by Thelma Sardin
In 1995, Mayor Richard M. Daley gained control of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) from the Illinois General Assembly. The City of Chicago School District #299 which encompasses all of CPS is the third largest school district in the country and manages nearly 700 schools. While most Illinois schools have an elected school board that hires a Superintendent, CPS has a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) which is appointed by the mayor. In essence, the entire CPS system is held accountable to an elected politician, the mayor.
Recently, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) along with several organizations announced its campaign against the mayoral control of CPS. The group wants a representative elected school board that consists of thirteen seats including parents and community members from the South, West, and North sides. Additional seats would be filled by teachers, an administrator, school staff and a business person. The Chicago Tribune reports, the school board now includes seven members drawn from several top financial and consulting firms in the city.
In an open letter to Chicagoans, the coalition described the climate of CPS since Mayor Daley took control fifteen years ago. “And for 15, [the] Chicago Public Schools has implemented a staggering number of reforms, from probation, to student retention, to school closings, charters and turnarounds and the wholesale firing of 1300 educators this past summer. Many of these reforms have damaged our schools and our children—increased violence, increased teacher and student mobility and a general destabilization of neighborhood public schools. But one thing has remained constant for the past 15 years—citizens have had little to no voice in school policy.”
During a press conference, CTU president, Karen Lewis, addressed the media demanding that public education decision making be left to its beneficiaries. “It is imperative that the status quo ends. It is imperative that we analyze and use real research to determine what is best for our students. The fact is there are people in this city who feel entitled to make those decisions,” Lewis said.
The Chicago Tribune also reports, Daley has favored the CEO model of leadership, picking four school chiefs in 15 years who had more of a business background. Interim CEO Terry Mazany is a former school administrator on loan from the Chicago Community Trust. “The top-down decisions made by non-educators have not shown the improvement,” Lewis said at the news conference.
CPS parent and Action Now president, Michelle Young described the state of the public school system since Daley’s takeover. “As a community member active in the schools, I have seen the impact of Mayor Daley’s control of the school board on my children’s education. He has appointed businessmen to the school board that are interested in only money and not our children. They sit in their conference rooms and make decisions about our children’s education, when they’re not even involved in the schools. Our public school system is broken and I’m tired of it. I can’t afford to send my children to a private school. With so many school closings, the sky high dropout rate and [with] the school violence, there are not options for our children. We can’t have our children in the streets. We need a representative elected school board that is made of teachers and community members that know what is best for our kids and our neighborhood schools,” said Young.
Moving forward, the coalition plans to meet with lawmakers to reshape the law that gave Daley control of CPS fifteen years ago. The group also aims to present their plan to the city’s mayoral candidates. “We want to make sure this becomes an issue for the people seeking to be mayor of Chicago,” said Jitu Brown of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. Ultimately, the coalition wants to the city’s next boss to understand their concerns and try to help develop a fair consensus. “We want the next mayor of Chicago to work with us on bringing democracy back to public education,” Brown said.
by Thelma Sardin
Although some public school students are benefitting from stimulating math and science
educational programs, nationally, American students still lag behind their global counterparts in
math, science and reading.
While science fairs like the ones held recently at Granville T. Woods Math and Science
Academy in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood help peak a student’s interest in science, a
recent Associated Press report, indicates there’s still much more work to do among students
The AP report unveiled America’s rank among its global counterparts in the areas of math,
science and reading. According to results from the 2009 Programme for International Student
Association (PISA), students in the United States rank 17th in science, 25th in math and 14th in
reading out of 34 countries that were assessed.
The test results demonstrate that American students perform average in reading and science and
below average in math.
Among the attendees at the Wood’s science fair held recently at the school was State Rep.
Monique Davis (D-IL). A former school educator and administrator, Davis believes science fairs
are beneficial because they help students understand the relationship between life and science
and they help build important communications skills, including writing, since students have to
write reports based on the experiments they conduct, she said. “It’s just an overall excellent
experience for children,” she added.
When you think about all of the advances that have been made in this country, there’s no reason
for Americans to lag behind any other group, Davis said, adding, parental involvement is key to
the success of any child.
As an educator, Davis posed several questions while sharing techniques she used in the
classroom. “… I would use plays in order to teach math,” she says. “The children would have to
design their own props and memorize their lines. Parents would come out and give children their
“We must ask ourselves, when was the last time you attended a program at school, when was the
last time you visited a science fair at the school? Does your school have them? When was the last
time you attended a play that your children participated in?”
Although Bobby Otter, spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) says science fairs at CPS
are still quite popular, other schools have seen a decline in participation.
