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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.

CPS to raise property taxes to the limit

VOYCE student group members tell the CPS board what they think about the revised Student Code of Conduct. Below, board members listen attentively during Wednesday's meeting. Photos by Mark Chong Man Yuk.

For the second year in a row, CPS will raise property taxes to the max in order to fill a budget deficit, projected to be between $600 and $700 million.

Homeowners with houses valued at $250,000 will pay $28 more a year, according to CPS. The move will bring in about $41 million.

In a press release, Board President David Vitale said the money will help the district keep class sizes stable, implement a longer school day and invest in preschool.

“We don't take an increase lightly,” he said.

The decision is one of the first indications of how district leadership plans to deal with the budget deficit, while at the same time resolve difficult teacher contract negotiations and implement new initiatives.

These issues were looming Wednesday at the school board meeting. The meeting featured parent groups, some of whom came to support the teachers union and others who came to put pressure on them to resolve their differences.

Also, groups of teachers, students and parents came to talk about how the school-level budgets were playing out in their buildings. One group was from Clemente High School, a West Side that sits on the border between a gentrifying area and the rough and tumble Humboldt Park.

Clemente High School is on the precipice of change.

Last week, it was awarded a $5.6 million federal school improvement grant to perform a reform method called transformation in which a principal works with existing staff to improve a school rather than firing them as in a turnaround. In the same week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that it was going to be one of the five wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate schools, bringing a high-level, rigorous curriculum to the school.

But these new initiatives weren’t able to save Clemente from being hit by another trend. Surrounded by new, mostly charter, high schools, the school is being drained of its population. Many of the other CPS high schools awarded school improvement grants are grappling with the same situation.

At the board meeting on Wednesday, a cadre of Clemente teachers came to complain about being laid off. Over the past week, some 22 teachers out of about 75 have been told that their positions have been eliminated, said Kevin Hough, who is one of those teachers.

CPS officials said these positions were lost due to a projected enrollment drop of 27 percent over the next year. If the district’s projections are right, Clemente will go from a school of 2,700 in 2005 to a school of 784 in 2012, a decrease of more than 70 percent. The drop was precipitated this year by the removal of the achievement academy, a special program for overage 8th-graders.

Hough said the teachers are dismayed because they were the ones that held the school together as it experienced a tumultuous last few years. “We have seen improvement at the school without any effective leadership,” he said.

CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said about 800 teachers were laid off across the district due to projected enrollment decreases and program changes, which can result in a shifting of position needs. Ziegler said layoffs at this time of year were down by about 20 percent.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said that he’s heard that principals are taking a wait-and-see approach as they look at the next year’s budget. Though principals have received their funding and submitted their school-level budgets, officials have yet to release the district-wide budget.june_27_board_meeting_0.jpg

With teacher contract negotiations ongoing and a projected deficit of about $600 million, there’s a lot of uncertainty, he said. “I have heard that a lot of principals are coasting,” he said.

In the meantime, some budget decisions are being made. On Wednesday, CPS awarded contracts to the Academy for Urban School Leadership to continue managing two of the first elementary school turnarounds.

AUSL will manage 2006 turnaround Sherman Elementary School for four more years and 2007 turnaround Harvard School of Excellence for another five years. The not-for-profit teacher training organization will get $420 per student or about $350,000 for both schools each year.

While the schools have both made improvements, Ziegler said there’s still work to be done. Both schools have seen 30 percent increases in their ISAT scores, but are still below the district average. Sherman is a Level 3 school, which is the worst rating the district gives.

AUSL spokeswoman Deirdre Campbell said the organization looks at turnarounds as a process, not an event with an end date.

But Valencia Rias-Winstead, a former leader for Designs for Change, said it seems to her that district officials favor AUSL by giving them more chances to improve the schools.

“You should be ashamed,” she said.

Also, the CPS board approved a revised student code of conduct. The new student code of conduct reduces the number of days a student is automatically suspended. For the worst offenses, such as sexual assault, students now will be given a 5-day suspension, instead of 10. For lesser offenses, the number of days is reduced from five to three.

CPS officials stressed that they are encouraging schools to use more corrective and restorative justice. They also are taking steps to take a holistic approach to discipline.

“Teaching positive behavior is much more important than punishment,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

Community and student groups, which worked on the code, said that it was a step in the right direction, but said they worried that it didn’t go far enough in forcing principals to use suspension and expulsion in only the most extreme circumstances.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Using TIF

funds for it's intended use, to impove schools, instead of giving millions of dollars for corporate improvement would be a good start. Making large corporations pay THEIR fair share of taxes, instead of hiding behind loop holes, would be a good start.

