AUSL – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ‘Change is hard’ Thu, 23 Feb 2012 03:26:02 +0000 “People are anxious” because “change is hard,” said Mayor Emanuel the other day, referring to the school closings and turnarounds which his Board of Education approved as expected Wednesday night.

“But,” he added, “watching, year in and year out, children captured in a system that’s failing, is harder.”

Yes, change is hard.  And year in and year out, the system has been failing its students by denying resources to neighborhood schools attended by the vast majority of students, setting them up for failure and then handing them over one by one to private entities, which get all the goodies (and still don’t perform).

That’s the status quo, of course.  And in an achievement Orwell would find remarkable, it’s that status quo that’s being defended by people like Emanuel and the Chicago Tribune, as they rail about challenging the status quo.

More on AUSL

The other day we noted discrepancies between AUSL’s approach at Orr Academy High School and the CPS code of student conduct – which among other things, says that suspensions aren’t a first resort, students get to respond to accusations, and kids won’t be turned out on the street for not having their uniform.

On Tuesday, Designs For Change released a report exposing AUSL’s failure to come anywhere near meeting the promises it made to raise achievement at the schools it’s taken over.  (Contrary to what you may have read, annual growth rates are unimpressive at many AUSL elementary schools.  At elementary schools “turned around” by CPS itself, they’re very low.)

Now the Occupied Chicago Tribune has published an astonishing interview with two Orr teachers who describe utter administrative incompetence creating “chaos” and a “toxic atmosphere” that is dragging kids down.  (Real News Network has video.) All hat and no cattle doesn’t come close to describing this outfit.  There’s a vast amount of hype covering up an execrable record.

Now AUSL has six more schools.  Talk about failing our kids.

No one home

Emanuel wasn’t concerned about the quiet demonstration past his house on Monday, but at the Tribune, Eric Zorn was.  It’s “inherently intimidating,” he writes.  He’s concerned that people might intimidate Rahm Emanuel.  That’s a fresh take.

It’s actually a venerable tactic.  In 1884, a Thanksgiving Day poor people’s march paraded past the Prairie Avenue homes of George Pullman, Marshall Field, and the rest of their set.  Saul Alinsky taught it.  (The demonstration at the home of Tim Cawley, the AUSL exec now at CPS, was classic Alinsky, bringing city folks to the suburbs.) National People’s Action regularly shows up in the front yards and driveways of unresponsive Washington bureaucrats.

Here’s another case from recent local history – where they actually rang the doorbell.

[Andrew Patner writes in to remind us of the 1969 Supreme Court ruling in Gregory v. Chicago, after civil rights leader Dick Gregory led a five-mile march in 1965 from City Hall to the home of Mayor Richard J. Daley – from “the snake pit” to “the snake’s home,” as Gregory put it – demanding Daley fire CPS superintendent Benjamin Willis, who was dragging his feet on school desegregation efforts.

[About 85 protestors arrived at Daley’s home around 8 p.m. – one of their chants was “Ben Willis must go, Snake Daley also” — and stopped making noise at 8:30, as they’d promised.  But while “petitioners and the other demonstrators continued to march in a completely lawful fashion, the onlookers became unruly as the number of bystanders increased,” as Chief Justice Warren put it in his decision.  At 9:30 the police asked Gregory’s group to leave, and when they refused, they were arrested for disorderly conduct.

[The Supreme Court overruled their convictions on this charge. “Petitioners’ march, if peaceful and orderly, falls well within the sphere of conduct protected by the First Amendment,” they ruled.

[You can hear oral arguments – with the late, great Marshall Patner arguing on behalf of Gregory – at the Oyez Project of IIT-Kent College of Law.]

A failure to communicate

In this case, it was a last resort, following repeated efforts to open meaningful avenues of communication.

Bronzeville residents including the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, which helped organize Monday’s march, met repeatedly with CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard this fall to discuss their plans for a global achievement village to organically turn around Dyett High School and surrounding elementary schools.  Brizard never had the decency to mention that the schools they were talking about were on the chopping block.