In March 2011, CPS will host its citywide science fair for the 61st year at the Museum of Science
and Industry. He adds CPS is preparing students globally by, “expand[ing] our extracurricular
science offerings to include additional programs related to science. This has produced two types
of impact for students: it has given a wider spectrum of students’ access to science programming
and it allows students to experience other aspects of science and the scientific process,” he said.
CPS also has several schools designated as “math and science” academies including Walter
Payton Math, Science and World Language Academy, Lindblom Math & Science Academy and
Galileo Math& Science Scholastic Academy.
The academies include a rigorous program of math, science, and technology courses that help
prepare students for the future.
In spite of these efforts, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the 2009 PISA results show
there’s a lot of work to be done. Referring to the results, he told the Associated Press, “This
is an absolute wake-up call for America…the results are extraordinarily challenging to us and
we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in
education,” he added.
While CPS has not seen a drop in activities like science fairs which help keep students involved,
Laura Hirsch, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at Crete-Monee School
District 201-U in the far South suburbs said participation in science fairs has declined because of
a lack of student interest.
“Science Fairs are not popular in our district,” Hirsch said. “About six years ago we attempted
to resurrect a K-8 District Science Fair,” she added. “The student participation rate was very
low, even with teacher and classroom support. This did not support our goal of having more
students engaged in science discovery,” she stated.
Currently the district is focused on developing a “hands-on science curriculum that fosters
student engagement, inquiry and high-level thinking,” she said. The school district does not
receive special funding for science programs, she said, however, “We use our local funds and
annual federal grant dollars to support our science programs including teacher training. We have
been able to accomplish our goals by establishing a multi-year plan for science, and planning our
budget allocations accordingly,” Hirsch stated.
By Lesley R. Chinn
The Chicago Public Schools system is in the midst of shutting down several schools and so far students, parents, and teachers are awaiting the Board of Education’s decision on February 24 to see if they stay open or not.
Right now, five schools are on the list for a turnaround. The proposed turnaround schools are: Bradwell Elementary School, 7736 S. Burnham; Gillespie, 9301 S. State; Deneen, 7257 S. State; Wendell Phillips High School, 244 E. Pershing, and Marshall High School, 3250 W. Adams. Under this proposed action, staff and faculty at these schools will be terminated while students remain. New faculty and staff will be brought in to implement new teaching strategies to improve academic achievement.
At Deneen, Joyce Fisher, principal, said the school, which has a population of more than 492 students, has made improvements in academics and attendance under her leadership for the past two years. “The staff has invested greatly in the students,” she said. “When the students come back to the school [in the fall], the only thing that will be familiar to them will be the building.”
Deneen teacher Odessa Jefferson who recently attended a PUSH rally to keep schools open, said she could retire but doesn’t want to. “The students have a special connection with me so why should I retire from a job that I already love,” she asked.
Four schools will be consolidated into other nearby schools due to low enrollment, low or under performance or poor facility conditions: McCorkle, Marconi, Mollison, and Paderewski Elementary Schools. McCorkle, 4421 S. State, will merge into Beethoven Elementary School, 25
W. 47th St. Students from Paderewski, 2221 S. Lawndale will transfer to Mason Elementary School, 4217 W. 18th St. Students from Marconi, 230 N. Kolmar will consolidate with Tilton School, 223 N. Keeler to form the Tilton-Marconi School. Mollison Elementary School, 4415 S. King Dr. will be consolidated with Ida B. Wells Prep Elementary School, 244 E. Pershing Rd. to form the Wells-Mollison School.
George Schneider Elementary School, 2957 N. Hoyne, is under the phase-out plan. When a school is phased out, existing students at the school will stay at the school, but there will not be any enrollment for new students.
Finally, four schools will simply be closed because of poor academic performance or low student enrollment. These schools include: Curtis Elementary School, 32
E. 115th St. The designated receiving schools for Curtis are Haley, 11411 S. Eggleston and Pullman Elementary Schools, 11311 S. Forrestville. Prescott Elementary School located on 1632 W. Wrightwood will be closed. Designated receiving schools are Agassiz, 2851 N. Seminary and Burley Elementary Schools, 1630 W. Barry.
Another school that will be closed is Guggenheim Elementary located at 7141 S. Morgan. The designated schools for Guggenheim students are Hinton, 644 W. 71st St. or Altgeld Elementary School, 1340 W. 71st St.
Guggenheim eighth grader Robert Campbell said he has two younger cousins that currently attend the school, but in the fall they will have to travel seven blocks to another location. “[Guggenheim] is right across the street from their home, but now they would have to cross dangerous paths just to get to school,” he said.
