WBEZ | Barbara Byrd-Bennett http://www.wbez.org/tags/barbara-byrd-bennett Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en CPS finally releases school ratings http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-finally-releases-school-ratings-111187 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raising hand edit_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago parents can finally see how their school stacks up to others.</p><p>Typically, school ratings, which give &nbsp;schools Level 1, 2, or 3 labels, come out in late October, around the same time that student report cards are released. But this year, Chicago Public Schools officials changed the complicated calculation that determines the school ratings.</p><p>One of the big changes was moving to five categories, instead of three. Now, schools can be rated Level 1+, Level 1, Level 2+, Level 2, and Level 3. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett can also override a school&rsquo;s rating if something dramatic had happened at the school in the past year.</p><p>For instance: &ldquo;Just based on my experience as a principal, when you get a large number of students coming to your school that have not been there previously, it changes the dynamic,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett changed the ratings for just 12 schools. She also placed six charter schools on an academic watch list.</p><p>Two of the schools on academic watch are the Chicago International Charter Schools&#39; Lloyd Bond and Larry Hawkins campuses. Both are in Altgeld Gardens, an isolated area on the far South Side made up of public housing.</p><p>Interestingly, one of the 12 schools given a higher rating through Byrd- Bennett&rsquo;s discretion, Dubois, is just down the road from the two CICS schools. The other neighborhood elementary school in Altgeld Gardens, Aldridge, was rated Level 3. Bryd-Bennett boosted Dubois to a Level 1.</p><p>Beth Purvis, CICS&rsquo;s executive director, said both Bond and Hawkins need to improve, but she questioned the fairness of the ratings, given the exception for Dubois. Dubois, Aldridge and CICS-Bond have similar scores on the metrics used in the ratings calculation.</p><p>&ldquo;That seems unfair to both Aldridge and CICS,&rdquo; Purvis said. &ldquo;If all schools aren&rsquo;t treated the same under a ranking process, I don&rsquo;t understand how it informs parents and helps them make decisions.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the reason Byrd-Bennett gave Dubois a Level 1 rating when it originally earned a level 2 rating was because a quarter of the student population changed in the past school year.</p><p>Purvis and other CICS officials sent data to WBEZ showing similar student mobility at CICS-Lloyd Bond.</p><p>The other charter schools placed on academic watch this year are: Amandla Charter School, Betty Shabazz Charter School, Betty Shabazz - Sizemore Campus, and Polaris Academy Charter School.</p><p>One charter school that was placed on academic watch last year, UNO-Rufino Tamayo, jumped from the lowest rating, Level 3, on the old system to the highest rating, Level 1+, on the new system.</p><p>In all, just 44 schools still remain in the Level 3 category, while 161 schools are considered Level 1+, 154 are rated Level 1, 118 schools got Level 2+, and 159 were at Level 2, the second to lowest rating.</p></p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 05:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-finally-releases-school-ratings-111187 CPS chief backs the mayor's $13-an-hour minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Board of Ed at Westinghouse.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is making a political statement supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ahead of February&rsquo;s municipal elections.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Bryd-Bennett told the Board of Education Wednesday that the district wants to move to a $13-per-hour minimum wage. The statement falls in line with <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-emanuel-minimum-wage-hike-push-20140930-story.html" target="_blank">other city agencies</a>, like the Chicago Park District.</p><p>The budget implications of a $13-per-hour minimum wage for CPS workers and contract employees would still need to be worked out internally, CPS officials said.</p><p>Alderman Jason Ervin, of the 28th Ward, urged board members to consider the $15-an-hour wage he and other aldermen are pushing. The meeting was in Ervin&rsquo;s ward, at Westinghouse College Prep, making it the first board meeting held in a community since 2004, when the board met at Orr Academy. It was also the first time in several years the board has met in the evening. Typically, board meetings start at 10 a.m. at CPS&rsquo;s downtown headquarters.</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said they moved the meeting into a community and held it in the evening in order to give more people the opportunity to come. The district is also in the process of moving its offices to a new building downtown.</p><p>The meeting, which took place in Westinghouse&rsquo;s auditorium, had a larger crowd than usual and frequent interruptions from audience members. One of the biggest gripes had to do with a recent Chicago Tribune <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/cpsbonds/" target="_blank">investigation into CPS&rsquo;s debt payments</a> on risky interest rate swap deals. Those deals were entered into when now-Board President David Vitale was the district&rsquo;s chief financial officer.</p><p>Tara Stamps, a teacher at Jenner Elementary in Old Town, spoke about a lack of funding for the school&rsquo;s arts program, even though the school is designated as a fine arts school.</p><p>&ldquo;How is it that you can say you want this kind of student, but you don&rsquo;t want to make that kind of investment?