So they started demanding a meeting with the mayor.  “We’re not going to meet any more with people who don’t have decision-making power,” an organizer told me. He was referring to Brizard.

After they got no response to their request for a meeting with Emanuel (who, as the Chicago Reader revealed, spends a great deal of his time with wealthy campaign donors, and very little with community leaders), they went to his office. After they sat outside his door for several days, they finally got a meeting with his staff.

It was pro forma.  The decisions had been made and weren’t open to reconsideration.  The staff in the meeting didn’t have any authority.

Zorn compares the marchers to  right-to-lifers who have loudly and repeatedly beseiged the homes of abortion providers (a number of whom have been assassinated) for extended periods.

[Zorn agrees with a Supreme Court ruling approved by Justices Rehnquist and Scalia, among others. But dissents by civil libertarians William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall and by J.P. Stevens say the town ordinance in question banning residential picketing is overly broad: the “intrusive and unduly coercive elements of residential picketing can be eliminated” – by regulating things like noise levels, the number of picketers, and the hours they picket – without banning picketing entirely.]

The marchers on Monday were silent as they approached Emanuel’s home (reflecting their theme, that they’ve been shut out of decisions about their schools).  There was a brief prayer.  Then they started walking again, singing “We who believe in freedom will not rest until it’s come” — singing softly, so softly that it had a haunting quality.

A noble idea

Zorn also propses that CPS and the teachers union be required to hold their negotiations in public.  “Closed doors are antithetical to democracy,” he writes.

It’s a noble idea, and a grand phrase.  But if he’s serious, why is he limiting it to teachers union negotiations?  Why not require all discussions with companies seeking contracts with any government entity to be live-streamed?  Why not require the mayor’s cabinet meetings – or his meetings with wealthy donors – to be open to the public?  How about legislators and lobbyists?

In these cases too, “one side of the table [at least] is a public body – why shouldn’t the public have a seat at the table?” Wouldn’t we be interested in listening in on the “offers and counteroffers”?

Why not require journalists meeting with government sources to do so in public?  Aren’t we entitled to information about our government? What kind of offers and counteroffers are going on there?

Really:  why do journalists allow government sources to speak anonymously?

Closed doors may be antithetical to some pure or rhetorical ideal of democracy, but we all know that sometimes they help people get things done.  Reporters know people sometimes speak more freely off the record. In labor talks, closed doors allow people to speak frankly and reach compromise rather than assuming postures which they may have trouble climbing down from.

And if an open-door policy is only advisable for teachers union negotiations, we’re entitled to wonder how idealistic this suggestion really is.

No context

Zorn doesn’t discuss any context, but in the context of recent events, he’s helping out the mayor’s public relations tactics.

Emanuel has gone public with union negotiations three times in less than a year.  Most recently he had the teachers’ opening salary proposal leaked.  Last year he released the work rule changes he was seeking from city workers.

Most egregiously, a day after the conclusion of negotiations over CPS’s refusal to pay the raise agreed to in the teachers’ contract – claiming there was no money for it — the mayor had Brizard go on TV to announce an entirely new offer, a 2 percent raise if teachers would agree to a longer school day.   (When Emanuel started pressuring individual schools to agree to a longer day — in violation of the teachers’ contract, as a state board later found — Zorn urged the union not to defend itself.  Bad optics, he said.)

That’s not good-faith negotiating.  It is the epitome of posturing.  In the two cases involving teachers, it’s not intended to get to agreement, it’s intended to make the folks on the other side of the table look bad. It helps a lot to have a willing press, eager to depict unions as villains – or at least raise an eyebrow.

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Pushing out students: Noble, AUSL, and CPS Sun, 19 Feb 2012 19:47:39 +0000 There were two big school stories in the past week – the hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for minor infractions charged to students by Noble Charter Schools, and the sit-in at Piccolo Elementary by parents and supporters opposing a turnaround by the Academy of Urban School Leadership – and one issue that cuts across both is growing opposition to harsh, ineffective discipline policies that force kids out of school.

