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Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Tensions rife at school closing hearings

Despite a snowstorm, hundreds turned out to Friday's round of school closing hearings, and tensions were high as supporters brought on yellow school buses clashed with parents, students and community activists. 

A fight between Crane students and some of the bused-in school closing supporters broke out at the hearing on the proposed phase-out of the West Side high school, according to WBEZ/Chicago Public Media. At the hearing on the planned closing of Price Elementary School, one mother left crying and screaming, “I’m done."

And at the hearing on Dyett High School in Washington Park, speakers wound up talking to each other rather than to the officials on hand to listen to their input.

Next week, more hearings on 10 proposals--to close schools and to allow new schools to share buildings with existing schools--will be held downtown at CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. The Board of Education will vote on the proposals at their February meeting.

None of Friday's hearings were held at the schools that will be affected by the actions. At least four of the hearings were partly filled by people who came on buses. Of those bused in, less than a handful spoke and some of them seemed not sure why they were there.

Two busloads of people from K.L.E.O Family Life Center, an organization that is connected to a local church, attended the hearing on the proposal to close Dyett, which is in Washington Park.

Perlander Swinney, deacon at K.L.E.O., said that failing schools like Dyett are the reason why so many young people are on the street.

“Just shut it down…” he said. “CPS knows best.”

But Swinney’s statement was immediately followed by a group of Dyett supporters. One student said she worried about the gang friction that would be created by mixing Dyett students with those from Phillips. Next year's Dyett freshmen will be assigned to Phillips High School should the phase-out be approved.

That angered a Dyett closing supporter from K.L.E.O. who got up and shouted “Too much, too little, too late.”

Then, Bettie Dancy, a grandmother who is against Dyett’s closing, gave an impassioned speech that spoke to the distrust that families have in CPS.

“What have they done?” she said. “They have taken home their six-figure salary and done what they needed to do for their children, and then they try to tell us what to do with our children.”

Dancy left with Kenwood-Oakland Community Activist Jitu Brown. Brown, who serves on Dyett’s local school council, told the people from K.L.E.O.: “Don’t let them use you.”

At the first hearings on Jan. 6, some bused-in people admitted to being paid. At Friday's hearings, people were more discreet about whether they had a financial incentive to attend. However, one Robeson student who attended the Dyett hearing and came on the K.L.E.O. bus said she came “because I don't have a job and needed money.”

According to CPS Office of Procurement, K.L.E.O. got $36,000 from CPS this year and, for the past two years, the organization got $5,000.  K.L.E.O. is paid to provide student mentoring, according to a board report.

FIGHT BREAKS OUT AT CRANE

Accusations that people were being given financial incentives to support the closings were also rampant at the hearing on the phase-out of Crane. About 400 people attended the hearing, held at Malcolm X Community College, according to Brit’s account.

Crane supporters –which included students, alums, teachers, coaches, parents, and 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti—wore the school’s red, white and blue colors and filled most of the large auditorium, which felt like a Crane pep rally for much of the night.

Nearly two hours after the hearing began, the other side was heard from. Cory Thomas said he represents “Community in Action.” He began by commending Crane for strides made, but the tenor of his speech quickly changed.

“You all are not anywhere close to where you all need to be. We all need to call a spade a spade. You had 10 years—10 years of failure!”

Boos erupted from the Crane supporters, many of whom stood up. Thomas told students, “All the teachers are about the mighty dollar, not about the student, so you all are being used to keep their job, and they’re still failing us as black people! Education is by any means!!”

The speech triggered a skirmish between Crane students and those supporting the school’s phase-out.  Teachers and security hurried to stop the brawl, and the hearing was suspended for several minutes while those involved were ejected from the room. Chicago police arrived at Malcolm X after the skirmish continued outside the auditorium.

Evenutally, between 30 and 40 supporters of a Crane phase-out also left the auditorium to jeers of “Rent-a-protesters, your bus is here!”  Several speakers over the course of the evening, including Fioretti, alluded to protesters from outside the neighborhood being paid to come out to support school closings.

PRICE SET TO CLOSE

At the hearing on Price Elementary School in Bronzeville, Maurice Jones came with members of the dance team Final Phaze to say that he supported the closure. He also spoke in favor of turning around schools in the neighborhood. CPS has proposed turning around Fuller and Woodson, which are also in the neighborhood.

