Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Time For Some Sunlight

Since the Concept people managed to wrangle a zoning clearance in the 12th Ward today, let's all read up on the movement. 

I've been looking at this issue for about a year now, and I've written about it ad nauseum over at my old blog, but here's a short summary of my observations.

1. The Concept schools, including the Chicago Math and Science Academy, are part of the Gulen archipelago.

2. The American teachers at these schools seem to be largely unaware or unconcerned or too in need of a job to talk about the nature of their school's affiliations. The Turkish teachers, of course, aren't very likely to return calls.

3. Some of the families have become aware, but most of the families have utterly no concept.

4. When you start writing about the Gulenists, you get a lot of traffic from partisans in the Turkish internal struggle: the Gulenists, the Kemalists,  the Kurdish minority, and the strange nebula of anti-Gulenists that are hard but not impossible to pin down. You start to realize that there's a very ancient struggle unfolding in real-time in modern-day Turkey, and that one of the key players happens to have 135 or so charter schools in the United States, including one in Rogers Park.

If I were walking a group of kids down a sidewalk, and I saw a group of these partisans having a bitter quarrel up ahead, I would cross the street with the kids. I wouldn't hand over the kids to one of the partisans and pretend that I'd dropped them off with Mr. Rogers.*

For me, the whole connection to a player in a foreign drama is enough. It's too weird; it's not appropriate. The fact that there's religion at play is also weird, but for me, secondary. The opacity of the network is also secondary; I take it for granted that these charter chains are going to be havens for shady operators. I'm interested mostly in the basic fact of the matter: we've got a secretive foreign religious/geopolitical activist sect running American public charter schools, and it's absolutely forbidden to talk about it in the press.

I'm kicking around the idea of organizing a conference around this topic. I know many of the people who write about the Gulenists now; I know some of the scholars in the field, and I know people in the human rights community who can talk lucidly about the Gulenist connections to media suppression in Turkey.

If you're in the city, and you to like to talk about getting a conference off the ground, get in touch.  If these guys want to help themselves to the public dime, it's time for some sunlight.

*Yes, that's a striking image, I agree. To be clear, the quarrel is happening back in the old country, not here. To me it doesn't matter.

Monday, April 29, 2013

We're Chiming In On Concept Schools

There's a fog of mystery about whether or not the Concept people are going to get a zoning clearance in the 12th Ward tonight. So, we sent a fax. 

Actually, there's more to be said about this charter organization, but for now, this is enough.

Update: Looks like the 12th Ward zoning committee voted yes for this charter; now it goes to the full City Council next week. 

Quote Of The Day

Nobody lays things out as clearly as Ben Joravsky.
You know, we have a curious double standard with free markets in Chicago. When it comes to schools with falling enrollment, Mayor Emanuel and his allies in the civic community exclaim that we can't afford one more nickel. But when it comes to propping up a profitable baseball team with falling attendance—rock on!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Scenes From The Uptown Rally and March Today

Here's a bit of a slide show from today's event in Uptown.

It was a terrific rally and march--- we made banners, listened to the Stewart band, had a press conference, and marched around the various parts of Uptown that are struggling to survive. "The stations of gentrification," is how I referred to it.  Stewart Elementary, The Men's Hotel, the former Hull House, and Stockton Elementary.

Karen Zaccor and Stavroula Harrisis from Northside Action put it together; the whole thing was the product of the ridiculous CPS community meeting for Stewart, where Tim Cawley and the new French procurement guy sat on the stage trying not to text during the extended silence.  Instead of bothering to pretend to be in a dialogue with CPS, we planned a rally instead.

We had a videographer working the event today; I'm looking forward to seeing his work.

Meanwhile, enjoy. Go full screen; you're worth it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

UNO Gets A Spanking

I'm not sure what it actually means for the state to "cut off" money for UNO, but I would like to point out that the work of parent advocates is actually what got the Inspector General on the case.

I'm also not sure what the consequences of such a move will be, either. UNO is a debt-accumulation machine--- that state money is already spent!

I think we'll learn down the road that "cut off" means something other than what we think it means.

Devil's In The Details

Great planning.
It reminds me of the boondoggling in the Iraq "reconstruction."

40 Terrible Decisions
Raise Your Hand has a good summary of 40 scenarios where CPS has totally missed the forest for the trees.

With redress of grievance not available at the ballot box, the only thing we can do is march.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Get Ready For Some Common Core Word Soup

Ranging off topic here, go ahead and skip this if you like.... but I saw on Twitter that one of the big Common Core people is giving a little talk in the neighborhood soon.

It's in Arlington Heights.

Sometimes people think I'm a CTU loyalist, but the truth is, I'm not in the CTU and I disagree with them on a lot of things. The Common Core, for example. As far as I can tell, the CTU is pretty much on board with the Common Core.

