Archives for category: Chicago

Rahm and Andrew backed off today. Or maybe they didn’t.

Rahm decided that Dyett High School re-open as an open-enrollment school. Cuomo said the Common Core and the testing were badly bungled by the State Education Department (John King), and he needs a commission to review the mess that he (Cuomo) made.

Bear in mind that Cuomo has no constitutional authority for education. He does not appoint the state Board of Regents (the legislature does) or the state commissioner (the Regents do).

Did Rahm really back down? Did Cuomo?

Ask the experts.

Here is Mike Klonsky in Chicago.

Here is Peter Greene, calling hoax.

The Dyett hunger strike goes on. Rahm may or not be softening his opposition to giving the community the open-enrollment public school it wants.

Randi Weingarten is taking two hunger strikers to DC, either to give a letter to Arne or meet him.

Mike Klonsky reminds us that Arne ended a hunger strike when he first became school superintendent in Chicago.

What wil he do now?

Mike Klonsky has the latest update on the Dyett hunger strikers. The strike is now ending its 16th day, in which the strikers have had liquids but no solid food. Their resolve is undiminished. Apparently, so is the Mayor’s.

The post includes a link to a debate between Eve Ewing and Peter Cunningham, who used to be Arne’s flack. Ewing wrote an eloquent article about the ghosts of Dyett and what the school meant to the community.

Troy LaRaviere is one brave man. He is the principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago. Blaine is one of only three schools in the city singled out for praise for meeting standards set by the Mayor himself, Rahm Emanuel.

Yet LaRaviere, despite his successful leadership, has been given a warning by the board of the Chicago Public Schools. This warning may be a prelude to termination.

Read LaRivere’s response to this warning here.

He was warned first of all because he supported parents who wanted to opt their children out of the state tests. His school had an 80% opt out rate. The board said he was disobeying by refusing its orders to force the children to take the tests until the child herself refused, not the parent. He says that if parents should have choice about where to send their child to school, why not honor their request to refuse the tests?

He was warned because he asked a question at a meeting where no questions were allowed.

As he writes:

The second thing I was cited for was insubordination when I violated a “no questions” policy at a district principals budget meeting. I sat there at the meeting listening to CPS officials blame Springfield and teacher pensions for the budget woes, while they completely ignored their own well documented corrupt and reckless spending (e.g., $20 Million Supes Contract, $340 Million Aramark Contract, $10 million central office furniture purchase, etc. etc.). So I stood up and asked the question anyway, citing several questionable expenses. Then CEO, Jesse Ruiz, stood up and told me that I was being disruptive. It is a profound moment of truth and clarity when a CPS official gets up and makes it clear that he considers asking relevant questions “disruptive.” I have already written extensively about the details of this encounter in a post entitled, “Adding Insult to Injury: A Look Inside a CPS Principals Budget Meeting.” In the resolution, the board cites me for insubordination, in part, because Ruiz asked me why I worked for CPS if I were so unhappy with its leadership, and I responded, “To save it from people like you.” It is important to note that Ruiz asked me to come into the hallway where he called me a “loud-mouthed principal” and asked me that question. In essence, the board is attempting to discipline me for answering his question. If he didn’t want an honest answer, he should not have asked the question.

Another disturbing thing about this resolution is the way I was informed about it. I received an email on Monday telling me I could come in on Tuesday at 1pm to respond to the allegations on a resolution that the board would be voting on the next day. The board clearly knew that I was scheduled to speak at the City Club of Chicago’s panel on CPS Bankruptcy at that time since one of their own—Jesse Ruiz—was also on the panel. I chose to keep my appointment on the panel and thereby miss my opportunity to respond to this absurd resolution.

The CPS board accuses him of trying to “raise his profile.” LaRaviere is just trying to do what is right for the children and parents he serves.