At AUSL, where the Board of Education will vote on six additional turnarounds on Wednesday, it raises questions about unstable school leadership, wildly shifting school policies, and failure to support programs promised in AUSL submissions to CPS.

Largely lost in the coverage of Noble (particularly in the Chicago Tribune’s editorial, once more attacking critics of CPS) was the actual source of concern – the campaign by Voices of Youth in Chicago Education to reduce the dropout rate, which has led them to focus on disciplinary policies which push kids out.

“We agree there should be consequences for minor infractions, but Noble is not doing it the right way, and as a result, students are leaving,” said Emma Tai of VOYCE.  She said Noble has acknowledged that 40 percent of entering students leave before senior year.  (Ben Joravsky has previously reported on Noble’s fines, demerits, counseling out of kids, and charges for make-up courses.)

Bigger picture

But Noble is “just one piece of a much larger picture,” Tai said.  “Whether it’s demerits and fines at Noble or suspensions, expulsions, and arrests at [traditional] schools, there are practices in all our schools to keep students on lockdown and push them out.”

Concern over test scores may be a bigger driver of the approach than concern over safety, she suggests.

“We should be making sure that all schools are putting a full-faith effort into keeping young people in schools,” she said.  “What’s happening in all our schools [reflects] the real failure of our public officials to use our public dollars to make sure every child gets a quality education.”

At Piccolo, parents protesting the proposed turnaround charged that at other turnarounds, “AUSL has not lived up to promises  of increased support for at-risk students” and “AUSL has pushed out students through zero tolerance discipline” as well as “dropping students and counseling out low-performing students.”

One group backing Piccolo, Blocks Together, has worked extensively with students at Orr Academy, now in its third year as an AUSL turnaround school, and they report a variety of practices that seem to conflict with AUSL’s commitments to CPS.

AUSL and the CPS code

In its 2007 RFP submission to CPS prior to being given Orr, AUSL pledged to follow the district’s student code of conduct, to support students with behavioral issues, and to institute a peer mediation program.

Instead, Orr students are routinely given automatic suspensions for minor infractions, BT says.  “We get suspended for the pettiest things,” said Malachi Hoye, an Orr senior active with BT’s youth group.  “Being tardy, not wearing your ID – it’s two days.”  Cursing gets you an automatic two-day suspension.

The CPS code calls for an investigation of an incident with students “afforded the opportunity to respond to the charges.” That doesn’t happen at Orr, BT says.  The code indicates a range of consequences for first-time minor infractions (like inappropriate language), including teacher-student conferences, conferences including parents or administrators, and detention; suspension is reserved for repeat offenses.  That’s not the practice at Orr either, apparently.

“There are no steps, there’s no effort to look at the situation,” said youth organizer Ana Mercado.  She adds that, with constant administrative change at Orr – two principals in three years, and a revolving door for other administrators — disciplinary policies have fluctuated greatly. “The expectations and consequences keep changing on the kids,” she said.

Turning kids away

Orr also “turns kids away when they come to school without their uniform,” said Hoye.  “The tell them don’t come back till you have one.”  (He also complains about steep increases in the price Orr charges for its uniform jersey.)

The CPS code specifies that students who fail to abide by a school’s uniform policy may be barred from extracurricular activities but may not be given suspensions or detensions “or otherwise barred from attending class.”

And while the code requires parents to be informed of punitive measures, Orr got in trouble last year for dropping students without informing them or their parents.

AUSL also promised to institute a peer mediation program, but when BT trained students in restorative justice methods so they could serve as peer jurors, Orr administrators provided little to no suppport.  In the first year, administrators referred six cases to the peer jury; this year they’ve referred none, Mercado said.