&rdquo; Stamps asked. &ldquo;You&rsquo;d rather not renegotiate these toxic deals and squander what could be hundreds of millions of dollars that could go into classrooms that could create well-rounded classrooms where children are appreciated and they learn and they thrive. But you don&rsquo;t. You refuse. You will not arbitrate. You will not renegotiate. You will not do any of the initial steps to get some of that money back.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union first sounded the alarm on the bank deals in 2011, but board members and CPS officials repeatedly dismissed the issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Three years we&rsquo;ve been coming here and being told that our facts are wrong, that we just don&rsquo;t understand, and being dismissed by Mr. Vitale,&rdquo; said Matthew Luskin, a CPS parent and organizer for the CTU. &ldquo;A full week of Trib headlines tell a very different story.&rdquo;</p><p>Luskin said he understands that CPS cannot just cancel the contracts with the banks, but he pushed the board to file for arbitration to renegotiate the contracts, and &ldquo;take a stand.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They could call these banks out, blame them for the cuts and closings that have happened, instead of blaming retirees and parents and children who take up too many resources,&rdquo; Luskin said. &ldquo;They could announce that CPS won&rsquo;t do business with these banks anymore if they refuse to renegotiate.&rdquo;</p><p>McCaffrey with CPS said the district is monitoring the risks of its swap portfolio closely, &ldquo;including the possibility of termination.&rdquo; But he also said, by the district&rsquo;s calculation, the deals saved more than $30 million in interest costs compared to the costs of fixed-rate bonds.</p><p>The debt payments and the minimum wage weren&rsquo;t the only issues raised at the meeting. Two librarians came to speak about the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547" target="_blank">reassignments and layoffs of full-time librarians</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The loss of school librarians is especially alarming in CPS high schools where there are now only 38 high schools with librarians,&rdquo; said Nora Wiltse, a school librarian at Coonley Elementary.</p><p>A student and a teacher from Kelly High School came to sound the alarm on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">cleanliness at their school since Aramark</a> took over CPS&rsquo;s janitorial services.</p><p>The Board also approved <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cps-changes-school-ratingsagain-111118" target="_blank">a new school rating policy</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177839305&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 Chicago Public Schools will get money for no-show students, again http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-will-get-money-no-show-students-again-110861 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools is making a surprising announcement that could cost the district millions of dollars.</p><p>In a letter being sent to principals today, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told schools they would <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-further-budget-cuts-schools-didnt-attract-enough-students-108748" target="_blank">again be held harmless</a> for students who didn&rsquo;t show up this year.</p><p>The district changed the way it funds schools last year. Instead of funding positions and programs from downtown, schools are now given about $5,000 per student on average, under a formula called &ldquo;student-based budgeting.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, because the system was new, the district allowed schools that didn&rsquo;t meet enrollment targets to keep the money allocated to them anyway.</p><p>In a call with reporters about layoffs in June, Byrd-Bennett insisted that would not happen again.</p><p>&ldquo;No no no, that was last year, remember, and I preached that over and over that it was a one-time hold harmless,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But now, she&rsquo;s changing her mind. In the letter to principals, Byrd-Bennett wrote that CPS plans to use &ldquo;student-based budgeting transition contingency funds and anticipated surplus from Tax-Increment-Financing funds&rdquo; to make sure schools get money based off their projections, not actual enrollment.</p><p>The letter also said any school that got more students on the first day would get additional money.</p><p>CPS used to take an official enrollment count on the 20th day of school and now takes both a 10th day and a 20th day count to calculate any potential budget adjustments. The 20th day count will take place on Monday.</p><p>District spokesman Bill McCaffrey did not say how many schools came in below and how many came in above their initial enrollment projection. He did not say how much it will cost to essentially pay twice for students or pay for students who are no longer in the district.</p><p>McCaffrey also would not say if overall enrollment is up or down. Enrollment in CPS had been steadily declining for the last decade. Last year, the school system lost about 3,000 students, dropping from 403,461 to 400,545.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 16:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-will-get-money-no-show-students-again-110861 School board takes on cleanliness controversy http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-takes-cleanliness-controversy-110851 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/10348248095_15797234cf_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The controversy over cleanliness in Chicago Public Schools seems to be hitting a nerve with members of the Chicago Board of Education.</p><p>It could have been fiery comments from the head of the principals association, or a disturbing account from a primary school teacher, read by a parent during public participation at Wednesday&rsquo;s monthly meeting. It claimed vomit was left to sit on her floor for 30 minutes before it was cleaned up and then crusted into her rug over the weekend.