He writes:

Yesterday, I drove by Washington Park to see if there was any organized activity at the scene of the Dyett School hunger strike. There didn’t seem to be, so I pulled away and headed toward 43rd and Vernon, about a block east of Martin Luther King Drive. The entire part of the block facing 43rd street is an empty lot on which once stood a fire-damaged slum I lived in as a child; where my brothers and I slept on floors and cots for months until the owner of Moore’s Furniture and Piano Mover’s donated a bunk bed to my mother. I go back there often to remind myself of the road I have traveled, and of the awesome responsibility I have been given. I came here from nothing. By any reasonable odds, I was not supposed to be here. And yet, here I am. I am not an overtly religious man but circumstances leave me no choice but to believe that whatever power put me on this earth—and in this position—did so for a reason. While I am here, I have a responsibility and a duty to use this position to advocate as strongly as humanly possible for the betterment of our city and its schools. That includes advocacy for sound evidence-based education policy and prudent fiscal management of district resources—the advocacy that led to the current warning resolution.

I will continue to support all of my PTAs efforts on behalf of the children and families of Blaine and I will continue to call out CPS on its reckless fiscal operational and educational mismanagement of our district at every opportunity they give me. Unfortunately, for our teachers and the students they serve, those opportunities abound.

Where does a man like Troy LaRaviere come from? Where does his courage come from? Why is he able to stand tall and be fearless when so many others quake in the face of power? Why are there not hundreds and thousands of principals and superintendents like Troy LaRaviere?

He is already on the blog’s honor roll. All I can say is “Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your integrity. Thank you for your inspiration.”

Mike Klonsky writes in his blog that Mayor Emanuel showed his hand: he will give nothing to the Dyett hunger Strikers. Klonsky says the mayor plans to sell Dyett to real estate developers, for gentrification and profit.

“Like his predecessor Daley, Rahm would sell of every foot of this city’s public space that wasn’t nailed down, if he could. And maybe he can. The erosion of public space and public decision-making has been a hallmark of the regime’s strategy of gentrifying and whitenizing the city. It’s New Orleans without the flood. A quarter-million African-American citizens have left Chicago in the past decades.

“Now it appears that the board’s RFP for a new school at Dyett was a ruse. After 11 days of surviving on liquids and with several of the hunger strikers needing medical treatment (see the warning from local health professionals) , they’ve been told by Board Pres. Frank Clark (former ComEd C.E.O), that the game is up. Rahm, Claypool, Johnson and their gaggle of always-compliant board members, are dumping the new-school proposals from all three groups, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett (Global Leadership and Green Technology), Little Black Pearl’s contract school, and a late one solicited by the board from former Dyett Principal Charles Campbell.”

Klonsky predicts the mayor will act swiftly now that the hunger strike is getting national media attention.

Troy LaRaviere is the outspoken principal of Blaine Elementary School. He has spoken out repeatedly and publicly against Mayor Emanuel’s policies. He wrote an article showing that Chicago public schools outperform its charter schools. He chastised the Illinois State Board of Education for neglecting the children of Chicago. He encouraged the children in his school to opt out of the state tests. He supported Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in his challenge to Rahm Emanuel.

Then last week, he spoke on a panel at the Chicago Civic Club, and he lambasted the status quo and the Mayor’s policies.

That did it! The Chicago school board passed a “warning resolution,” which may be a prelude to firing him.

Still defiant, LaRaviere wrote on his website:

“That resolution had absolutely no effect on me curtailing my desire to articulate and help the city of Chicago understand how backwards and corrupt this system is,” he said. “If anything, it intensified that desire.”

With a few people like Troy in every city, we could send the privatizers back to their country clubs, shamed by the righteous wrath of the brave and the bold.

Troy LaRaviere is principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago. He was invited to speak on a problem at the Chicago Civic Club, where civic and business leaders convene. The topic was bankruptcy and the schools. Troy was the only school-based educator on the panel.

Here is the link to the event (you might want to hear Paul Vallas on the topic).