“They said they would do it and then they just didn’t do it at all,” said Hoye, who was trained as a juror.  “The administrators are not following through on what they said they were going to do.”

CPS drops the ball

That’s mirrored on a district-scale by CPS, which included restorative justice language in a recent disciplinary code revision, but has failed to “put their dollars where their mouth is,” Tai said.

Last year VOYCE issued a report documenting many tens of millions of dollars spent on zero-tolerance strategies that are “not only ineffective, but counterproductive.”  Restorative justice programs in schools rely on local initiative and must scuffle by on one-year competitive grants, Tai said.

Research is clear that zero-tolerance approaches — and heavy use of suspensions — do not improve school safety or student learning, Tai said.  She points to a recent study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, which shows that it’s the quality of relationships staff have with students and parents that distinguishes schools where students and teachers report feeling safe.

“In fact, disadvantaged schools with high-quality relationships actually feel safer than advantaged schools with low-quality relationships,” according to the report.  And notably, schools with high suspension rates are less safe than schools in similar neighborhoods with low suspension rates.

The Consortium argues that “emphasis on punitive discipline approaches” is particularly unhelpful with “students who are already less likely to be engaged in school.”  “Schools serving a large number of low-achieving students must make stronger efforts to foster trusting, collaborative relationships with students and their parents.”

Notes Tai:  “When young people are given a five dollar fine for slumping in their seats, or when they’re suspended for a week for trying to calm down a fight, you’re eroding those relationships.”

“You’re forcing students out, and you’re not making schools safer.”

There’s another bottom line, she notes:  The fact that under zero tolerance, black students are given much harsher punishments than white students commiting the same infractions shows there’s something very wrong with the whole approach.

Increased accountability for charters, turnarounds, and other nontraditional schools – and a commitment by CPS to implement restorative justice system-wide – would make schools safer and help the kids who need the most help become better students, she says.  It seems clear – with 11.6 percent of Orr’s students meeting or exceeding expectations, and a steadily-declining attendance rate, now at 66 percent – the status quo isn’t working.



Students target discipline policies

School discipline reform advances

Mayoral candidates on CPS suspension rates

CPS high suspension rate challenged

Dropout crisis or pushout crisis?

School guards and culture of calm (on Orr)

King Day: Occupy the Fed, foreclosures, schools Sat, 14 Jan 2012 01:29:58 +0000 The civil rights movement, the Occupy movement, and community organizations will come together for a series of events marking Martin Luther King’s birthday this week, including a demonstration Monday at the Federal Reserve led by African American clergy including Rev. Jesse Jackson.

At the time of his assassination, King was organizing an “occupation” of Washington D.C., and after his death thousands of people occupied Resurrection City there from May 12 to June 24, 1968, demanding jobs, housing and an economic bill of rights.

In other King Day activities, housing rights groups are stepping up the drive to occupy foreclosures, and teachers and community groups are demonstrating against school “turnarounds.”

Over a thousand community activists are expected for an Occupy the Dream event (Sunday, January 15 at 3 p.m. at People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence), where elected officials will be called on to support jobs and tax reform, including closing corporate tax loopholes and instituting a financial transaction tax.

It’s sponsored by IIRON, a regional organizing network that includes Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Northside POWER, and the Northwest Indiana Federation. Occupy Chicago has endorsed the event.

“We are organizing in the tradition of the civil rights movement,” said Rev. Dwight Gardner of Gary, president of the Northwest Indiana Federation.

“In Dr. King’s very last sermon, he warned us not to sleep through a time of great change like Rip Van Winkle,” he said. “This is a moment of great change and we must put our souls in motion to occupy his dream.”

At the Fed: National Day of Action

Monday’s action at the Federal Reserve (Jackson and LaSalle, January 16, 3 p.m.) is part of a national day of action to “Occupy the Fed” by the Occupy the Dream campaign, with African American church leaders moblizing multicultural, interfaith rallies in 13 cities.  They’ll be emphasizing racially discriminatory practices by banks which have resulted in high foreclosure rates, as well as the issue of student debt.