Several parents shouted at Jones and CPS officials. One was Rev. Krista Alston, a member of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. Her 11-year-old son, she said, was moved from Robinson to Price after Robinson was turned into a preschool-3rd grade school.

“It's not fair, it's not right, and if we have to go all the way to the Supreme Court we are going to keep Price school open,” she told officials. “I am a taxpayer and I purchased my home, and I expect my child to be able to go to a public school in my own community.”

--WBEZ-Chicago Public Media reporters Linda Lutton and LaCreshia Birts contributed to this report.

18 comments

Concerned Mom wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

Bronzeville - Price School Situation

I looked on a map of Price & Woodson which seem to only be about 2 blocks apart. Maybe this parent can apply to Woodson not as part of the turnaround, but as a transfer. There is also another school inside the Woodson building that she can apply to as well. Has she ever considered the schools under "CPS options for knowledge." I understand that she does not want to go to the National Teachers Academy at 55 W. Cermak Rd. in Chinatown, but many parents who have a vested interest in their children's education, personalyy drive their children to options even further away. Price is getting bus service to a school that was built with $38,000,000 of Bronzeville property tax dollars. This is homeowner tax dollars. There are also other parents in Bronzeville that want the opportunity to go to National Teachers Academy. There is a pre-school, an in-house clinic, the park district for afterschool programs, master teachers and many other resources at this location. No to mention that this school is not on probation. I question anyone associated with Koco. Has anyone noticed that Koco is also speaking against King College Prep, another school that is not on probation (A Selective Enrollment H.S.) and also not wanting Chiarts at the other Doolittle Building (Parent Center) that had no students, even when the situation is temporary. ChiArt is filled with honor students. Schools like this do not need KOCO who caters primarily to CHA families. Why hasn't the media asked KOCO who wants space inside schools to access the students what their track record for success really is. What have they done to close the achievent gap or are they more concerned with establishing a beachhead in Bronzeville because bringing in more public housing and attacking schools that are perforimg or are role models would decrease their presence and their bottom line financially (government subsidies), forcing them to have to move to the jungle of Englewood. CPS has not forced Price to leave their community. To the people who do not want to go to NTA, aplly somewhere else in the community. Simple as that!! I also wonder why KOCO never made a peep about urban prep who was moved to Bronzeville to Daniel Hale Williams from SouthShore community. Let me guess, they do not have a track record for academic success, another possible option for KOCO's services!!!

confused wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

to confused mom

I think you have summed it all up! CPS has become a confusing network of charter, magnet, and neiighborhod schools. it has taken on a darwin like structure. only the strong survive....children who might have parents who are busy, not saavy, lazy, whatever are going to be left to the birds in this new rahm/brizzard kafka like school system they want to create. what is their end game? for example lets just assume that adding more hours are beneficial....CPS is going to punish their students because teachers dont go along with the idea thus not getting the 150k bonus...this is the same problem with Race to the Top children are punished for the inactions of their states? honestly Obama and Rahm sound more like hard core republicans every day...Chicago has a ton of buildings...every child (of at all possible) needs a good school within walking distance or a simple place to take a bus...period! all this change and "options" have completely confused the city....on top of this cps has track a b c d e ...its a nightmare....yet the teachers are blamed for the mess....dont get it

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

Turn-Arounds Sacrafice one Generation of Students

Dear Concerned Mom,

When NTA first opened in 2001 and took half of the population of students from Daniel Hale Williams, for five years they were 14-17% on the ISAT. When Williams was closed due to low scores ( ranging from 30-40%) NTA was allowed to experiment on these students for the entire duration of their elementary school experience. Even though there were 3 adults per every 20 students as opposed to class size being 38 at Williams with no aide, NTA, the school of choice was allowed to fail miserably for years.

When students from the Ikes Housing project did not meet the standard, their homes were knocked down and a new population of students were recruited to take their place. There is absolutely nothing fair or ethical about this process. Turn-Arounds are NOT designed to help the population of students at Crane, Guggenheim , CVCA or any other public school. Turn-A Arounds are designed to replace overtime the population of students attending the school. This is why parents of these students are concerned. CPS does not have these students best interest in mind. They want students who are able to succeed in a Selective -Enrollment setting.