And here is Troy’s presentation:

“I recommend watching the last few minutes of Paul Vallas’ presentation in which he lays out the basic rules CPS operated by before the financial crisis. This part of his talk begins at the 36:00 time segment. I think all of Chuck Burbridge’s presentation is worth listening to, and that George Panagakis’ presentation on the intricacies of bankruptcy was eye-opening. This panel represents the first time I’ve prepared all of my remarks beforehand, so I’ve included those remarks below. I learned a lot from my participation on the panel and I hope you learn from it as well.

“Prepared Remarks

“Thank you to the City Club for inviting me to this panel and luncheon. Unfortunately I could not take advantage of the lunch as I am fasting today in solidarity with the 12 parents and community members who are in their 9th Day of a Hunger Strike to save Dyett School as the only open enrollment neighborhood high school left in their community (I mistakenly said “city” in my remarks). This gesture on my part is relatively insignificant when compared to the sacrifice they are making on behalf of their children. But I make it nonetheless before I begin my remarks.

“As residents and taxpayers we have to do more than identify problems. We have to identify and understand the source of those problems. If we don’t neutralize that source then we might be able to solve this problem today but that source will rear its head a few years down the line to re-create the same havoc that it’s wreaking on us today.

“We’re being told that pensions are the problem. We have a problem with pensions but pension are not the source of our problem. This administration consistently misappropriated pension funds, and then attempts to convince us that pensions themselves are the problem. That’s like a thief stealing your rent money and then attempting to convince you that the landlord is the problem.

“The source of our problem is city and school officials who spend and borrow money in a manner that is reckless and corrupt; the parasitic private sector banks and investors who are always looking for creative ways to rip off taxpayers, and the state legislators who enabled this irresponsible fiscal behavior in the first place.

“For the sake of time, I’m going to focus my comments on this administration’s reckless borrowing and the bank that benefit from it. When the Tribune attempted to look into the cost of this borrowing their reporters and attorneys were forced by CPS to spend a year getting the details about how much it spends in interest on its massive debts. So not only are they putting us in debt but they tried to prevent us from finding out just how much debt they put us in.

“Interestingly enough, CPS recently hired Ernst and Young to do an analysis of their structural deficit. That analysis shows that pension costs are projected to rise only 32% over seven years, while debt service is projected to rise 350% from $119 million to $421 million. THIS is the debt that’s driving up costs. This debt is not owed to teachers. This debt is owed to financial institutions like the Pritzker Group, Goldman Sachs and Northern trust—all Emanuel Campaign contributors; and his administration wants to ensure they get paid what they’re owed.

“This debt is also owed to banks and investors who virtually swindled CPS out of $100 million. Financial institutions like Bank of America and the Royal Bank of Canada. They have documented evidence that these banks knew that the auction rate securities market was about to collapse while they were preparing to underwrite a massive auction rate bond issue for CPS.

“That’s illegal. You can sue them and get those millions back. But the Emmanuel administration refuses. They want them to get what’s owed to them even though they got it in through corrupt and deceptive practices.

“This administration wants to pay your tax dollars to EVERYONE they owe, except one group. The only people the Emanuel administration doesn’t want to pay what they’re owed are teachers.

“Let me say it again another way.

“The only group of people the Emanuel administration doesn’t want to pay, just happen to be the only group of people who actually worked for what CPS owes them–spent their entire careers working and sacrificing for what CPS owes them.

“PNC Bank didn’t sacrifice a more lucrative career to dedicate itself to teaching science and mathematics. Chicago’s teachers do that.

“Goldman Sachs didn’t sacrifice time with their own families to stay after school to tutor struggling readers. Chicago teachers do that.

“None of these institutions spent consecutive years of his career working with four struggling students in hopes that that sacrifice and investment of time would pay off on their graduation day …. only to have those hopes destroyed when the news reaches you that you’ll be preparing instead for their funerals—in part, as a result of the neglect of their communities by many of the same people responsible for the neglect of their schools. Their names: Miguel. Tyray. Roberto. Candace. Those are the names I carry with me, but teachers all across Chicago have names of their own etched in their memories forever.