</p><p>The parent who read the comment, Jennie Biggs, has three children at Sheridan Elementary in Bridgeport and is also part of a parent group called Raise Your Hand. That group released the results of an informal survey they did over the last week, which got 162 responses across 60 schools.</p><p>The complaints come on the heels of similar surveys and complaints from principals and teachers that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767">WBEZ first reported earlier this month</a>.</p><p>Board member Andrea Zopp said CPS and the two private companies now overseeing the management of custodians should take a close look at the parent&rsquo;s survey.</p><p>&ldquo;And in particular, look at the some of the comments,&rdquo; Zopp said. &ldquo;You can take (them) with a grain of salt, but there are some very disturbing things in there sent from people who apparently are on the ground.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS has had privatized cleaning services for more than a decade, but last February, the Board voted to award two contracts worth a total $340 million to Aramark and SodexoMAGIC to manage all 2,500 janitors in the school system.</p><p>At the time of that vote, CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley said move would make principals&rsquo; lives easier, explaining that the companies would be <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/chicago-further-privatizes">like &ldquo;Jimmy John&rsquo;s,&rdquo;</a>&nbsp;getting more supplies and cleaning up spills before principals could even hang up the phone.</p><p>On Wednesday, Cawley defended the move to privatize the management of custodians.</p><p>&ldquo;We think the vast, vast majority of our schools are as clean or cleaner than they&rsquo;ve been in the past,&rdquo; Cawley said Wednesday. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s how they started the school year and that&rsquo;s how they&rsquo;re operating now.&rdquo;</p><p>And he insisted the district is saving money. &ldquo;But never, ever, would we compromise the safety or cleanliness of our schools to accomplish those savings,&rdquo; he added.</p><p>Still, Board members had a lot of questions about how the new system is supposed to work.</p><p>&ldquo;So as a principal, three or four teachers come to me on a particular morning, my room is not clean, this is not working right, &hellip; the principal wants to resolve the issue, what&rsquo;s the next step?&rdquo; asked Carlos Azcoitia, one of the board members who served as a principal for 9 years.</p><p>Cawley said they can call a new hotline number or the cell phone of their Aramark custodial manager.</p><p>But Clarice Berry, head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, said that makes no sense.</p><p>&ldquo;We do not need, we do not want middle managers between the principals and the staff assigned to their schools,&rdquo; Berry said. She also called out Azcoitia and the other former principal on the board, Mahalia Hines, for allowing this to happen.</p><p>But later in the meeting, Hines said the old system didn&rsquo;t work either.</p><p>&ldquo;If [janitors] didn&rsquo;t clean or didn&rsquo;t do their work, I had little or no control over that, because they were with the union and you had to go through a long process, and either they would out wait me or they&rsquo;d die it out,&rdquo; Hines said.</p><p>Cawley said both companies are working at their own expense to fix the problems.</p><p>Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler confirmed they&rsquo;ve added extra support above and beyond the terms of the contract.</p><p>&ldquo;We have been meeting with every principal in the district &ndash; over 300 to date &ndash;&nbsp;to address their concerns, as well as review our program, which we have in place at hundreds of school districts across the country,&rdquo; Cutler wrote in an e-mail to WBEZ. &ldquo;We brought in additional managers (at our expense) to assist with the transition and have been training all CPS custodial staff on new equipment, using more efficient, environmentally friendly cleaning techniques.&rdquo;</p><p>One question that did not get answered at Wednesday&rsquo;s meeting is what will happen when additional layoffs go into effect.</p><p>As it stands right now, 468 fewer janitors will be in the schools come Tuesday. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 08:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-takes-cleanliness-controversy-110851 How do you find high school dropouts? http://www.wbez.org/news/how-do-you-find-high-school-dropouts-110816 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/pathways.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a bunch of promises three years ago when he was running for office&mdash;especially when it came to education.</p><p>He&rsquo;s checked off some of them &ndash; a longer school day, more preschool, a focus on principals.<br />But now his administration is ramping up attention to one the stickiest challenges: re-enrolling the city&rsquo;s more than 50,000 dropouts.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Grassroots efforts</span></p><p>For years--long before Emanuel pushed for a systematic way of enrolling dropouts--Pa Joof has been taking a shoe-leather approach to getting students back in school.</p><p>Joof is the head of Winnie Mandela, an alternative high school on 78th and Jeffrey in the city&rsquo;s South Shore neighborhood. Mandela is one of four schools run by Prologue Inc., a non-profit founded in 1973 to help disadvantaged neighborhoods. Prologue started running alternative schools for Chicago Public Schools in 1995.&nbsp;</p><p>On the first day of school, WBEZ visited Winnie Mandela High School to watch Joof and his team at work.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the little van that we use for basketball games,&rdquo; Joof tells me over the rumble of the van&rsquo;s engine starting up. It&rsquo;s almost lunchtime and he&rsquo;s about to hit the streets with two of the school&rsquo;s security guards--Dominick Muldrow and Dessie McGee--who double as recruiters and mentors.</p><p>&ldquo;We get the flyers and we put them up there,&rdquo; Joof explains. &ldquo;We know the corners that [kids are on], the areas that they go to.