“There needs to be economic equality, there needs to be jobs for all, there needs to be opportunities for the next generation,” said Rev. Jamal Bryant of Occupy the Dream.

“It’s consistent with the Poor People’s Campaign of holding people accountable who have benefited from the labor of working people and used their influence to create inequality,” said Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago coordinator of the effort.

On Tuesday, Northside POWER and other groups will visit Bank of America (135 S. LaSalle) at 3:30 p.m. to demand help for a North Side family facing foreclosure; the bank has refused mediation for the family, which has applied for the Hardest Hit foreclosure relief program, said Kristi Sanford.

They’ll also visit Attorney General Lisa Madigan, demanding she withdraw from the proposed settlement of the robosigning fraud case by state attorney generals and the U.S. Department of Justice.  The settlement would fine banks “a pittance” and absolve them of all liability, Sanford said.  Attorney generals in New York and California have withdrawn.

Sanford said an effort to occupy a foreclosed home and launch an eviction resistance campaign is also underway.

Working the grassroots against eviction

Meanwhile, groups organizing against foreclosure and eviction have come together in the national network Occupy Our Homes, and they’ll go door-to-door Sunday and Monday, reaching out to families facing foreclosure and their neighbors.

Training sessions for canvassers will be held on Sunday, January 15 at 10 a.m. in Albany Park (at Centro Autonomo, 3630 W. Lawrence) and Monday at 10 a.m. on the South Side (Sankofa Center, 1401 E. 75th) and the West Side (a foreclosed property at 2655 W. Melvina and the Third Unitarian Church, 311 N. Mayfield), and volunteers will canvass those areas from 11 to 3 on the respective days.

Homeowners will be connected with legal resources and encouraged to consider staying in their homes after foreclosure, said Loren Taylor of Occupy Our Homes.

The foreclosure process is unfairly stacked toward lenders, banks have engaged in “massive, massive fraud,” and the banks which refuse to help homeowners have received government bailouts in the trillions of dollars, Taylor said.

Participating groups include the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which has worked with renters in foreclosed buildings.

School marches mark King’s Chicago legacy

Also Monday, demonstrations against educational inequality – and against school “turnarounds” – will take place in areas made famous by Martin Luther King’s 1966 Chicago campaign.

At 10:30 a.m., the Chicago Teachers Union and community allies will march for education justice and “quality schools for all” at Marquette Elementary, 6550 S. Richmond, just south of the park where King was hit by a brick while marching for fair housing in 1966.

Today the school is 99 percent black and Latino – and slated for a “turnaround” by Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). CTU argues that all schools should have small class sizes, a well-rounded curriculum, and supportive services.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Blocks Together and other supporters of Casals Elementary, 3501 W. Potomac, will go door-to-door to inform neighbors of parent efforts to stop the transfer of that school to AUSL.

And at 1 p.m. on Monday, North Lawndale residents including members of Action Now will hold a press conference and march from Dvorak Elementary, 3615 W. 16th, past the site where King lived in Lawndale in 1966, to Herzl Elementary, 3711 W. Douglas.  They’re opposing Herzl’s “turnaround” by AUSL – and they fear Dvorak is next, said Aileen Kelleher of Action Now.

Parents maintain that CPS neglects neighborhood schools serving low-income minority children, setting them up for failure so they can be turned over to AUSL or charter schools, Kelleher said

Piccolo supporters say CPS is blocking a real school turnaround Fri, 09 Dec 2011 03:27:02 +0000 Parents and community supporters are asking why CPS has chosen Piccolo Elementary for a “turnaround” by the Academy of Urban School Leadership next year, when a brand-new principal – herself a veteran of an AUSL school — has just begun an overhaul that has won widespread support and is already getting results.

Piccolo parents, teachers, and students will hold a press conference and rally at the school (1040 N. Keeler) on Friday, December 9 at 3 p.m.  to highlight the school’s strategic plan and oppose CPS’s proposal.