“As our teachers feel this district coming in to take what little they do get in return for their sacrifice, this administration’s hollow, empty, and hypocritical use of the term “shared sacrifice” to justify this encroachment must seem profoundly disrespectful and painfully ironic.

“To reiterate. The source of our problem is:

(1) city and school officials who spend and borrow money in a manner that is reckless and corrupt;

(2) the parasitic private sector banks and investors who are always looking for creative ways to rip off taxpayers, and

(3) the state legislators who are all too eager to create a legislative environment in which this legalized theft can occur.

“If anyone is made to sacrifice, it has to be members of these three groups, because the behavior of teachers did not cause this problem. The behavior of these three groups caused this problem. Teachers have already made their sacrifice a thousand times over, and those whose behavior caused this crisis have no right to ask them for more.”

This is the end of the 11th day of the hunger strike to save Dyett High School in Chicago.

You can help. Here are some suggestions:

Parents 4 Teachers

Parents 4 Teachers (P4T) has come together to stand up for teachers and work for real education reform.

Standing up for teachers means standing up for our kids!

Join Our Facebook Group!

#WeareDyett too! Call the Mayor, 312-744-3300

Flood Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office with calls, 312-744-3300, urging him to support the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. Breaking news from the Chicago Sun-Times:

CPS, Emanuel hint new school may not be needed at Dyett site – http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/912424/doctors-urge-mayor-act-hunger-strikers

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We at Parents 4 Teachers express our strongest solidarity with and deepest concern for the health and well-being of Chicago’s Dyett 12, who initiated a hunger strike nearly two weeks ago to urge city and CPS leaders to re-open Dyett High School (which the Board of Education voted to phase out in February 2012) as an open-enrollment, public, neighborhood high school. For years, Mayor Emanuel and his appointed Board of Education has undermined and stalled decision-making on this community-driven proposal to re-open the Bronzeville high school—the last public, neighborhood high school in this historic African American neighborhood—as the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School (see proposal here).
As an action of last-resort to the years of stalling and underhandedness of Mayor Emanuel and his appointed/unelected Board of Education, these courageous parents, grandparents and community members are putting their bodies on the line so their children and children across Chicago can have high quality, equitable and joyous public schools.

Because of the media blackout on the #FightForDyett hunger strike, P4T, like so many others, has taken to social media to get the word out. We are regularly posting on Twitter (follow us at @P4TChicago) and P4T FB. And most importantly, we have been going to Dyett at 555 E. 51st (they are generally there from 10-3) to support the hunger strikers in any way we can. Please join us!

Here are other ways that you can help now:

1) Call the Mayor’s office at 312-744-3300 and urge him to meet with the Hunger Strikers ASAP and express your support for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology proposal. Also, call your Alderman to put pressure on the Mayor.

2) Attend the #FightForDyett Solidarity and Cultural Event Friday, August 28, 5:00-7:00pm at Operation Push, 50th & Drexel; bring your music, poetry and love to uplift the Hunger Strikers.

3) See the Teachers for Social Justice website and Dyett GLGT FB page for action alerts and updates.

For more information about this important struggle for our children and public education, please see the following:

Phantoms Playing Double-Dutch: Why the Fight for Dyett is Bigger than One Chicago School Closing | Eve L. Ewing, August 26, 2015

Fight for Dyett High School Hunger Strike—Day 8 | CNNiReport, August 25, 2015

In Chicago, Hunger Strikers Fight for a High School | Washington Post, August 26, 2015

Dyett Hunger-Strikers Vow to Continue Fight | Chicago Sun-Times, August 26, 2015

Two School Board Members Press for Resolution of Dyett High Controversy | Catalyst, August 26, 2015

Teachers, Parents, Rail Against CPS Budget, Dyett Hunger Striker Collapses | DNAInfo, August 26, 2015

Dyett Hunger Strikers Gain Support; Striker Collapses at CPS Board Meeting | Chicago Tribune, August 26, 2015

Chicago Parents Launch Hunger Strike for Community Input in School’s Future | Reel News, August 23, 2015

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We have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure quality schools for all Chicago children and fairness and respect for educators.