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Like the ones walking there,&rdquo; McGee says, pointing out the van&rsquo;s backseat window.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s happening? Today is the first day of school man, what&rsquo;s happening?&rdquo; Joof shouts out the window.<br />&ldquo;Ya&rsquo;ll registered for school?&rdquo; Muldrow asks.<br />&ldquo;He&rsquo;s 24!&rdquo; says one of the two men on the sidewalk.<br />&ldquo;Ah, he don&rsquo;t look that old,&rdquo; Muldrow says<br />&ldquo;Maybe you all know someone that&rsquo;s trying to get back in?&rdquo; McGee says, leaning to the front seat window to hand the men flyers about the school. &ldquo;Share these flyers with them.&rdquo;<br />&ldquo;This a high school?&rdquo; one of the men asks.<br />&ldquo;Yeah, right on 78th and Jeffrey,&rdquo; McGee replies.<br />&ldquo;My little brother, we&rsquo;re trying to get him back in there,&rdquo; the man says. &ldquo;He got like six credits, no, three. We&rsquo;re trying to get him back in. What ages?&rdquo;<br />&ldquo;Seventeen to twenty-one!&rdquo; McGee says.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the age range when kids can still re-enroll in high school, according to CPS. When Emanuel took office in 2011, CPS ran the numbers to find out exactly how many students had dropped off the attendance rolls before graduating, but were between 13 and 21. The number was close to 60,000.</p><p>During his first 100 days in office, Emanuel&rsquo;s directive was clear: find those kids and get them back to class.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A systematic approach</span></p><p>Molly Burke is leading the district&rsquo;s Student Outreach and Re-Engagement program, or SOAR.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the first program we have where we&rsquo;ve gotten a list of all the dropouts and proactively gone after them,&rdquo; Burke says, echoing what her predecessor told WBEZ in 2011.</p><p>The effort pulls data from the district&rsquo;s student records system to identify kids who have left school before graduating in the last few years.<br />&ldquo;Throughout the summer, they had a list that were all the students that dropped last year and the year before,&rdquo; Burke explains. &ldquo;So we went after those students who weren&rsquo;t active at the end of last school year. And now that school starts, they start to get the list of the kids that have dropped or who did not arrive.&rdquo;</p><p>District officials formally announced the SOAR program last year and with it, three official re-enrollment centers were opened. Sean Smith oversees the SOAR centers, located in Little Village, Roseland and Garfield Park.</p><p>So far, 1,700 students have come through the SOAR centers and 130 have already gotten their high school diplomas. Smith says they want to enroll an additional 3,000 this year.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a large goal for our team,&rdquo; he admits, noting that each staff member would be bringing in 15 new students every week. At each center, there are five re-engagement specialists that basically do what Prologue has been doing, only with names, addresses and phone numbers from downtown.</p><p>After a student decides to re-enroll, they go through a two-week program at a SOAR center that helps them set goals and choose a school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Getting the diploma</span></p><p>Most of the students re-enrolling won&rsquo;t go back to a traditional high school. For one, many dropouts would age out of eligibility before they could feasibly earn enough credits to graduate. And Smith says putting teens back in an environment that already didn&rsquo;t work for them, usually doesn&rsquo;t make sense.</p><p>But students may not be going to one of the city&rsquo;s longstanding alternative schools, like Winnie Mandela, either.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because CPS recently expanded the number of alternative programs available to students, including many online schools and several run by for-profit companies.</p><p>One of those, Pathways in Education, is located in a strip mall at 87th and Kedzie. The school spans two spaces in this sprawling commercial building. One is a wide-open space, the size of a retail store, where about a dozen teachers sit at desks lining the outside walls and teens study at tables in the middle of the room.<br />Student James Cicconi goes here, but used to go to Kennedy High School on the Southwest Side. He says he skipped a lot during his freshman and sophomore years.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When you ditch school, it&rsquo;s like an addiction,&rdquo; Cicconi says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like right away you do it once and you&rsquo;re want to do it again and again and before you know it you&rsquo;re gone twenty days out of the month.&rdquo;</p><p>When he started his junior year, Cicconi says the staff at Kennedy told him, &ldquo;Even if you do all of your stuff, there&rsquo;s not enough time for you to graduate. So you can either wait for us to kick you out or you can do this program.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS requires 24 credits to graduate. When Cicconi left Kennedy, he only had four.</p><p>&ldquo;Because of the credits and how slow it is with getting them, and how much you have to do just to get a half credit for one class, they told me, even if I did night school, summer school, there just wasn&rsquo;t enough time for me to graduate on time,&rdquo; Cicconi says.</p><p>He started classes at Pathways last winter and comes roughly three hours every day. So far, he&rsquo;s earned twice as many credits as he did in two years at Kennedy.&nbsp;</p><p>CPS officials say the non-traditional setting and online classes help kids work at their own pace. But, nationally, investigations of online schools have found the courses often aren&rsquo;t as rigorous and can cheapen the value of a high school diploma.