The good thing about this piece is that it puts the blame where it belongs, on CPS and the Rahm-appointed Board. No more teacher bashing please.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Clemente High School

I wish the entire story about Clemente was told here. 22 teachers were let go by the principal with nothing more than a brief phone call and no explanation. Many of these teachers, if not most, have way more seniority than other newer teachers that Ms. Sorensen brought in this year. If the cuts were due to an enrollment drop, as this article suggests, why were NONE of the teachers she hired this year (with less seniority) let go? The union contract clearly states that cut positions should be based on seniority. The same thing happened last year when she fired several teachers then hired 3-4 new ones with less seniority. She then let go of several counselors and rehired new ones as well. Since Marcey keeps getting away with this, it is obvious she has the support of the Board of Ed. in skirting the contract by "redefining positions".
What has Marcey done for Clemente? With all of her changes and new teachers, the ACT scores actually declined this year. Clemente actually saw an increase in these same scores for the three years prior to her arrival. We actually moved up a level in trying to get off probation in a year in which we had tumultuous leadership and at least 3 principals in one year.
Most of us at Clemente are good teachers. We work hard, we hold advanced degrees, we care for the students. We recognize that some changes are needed and we do support that. But we can't support a leader who feels that any opinion, other than her own, is not valid or not good for kids. Marcey targets anyone who disagrees with her. Shame on you, Board of Ed., for supporting the bullying tactics being used at Clemente.

My Soul Hurts wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

It Is So Bad

Under the radar, for a few years now, tenured teachers have had their rights trampled and the CTU has been helpless in combating the creative violations of the contract. E3s are an ace in the hole for unethical principals because there is no defense against the principal's "opinion." Nonsensical reasons are given to teachers, like the elementary school principal who told a first grade teacher that they were "going in a different direction" as he closed her position. What? They were eliminating first grade? Of course not. He just wanted her out.

The jabberwocky that the Board has been able to get away with as veteran teachers are cut right and left is scandalous beyond belief. The principals don't have to even attempt to look legitimate, because nationwide there is a war against union veteran teachers and no one has their backs.

CBW wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago


I do not know anything personally about Clemente except that it has had a boatload of principals in the last six or seven years. I know that they were subject to many of Chicago Public Schools' worst and least effective curriculum "transformation" projects. I know that they are the perfect test case for what happens to a neighborhood public school when charters reach capacity. I also know that the neighborhood just to the east of Clemente is hot right now in terms of property values.

CBW wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Re: It Is So Bad

Teachers have no protection in the current contract against having their position "redefined." That means that a principal decides that he doesn't like an art teacher, so he'll change the school's offerings so that the art classes are gone. Or he will split one or more teachers between two departments so that the "offending" teacher's endorsements match up. This is a huge problem and the A #1 way that new principals bring in their friends.

E3 on the other hand is the due process termination that the contract and the union has some say in. This is where principals do have to create a remediation plan. Yes, it relies on a few different people's opinions, but there has to actually be some kind of constructive advice from the principal to the teacher.

This is also why it nearly never happens. E3s aren't just rare, they're downright endangered. If a principal wants to get rid of a teacher he disagrees with, he has plenty of avenues outside of due process to do so.

Oh Please wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

E3s On the Rise

E3s are alive and well and on the rise. It doesn't make the news when a principal with an agenda hands out an E3. It is automatically assumed that all E3s are ethically written and the advantage goes to the principal. The Union is toothless in defending its members against an E3.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

certification also counts as well as the rating and tenure

CTU should give teachers a solid crash course on how teachers get removed, the staitions of each list, and what benefits are given when this happens.
Closing due to lowed enrollment-tenure teachers get the next school year to find a job. PATs and TATs go in the cadre,if rated well. Certifications and endorsements are key in the bumping processs--teachers seems to forget this. The rating also has weight if the teacher is unsatisfactory. We lost teachers this year due to enrollment drops, but also added one due to an increase in bilingual students. A teacher with 20 years at this school, with no bilingual endorsment, can't get that position, as the newer teacher who has this endorsement gets to stay. The 20 year teacher cannot bump if the other teachers have 21 years or more. High school history certifications have been over-needed for sometime. If these tenured teachers have other hs certifications, were not unsatisfactory and have more time in the building, then they can grieve. The fly here is Clemente is going IB. That changes this game.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Disagree--a consultant teacher vetted by CTU, is part of the E3

process, to support that teacher. Ethically? The remediation is clearly stated-the E3 teacher can present at ANY time, proof of success. The teacher, principal and consultant teacher meet every 30 days together. While the consultant teacher and E3 teacher meet together weekly. There are monthly conferences with the principal and teacher. There is a final hearing for the teacher and the consultant teacher, vetted by CTU, has input. There are many teeth here.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Will miss the old process -it did work--what we need to know is:

Will there be consultant teachers with REACH? Will there be hearings?
Will there be remediation? Leave it to the state and CPS to come up with something that is half-baked and experimental, instead of vetted and professional. Are we not tired of being guinea pigs for CPS?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago


We see the same thing in elementary schools. When are principals going to get some typee of education bill like sb7. They seemed to get little blame in the press. They got a hard job. But how often do they get surprise audits like teachers

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Our princpial just had an audit yesterday--they get audits all

the time. If the teacher gets an audit, then the princpal is put to task if the teacher fails that audit. Food services fails an audit--the principal gets the write-up. As for a principal SB7--it exists--the LSC, they make or break a principal by offering a contract. Principals not only answer to them, they answer to a network chief, the chiefs downtown, an the CEO-who calls it bounded autonomy; a contradiction itself. There is no such thing.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

principals are being held accountable to teacher attendance!