Guggenheim assistant principal Gervaise Clay said she would have to look for another job. “I haven’t started looking yet because I refuse to say our school is going to be closed and we’re going to fight until the very end.”
Students at Bartholome De Las Casas Occupational High School located at 8401 S. Saginaw will be closed because of facility-related reasons. Students from this special needs school will be either placed in private schools that can meet their needs or they will be transferred to Montefiore School, 1310 S. Ashland.
CPS officials have previously defended their decisions on school closings as part of their education reform efforts while touting the benefits of closing underutilized or underperforming facilities. “Our primary obligation is to assess the performance of schools and provide the best possible educational opportunity for students in every school,” said CPS chief Ron Huberman in a written statement. “This means taking a long hard look at every school…and making what can be difficult decisions on whether a school is properly serving its students.
For example, CPS pointed out on their website that when Sherman Elementary School, 1000 W. 52nd St., became a turnaround school in 2006, standardized test scores have increased in reading from 30 percent to 40.3 percent and in math, percentages rose from 26.3 percent to 46.4 percent.
However,a study released last October by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago showed that eight in 10 CPS students displaced by school closings transferred from one low-performing school to another. After one year of school closings, displaced students fell behind a month-in-half in math and reading. This is in contrast to students who transferred to high-performance schools who excelled by nearly a month in the same subjects. The study also pointed out that students have traveled longer distances to get to school.
If a decision is made to close or consolidate a school, CPS officials plan to address public safety concerns of children transferring to another school. They will also work with receiving school principals to extend instruction time in designated receiving schools. These plans are part of provisions presented in the Bill of Rights Initiative presented last December before Board officials. The initiative’s aim is to encourage successful transfers for students impacted by a school closure or consolidation. The Board’s recommendations will not be effective until the school year of 2010-2011.
Previously, there were numerous public hearings at CPS headquarters downtown and community hearings concerning the impacted schools. Huberman said officials will evaluate testimony from previous public and community hearings before recommendations are presented to the Board. He pointed out that he removed six schools last year from proposed school actions list after assessing input from the hearings.
At a Sixth Ward meeting held last Thursday, CPS officials informed residents that they will recommend that Gillespie School be removed from a turnaround list.
CPS chief administrative officer Robert Runcie spoke very highly of Gillespie principal Dr. Michelle Willis, who has been at the school since 2007. Under Willis’ leadership, Gillespie has increased its test scores in 2007 and 2008; improved student attendance by 93 percent and staff attendance by 96 percent; obtained 200 new computers for the school and decreased student discipline problems that occurred in previous years.
“Gillespie is already turning around,” Runcie stated. “[Willis] is already one of the best principals in the academy. I truly believe that. This community is very fortunate to have an educational leader to make the kind of changes in the short period of time that she’s been at the school.”
When she heard the news that Gillespie was going to be a turnaround school, Willis said she was “shocked” because the school had been making improvements in the two years under her leadership despite having a slight decrease in test scores in 2009. “We invited the Board out to see the work that we’ve done and they did come.”
But now after hearing the announcement to recommend that Gillespie be removed from the turnaround list, Willis said that while it sounds like good news, she wants to “wait-and-see” what the Board’s final decision is going to be during a meeting on February 24 at its downtown headquarters. “I don’t know if it’s definite, but we’re trusting that [officials] will take [Runcie’s] advice.”
by Lesley R. Chinn
Chicago Teachers Union president Marilyn Stewart said disruptive children prevent students from learning and prevent teachers from teaching in the classrooms.
Addressing civic and business leaders at a City Club of Chicago gathering downtown last week Stewart asked, “Would a judge allow anyone in his or her courtroom to be disruptive? Why then should a teacher be forced to have students remain in the classroom if they are constantly disobeying the rules and making teaching and learning nearly impossible?”
Stewart spoke at the City Club to announce a proposal for an alternative school for chronically disruptive students. The proposed alternative school would serve students in grades sixth through eighth and take disruptive students out of the classroom. Under Stewart’s proposal, chronically disruptive students would receive immediate placement in the alternative school, which would offer students the kind of intervention and support they need. This school would provide comprehensive direct behavioral intervention daily by specially trained teachers, counselors, and behavioral specialists.
Currently, Stewart said it takes anywhere from 90 school days to six months to remove a disruptive student out of the classroom. “Students are acting out because of social and emotional reasons at home or outside the classroom. But no matter what the reasons are, they are preventing teachers and other students from learning. Furthermore, they are not getting educated themselves,” stated Stewart, a 30-year classroom veteran. “These children need separate placements so they can learn to manage their behavior and get the education they need and deserve.”