</p><p>Cicconi says classes are easy, but that he&rsquo;s able to focus better without lots of other kids around, goofing off in class. He says schools like Pathways are good for students who might have what he calls &ldquo;an authority problem&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;People come up with their own agenda and their own rules and I feel that, when you come up with your own rules, you have more of an obligation to do it because you&rsquo;re leading yourself,&rdquo; Cicconi says.</p><p>Back in South Shore, where Pa Joof and his team are doing outreach without a list from CPS, Dominick Muldrow turns the corner onto Jeffrey Boulevard, to head back towards Winnie Mandela High School. Muldrow and McGee, the other recruiter, both dropped out and earned their diplomas through alternative programs.</p><p>&ldquo;I relate to a lot of the guys, you know,&rdquo; Muldrow says. &ldquo;But at the end of the day, what it all boils down is, you&rsquo;re gonna need a high school diploma.&rdquo;</p><p>That is the message the district hopes to get to a least 3,000 more kids this year.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/@WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-do-you-find-high-school-dropouts-110816 Schools CEO: privatizing janitorial services not 'as smooth as we would like' http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-ceo-privatizing-janitorial-services-not-smooth-we-would-110799 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/photo bbb at city club.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett admitted Monday that turning over management of school janitors to two private companies hasn&rsquo;t been going very well.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously it has not been as smooth as we would like,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;We have met with principals. We continue to do so and I think in a very short time, you will see a change.&rdquo;</p><p>In February, the Chicago Board of Education awarded two contracts, worth a total of $340 million, to two private companies, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC. These two contracts combined make it one of the largest privatization moves of any school district across the country. Under the agreements, SodexoMAGIC would oversee 33 schools, while Aramark would oversee the remaining 500-some district-run schools.</p><p>CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley sold the idea to board members as making schools cleaner with new equipment, such as &ldquo;zamboni-like&rdquo; floor cleaning machines, and making principals&rsquo; lives easier, with <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/chicago-further-privatizes" target="_blank">&ldquo;Jimmy John&rsquo;s-like&rdquo; customer service</a> when supplies run low.</p><p>But so far, the outsourcing seems to have led to dirty schools, property damage, poor communication and janitors being laid off. Those complaints came to light in a survey of more than 230 principals conducted by the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education, or AAPPLE, a member-driven arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.</p><p>WBEZ <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">first reported the story</a> early last week.</p><p>On Friday, 475 janitors officially received layoff notices. Byrd-Bennett says the district is not responsible for those cuts.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not laying anybody off,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s up to the contractors that we&rsquo;ve contracted with. They are going to come up with a system for us that will get the work done.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS employs 825 custodian positions that are covered by SEIU Local 73 and none of those positions are being cut, according to district officials. However, many of those board-funded janitors have been reassigned to cover other schools as a result of the layoffs.</p><p>District officials continue to insist that schools are not dirty and that the private contracts with Aramark and SodexoMAGIC are saving them money.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 17:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-ceo-privatizing-janitorial-services-not-smooth-we-would-110799 Schools on South, West sides left behind in CPS arts plan http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-south-west-sides-left-behind-cps-arts-plan-110464 <p><p>A report out this morning shows big disparities in arts education across Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>A sobering map on page 17 of the 44-page report highlights which Chicago communities are getting the most arts programming and which are getting the least. Most of the majority African American neighborhoods in the city are essentially arts education deserts.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ingenuity_StateoftheArts_BaselineReport-18.jpg" style="height: 625px; width: 400px;" title="A map from Ingenuity's report on the arts in Chicago Public Schools highlights where community arts partners provided arts programs throughout the district in 2012-13." /></div><p>In all, fewer than a quarter of all of the district&rsquo;s elementary schools reported meeting the district&rsquo;s recommended two hours of arts instruction per week.</p><blockquote><p><strong><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/Ingenuity_StateoftheArts_BaselineReport.pdf">Download the full report</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Paul Sznewajs, the executive director of Ingenuity Incorporated, the arts-advocacy nonprofit that put out the report, stressed that it&rsquo;s meant to serve as a baseline for future years as his group begins to track the state of arts education. Ingenuity launched three years ago in tandem with the city&rsquo;s cultural plan by Mayor Rahm Emanuel shortly after he took office.