I myself am a skeptic, and my skepticism comes from having taught 8th grade English for over 20 years before moving on to my fabulous current life of not writing comments on papers every single night of my life.

Anyway, Ms. Alberti is pretty much going to give this talk, which as I listen to it again, I have come to understand as being completely untrue in almost every respect.

One of the great ironies-- and there are many--- of the CCSS movement is that one of its pillars is this manufactured horror that teachers are asking kids questions that aren't text-dependent. You hear it over and over. Humorously, one of the questioners asks Ms. Alberti in this very presentation (toward the end) how she arrived at her assertion that fully 70% of teacher questions aren't text-dependent. She doesn't know. Indeed, she encourages the questioner to look it up for herself/himself.

Anyway, that's not even the ironic part. The ironic part is that whenever you ask a CCSS enthusiast to describe how a particular CCSS is somehow better than the pre-existing Illinois Learning Standard, that individual can't name a single standard! Try it sometime.

So much for text-dependent. My own theory is that whoever (whomever?*) made up the 70% figure never spent enough time in a school to find the copy room--- where you can find reams of leftover study guides that ask page after page after page of the mind-numbing, text-dependent questions that cause such squeals of ecstasy in CCSS circles. Evidently we will all be career ready when the "best practice"in teacher questions will be easily purchased from Perfection Learning. (Remember those study guides? I used to wait by the mailbox for them to show up when I was a rookie.)

Please, please listen to the above webinar.  I suppose that if you're a person who hasn't been in the business for a long time, the words coming out of Ms. Alberti's mouth might sound as if they comprise the verbiage of an argument, in the aggregate. The truth is, they don't.

If you've been in the business a while, what you realize is that here's another individual who just invented teaching and is going to let you know how it's done. I've never met her, but she's definitely a shooting star. Look at this work history (and this is as specific as I can find)

Prior to working at the state level Sandra held several district-level positions including school superintendent, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, principal, subject area supervisor and high school science teacher. She has an undergraduate degree in Biology from Rutgers University and masters and doctorate degrees in Educational Leadership from Rowan University.

The woman is my age, I'm guessing, or younger.  What I've learned if anything is that the people having an actual impact on the children in any given community are the people who stick around and build programs. Perhaps she's one of them; it's hard to tell. But there are shooting stars everywhere. Bill Gates finds them and funds them, and they fly around the country being comprehensive experts on everything. And the people who are actually doing the heavy lifting are staying in school districts over a career, getting better with time, practice, and reflection.

What an expert I was myself after three years! I knew everything. You would have to call in Michelle Rhee to shut me up (she would of course have tape for the purpose.)

By the way, as a little fun fact, Ms. Rowan earned her masters and doctorate in Ed Leadership from Rowan University--- a school that is itself ironically in the sites of another reformy arm of the Gates nebula, the National Council on Teacher Quality.  In 2011, the then-provost of Rowan refused even to participate in the NCTQ data project because he knew that it was bullshit and that it would target Rowan with some obnoxious label or other.

Much like the test data coming off the new CCSS-based assessments will be doing for public school teachers across the land pretty soonish. So, you know, all of these things are brilliant until you find yourself staring down the barrel of one of them.

Anyway, please have a listen to the whole thing. And if you go to the thing up in Arlington Heights, and you're interested in being a critical thinker rather than a potted plant, keep raising your hand and asking, "How do you know that?"

Lots more to write, but I'm not a blogger any more. There isn't a two-minute stretch of this presentation where I don't want to make a footnote pointing out the weirdness or contradiction, or the just plain wrongfulness of the thing.

And remember, nobody knows the cost of the CCSS adoption. It is impossible to say with even any remote kind of precision how much of a boondoggle this is all going to be in the end. In the immortal words of State Superintendent of Education, Christopher Koch, in referring to the budget:

                    You will note that there is not a line devoted to Common Core implementation. 

To be fair, he later predicts that it's very likely that states will save money by adopting the CCSS, a prediction that will turn out to be even less true than "the war in Iraq will pay for itself," if you ask anyone paying attention.

*I jest above, but truly, the whole who/whom thing is a CCSS standard in 4th grade. And I shit you not about that. I used to have pitched battles with my colleagues about how to approach this topic with 8th graders.

Celebrity or Mercenary?

Does this woman not have a full time job? This is a question I ask in addition to "Where does she live and vote?"

Substance has been on the case. 

An unprecedented school closing scenario without any questions being answered, and no evidence of any kind of actual plan, and yet the boss evidently has a part-time job as a celebrity speaker.