Please join us and consider making a donation to support our work.

Email info@parents4teachers.net to get involved and then forward this email to a friend!

Parents4Teachers, Defending Public Education, Chicago, IL 60625
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In day 11 of the Dyett High School hunger strike, health professionals warned that the situation was dangerous and urged the mayor to accept the strikers’ petition.

“”This is truly an emergency,” said Dr. Linda Rae Murray, chief medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, as she delivered a letter Thursday signed by 17 local doctors and nurses to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office on the fifth floor of City Hall.

“We consider the current situation to be a deepening health emergency in our city,” the letter states. “It is one you can abate by reaching out to the strikers, entertaining their grievances and accepting their proposal.”

“We’re here as medical professionals to inform the public to call on the mayor to take action immediately,” Murray added….”

“This has become a really serious issue,” Raether said. “We believe the mayor needs to respond to a health emergency.”

Yet Emanuel hinted Thursday the entire Dyett reopening may be in doubt.

“While saying that his newly appointed Board of Education President Frank Clark and CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool are “going to work through a number of issues as it relates to the Dyett High School, its future and its part of the community,” he immediately pointed out there are 10 high schools within a three-mile radius of Dyett.

“Within about a mile of the school is King College Prep,” Emanuel added during an impromptu news conference Thursday morning. “So there’s a lot of high schools in that area. How do you talk about another one when even some of the high schools within the three-mile radius are not at capacity yet?”

Eve L. Ewing has written a moving and important article about the meaning of the fight for Dyett. It is far more important than the closing of one school in Chicago. It is about a community’s fight for survival, a fight to retain its identity and its history. New Orleans is a story of obliteration of the landmarks of the Black community. The hunger strike to save Dyett is a fight to preserve what belongs to the community.

She tells the history of Dyett High School, of its famous graduates. She explains what an open enrollment school is:

“In Chicago, as in many large urban districts across the country, over the course of the last 15 years the concept of “school choice” as a popular bipartisan idea has entrenched itself to an impressive degree. Whereas once upon a time, cities and counties were divided up on a map and students simply attended the school closest to where they lived (what’s known technically as a “catchment school,” or in big cities, a “neighborhood school”), the era of choice has more or less changed all of that in places like Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, and other large districts that serve primarily children of color. Where once the only way to exercise some kind of “school choice” was to attend private school, children can now stay in the public school district and apply to a magnet school, enter the lottery for a charter school, apply to a special vocational or career academy, or try to test into an academically elite “selective enrollment” school serving only a small sliver of top-performing students. (In New York these are known as “specialized schools,” in Boston you may know them as “exam schools.”) While such elite schools are often publicly touted as gems of the district, Chicago’s selective enrollment schools only serve about 12% of the city’s public high school students. Charter schools, meanwhile, are more likely than traditional public schools to expel or suspend students with disabilities, and two of the city’s most high-profile charter high schools—Noble Street and Urban Prep—are also two of the most likely to lose students between freshman year and graduation….

“The community of Bronzeville is no stranger to hardship or the racism that begets it: from the 1919 race riot to the high-density kitchenette buildings that packed in black residents in the 1930s and 1940s, where an entire family might have shared a room furnished with a hot plate in lieu of a real kitchen and use a bathroom in the hallway shared with other residents, to the struggles of families living in the public high-rise projects that emerged during the 1950s and 1960s—the Ida B. Wells Homes, Stateway Gardens, Robert Taylor Homes, and other names that came to strike terror in the hearts of white Chicagoans who never actually set foot south of the Loop. But, amidst all those challenges, school closings stand out as a particularly insidious and heart-wrenching form of hurt. By my count, CPS has closed 16 elementary schools in Bronzeville since 1998, bouncing students unceremoniously from one building to the next, with some students experiencing multiple closures over the short span of their elementary school education….