</p><p>The biggest test, Sznewajs said, is making sure the school district&rsquo;s arts education plan is fully implemented, even in the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444">face of steep budget cuts</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyone always asks me, well, is it just about staffing, or is it just about partnerships, or is it just about the money? And the way we answer that truthfully is to say, it&rsquo;s about all of them,&rdquo; Sznewajs said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not about any one piece of the pie, it&rsquo;s about making the whole pie bigger.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the report provides valuable data for district leaders to better direct resources.</p><p>For example, she said, CPS is adding 84 arts teachers and 84 physical education over the next two years with the help of $21 million in Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) money. &nbsp;Byrd-Bennett told reporters Tuesday that 89 of those positions are going to schools on the South Side, 54 are going to schools on the West Side and 32 will go to schools on the North Side. CPS officials have yet to release the list of specific schools benefiting from those positions, despite multiple requests by reporters.</p><p>John Perryman, an art teacher at Ortiz Elementary in South Lawndale, sits on the Chicago Teachers Union arts education committee and said he&rsquo;s troubled by the move to use more arts partners, like the Lyric Opera or the Merit School of Music, in place of teachers.</p><p>The report found that in the 2012-2013 school year, four percent of schools had an arts partnership, but no certified teacher. Perryman said that number likely rose in the most recent school year, with budget cuts and the switch to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-principals-get-more-flexibility-likely-less-money-budget-107560">student-based budgeting</a> forcing principals to make choices about every position and program they buy.</p><p>He also said the way CPS has added and then subsequently cut arts positions in recent years doesn&rsquo;t make much sense.</p><p>&ldquo;(For the longer school day), there were 100 positions created, then 100 positions cut and now for next year, they&rsquo;re adding 84 positions,&rdquo; Perryman said. &ldquo;This has created great instability in the field of arts education because teachers are getting fired and rehired.&rdquo;</p><p>The head of CPS&rsquo;s Department of Arts Education, Mario Rossero, stressed that the report only looks at about half of the district&rsquo;s schools. Many did not report their data in the first year, 2012-2013, the year the report is based on. Rossero said the most recent year saw an 89 percent response rate.</p><p>Wendy Katten of the parent group Raise Your Hand echoed what Rossero said and noted that in her group&rsquo;s tracking of budget cuts last year, 170 arts positions were lost.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;ll be interesting to see what these numbers look like for this year,&rdquo; Katten said.</p><p>Ingenuity is expected to put out an updated dataset with numbers from the most recent school year (2013-2014) sometime in November.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 08:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-south-west-sides-left-behind-cps-arts-plan-110464 Neighborhood high schools again take hit in new CPS budget http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/byrd-bennett.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated Tuesday July, 8 at 8:00 a.m.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Schools with more than $1 million slashed from their budgets are overwhelmingly the city&rsquo;s public neighborhood high schools.</p><p>Once seen as anchors in many communities, neighborhood high schools have seen enrollment decline dramatically in the past decade. The decline is a direct result of Chicago Public Schools opening more privately run charter high schools. Students now scatter to schools all over the city when they go to high school.</p><p>Enrollment declines in neighborhood high schools are driving huge budget cuts, because district officials switched the budgeting formula to rely more heavily on number of students attending. At some neighborhood high schools last year, the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834">freshman class was so small</a>, principals were barely able to hire enough teachers to cover core subject areas, much less offer any additional courses, like music or foreign language.</p><p>Last year CPS <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-enrollment-dip-doesnt-cost-principals-108781">held those schools harmless</a> when they enrolled fewer students than projected, but this year that practice ended.</p><p>Of the 26 schools seeing $1 million or more in cuts under the newly released CPS budget, 24 are high schools. Just two are elementary schools: De Diego and Disney Magnet. The <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reported yesterday that the principal and assistant principal of De Diego, which served as a receiving school for two schools that closed last year, were <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-wicker-park-school-principal-reassigned-20140701,0,2303804.story">recently removed from their posts</a>. It is unclear what is driving cuts at Disney Magnet; &nbsp;at the same time the total budget decreased, the school gained three positions. (<strong>A complete list of schools with the steepest cuts is below.</strong>)</p><p>When looking at schools where 10 or more positions were cut, neighborhood high schools are again hardest hit. Of the 25 schools losing 10 staff or more, 19 are high schools. Oddly, one of those, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, is a selective enrollment high school that draws from across the city. Lindblom Principal Alan Mather said he did not lose positions. But when looking closer at the school&#39;s report in CPS&#39;s interactive budget, he said it looked like a shift from janitors funded directly by the board to those provided through Aramark may be accounting for the seemingly large drop in positions. CPS officials did not respond when asked about how janitors are counted.