He Doesn't Freelance

Speaking for myself here, but this short interview with Henry Bienen gives me no confidence in the CPS Board or in Henry Bienen personally.

CF: Will you be visiting Manierre?
HB: I don’t freelance. Any visit would have to be organized through the CPS board. I’m scheduled to go to a couple of schools but not that one. I suppose I could if I insisted…. I think the schools I’m visiting are on the South Side, not the North Side. I don’t yet have the names of those schools.

He doesn't freelance.

I'd say he doesn't lead. But that's just me.

Here's how I put it in the comments:

This man should have to face voters like school board members do across the state. He's entitled to his ideas and opinions, but he's not entitled to be on what should be an elected board just because he's politically connected. Until the appointed board is removed and replaced with a democratically elected board, there will be no legitimacy in anything they do. This man took the school board position because "it fell into his lap," -- a phenomenon that apparently occurs in appointed school boards but not in embassies.

If there were elections, the majority of voters might just elect someone with a little more oomph. A little more sense of stewardship over a public institution. A willingness to fight the defunding-through-TIF that any other school board would battle against.

Not this guy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Walk The Walk at Manierre

Parents 4 Teachers has put out a media advisory. Just passing it along.

Manierre Elementary parents, students rally for “Walk the Walk” Tuesday,
invite Mayor to see dangers of proposed school closing
Parents and students of George Manierre Elementary will host the 3rd “Walk the Walk” event Tuesday to highlight the imminent dangers students will face if their school is closed next year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other elected officials have been invited attend.
WHAT: Manierre elementary “Walk the Walk” action.
WHEN:  Tuesday, April 23, 8:30 a.m.
WHERE: George Manierre Elementary, 1420 N. Hudson
PHOTO OP:  50 parents, students and community members will march from Manierre elementary to Jenner Elementary, 1119 N. Cleveland, crossing a busy, dangerous intersection into rival gang territory. Students will release balloons—symbolizing the school’s motto of “Reach for the Sky”—at 8:30 a.m. to send off parent-marchers.
SPEAKERS: Parents will speak about the quality programs Manierre provides for their kids and the dangers they will face next year. Students will discuss the threats and attacks Manierre children are already receiving from youth in the new school’s neighborhood.
This is the 3rd week of the Walk to Walk campaign. So far, the mayor has not attended any of the walks. Will he walk with parents on Tuesday?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Some Excellent Recent Reading

Two really remarkable essays, in case you missed them.

First, Schools Are The Foundations of Communities, by Professor Timuel D. Black. It's a beautiful piece of writing, about a notion of public education that totally escapes the current administration.
I am old enough to know the story. Once these public assets are given away to private charter school operators, or sold off to condominium developers, that is public space we can’t get back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. We need only refer to the parking-meter debacle to understand how poor a decision it is to give up control of public assets and public space. The notion that this will somehow be a money-saver (or a money-maker) for the school system is at best an illusion. Is it possible that the real mission of the proposed school closings is to clear out the schools and hand them over to private operators? It appears today that our public schools — the institutions which have transmitted democratic values to our young — are being transferred from the less fortunate to the more fortunate.
Second, a ranging yet completely lucid history called Here's where we've been, Barbara Byrd Bennet, written by Karen Fraid in response to another one of Ms. Byrd Bennett's astonishingly insensitive public remarks. I recently told a CPS board member that people would soon begin to see Ms. Byrd Bennett as arrogant or crazy because of her tone deafness. I'm pretty sure it's not craziness. It's arrogance, trending toward hubris.

Ms. Byrd Bennett reminds me of David Coleman, the person behind the Common Core State (sic) Standards. I once wrote about how it seemed like Mr. Coleman seemed to feel that he had personally discovered MLK's Letter From A Birmingham Jail, and that it had never, ever been used by teachers before, and how fabulous it was as a vocabulary lesson.

Just as Mr. Coleman feels he has invented standards and curriculum, Ms. Bennett seems to feel that she has invented public education in Chicago. Where have you parents been? Where!

Here's Karen Fraid:
You see, Ms. Byrd-Bennett, your boss has hired you because he knows that this move just might be a step too far.  Don’t think for a minute that your boss didn’t pick you for marketing purposes, rather than your talents or abilities.  He wanted someone committed to the Broad Foundation playbook who didn’t look like the rich, old, white, conservative males who are benefiting from and financing these policies.  I know you know that this job is just a temp position until Rahm needs a different face.  You haven’t even changed your residency from Ohio.  You’re more like us that you want to believe.  It must be rough sacrificing your integrity for a cause only to be swept out of town when you become the scapegoat for the 0.01%.  Of course a golden parachute like the one your predecessor received can buy a nice TempurPedic, which probably makes it easier to sleep at night.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Trumbull, For The Record

WBEZ has done a great service for the community by posting audio recordings of the community hearings that have taken place for each school targeted by Rahm Emanuel for closure. You can't listen to the actual hearings without realizing what a disaster this school closing plan is.