Grandma wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

To: Turnarounds Sacrifice One Generation of Students

I also support “Concerned Mom. If NTA was built with $38,000,000 of the taxpayers of Bronzeville, then they own over 90% of the school building and there is nothing wrong with allowing students in Bronzeville to attend, if they choose too. After all, it is their property tax dollars that was used. It’s not their fault that CPS built the school outside of Bronzeville. They have the opportunity to take advantage of a clean school that is not filled with environmental hazards like friable asbestos, lead, mold and rodents. NTA has many resources like master teachers, a pre-school located inside the school, a health clinic, the park district, science labs and other resources that many schools in Bronzeville lack. I can understand any parent that does not want to leave Price, but if NTA could actually help improve the achievement gap, then take advantage of this opportunity. I read about one parent that initially supported KOCO against the move to NTA until she visited the school herself. Now she supports the move to NTA. Her response was that she believes that they really want the children to learn and now she is excited to leave Price Elementary. Furthermore I now of a parent with a gifted child who got into Whitney Young’s Academic Center Program (Gifted Students). They drove him to and from school everyday at their own expenses and it was a financial impact to their family. However, they were willing to make that sacrifice, because the school’s in Bronzeville lacked the resources to accommodate his abilities. I salute these types of parents who are willing to go the extra mile for their children, rather than placing them in a school that would cause their child to regress academically. The fight needs to be against the community organization s that want to continue the status quo of mediocre schools, so that they can run their programs inside of them, even when they have no track record for success and have no history of helping to close the achievement gap.

to grandma wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

schools

this is the problem, what about the kids who dont have parents who are willing or able to make the commute or dont know how to game the system...the status quo is the problem...cps needs to fund every school the same! how can any student or teacher get any type of inspiration when they are teaching in an old dirty school with 30 plus kids and old books????? we need to fund al schoos the sameeeeee, we cant blame the sins of the parents on the kids......provide equal education....isnt that what brown vs the board was? now it seems it isnt so much race but children of the poor and children of helpless and abusive kids that are losing out!

Andrew Johnson wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

Please don't sacrifice the facts, too

A previous comment about NTA and its track record gets some important facts wrong, and it seems possible that more reliable information will lead people to a different conclusion about the prospect of sending more students there.

NTA opened in 2002, so it had no ISAT data available until 2003. At that time, my understanding is that it was a regular (though brand new) CPS school. The percentage of all NTA students who met or exceeded standards on the ISAT in 2003 was 14.7, and this was the only year ever that the school posted an ISAT result between "14-17%" as the commenter alleges. (This data comes from the aggregate report "ISAT Performance Level Scores" at http://research.cps.k12.il.us/cps/accountweb/Reports/allschools.html.) Though the scores began to climb after that, the district asked the UIC College of Education to help run the school in 2004, I believe. Scores continued to increase, and in 2007 the district asked AUSL to manage the school (www.cps.edu/About_CPS/The_Board.../2007.../07-0725-ED8.pdf). Since that time, scores have increased further, reaching 73.4% in 2011. This is hardly "failing miserably for years."

There are plenty of reasonable critiques of how the Board handles the turnaround process and other changes, but adding misinformation to the mix is misleading and unproductive.

AUSL model wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

20% of NTA students

20% of NTA students disappeared when the school was turned over to the organization. This reduction in student enrollment is, of course, a signficant part of the AUSL model.

I actually think AUSL does some really wonderful and interesting things, but this consistent and dramatic reduction in student enrollment upon AUSL takeover is a major problem.

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

Get Your facts right Mr. Johnson

Mr. Johnson,

NTA did open in 2002 after the entire staff was housed at Williams in the basement for several years. These teachers got paid for an 8 hour day and did Not have a single student to teach. While I worked and teaching a split 5/6grade classroom by myself. An entire staff was working with no students and were allowed to order pizza and chicken and anything else they wanted for lunch. Teachers commented that the school had the aroma of a restaurant because of all the eating and socializing that was done at tax payer expense.

