CPS chief: 'It’s time to turn the page'

May 28, 2013

(WBEZ/Becky Vevea)
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett talks with local business leaders before speaking at a City Club luncheon Tuesday.

It’s been a year for the history books in Chicago Public Schools, and that’s exactly where schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she wants it to stay.

“Whatever has happened this past year, it’s done,” Byrd-Bennett said Tuesday at a City Club luncheon. “The collective bargaining agreements are settled. There’s a moratorium on school closures for the next five years. And it is the beginning of a new school year in a few short months.”

It’s been less than a week since the vote to close a record 50 public schools, but Byrd-Bennett said it’s time to move forward.

“We are putting the past behind us,” Byrd-Bennett said. “It is time to turn the page.”

But not everyone is ready to turn the page. The decision to close the most public schools in a single year in American history has been met with fierce opposition from community groups, parents and labor unions.

The Chicago Teachers Union has already filed two lawsuits to stop the closings, and they plan to file another Wednesday. That third suit seeks to stop 10 of the 50 schools from closing. CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin would not provide a copy of the lawsuit or a list of schools being named.

The current school year isn’t only making history with a seven-day teachers’ strike and 50 school closures. CPS officials also announced Tuesday they’re projecting a record-high graduation rate. According to district data, the graduation rate is expected to hit 63 percent, up from 48 percent a decade ago.

The graduation rate counts students who have graduated within five years of starting high school. This year’s rate counts students who started high school in 2008 and will have earned enough credits to earn their diploma by the end of the summer in 2013.

“Every child who graduates, we should see as a victory for Chicago,” Byrd-Bennett said. “When a child succeeds, it represents our collective success.”

The graduates included in this year’s figures would have started high school under former schools CEO and now U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

COMPLETE AUDIO of BBB at City Club

Becky Vevea is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her @WBEZeducation.