It's a disaster on so many levels.

I'm going to post meeting number 92, the one for Trumbull. I believe it's their second hearing. The audio files on the WBEZ site are very, very quiet--- at least on my computer. So what I've done is fiddle with the sound so that you can hear what was said that day at Amundsen High School by community members facing a hugely unjust school closing.

I've also tried to clip the long pauses between speakers.

There's so much to unpack here; I hardly know where to start. Nobody with an ounce of sense about teaching and learning could possibly walk through Trumbull and call it "underutilized." It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of.

And yet, we're talking about CPS governance, so the normal standards don't seem to apply.

Listen to the people at this hearing.

Just a note..

I've been a number of network hearings and the subsequent community meetings. My hat is off to the principals who resisted the urge to go up to the microphone to advertise about what a fabulous welcoming school they would be for the schools facing unjust closings.  It's a sign of character, in my opinion, and of good judgment about time and place. There's a time to let people know how warm and wonderful you are: these hearings and meetings were actually not the place.

Not all of them were able to resist this urge, as you can hear. One receiving principal at an earlier hearing got up and announced the percentage of her faculty with masters degrees.  I'm sure every school that's being set up as a receiving school intends to be truly welcoming and accommodating, and that they are staffed with highly trained people. It's just that this isn't the point.

The point is that the closings are unjustified, and they're a terrible thing to do to communities, and they won't achieve any of the stated objectives, and they're based on an ever-changing set of reasons, none of which, when you drill down into them, make any sense.

If you're working with a school community, and you want the sound file for a particular hearing amplified, send me a note.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Finding The Good Is Easy

It's everywhere. Sometimes you have to step back and focus on the good. Especially with so much disturbing testimony coming out of CPS headquarters during these final hearings.

So one good thing that happened today was that RPNPS Team Gale worked today with Howard Opportunities for Women and the Gale leadership on campus to develop a long term communications plan that will benefit all of the community partners working at this thriving school.

The Greenhouse is a laboratory for botany and business.

So many good things. It’s time for all of us to start looking at people instead of numbers. And by numbers, I mean numbers that lie.

We also had a wonderful tour of the greenhouse, which is the home to so much good programming for the kids and the community. There’s no other greenhouse like this on the far north side, at least that we’re aware of. Hydroponics, produce, community partnerships, a sustainable business model--- over the course of the next year we’re going to be telling the story of the people who work with kids in this greenhouse, and how it’s ahead of its time in so many respects.

It’s a lovely place, too. Very hard to leave and head back out into the rain, but we did. We're working with all of the schools in our community, and we're reaching out to other groups working around the
Cabbages thrive in the Greenhouse.
city. There are so many good things going on--- you just never hear about it because of the din generated by the noise machine working against public education every day.

Chicago has to make a decision about the kind of city it's going to be. Are we going to serve the people who are here? Are we going to build their future? Tell their stories? Can we even hear them any more? I guess we'll find out.

If you're involved in any of our Rogers Park neighborhood schools, and you want to work with us, get in touch.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

From The Frontlines Of A Chicago Disaster

More hearings tonight at CPS. Here's the Twitter feed.

Others Chime In On UNO Rogers Park

Just wanted to post some additional material related to our presentation at CPS last night. (Good coverage here.)  First, Professor Isabel Nunez from Corcordia University Chicago chimes in. She sent this letter to the Board. I have no idea if that means the hearing officer gets a copy; I have my doubts. It's probably sitting on a fax machine somewhere.

Remenber--- when B3's staff gets something like this, they summarize it for B3, and I'm guessing the summary reads something like, "Concordia  professor gets it, is on board."

And here, Northside Save Our Schools joins with our previous statement about UNO Rogers Park.

I've worked with the wonderful people at Northside Save Our Schools; they're the ones quarterbacking the Save Our Uptown Schools rally on April 27 at Stewart School. None of these groups have the charter budgets, the PR firms, the political connections--- we meet in church basements and people's apartments. So we might not be able to stop the UNO juggernaut, but we're not going to stop trying. 

Also, I read from Megan's notes last night that UNO has referred to a $12m state grant they received for some construction at one location or another. Don't forget that the UNO financial model is that of a bubble--- they need to keep expanding in order to pay off pre-existing debt. Somewhere down the line, the bubble pops, and if they're lucky--- if they're too big to fail--- they get bailed out by taxpayers.