NTA staff planned to take only the 1st-4th graders because the inexperienced teachers were afraid that they we not up to the task of handling "those children". When they closed Williams our principal and others decided that NTA teachers need to take All of the students from grades k-8. That is when the entire staff that planned NTA jumped ship. These teachers who sat around drank coffee and ate donuts all day decided that the 5th-8th graders from Williams were too much of a challenge and only 4 teachers remained to open the school. That is why NTA got off to a rocky start.
I have collected the data from NTA every year and having 73+% in 2011 does not excuse 5 consecutive years of failure. Teachers at Williams were terminated for having twice the scores that NTA had. My information is correct and maybe you should buy my book when it is published. It's called "Big Fat Lies". The story of Williams and NTA is given much attention. I was there when these things occurred. Obviously you were not.
Also to Grandma, parents can send their children to any school they want. I personally don't think it's appropriate to destabilize at risk children so that those who have more parental support and advocacy can have more opportunity. These students deserve the same chances at life as anyone else. As a society we don't have to sacrifice poor children by uprooting them and putting them into under performing schools. Williams students languished at NTA for 5 years until the new recruits came in

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

Mr. Johnson, NTA did open in

Mr. Johnson,

NTA did open in 2002 after the entire staff was housed at Williams in the basement for several years. These teachers got paid for an 8 hour day and did not have a single student to teach. While I worked teaching a split 5/6grade classroom by myself, an entire staff was working with no students and were allowed to order pizza and chicken and anything else they wanted for lunch. Teachers commented that the school had the aroma of a restaurant because of all the eating and socializing that was done at tax payer expense.

NTA staff planned to take only the 1st-4th graders because the inexperienced teachers were afraid that they we not up to the task of handling "those children". When they closed Williams our principal and others decided that NTA teachers need to take All of the students from grades k-8. That is when the entire staff that planned NTA jumped ship. These teachers who sat around drank coffee and ate donuts all day decided that the 5th-8th graders from Williams were too much of a challenge and only 4 teachers remained to open the school. That is why NTA got off to a rocky start I have collected the data from NTA every year and having 73+% in 2011 does not excuse 5 consecutive years of failure. Scores were not published at CPS but they were published in the paper and on the former CPS log-in. Teachers at Williams were terminated for having twice the scores that NTA had. My information is correct and maybe you should buy my book when it is published. It's called "Big Fat Lies". The story of Williams and NTA is given much attention. I was there when these things occurred. Obviously you were not.
Also to Grandma, parents can send their children to any school they want. I personally don't think it's appropriate to destabilize at risk children so that those who have more parental support and advocacy can have more opportunity. These students deserve the same chances at life as anyone else. As a society we don't have to sacrifice poor children by uprooting them and putting them into under performing schools. Williams students languished at NTA for 5 years until the new recruits came in

Andrew Johnson wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

Sources?

Ms. Chatonda:

Are you saying that the ISAT data currently available on the CPS Office of Performance website is incorrect and that you have the correct data? Either way, if you agree that the school has reached 73%, then doesn't that require several years of improvement from what you call (with good reason, it sounds like) a "rocky start"?

To "AUSL model":
I agree that the reduction in enrollment after a CPS school is turned over to a non-profit contractor needs to be explored (it's the subject of many accusations and comparatively few well-documented investigations). It's possible that any initial increase in test scores can be attributed to weaker students being pushed out or choosing to leave. On the other hand, it's also possible that the more resourceful parents react to the uncertainty of the takeover/turnaround process and take their kids elsewhere, leaving students whose parents felt like they had no choice or were not involved in the first place. Perhaps some of both.

At any rate, the real explanation is not obvious to me, and nor is the source of your 20% figure. In 2007, NTA tested 761 students on the ISAT. The next year, with the school under AUSL management, the figure went down to 716, or a decrease of about 6%. In 2009, the number of students tested declined further to 649, for a 15% reduction compared to 2007. Beginning that same summer, the CHA started demolishing the Ickes homes (http://www.chitowndailynews.org/Chicago_news/Ickes_past_comes_tumbling_d...), which is the more likely explanation for the decline in NTA's enrollment since then. To say that a reduction in enrollment is part of "AUSL's model" may be obscuring some factors specific to NTA's location. And saying that 20% of the students "disappeared" doesn't seem to be supported by publicly available data.

Grandma wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

Mr. Johnson NTA did open in.....