&nbsp;</p><p>Six elementary schools -- Eberhart, Dodge, Lewis, Marquette, Cameron and Haley -- lost 10 or more positions. Three of those (Dodge, Lewis and Marquette) are run by the non-profit Academy of Urban School Leadership.</p><p>Although many schools suffered steep cuts, the overall &nbsp;budget for next year rings up at $5.7 billion, which is up $500 million from last year. The increase comes even as CPS is projecting a loss of about 100 students.</p><p>CPS officials released the proposed budget on Wednesday, just a day from the start of a holiday weekend. Officials gave reporters just four minutes to look over a Power Point presentation before holding a conference call to take questions. The complete budget was not posted until 8 p.m.</p><p>It remains unclear when and where the district will hold public hearings on the proposed budget.</p><p>In the conference call, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the overall increase is largely driven by ballooning pension payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The Fund&rsquo;s interim director, Jay Rehak, told WBEZ earlier in the week that CPS recently made its first full payment since 2010. In previous years, CPS paid smaller installments because of a three-year pension holiday granted by the state of Illinois.</p><p>Despite having to pay more into the pension fund after years of not doing so, Byrd-Bennett touted the district&rsquo;s ability to keep cuts away from classrooms this year.</p><p>Roughly $3.8 billion will go directly to schools, according to <a href="http://www.cps.edu/fy15budget/">budget documents</a>, an increase from last year&rsquo;s total of about $3.6 billion. Schools will receive an additional $250 per student this year, but much of that only covers staff salary increases.</p><p>Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, will see an overall increase of $41 million, or about 10 percent. According to budget documents, the increase is not just from enrollment growth, but also an increase in the amount of money given to charters for every student they enroll.</p><p>A majority of the schools getting increases of $1 million or more are new and expanding charter schools, including six Noble Street high schools, two UNO schools, two Concept Schools, one LEARN school, &nbsp;Catalyst-Maria, Chicago International Charter School-Quest Campus.</p><p>CPS Budget Chief Ginger Ostro said the district faced a more than $800 million deficit in this year&rsquo;s budget. In order to close that deficit, officials are using an accounting trick that shifts when it counts the revenue coming in from property taxes. &nbsp;</p><p>Sarah Wetmore, vice president and research director with the Civic Federation, called the proposal &ldquo;not sustainable&rdquo; and said CPS must work with state lawmakers in Springfield to get pension reform in order to fix the structural problems.</p><p>It is also now the fifth year that CPS has relied on a one-time windfall of cash to balance its budget.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><strong>Schools with the biggest cuts ($1 million or more)</strong><br />1. Juarez HS<br />2. Hyde Park HS<br />3. Julian HS<br />4. Clemente<br />5. Richards<br />6. Hancock<br />7. Lakeview<br />8. Wells<br />9. Crane<br />10. Kelvyn Park<br />11. North Lawndale Charter<br />12. Harlan<br />13. Tilden<br />14. Amundsen<br />15. Farragut<br />16. Sullivan<br />17. Robeson<br />18. Kelly<br />19. Lincoln Park<br />20. Henry Ford Powerhouse<br />21. De Diego<br />22. Hirsch<br />23. Orr<br />24. Disney Magnet<br />25. Aspira &ndash; Ramirez<br />26. Fenger</p><p><strong>Schools that lost more than 10 positions</strong><br />1. Bogan<br />2. Hyde Park<br />3. Farragut<br />4. Amundsen<br />5. Hirsch<br />6. Crane<br />7. Harlan<br />8. Lincoln Park<br />9. Eberhart Elementary<br />10. Juarez<br />11. Orr<br />12. Clemente<br />13. Harper<br />14. Robeson<br />15. Julian<br />16. Dodge Elementary<br />17. Manley<br />18. Sullivan<br />19. Lewis Elementary<br />20. Marshall<br />21. Lindblom<br />22. Marquette Elementary<br />23. Carver<br />24. Cameron Elementary<br />25. Haley Elementary</p><p><em>*A previous version of this article stated that Jay Rehak was the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund&#39;s director. He is the interim executive director and president of CTPF&rsquo;s board of trustees. Kevin Huber is the executive director of the Fund and currently out on medical leave.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 08:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444 More than a thousand teachers and other staff laid off in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/more-thousand-teachers-and-other-staff-laid-chicago-110423 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools officials told 550 teachers and 600 more school staff Thursday that they&rsquo;re out of a job.</p><p dir="ltr">The number of dreaded phone calls being made by principals is based on how many kids CPS officials project will show up on the first day next fall.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The staffing changes are driven most directly by declining student enrollment,&rdquo; CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters.</p><p dir="ltr">The number is significantly smaller than last year&rsquo;s nearly 3,000 layoffs, which were due mostly to the Board of Education&rsquo;s decision to close 50 schools.</p><p dir="ltr">More than <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-issues-pink-slips-over-800-employees-107713">800 teachers were laid off last June</a>, another <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109">2,100 were let go in July</a> and nearly 100 were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/cps-issues-nearly-100-pink-slips-109078">released after the 20th day of school enrollment count</a> was taken in the fall.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS&rsquo;s Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winckler said, typically, about 60 percent of the staff let go over the summer find new jobs at other schools in the system.