So, I was curious about the $12m because I hadn't heard about it before. There's two ways for the state to grant $12m to UNO for charter construction. One way would be for the state to raise $12m for the project through revenue. Another way would be for the state to remove $12m from somewhere else in the state budget and hand it over to the UNO/d'Escoto nebula. I'm guessing they didn't raise a tax. Here's the state budget proposal from ISBE.

We Send Faxes

The state really ought to shut CPS down on these closings. Essentially, the district has become a political arm of the mayor's office. The charters and AUSL are the patronage arm, the closings are the retaliation system, and the district leadership is an unending stream of out-of-towners willing to do or say anything while they're here. 

Chicago In A Nutshell

Raise Your Hand has summed up the situation in Chicago quite succinctly:

So we won't be saving much money after all, kids will not be going to better schools in the majority of cases, many students will have to deal with overcrowding and reduced safety, research shows this isn't effective, and we'll have 54 vacant buildings scattered throughout the city? . 

I would add, "And we're relentlessly approving new charters."

Their weekly mailer is essential reading. Join today.

I walked around Sullivan High School this morning at dawn. I can't imagine what it would do to this neighborhood to shutter that building. And yet that's what they're doing all over town. I can only hope that somewhere around the mayor's house they shutter something significant, or that they do the same thing at B3's home in Ohio.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Report From Headquarters: UNO Hearing at Board of Ed

A small group of RPNPS members attended the CPS hearing on UNO's request to expand its Rogers Park campus to include a high school, effective fall, 2013.
Waiting to speak at CPS

Felix Gonzalez was the hearing officer appointed by the Office of New Schools.

Aspira was also on the docket. Aspira's Chairman and CEO both spoke about the astonishingly quick success of their "self-imposed turnaround," which happened just in the nick of time for them to apply for renewal of their charter, which they received in February. They have requested approval for an Aspira Business & Finance High School and indicated that they have already secured $12 million in state funds to build at 2989 N. Milwaukee. No one else spoke for or against this proposal.

Where does all this state money come from?

UNO had a number of items on its request list, including permission to: change the address of UNO Soccer Academy, which will move into its new building in the fall; locate its 15th charter school at 4420 S. Fairfield (k-8 program); and expand UNO's program at St. Scholastica to include grades 9-12. Their spokesperson, Mr. Quijano, indicated that the RP high school would have a college prep curriculum with a performing arts focus. UNO also requested to postpone opening (already approved?) sites #16 and 17 until fall of 2014.

Four of us presented "10 Reasons Why UNO Should Not Expand in Rogers Park," and we submitted the document with supporting artifacts for the official record (to Claire Henderson, CPS Office of New Schools). Byron Sichgo from UIC also spoke against the Rogers Park proposal. Really, most of the reasons we presented argue against expanding charters anywhere, although we did include information specific to Rogers Park and UNO. I am just sorry the crowd wasn't a little larger. The Aspira folks seemed very pleased (relieved?) that we were there to talk about UNO, not them.

Of course the top reason why UNO's request(s) should not even be considered at this time is because they are under investigation for misuse of state grant funds. That's a pretty compelling argument on its own, but there are other reasons as well, from its academic track record to its finances. (See our press release below.)

Two people spoke in support of UNO's requests: a parent of a child enrolled in the St. Scholastica program, and a prospective parent from the southwest side.

All in all, it was a rather tame meeting. Too much so, for what's at stake.

Great Moments In Communication

You mean, you don't read the Sun-Times classifieds? We do. That's how we knew that a publicly funded, privately managed high school was going to get a CPS hearing tonight.

April 9, 2013

So, there's that.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

RPNPS Statement on UNO Expansion in Rogers Park

A busy day up in Rogers Park. The steering committee of RPNPS is sending a team to the Monday night CPS Board hearing on the expansion of UNO Rogers Park.  We're doing a dozen other things, but that's the thing I want to tell you about tonight.

We've got a lot to say on the issue, but I think I'll just post our written statement here.

Meanwhile, if you've got time and you want to join us, the hearing sign-in starts at 5:00 PM on Monday, and the hearing itself starts at 6:00 PM.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Very Dangerous Times: Labor Beat

People don't want their schools closed. They see what's going on.

Nice work here by Labor Beat.

One of the problems is that people are telling Barbara Byrd Bennett that everyone gets it; everyone's on board.

The fog of war.

Come Join The Action

       Rogers Park Neighbors For Public Schools

General Membership Meeting---- New Members Welcome

1:30 PM, Rogers Park, Sunday April 14, 2013

Taking action on charters, school closings, and other topics of interest.

For location, email info@rpnps.org

Strong Schools, Strong Neighborhoods

In case you missed the event downtown in March, here's a terrific short film from the scene.

Toward the end there, Jitu Brown exhorts legislators to stop the closings, and I agree with him. When I first got involved in this issue, I thought that it was possible that the CPS administration might have to close a school here or there, but then I started looking deeper.

