special education – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 Whittier parents hold fast http://www.newstips.org/2011/06/whittier-parents-hold-fast/ Wed, 29 Jun 2011 21:00:36 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4485 CPS chief Jean Claude Brizard may have thought he could carry out a preemptive strike against the Whittier Parents Committee.  He couldn’t.

Construction crews arrived at Whittier last Wednesday morning. (Huffington Post reports they were set to start two days earlier but bad weather forced a postponement.)  The Board of Education didn’t actually rubber stamp the project until later that day.

Whittier parents who were downtown to testify at the board meeting rushed back to the school, organizer Evelin Santos said. They found police trying to seal off La Casita, the fieldhouse which CPS has promised to lease to a nonprofit operated by the parents, she said.

Everyone knows that the parents have been negotiating with CPS over the future of La Casita and over where to put a new library for Whittier – negotiations won after parents occupied the building for 43 days last fall.  The parents want the library in the fieldhouse so it can be available to students and the community after school hours.

Launching construction without informing the parents was a simple, straightforward act of bad faith.

Perhaps newcomer Brizard doesn’t know that this community isn’t going to be pushed around.  Perhaps he doesn’t know that this community won a new high school for Little Village with a two-week hunger strike in 2001.

Faced by the parents’ picket line, the construction crews withdrew.  Police pulled back.  The occupation of La Casita is back on.  And Brizard was forced to meet with parents.

A new focus is the decision to eliminate a special education classroom to make room for a library in the school.  That move might be illegal if a comparable space isn’t provided, one expert said.  A windowless room in the basement might not cut it.

At this point parents have no idea where – or if – pull-out sessions for special ed kids will be held.

That’s the problem with top-down, unilateral decisions about school facilities and programs that are made without community input.  Parents and community members have basic questions, and basic insights, that deserve attention.

The parents committee charges that “Brizard’s unilateralism represents an even more autocratic and unaccountable central office bureaucracy — one that puts the concerns of parents, students and teachers last.”

Negotiations between CPS and the Whittier Parents Committee were suspended last year when Ron Huberman quit as CPS chief – after he’d presented a plan for a library on the school’s second floor, but before the parents had presented their proposal, Santos said.

The plan, designed with a group of local architects and presented to the community several weeks ago, is quite impressive.  It’s already won an award from the local Design Makes Change group.  The parents have come up with sources of funding, too.

Their plan deserves a hearing.  Especially if Brizard expects his rhetoric about the importance of parent and community involvement in schools to have any credibility.

 

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School closings 3 http://www.newstips.org/2008/02/school-closings-3/ Tue, 19 Feb 2008 23:33:14 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=98

It turns out CPS isn’t closing Andersen School — it’ s just changing boundaries.

In a January 24 press release, CPS listed Andersen among “under-enrolled” schools to be closed and phased out.  A January 23 report to the Board of Education (available at the Catalyst blog) listed Andersen utilization at 47 percent, just below the 50 percent mark it defined as under-enrolled.  That was the figure Arne Duncan cited in a letter to Andersen parents.

Andersen parents, teachers, and supporters argued that rate didn’t take into account legal limits on class size for the school’s several programs for special education.  They said that applying those limits put the school at 58 percent utilization.

At a February 15 hearing CPS sidestepped this issue — and its guidelines on school closing policy — by announcing it was phasing out the school as a boundary change.

That changes the standard that must be met, said Rod Estvan of Access Living.  Rather than showing underutilization, CPS can change boundaries simply to “maximize utilization” at one of two buildings.

Estvan testified Friday that adding in an autism program and pull-out rooms, “a rational approach to space utilization that takes into consideration State Law would give Andersen School a utilization rate somewhere around 65 to 68%.”  That’s right in the middle of the range CPS terms “efficient utilization.”

Estvan noted that students with disabilities at Andersen tested 15 percent higher than the CPS average in reading and nearly 20 percent higher in math.

“On the face of this data Access Living believes that Andersen School should in fact be given some type of achievement award for the effective reading and math instruction the school appears to be providing to students with disabilities, instead of being closed,” he said.

“It’s pretty slick,” Estvan commented today.  “If they can use this standard, they can write schools out of existence all over the place.”

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