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.

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