They don't know what they're doing. Not on small issues, and certainly not on historically huge operations like this unprecedented plan.

So, that's why we're going to push forward with our legislators on HB 3283, the moratorium. It currently has these sponsors--- you'll note some prominent missing names:

It's in the Senate as SB 1571, with these senators as sponsors:
I notice that the state senator representing Rogers Park is not on board yet, and I'm not holding my breath, but I will say this: anyone for whom high-quality governance is a priority cannot possibly be impressed with what CPS has come up with, and how it is proceeding. It's a joke.

Thanks to Fred for posting the video.   It's unusually beautiful--- the work of Kai-Duc Luong, and produced by Heather Stone.  As a person who has filmed a lot of protests, I can tell you that when artists and professionals do it, you get the actual magic of the event rather than just some footage. This is a really, really good short film.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Live Stream From The Fiasco

Here's the live Twitter feed from around the city at the pro-forma CPS community meetings. (You might have to refresh the page to get the latest.)

I'll take it down later.

UNO On the March!

By now, people have heard that UNO at St. Scholastica has a hearing on Monday night to become UNO Rogers Park, which means that they want to add a high school in the fall of 2013.
I'll credit this photographer when I figure out who it was!

There's plenty more to say, but time is short. For now, suffice it to say that I'm opposed to it, and that when RPNPS meets this weekend, it is very likely the first issue on our agenda.

Let me just say this. I live in Rogers Park, but I work in Skokie. If some kind of entrepreneur were planning a publicly funded, privately managed school in Skokie, the community would have plenty of notice about the Board hearing.

There would also be plenty of other in situ  opportunities for people to have a dialogue.

But this is Chicago. You get this one little moment to have your two minutes before a Board that's accountable to someone else.

It takes two hearings, plus two community meetings for CPS to close a school--- that's in the law, and the law is intended to force a dialogue-based, collaborative process. Never mind that CPS has made an open mockery of the law's intentions, at least there's a law in place. But when a charter operator wants to insert a school in a neighborhood, there's a barely known-about hearing downtown and nothing in the neighborhood.  And then the charter operator calls up the mayor and says something like, "Dang, it's great to be politically connected!"

By the way, if you missed Byron Sigcho's discussion of UNO's financial model, it's online.

It isn't right.

Come to the hearing Monday night!

Hearing #4 from 6pm - 7pm (sign in 5pm -6:15pm):

Change the name of the UNO Northside Elementary School Campus to the UNO Rogers Park Campusadd grades 9-12 at the UNO Rogers Park Campus starting in the Fall of 2013.

The hearing will be held at the Chicago Board of Education Chambers, 125 S. Clark St., 5th floor.  Anyone who would like to submit written comment may submit them to the Office of New Schools, 125 S. Clark St., 10th floor or call 773-553-1530.  The record will remain open for these comments until 5pm Tuesday, April 15.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Note From Stewart-Brennemann and Courtenay-Stockton

Just a few quick notes from tonight's meetings for Stewart/Brennemann and Courtenay/Stockton at Amundsen.

Again, Tim Cawley and Sebastien de Longeaux at the front table for both sessions.

[I was ten minutes late.] This session was woefully under-attended; probably more CPS people than attendees.

I missed CTU's Martin Ritter's initial comments but he raised concerns about the education experience of the decision makers (little to none for most) and the legitimacy of the CPS deficit figure. And then some crazy factual, research-based stuff about best practices and what's good for kids.

There was a group of Northwestern students, from varying disciplines, who are enrolled in a course called "Urban Education Reform." One of them, Jonathan, had a series of insightful questions for CPS--about class size and the transition process, for example--but finally concluded that this was a PR stint and not a real opportunity to address issues. "Reform" always looks better on paper, doesn't it?

The other speaker was Reggie Spears, a music teacher from Stewart. He said that the Stewart LSC was informed that plans were "in the works" and his question was, Shouldn't these plans already exist? He's frustrated that he cannot address the concerns of his students and their parents.

One other speaker talked about how both Trumbull and Stockton were rated as potential landmark buildings.

There was LOTS of down time. Apparently, Mr. Cawley felt that there was enough blank space that he had to reiterate some of the opening comments: low turnout tonight but thorough process, incorporated feedback from 20,000 Chicago residents, continued engagement, partnership with police, etc.

I hadn't planned on speaking but suddenly felt the need.

This meeting was pretty well attended. (I would guess more than 100.) Most of the speakers were affiliated with Courtenay, largely parents but teachers, too. Some expressed their opposition to the plan but most were supportive or accepting; nearly all expressed the desire to maintain a lottery enrollment system; and many challenged the Board to step up and deliver on promises made. There was a conciliatory attitude towards Stockton by many from Courtenay, particularly the teachers, who collectively submitted a letter/olive branch to Stockton teachers.