“Losing your school is hard for everyone involved. Really hard. When I found out that the school where I taught would be closing, I was visiting my father in Florida for spring break, and I locked myself in the bedroom and cried like a little kid. I started replaying life there in my head, over and over, like a sappy montage in a bad movie. Here’s me walking down the hallway for the first time, on my way to meet the principal for a job interview. Here’s Nathan, staying in my classroom after hours to write and illustrate a story about the Great Depression. Here’s Patricia standing proudly in front of the whole school and perfectly reciting her lines as Lady Capulet, despite her hearing impairment and speech impediment. Here’s the staff meeting where we find out that Nashae has cancer, and strategize about how we’re going to coordinate hospital visits, frozen dinners, and rides home for her sister. Here’s Omari connecting a circuit for the first time, and Sierra lovingly feeding Peanut, the gecko that was our class pet. Here is our school.

Here is my personal opinion, as someone who has gone through a school closing, my professional opinion as an educator, and my scholarly opinion as a researcher who is now writing a dissertation about Bronzeville’s shuttered schools. I will say it without reservation to whomever will listen, so listen: the decision to shuffle students from one building to another in the name of numbers is shameful. The decision to do so is based on the premise that children, teachers, and schools are indistinguishable widgets, to be distributed as efficiently as possible across the landscape. But the fact is that schools are ecosystems, each with its own history, culture, and intricately woven set of social relationships. Schools are community anchors. They not interchangeable, nor are they disposable. Schools are home.

Regular school closings, like I experienced, are hard. What’s happened at Dyett is arguably even harder. Since CPS opted for a slow “phase-out” over several years, students and teachers had to watch as the world around them was slowly dismantled, piece by piece. As teachers and students left, the school’s budget was thrown into disarray, so that the students who were left had to take online courses to get credits in Spanish and social studies, and even art, music, and physical education. One girl I interviewed told me that her teacher quit, for fear that if he stuck around until the school was totally closed, he wouldn’t be able to find a job the next year. He never told his students he was leaving—they walked into the classroom one day and found a note he had left for them. Like he was dumping them….

“A closed school is like a ghost. It lingers. It fills the space. In 2008, the year I began teaching and five years before my school was closed, it was already an occupant of a building where another school had lived and died before it—Douglas school, which was closed in 2004. Sometimes I would stand in the school auditorium when it was empty and try to imagine throngs of children and teachers I had never met, filling the seats for a talent show or an end-of-year award ceremony. I wondered about what their names were, and what music they liked, and what books they read.

Since my school closed, I guess you could say I’ve become something of a ghost hunter. On humid afternoons you can find me peering through the windows of closed schools around Bronzeville, trying to picture what used to be there. Inside the buildings you can sometimes catch glimpses of what’s left. Chairs, stacked high in layers of gleaming chrome. An American flag leaned against a dusty window. A haphazard pile of textbooks. I walk across empty playgrounds and trudge through unmown grass and I see all the ghosts. Sitting in a folding chair amid the Dyett hunger strikers and their supporters, I don’t have to see the ghosts alone. “I always think of double dutch,” one woman tells me. The whole line of girls playing double dutch, all along this way. And I used to enter through that door.”

I remember what Martin, one of the thirteen students who stayed at Dyett until its final year, told me recently. “Dyett is our fort.” Dyett is different than the other schools. Because Dyett might come back. And that, really, is what the hunger strike is about—the hope that what’s lost can return. Like maybe even in a city that never wanted us, and has found creative ways to show it, from the 1919 race riots to stopping and frisking people at a rate four times that of New York City, a city that broke our hearts so bad that the blues made us famous—maybe even here, black children and all of Chicago’s children can be guaranteed a high-quality education, whether or not they have high test scores or parents who enter them into a lottery. Maybe we can learn well and live well, right here in our own home.”

“Unlike a charter school, where students have to enter and win a lottery to enroll, or a selective enrollment school, where students have to be deemed members of the academic top tier to enroll, an open-enrollment neighborhood high school is open to any student who lives nearby. That means that everyone is guaranteed a spot.”

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