Dr. Allison Brunson was named principal in July, after teaching at AUSL’s Dodge Academy in East Garfield Park.  Before this year, CPS policy prohibited school actions where principals had been in place less than two years.

Brunson has developed a strategic plan for the school and implemented a new disciplinary policy, a professional development program, and a new reading curriculum, including a two-hour reading period each morning, said Cecile Carroll of Blocks Together, which partners with the school on parent engagement.

“She told the LSC she thinks we can bring scores up by 10 points,” and with the new curriculum and emphasis on reading, “I’m pretty sure we’re going to see results on test scores this year,” Carroll said.

Much of the new approach is similar to AUSL’s, Carroll said.  It’s “very data-driven,” with constant evaluation of students’ grasp of concepts informing individual coaching by teachers, she said.

With the new conduct policy– which aims at reducing suspensions and increasing parent involvement with behavioral issues — “decorum in the school has improved a lot,” said one school staff member.  “It’s quieter.  There are not as many disrupting incidents.”

The new principal is “always in the classrooms, always talking to children, talking to parents,” she said.  “The teachers are working harder – I’m working harder.”

As part of the strategic plan, community partnerships have been expanded, Carroll said. Youth Guidance and Childserv now provide supportive services, and Chicago Commons has a youth service center in the building.

Blocks Together has worked with parents to develop a wish-list — and the school has been acting on items, decorating the parent room to make it more inviting, and requesting security cameras from CPS (CPS has yet to respond), Carroll said.

There are already significant indications of improvement, she said.  Attendance is up to 95 percent, and 85 percent of parents came to school for report card pickup day – after teachers were told to call each parent twice, and students were asked to write a letter home explaining why it was important for parents to come to school.

“It’s really not in the best interest of the students to have another disruption in the school,” Carroll said.  And it doesn’t make sense: it’s based on the performance of the school’s previous administration, and “what AUSL says they’ll do is exactly what’s already happening here.”

But because AUSL has done so poorly with its turnaround of Orr High School, she said, the management company now apparently thinks the solution is to take over Orr’s feeder schools – including both Piccolo and Casals, where 61 percent of students are meeting standards.

ACT scores at Orr have not improved since the AUSL turnaround – despite the fact that enrollment there has also dropped quite dramatically, from 1500 to 823, as students with challenges were counseled out, Carroll said.

AUSL has extensive ties to Mayor Emanuel’s campaign and administration, and his decision to give them more contracts has raised charges of the appearance of conflict of interest from CTU.  “Emanuel’s choice [of AUSL] to spearhead the school turnaround effort brought the word ‘cronyism’ into coverage of his administration,” Gapers Block commented.

Carroll says no one in the school was informed of the impending turnaround until the day the press was told.  The West Humboldt Park Community Advisory Council established by CPS, on which Carroll serves, met with CPS officials the previous week and was told nothing, she said.

CPS chief Jean-Claud Brizard recently told Catalyst that the district “went beyond” requirements of the new state school facilities law and “did much more” than required.

But that law requires that “decisions that impact school facilities should include the input of the school community to the greatest extent possible.”

That clearly hasn’t happened here.

Orr students have some questions for Bill Gates Wed, 27 Feb 2008 21:23:29 +0000

Chicago students want to contact Bill Gates to make sure he knows how his money is being spent.

Gates’ foundation is giving $10.3 million to a plan to “turn around” two high schools and nearby elementary schools.

Orr students gathered outside the Board of Education meeting this morning pointed out that just two years ago Gates gave $21 million to fund curriculum improvements at 14 schools including Mose Vines Preparatory Academy on the Orr campus.

The “turnaround” is the third central office intervention at Orr, which has controlled the school for many years without much success.

>Several Orr students from Blocks Together’s youth organization spoke highly of their teachers, who will be fired under the plan.