One teacher speaking in support of the proposal simply said, "Courtenay needs a building and Stockton needs students."

There were some exceptions to this trend. A particularly rousing and excellent speech by a parent of a special needs student at Courtenay question the legitimacy of the entire process: more about politics and real estate than children. A few others cautioned that this would push more children out of CPS and families out of Chicago. Still others noted that Courtenay had not received the ability to counter this action, as it was never on the "targeted" list and didn't meet the original criteria.

A Stockton parent pointed out that this is not a merger but a takeover from their perspective. A Stockton teacher remarked that the Courtenay LSC will select a principal but the Stockton LSC represents a much larger population of students. Going through the CPS information packet, he pointed out that there is not a single benefit to Stockton students--other than the possible bribe of an iPad.

Class size was a concern of almost all who spoke, from both schools, even those in support of the "merger."

When it was my turn I expressed my concern that: a) Rahm had already indicated this was a done deal (isn't there a law that says otherwise?) which makes these meetings a sham; b) Tim Cawley, who knows the importance of stability for a child--particularly in light of his request for a 2 year residency waiver when he came to work for CPS--certainly believes that ALL children deserve the same stability; and 3) while the police are undoubtedly doing there best to plan for whatever havoc is wreaked by these actions, the partnership should be between CPS and parents, teachers and students.

There was a strange undertone to the whole evening. It all felt a little staged. One last note: Cappleman walked into the meeting late but spoke briefly at the end: very difficult evening, etc, etc. He did say that he is opposed to charter schools. Period. Really. Let's see what happens to the Stewart building.....

Expectation Of A Dialogue

I asked my (our) state representative, Kelly Cassidy, if she was aware that CPS was having Kangaroo Court in this new round of community hearings. They aren't answering any questions at all.

There was much more to Representative Cassidy's town hall tonight; I'll post the link when it's up. (Update: it's up.)

Seriously, on Monday night, Tim Cawley was telling parents that the meetings weren't a forum for questions. I have no idea what's going on tonight, but I'll get reports soon.

Don't forget that CPS got it's little extension of the deadline by going to Springfield and letting them know how competent the new team was.... Good lord.

Kids At Risk ---- Poverty and Mental Health Forum

A May 2 forum perfect for a city that closes schools and mental health clinics. 

The State Charter Commission Takes A Breather

Before I forget, the state charter commission canceled its April meeting; I have no idea why, other than that a number of us were appalled at their approval of the Concept school, which then tried to insert itself down the street from the soon to be pillaged Trumbull, a terrific school supported by the neighborhood, the local chamber of commerce, and anyone who's ever set foot in the building.

Which would leave out B3.

Eyes are on this commission now. They have the ability to over-rule democratically elected school boards, but people are starting to wake up to the fact that the financial consequences to school districts is hugely impactful.

Linda Chapa LaVia has introduced a moratorium on virtual charters, which is the first sane thing I've heard out of Springfield in months. In case you've missed it, a virtual charter company has tried to insert itself across a range of suburbs, apparently with the intention of getting its charter from the state commission, which is a stacked deck. An appointed stacked deck, staffed with charter people, not educators.

Chapa LaVia should extend the moratorium to all charters, if you asked me. The financial model doesn't make sense. If you want to read an excellent, in-depth treatment of the issue, subscribe to Jim Broadway's Policy Updates. 

Anyway, let's crowd the commission's next meeting on May 15. This entire commission has roots in the ALEC-Race To The Top nexus, and it's the most undemocratic thing in Illinois. And there's plenty to pick from, there.

As far as charter approval goes, I'm pretty sure that this state commission hasn't gotten the eye of the public yet. I don't know how many people were in attendance when they discussed the expansion of Concept, but I do know that when the public actually becomes aware of a charter approval in a specific neighborhood, the community turns out in droves. It happened recently at the zoning meeting for Concept---- there were so many people there in opposition, they turned away crowds of people.

People want public, neighborhood schools, just like they have in the suburbs.

RPNPS General Meeting on Sunday

Rogers Park Neighbors For Public Schools General Meeting:

April  14, 2013
7067 N. Glenwood Ave (ONE Rogers Park)
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

See you there!

April 17 Play-In

Just passing this along. Sounds like a great idea in a world where the youngest kids are starting to take more and more tests for no reason

Wed., April 17 
125 S. Clark St.
CPS headquarters

Bring Play Back to Our Schools!

