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.....

1 comment:

  1. Great report. I wonder if the parents at this meeting were the same ones at the last meeting, because there was no support for the "merger" at the first meeting.

    I am bathed in relief that some college students asked decent questions. My impression is that a certain deeply neoliberal sect of young people has crept into public education policy circles (take for example, the staff of the Illinois state charter commission) and that really for them it's all about shutting down schools, firing teachers, and using phrases like, "replicate success" and "scale up" and "close the achievement gap."

    Cappleman is on board here, and I'm sure there's more to the story. I'm trying to write a piece about the coming zoning changes in the 46th, the TIF funds, and the dispersal of poor people, which has long been the dream of certain folks moving into Uptown.

    Thanks again for the report. What isn't clear to me is whether or not Cawley and the others were actually answering questions, or whether this evening was yet another forum for no questions.

    Was it a dialogue, in other words?

    Anyway, a huge shout out to Stewart teacher Reggie Spears. Any school would be lucky to have a teacher like that.

    This whole business of the Courtenay LSC picking the principal at Stockton..... what the heck? If that's true, then there's a word for it, and it starts with R.

    Thanks Megan!