This stat is used to judge the princpal as is student attendance. Just wait until next year when teachers and staff cannot bank those days. How much does a sub cost per day?

ROTFLOL wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago


So wrong: "The remediation is clearly stated-the E3 teacher can present at ANY time, proof of success."

There is nothing at CPS that is ever clearly stated. Education boilerplate that has always existed is only getting worse with business-model ed reform.

The Illinois E3 law and the CPS policy to implement it is ironclad in its zero tolerance for teacher justice.

Janice Hughes wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Firings at Dewey Academy of Fine Arts

Principal Eric Dockery at Dewey Academy of Fine Arts has fired almost all the teachers. Using his pen as his weapon. No remorse to the hard work the teachers dedicate to the school. Just a I can fire you because I am the boss. Went through there; and the atmosphere just doesn't seem nor look like that of a school. Where are the children? All you see are parents standing around on any given day eating. That school used to be filled with children. The community looks quite bare. Does he have the power to turn his entire school around. The public schools is not doing it. Principal Dockery is. It is ashamed to have a Council there that lets him run the school like he is a one man band. Just up for grabs.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Teacher lay offs

Well some teachers get laid off and do not get to sub as a cadre... are at the end of their unemployment, are facing homelessness, have used up all savings, and are wondering how to care for their children as no one is too eager to hire old laid off teachers... whether in schools or in business. CPS

Anonymous wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago
Debra Knowles wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Low performing schools

Mr, Brizard is right. A lot more low performing schools need to be turned around and opened up as charter schools. Schools on probation has been a disservice to the students. Students at Dewey Academy of Fine Arts have been cheated of Specialized Services. Sit for entire years in classrooms and not serviced. What was done with the money that was supposed to hire teachers to service these children. Now they are scrambling to clean up their act. The State should be very watchful of the wrongdoings that are going on at Dewey Academy. Padding enrollment of the student body that is not even there. Principal goes around tossing students up in the air. Not just running the school like a Principal should. I hear that he use to work downtown in Budget; and they just give him a pat on his back when anything is done wrong. He even broke a student's arm at Holmes School in Chicago; and because he had connections downtown they just patted him on the back and hired him at Dewey Academy. Dewey Academy is in need of a turnaround. Been on Probation for so long. The poor parents don't even have a say in what goes on at that school. Principal Dockery has it all sewed up. Students at Dewey deserve more improved and professional leaders. It's time for a Charter at Dewey Academy. How many more years does it have to stay on probation?

Ms. Truth wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Dewey low test scores; blame Eric Dockery

The Dewey Academy turnaround is because of bad management by the principal Eric Dockery. He fired experienced teachers that knew how to deal with challenged, poverty stricken children and parents. He poorly matched teacher skills to their grade level. What good principal puts inexperienced teacher in benchmark grades 3rd,
6th and 8th with proven student behavior issues and not expect failure!

Let me ask you...did he do a pre-observation within the required lead time or did he simply bypass the system and do it all in a hurry in one day? Rules aren't followed... where's the money for books; do you have some? A principal that turns a blind eye to nepotism and relationships between VP and underlings? Where's the babydaddy; off again...!!!

Too bad all the staff had to suffer and get fired (turnaround) just because the LSC wanted to protect their interests. Ever wonder why the year started with 323 kids and now there's 265....the parents know!

The stress is on now.....the reality of the closure and its implications can cause nasty reactions. The principal begins to have little control. He yells and calls meeting but teachers ignore him.

Let me ask you think "save of our school" will work?.

There is the principals' version: save our school and me too; even though the test scores results are low, we really did improve! Trust me it’s a mistake. Just ignore that the 5th grade got a 0 on the test scores and that a goldfish could have scored higher! I'll get a petition from the parents...oops but the parents don’t want me to stay. Guess I shouldn't have fired all those old teachers that the parents loved maybe they would have fought to keep us open!

There the LSC president's version: save our school cause even though we have rated him with perfect scores all these years, if you save the teachers and my sisters' job MS. BBB, we will fire him now.

The message is clear! Bad principals get fired. I'm just sorry all good teachers had to suffer because the LSC ignored this until now...too late now!

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