Garcia. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.We fill out the same ethical forms you do, were held to the same standards and higher standards, because the likelihood of your being splashed across the paper with things that are incorrect are low, said Mahalia Hines to a Local School Council member who criticized stricter ethical policies for LSC members than for board members.

Hines and Andrea Zopp appeared at Quazzos educational tech summit last spring at Arizona State University; Zopp paid her own way, but Hines airfare and hotel were covered by the summit, according to CPS.

So were Byrd-Bennetts, who also spoke up.

Mr. President, I dont know how appropriate this is but I would like to thank Deborah Quazzo, board member, for two things, one for spending so much time in our schools, visiting our schools, Byrd-Bennett said. Then she addressed Quazzo directly, thanking her for her forward thinking on what students need.

My experience with you is as a woman of impeccable integrity, and I really regret that you unfortunately have to go through this kind of rigmarole, Byrd-Bennett said.

Quazzo didnt speak at all during the meeting, except to reply yes when asked about a motion to close the meeting. She did not return a message afterward seeking comment. She has declined to discuss the situation with the Sun-Times, citing the ongoing investigation by the CPS inspector general.

Appointed in June 2013 to the board after Penny Pritzker became U.S. commerce secretary, the millionaire venture capitalist has said she never hid any investments she made to companies providing online support in math, reading and writing, and ACT test prep.

CPS rules require her to disclose her financial interests in companies that had contracts with the board in the previous year. Those rules didnt require her to reveal her interest in three other companies to which CPS has paid a combined $930,000 since July.

While it is possible that Chicago Board of Education member Henry Bienen listened while teacher Norine Gutekanst talked about project with children during her days as a teacher at Whittier Elementary School, it's also possible that Bienen already had his script prepared to defend Deborah Quazzo and attack her critics. At the end of the meeting, Bienen called Gutekanst a "Luddite." But while she was speaking, Bienen was actually taking a nap, as the above photograph shows. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Quazzo has said shell donate profits from the companies including from their possible sale and already has given about $2,500 to Manierre Elementary School.

Emanuel has stood by Quazzo, saying the city is lucky to have her.

Absent from criticism was mayoral candidate and elected school board champion Jesus Chuy Garcia, who instead spoke about a pending lawsuit against CPS filed on behalf of pregnant women, saying afterwards he already released a statement about Quazzo.

The Sun-Times also covered the protest at the John Hancock Building on January 27, demanding that Quazzo quit. Our favorite quote from that story is from CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, noting that Quazzo is a walking conflict of interest.


'Quit, Quazzo, quit': Protesters demand school board member resign. Posted: 01/27/2015, 03:26pm | Lauren FitzPatrick

Chicago Board of Education Member Deborah Quazzo in 2013 |File photo

Quit, Quazzo, quit, about 30 protesters chanted outside the office building of Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo Tuesday morning, denouncing the mayors handpicked choice as a choice example of why they say Chicago needs an elected school board.

In the wake of Chicago Sun-Times stories that showed Chicago Public Schools spending on companies in which Quazzo has invested tripling since her appointment, groups like Action Now, More Than A Score and the Chicago Teachers Union demanded that the venture capitalist step down from the board overseeing the citys public schools.

Action Nows Anthony Edwards said CPS financial ethics rules are stricter for Local School Council members than for board members like Quazzo, and thats not fair.

Edwards, a parent representative at OKeeffe School of Excellence in South Shore, cited CPS ethics rules that prohibit LSC members from having any economic interest in a contract or business of the school or in the buying, selling or leasing of an item for which their LSC or school paid.

The first thing they do is make me fill out an application to let you know that I do not have any interests, any money-making schemes that I could steer business to, Edwards said. This should be held at the top instead of the bottom.

We want an elected school board, he continued. This is a perfect example why.

Quazzo, who runs a venture capital firm called GSV Advisors on the 35th floor of the John Hancock building, has recused herself from votes on CPS contracts with companies in which she has a financial interest.

Its my belief I need to invest in companies and philanthropic organizations who improve outcomes for children, Quazzo has said.

Citing that the CPS inspector general has opened an investigation into her companies relationships with CPS, Quazzo has declined to answer many recent Sun-Times questions.

She did repeat Tuesday that she will donate profits from the companies or their sale while she remains on the board or within a year of leaving it, saying she has already given about $2,500 to Manierre Elementary School.

As stated in my letter to Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel and Board President [David] Vitale dated January 5, I have complied with every rule and disclosure requirement that I am aware of, Quazzo said in an email.

A large amount of the $3.8 million CPS has paid to the online math, reading or ACT prep companies, however, has been through deals with individual schools, not contracts through the board, the Sun-Times found.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey called Quazzo a walking, talking conflict of interest. She is a person who has personally profited from the institution that she is supposed to exert direct oversight of.

That is not who we need in the school board representing our interests, he continued. She is not accountable to the public.

CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the differing ethical guidelines were tailored to their roles and responsibilities.

Members of Local Schools Councils have direct authority on approving school budgets and therefore are prohibited from contracting only with the schools for which they serve, McCaffrey continued. They can contract with other schools in the district.

Emanuel has stood by Quazzo, whom he put on the school board when Penny Pritzker left to become U.S. commerce secretary, saying CPS is lucky to have her. His office, however, will not say when the mayor learned of her interests in the companies and did not return a message Tuesday seeking comment.

All four mayoral challengers said at a Chicago Tribune editorial board meeting Tuesday that they support an elected school board. Two of them Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Cook County Commissioner Jesus Chuy Garcia have joined in calls for her resignation.

A symbolic referendum to replace the mayors appointed board with an elected one will appear on ballots in 37 out of 50 wards on February 24.

On Saturday at a voters forum hosted by the Chicago Women Take Action Alliance, Emanuel called that referendum an attempt to trick voters because the change lacks legislative support it needs in Springfield.

For the first time in memory, the Chicago Board of Education snubbed elected officials who were at the January 28, 2015 meeting to speak on public issues. The January 29 Chicago Tribune article noted that mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia was ready to leave the meeting when Board President David Vitale finally noticed that Chuy was there and wanted to speak. Garcia was seated directly in front of Vitale, less than 20 feet away.THE SAME MEETING, AS REPORTED IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, SAW SOMETHING QUIT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT THE SUN-TIMES REPORTS:


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