“We want to keep our teachers,” said one.  “They know us, they understand us, and we trust them.”

They were among over 100 Orr students who travelled to the board meeting to voice opposition to the plan.  They came downtown following a school-wide rally against the plan.

The Orr students have hundreds of signatures on a petition to Gates asking him to work with the community.

One irony is that Vines principal Patricia Woodson is likely to lose her job. When the schools LSC wanted to fire her two years ago, CPS chief Arne Duncan told them they couldn’t, according to Vines LSC chair Rev. Charles Walker.

“It’s ridiculous,” Walker said. “It would be funny if it wasn’t sad.”

It might have also saved Bill Gates some money.

As Newstips reported in 2005 (when CPS was promising LSCs for small schools), Woodson was dismantling the school’s core curriculum.  It had been designed by a group of teachers led by Mose Vines, described as a visionary veteran Orr teacher, who passed away before the school opened.  Many of the original teachers left, unhappy with Woodson.

Now Vines LSC is one of three small school LSCs suing CPS to claim their full legal powers, including principal selection (pdf).

There are other inconsistencies with the plan Gates is funding, opponents say.

For one thing, Morton and Howe elementary schools, near Harper High, are among those being taken over by the Academy of Urban School Leadership, based on its claims of success after one year at Sherman elementary.

But rather than a dramatic difference, achievement gains were lower at Sherman than at the two schools AUSL is taking over.  Sherman has gone from 24 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectation in 2005 (and 26.8 percent when AUSL came in last year) to 34.6 percent last year; in the same time Morton has gone from 16.8 percent to 32.5 percent, and Howe from 20.8 percent to 36.8 percent, according to Julie Woestehoff of PURE.

And while the package deal is supposed to include Orr and Harper and its “feeder schools,” Woestehoff said CPS figures show that in reality the targeted elementary schools contribute only a handful of students to the high schools.

School closings 4 Tue, 26 Feb 2008 20:58:27 +0000

Expect a lot of outrage at tomorrow’s Board of Education meeting, with groups across the city organizing against proposals to close, consolidate, or “turn around” 19 schools that are on tomorrow’s agenda.

School supporters will speak at a press conference Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. at CPS, 125 S. Clark, backing a Chicago Teachers Unionproposal for a moratorium on the proposals in order to consider improvement models for regular neighborhood schools that don’t involve disruption for children and job loss for teachers.  PURE and Designs for Change are coordinating the press conference.

Blocks Together and the Save Orr Schools Coalition is circulating a petition calling on board president Rufus Williams to oppose the “turnaround” plan for Orr — they say an Academy for Urban School Leadership takeover will fire teachers with masters degrees and replace them with inexperienced trainees who lack teacher certification, using a model the groups say is unproven.

They’re also asking Bill Gates, whose foundation is funding the move, “to honor the will of the community and make an investment with people versus for people by stopping the AUSL proposal.”

Like many community sources interviewed by Newstips in recent weeks, BT organizer Carolina Gaete characterized CPS hearings on the proposals as completely inadequate.   “We are not satisfied with that being the only outlet for our opinion,” she said.  While CPS chief Arne Duncan called the hearings a chance to “ask the hard questions,” in reality “the hearing officer had no answers for us,” Gaete said.

“They have been very disrespectful, imposing this decision with no outlet for us to even ask questions,” she said.

No board members attended any of the hearings, and PURE cites muckraker George Schmidt of Substance saying that, just two days before the board meeting, the hearing officers’ reports weren’t available.  Hundreds of parents, students, and teachers spoke at those hearings.

Also calling for protests tomorrow, the Southwest Youth Collaborative charged “CPS ‘hearings’ are even more of a sham than previous years….Decisions are being made by Mayor Daley’s appointees as part of a larger political and economic agenda for the city that does not include the welfare of working class people of color,” the group said in an e-mail statement.

“The bottom line is that all this is being done without consultation or participation of schools and communities and against their demands and proposals.”