Stewart described the classroom disruptions ranging from physical and verbal assaults against teachers to throwing objects and furniture. She said these everyday classroom disruptions are a far more prevalent problem as the “life-threatening incidents involving weapons, drugs, and other contrabands” often portrayed in the media. She also made a clear distinction between chronically disruptive students and the “guntoting individuals” who are committing crimes around Chicago Public Schools.
Once the team of specialists sees an improvement in a student’s behavior, the student would be returned back into a regular school setting the following year, under Stewart’s proposal.
The Chicago Public Schools, Stewart said, currently has some alternative schools and programs. However, they target students who are dropouts, delinquents, and those who have diagnosed behavior disorders. If Stewart’s proposal is approved by the district, a pilot program could begin as soon as next year with a few hundred students. If the school is successful, similar schools could be constructed citywide.
by Lesley R. Chinn
The fatal beating of 16-year-old Derrion Albert brought back memories for a parent who lost her 18-year-old son to gun violence three years ago.
Albert, an honor student at Fenger High School, was buried last Saturday after he was beaten to death recently. Attending Albert’s funeral at the Greater Hebron M.B. Church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood was not easy for Pamela Montgomery-Bosley, who lost her son, Terrell, who was killed April 4, 2006 at a Far South side church.
“This was my first time going to [a funeral] service since my baby’s death. It was so devastating to see another child laying in the casket,” Montgomery-Bosley said during an interview with the Citizen. Terrell had aspirations of becoming a famous gospel bass guitar player and traveling worldwide. “I protected him and did all I [could] do, but he is still not here. I get tired of people saying, ‘It was time for Terrell to go’…It wasn’t Terrell’s time to go,” she said.
Montgomery-Bosley is seeking justice for her son by issuing notices about a $5,000 reward for anyone with crime tips. “These murderers are still out here on the streets and I want them to be locked up. Just like they devastated my life, they can devastate another individual’s life.” Montgomery-Bosley, who said she felt like “somebody stabbed her in her heart,” said her 16-year-old son suffers from depression while her 11-year-old son prays every night that no one gets shot.
She said her involvement with two organizations such as Purpose Over Pain and Parents of Murdered Children keeps her going. Purpose Over Pain is a parent advocacy group which works for stricter gun control legislation while Parents of Murdered Children is a support group for parents who have lost their children to gun violence. Another Purpose Over Pain member, Willie Williams Jr. lost his son, Willie III, who was killed that same year at a movie theatre near Ford City shopping mall. Willie III’s murderers have not been brought to justice either. However, Willie Jr. copes with his pain through his organization called the Willie Williams III Youth Foundation, founded in his son’s memory. “Anytime you hear about people losing kids over violence, memories of your own child’s death comes to light. When the cameras are gone, the parents are seriously suffering. It’s a lot of families who lost their children and can’t get over it.”
Montgomery-Bosley and Williams agreed that the violence has gotten out-of-control since their children’s deaths and said if the Supreme Court plans to strike down Chicago’s 27- year-old ban on handguns, it would make matters worse.
Parents should, Montgomery-Bosley added, take responsibility for their children and quit making excuses about their bad behavior. “Our ancestors raised nine or 10 kids and they did good. The fathers may not be in the child’s life, but it’s your job to be the mother and the father,” she said.
Atty. General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are expected to arrive this week in Chicago to address the violence, but Montgomery-Bosley said it wouldtake a “block-by-block strategy” to fix the problem while Williams challenged the officials to walk in the neighborhoods to get a better understanding of “what’s happening” to the youth.
Emerald Dukes, 13, and her brother, Morgan, 16, said Albert’s death was too much for them to bear. “It just reminded me of the young people I know that’s just dying, so I understand their pain,” Emerald said. “That could have been me laying in that casket right now. [The gun violence] is just ridiculous…and no one seems to care,” Morgan added.
by Lesley R. Chinn
While a coalition of pastors are currently planning a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) boycott on September
2, another clergy group wants parents to make sure their children go to school on the first day.
To stress this effort, the Baptist Pastors Conference of Chicago and Vicinity, headed by its president
Pastor Steve Jones held a press conference last Thursday in front of Hyde Park Career Academy, 6220 S.
Stony Island. Black Star Project executive director Philip Jackson and student participants joined them.
While there is a need for an equal school funding formula, Jones, also pastor of Spiritual Awakening M.B.
Church, said it should not be at the expense of the children. “They didn’t create this funding formula. State
lawmakers did. Don’t take this skewed funding formula out on the children and use our babies as political
fodder as a cover-up for failed state laws,” he said.