Apr 13, 2013 0
Buried in a recent Fox TV report was this tidbit: multiple City Hall and CPS sources said that Barbara Byrd-Bennett had determined that the district could handle closing 40 schools this year.
But Mayor Emanuel overruled his new schools chief and insisted on upping the number to over 50. (An official spokesperson denied the report.)
Hotter heads prevailed, you might say.
Those who suggest the whole process of community hearings was a charade aimed at a number predetermined by Emanuel, rather than an exercise in transparency and civic accountability, may be on to something.
It wasn’t the first time warnings about overreaching have been overruled. In January, someone on Byrd-Bennett’s advisory commission on closings let it be known that they were considering recommending no more than 20 closings — perhaps as few as 15 — in one year.
“They haven’t demonstrated to us that they can close 100 or even 50 schools,” an unnamed commission source told the Sun-Times. “They don’t have the expertise to accomplish that in such a short timeframe. When they closed down as many as 12 schools, it was a disaster.”
Something happened to change their minds by March 6 — perhaps a fiat from the mayor’s office — when the commission’s final report recommended 80 closings, based on its assessment of the district’s capacity to move students safely to better performing schools.
Even then, the commission suggested the option of staging the closings over two years, noting the risks of moving too quickly. “The quick turnaround may make community members feel that CPS’s engagement with them was inauthentic and undertaking just for show” — and “the compressed timeline may lead to the district making avoidable mistakes” in handling the vast logistics of moving dozens of schools and thousands of students, according to the commission’s final report.