To: Rosita Chonda
I never said that parents can send their children to any school they want. I said I salute these types of parents who are willing to go the extra mile for their children, rather than placing them in a school that would cause their child to regress academically." I believe that students should be matched according to their academic pace. Should students with with an ACT score of 13 and "D" average grades be allowed to attend Harvard or the University of Chicago? Of course not. These schools have very competitive guidelines for entry. Likewise, there are certain elementary schools for exceptional students that operate at an accelerated pace called gifted centers. These schools that are more challenging than traditional neighborhood schools, are primarily for children whose parents have made a vested interest in their children's education, usually from birth. Should students who are struggling and way behind in school be allowed to waltz thru the door, even though they in no way meet any of the requirents and lack study skills or a homework ethic. Should we place them in this environment when we know they are not ready and are doomed to failure, simply because their parents want them to go there? Price children are failing in school. It is the parents that destabilized the school by not taking a vested interest in their children's education. The finger is pointed everywhere, except at the parents who left their children behind by failing them. Now the resolution to this dilemma is everyone else's fault. Furthermore, the University of Chicago "Calvert House" has free one on one tutoring each year. I went by there recently and it was almost empty. If you want success for your children you seriously have to be more committed!!

Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

CPS is losing its non poor students fastest

I think that several thing have become statistically clear over the last six years in relation to CPS. First, in 2011 CPS had 347,242 students who were low income, in 2005 there were 350,886 low income students. This is a decline of only about 1%, second the biggest overall CPS decline is for CPS students above the poverty line. In 2005 CPS had 59,988 students above the poverty line and by 2011 it had 56,528 students above the poverty line or a decline of 5.8%.

Part of the issue is that families above the poverty line are becoming poor, but clearly families above the poverty line are also continuing to flee the city. These families statically are not attracted to charter schools; overall the percentage of non-poor children in charter schools has not increased over the last six years. Noble Street charter for example in 2011 had 640 non-low income students and in 2005 it had 90 non-low income students an increase of 711%, the overall increase in this charter’s enrollment during this time was 1,267%. Basically, this reflects the fact that while Noble’s enrollment has exploded it cannot attract non-low income students and is actually getting fewer such students.

Contrary to census data for the city of Chicago where the city is losing poor residents, the CPS is losing its non-poor students. So any debate about how turnaround schools are losing poor students really in the big picture of things is not the largest problem the district faces, it is losing the children who are most likely to be successful those above the poverty line.

Rod Estvan

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

Thanks for the Data Rod

Thanks for the data . I am going to the BOE Meeting this morning and can use it. You have a point. Did you know that there are small Chicago Like towns emerging in states close to Chicago? Young upwardly mobile parents are leaving Chicago for more educational opportunities. No one wants to put their children in such a destabilized educational system. When the goal is to disenfranchise any group of people it has far reaching consequences. It seems that the "chickens really do come home to roost".

Anonymous wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

last point about NTA

NTA did have a rough start and I understand why anyone would be disgusted with such a resource rich start going bad. But it was always a neighborhood school and it has flourished in the last 5 years... the story there is simply the principal, Amy Rome. She knew what she was doing. She even had the opportunity to dump her entire staff when AUSL took over and she chose to keep nearly all of them. So the success at NTA had nothing to do with UIC or AUSL, just good leadership.

I think it would be fair to ask why CPS doesn't find extraordinary leaders like Ms Rome to take over Price and other underperforming schools rather than closing them down or relinquishing their responsibility altogether by farming them out to charter operators.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

turn arounds

There should be a turn-around at Clark St. -- they have failed to show they have the educational expertise to make good schools in poor neighborhoods for years, and not for lack of micromanagement. This expertise is why they get paid those six-figure salaries. The administration makes their failures disappear by closing schools or turning them over to others thus absolving themselves of responsibility. The people are finally demanding that CPS educate all children. As an issue, this is not going to go away.

Schools do everything wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

Children First Principal

Never thought I would think this: it is now worse than Mr. Huberman or Mr. Duncan. My head is in my hands.

Schools do everything wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

OIG-where are you on this?

The Alderman very clearly raised the issue to the CPS Board if any CPS funding was used to pay for the “rent-a-protesters,” ... The Board did not respond to him on this issue at all.

Wonder where all the poverty money is going? Do Duncan-Obama turn a blind eye to Rahm?

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

To Schools do Everything

Federal money was allocated to put the displaced coaches who were fired and did not go into the reassignment school. The money was used for something else. Federal money was allocated again for "Transformation" an action to support schools instead of them around. I want to know what happened to this money? Maybe they used it to fund the turn-arounds or charters.

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