</p><p dir="ltr">Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, said it&rsquo;s still too many layoffs in a system already starved for resources.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It sort of like, hey, we cut the most we&rsquo;ve ever cut in the last two years and we cut a little less than that this year, so therefore, it&rsquo;s not so bad, doesn&rsquo;t seem reasonable, or accurate, or considerate to the families that are going to suffer a further reduction of the essentials that their children need and deserve,&rdquo; Potter said.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS officials say they have made adjustments at schools where enrollment dropped and core programs are in jeopardy.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve made every single effort, whereever there was a decline, to make sure that the core academic program, as well as the enrichment programs could continue for next year,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;But it is difficult for schools that have sustained substantial enrollment decreases to avoid staff impact. I mean, you can&rsquo;t get around that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, schools that lost enrollment were held harmless--meaning they could keep money budgeted to them even if the number of students who enrolled came in under what was projected. That will not continue this year.</p><p dir="ltr">District officials have said the complete fiscal year 2015 budget is set to be released in early July.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-thousand-teachers-and-other-staff-laid-chicago-110423 CPS softens strict discipline policies http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-softens-strict-discipline-policies-110396 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/voyce-signs.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools is <a href="http://www.cpsboe.org/content/documents/june_25_2014_public_agenda_to_print.pdf">officially changing its Student Code of Conduct</a> so fewer kids get suspended and expelled.</p><p>The move comes after national data showed <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/education/black-students-face-more-harsh-discipline-data-shows.html">African American and Latino students being suspended at disproportionate rates</a>. Chicago was one of the worst offenders.</p><p>It&rsquo;s something CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she noticed when she first started working in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the strictest zero-tolerance policy that I&rsquo;ve ever seen in the country,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters on Monday. &ldquo;We have a broad range of suspendable offenses. For example, we&rsquo;re the only major school district that allow(s) for out-of-school suspensions for cell phone use.&rdquo;</p><p>The new code of conduct eases up on allowable cell phone punishments, but a school may still suspend a student for using a cell phone in school if it &ldquo;seriously disrupts&rdquo; the environment.</p><p>Others changes include: eliminating suspensions in preschool through 2nd grade, requiring that a note goes home when a suspension is given out, and eliminating vague categories like &ldquo;persistent defiance&rdquo;. School officials said internal data showed the largest racial disparities for African Americans in the &ldquo;persistent defiance&rdquo; category. Officials did not make that data immediately available.</p><p>A student activist group that has worked for several years to eliminate zero-tolerance discipline called the move a step in the right direction, but argued more work needed to be done to reduce police presence in schools.</p><p>Shawn Brown, an organizer with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, or VOYCE, said there is still a lack of resources at the school level to properly implement restorative discipline. He said &nbsp;the district&rsquo;s plan to train principals during a one-day workshop this summer is unrealistic.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not anyway to teach anyone about restorative justice,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something you can do in one day.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS officials said there is no additional money in the budget for extra staff to focus on reducing suspensions and expulsions through restorative justice.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union also issued a statement calling for more support staff in schools, saying &ldquo;each school needs fully trained personnel to address any issues that students may have.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;These personnel should not be part of a third party vendor program or grant&mdash;they should be part of the permanent school staff,&rdquo; the statement read.</p><p>A WBEZ investigation in May <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/student-suspensions-numbers-110172">found more than 50,000 students</a> in CPS had gotten at least one out-of-school suspension. A dozen schools suspended more than half of their student body and nearly all are majority African American schools, serving 90 percent or more black students.</p><p>The investigation also found wide variation in how discipline plays out from school to school. Charter schools tended to suspend more students in elementary grades than district-run schools and schools run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership suspended large portions of their student bodies.</p><p>Charter schools authorized by CPS do not have to follow the district&rsquo;s Code of Conduct and many are known for having stricter environments. AUSL does have to follow the district&rsquo;s discipline policies, but Byrd-Bennett said there is no formal process when a school is out of compliance.</p><p>The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed changes during Wednesday&rsquo;s monthly meeting.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 07:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-softens-strict-discipline-policies-110396