The PLAY IN is a kid-friendly event!  We will demonstrate the power of play to let the CPS Board of Education know that we want play back in our schools for all children.  Come by before report card pick up and bring something to play with---blocks, musical instruments, trucks, dolls, crayons and paper, puzzles, etc!

According to the United Nations, play is a child’s human right.  According to Mr. Rogers, play is the serious learning of childhood.

The youngest learners in Chicago Public Schools are facing multiple standardized tests—as many as 14 in some kindergarten classrooms, inappropriate amounts of seatwork, homework, and a lack of opportunities for play, exploration, and creativity.  The combination of the longer school day, an overly academic curriculum for the youngest learners, and high-stakes testing is turning our children's first learning experiences into an ordeal.  Opportunities for true free play are ever more rare in Chicago Public Schools.

We know that children learn through play. We know play is crucial to children's mental and physical health.  We want opportunities for free play, the arts, and active exploration returned to classrooms and schoolyards across this city.

Sponsored by More Than A Score (morethanascorechicago.org)
Flyer to print and share here: bit.ly/XkoMuc
Facebook page: on.fb.me/YEjAT2

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Notes From Amundsen

Just a note from the community meeting at Amundsen High School, which was held on Monday night. It was one of the mandated meetings that CPS has scheduled for the actions at Stewart, Brenneman, Stockton, Brenneman, and Courtenay.

What a sad, sad evening. None of the people in the audience seemed under any delusion about the
Tim Cawley (S├ębastien De Longeaux, on left)
legitimacy of the process; in fact, the Stewart portion of the evening consisted mostly of the sparse audience staring up at Tim Cawley on stage. He basically fidgeted. Earlier in the evening, someone asked him where he had taught. The look on his face was worth the price of admission, which was free.

The weirdness of the evening was compounded by Cawley's announcement that the meeting was not a forum for questions. I made a note of it at the time.

The people in the crowd used the time to plan a demonstration; more on that later. I used a portion of the time to call up Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, who sponsored the extension of the school closing deadline.  I just wanted to see if this is what she had in mind when she gave CPS a very long, very loose leash.

She hasn't called back. I like Rep. Currie, but I think this is a very low priority for her. Seriously, the weirdness of having a mandated process, and then allowing the mandated process to be a joke, well, that's out of Orwell. Pol Pot would have taken questions at this point, but not CPS.

Karen Zaccor, Northside Action For Justice
The Stewart community didn't really turn out; my impression is that this is the school where there just wasn't any fight left whatsoever.  Karen Zaccor walked up to the microphone and explained that people have stopped showing up because it's fruitless to do so when the hearings mean nothing.

The Brennemann community didn't show up, except their principal, who assured Tim Cawley that there was plenty of room at Brennemann and all systems were go. I have made a mental note about Brennemann for the future, let me just put it that way.

The Stockton/Courtenay hearing was bizarre, because the plan is bizarre and offensive to just about everyone. It was a weird dynamic--- Courtenay is a magnet school, not a neighborhood school, so it was a situation where the parents were objecting to having to join with a neighborhood school with a totally different model and philosopy. Bizarre.

The plan can't possibly make sense even to whoever wrote it. The Stockton teachers are evidently out; the Courtenay administration is evidently in (is it really just an assistant principal?); who knows what's what with the Courtenay teachers... I can't even follow at this point. It's just like some kind of full-scale assault on two different schools for no reason whatsoever.

A Board member, Carlos Azcoitia, was in the audience, and I tried to address him during my two minutes. I was trying to tell him that Barbara Byrd Bennet's recent "everyone got it" remark in the press was an example of the fog of war---- you know, the fog where truth gets lost. I was incoherent. But there are a lot of war analogies here: the bizarre, bureacratic metrics--the burning down the village to save the village--the disinformation campaign--- and leadership making statements completely divorced from reality.

He didn't say anything. And when it was over, he walked safely over toward Craig Benes and Craig's tall, silent deputy person. I'm not sure they were even aware that virtually the entire crowd was standing up to demonstrate opposition to the Stockton-Courtenay, Stewart-Brenneman plans. In a democratic environment, the board member would go talk to the voters.

Marc Kaplan, NA4J, planning the April 27 Rally
However, my hat is off to him because he was actually a teacher, and not just for five minutes like Michelle Rhee. In fact, of all the people in the suits, he is the only one who actually served as a classroom teacher at any point, and I include the network chief in that assessment.  We'll see what kind of man Mr. Azcoitia is when the board votes.

Anyway, we used our time wisely during the eerily silent Stewart hearing. Working in conjunction withNA4J, we're planning a rally for Uptown schools on April 27, at 11:00 AM, in Uptown. Details later, stay tuned.  It's a rally not only about the school, but also about the other displaced peoples of James Cappleman's gentrifying Uptown. I'm stoked.