WBEZ | Chicago Board of Education http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-board-education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Board of Education approves 'stop-gap' budget for 2015 http://www.wbez.org/news/board-education-approves-stop-gap-budget-2015-110551 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed VOYCE july 15.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Last-minute pleas by parents, teachers, and budget watchdog groups didn&rsquo;t sway the Chicago Board of Education from unanimously approving its $6.8 billion spending plan for next school year.</p><p>The budget <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547">cuts 59 full-time librarian positions</a>, eliminates the district&rsquo;s last electricity vocational program, adds more funding for privately run charter schools and expands safe passage.</p><p>Like in previous years, pretty much everyone who spoke at the monthly board meeting yesterday did not like the spending priorities in the budget. Even board members could see that the budget didn&rsquo;t address the long-term structural deficit facing Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact is we&rsquo;re spending more money than we&rsquo;re really getting in the door,&rdquo; said board member Andrea Zopp.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to vote for this budget, but it is a budget that is balanced by this one-time use of funds,&rdquo; said board member Henry Bienen. &ldquo;I would call it a stop-gap budget.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS budget director Ginger Ostro took aim at Springfield in her presentation to the board at the start of the meeting. She said in order for the district to be financially viable in the future, state officials need to increase the amount of money they give districts per student.</p><p>Ostro said CPS also needs pension reform, but she didn&rsquo;t give any specifics on what that might look like. The district is required to pay an additional $70 million into the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund next year. The fund is severely underfunded after almost a decade of no contributions from the district combined with lower than expected returns.</p><p>It remains unclear what effect the recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling in <a href="http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf">Kanerva vs. Weems</a> could mean for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. That ruling found the pension reform for suburban and downstate teachers is unconstitutional.</p><p>About an hour into the meeting Wednesday, a physical altercation broke out when a person in the audience, parent activist Rousemary Vega, began booing Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz, who had gotten up out of his seat. Vega and her husband were carried out of the board chamber by almost a dozen security guards.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160095320&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Last vocational electricity program cut</strong></p><p>With Wednesday&rsquo;s board vote, the city lost its last electrical shop program, currently housed at Simeon Career Academy, in the 21st Ward.</p><p>Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) pleaded with board members to keep the program going.</p><p>&ldquo;Electricity is not a whip and buggy,&rdquo; Brookins said. &ldquo;Those jobs are going to be around for at least the immediate, foreseeable future. And so to eliminate this program seems to be misplaced.&rdquo;</p><p>Brookins says he wants all students to go to college, but for those who don&rsquo;t, he wants training that will help them get a good job that pays a living wage. At the very least, Brookins asked CPS to let currently enrolled students complete their degrees.</p><p>CPS officials said the principal at Simeon ended the Electricity program because only 18 incoming freshman selected it as their top choice major in the school&rsquo;s vocational program. However, Brookins said there were more than 50 upperclassmen enrolled.</p><p><strong>No money for new Code of Conduct</strong></p><p>Last month, the board approved a new Student Code of Conduct that focuses more on restorative discipline and less on suspensions and expulsions.</p><p>Before the meeting started this month, a group of students involved with the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education held a press conference pushing CPS to &ldquo;put their money where their mouth is&rdquo; when it comes to having more restorative discipline in schools.</p><p>&ldquo;In my school, there seems to be a new security guard every week, but we don&rsquo;t have music class, no library, no college and career center and only one counselor for the whole school,&rdquo; said Devonte Boston, a senior at Gage Park High School.</p><p>The students successfully helped CPS revise the Code of Conduct, but they say money is needed to properly implement it. So does Michael Brunson, the recording secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll mention restorative justice around members and their eyes will start rolling and then I know I have to stop and say, &lsquo;OK, this is what its supposed to be. Now, what you have experienced is just words with no substance,&rsquo;&rdquo; Brunson said. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re going to do it, you&rsquo;re going to have to have the personnel, the space and all the resources that you need to really roll out a program.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Pleas to halt expansion of Concept Schools</strong></p><p>A number of speakers Wednesday said the board should halt the opening of two new schools run by Concept Schools.</p><p>Concept is currently <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/search-warrants-reveal-details-fbi-raid-concept-schools/mon-07212014-622pm">under FBI investigation</a> in several states. The leaders have close ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.</p><p>CPS spokesman Joel Hood sent a statement to reporters after the meeting saying Concept continues to move forward with its plan to open this fall. It will open in a former Evangelical Christian building at 9130 South Vincennes Ave, he said.</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> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/board-education-approves-stop-gap-budget-2015-110551 Losing school librarians in Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/school_library.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Having a school library with a full-time librarian is becoming something of a luxury in Chicago&rsquo;s 600-plus public schools.<br /><br />Two years ago, Chicago Public School budgeted for 454 librarians.<br />Last year: 313 librarians.<br />This year? 254.<br /><br />Those are the numbers Megan Cusick, a librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School, laid out at a recent meeting held by the parent group Raise Your Hand.<br /><br />&ldquo;As many of you recall, around the time we went on strike, we talked about how we had 160 schools that did not have school libraries,&rdquo; Cusick said. &ldquo;This shows what came after.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick and her colleagues have started speaking out about the dwindling number of librarians in CPS. They showed up at last month&rsquo;s Board of Education meeting and many spoke at last week&rsquo;s budget hearings.<br /><br />CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says the librarian shortage is because there aren&rsquo;t enough librarians in the hiring pool.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that we don&rsquo;t want to have librarians in libraries,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said at last month&rsquo;s board meeting. &ldquo;Nobody can argue that point, but the pool is diminished.&rdquo;<br /><br />So where have all the librarians gone?<br /><br />Cusick said there&rsquo;s not a shortage, like Byrd-Bennett stated, and it&rsquo;s not that librarians are being laid off. It&rsquo;s that they&rsquo;re being re-assigned to classrooms..<br /><br />&ldquo;There are a number of certified librarians who are in classrooms,&rdquo; Cusick explained. &ldquo;English classrooms, world languages, in elementary schools, teaching a particular grade level. The people are there, they&rsquo;re just not staffing the library, they&rsquo;re staffing another classroom.&rdquo;<br /><br />Some of the city&rsquo;s best-performing schools have eliminated full-time librarians.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s what happened at Nettelhorst Elementary in East Lakeview last school year. Scott Walter is a parent representative on the local school council at Nettelhorst and a librarian at DePaul University.</p><p>&ldquo;We got down to the point of saying, well, we have a classroom and it doesn&rsquo;t have a teacher,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />In the state of Illinois, all librarians must also have teaching certifications, and most also have endorsements to teach specific grades and subjects.<br /><br />When the district stopped funding positions and let principals and school councils decide how to spend their money, many had a hard time making the numbers add up.</p><p>For Nettelhorst, it was &ldquo;here&rsquo;s the position and she can be in a library or we can have a teacher in front of 30 kids,&rdquo; Walter said. &ldquo;And no matter how much you love libraries and as much as I do, you can&rsquo;t have a classroom without a teacher in front of it.&rdquo;<br /><br />Walter says even though the librarian is now teaching 4th grade, the students can still use the library, because the clerk and parent volunteers help staff it.<br /><br />Still, he says, it&rsquo;s a lose-lose.<br /><br />&ldquo;As a parent, it feels that CPS has set us up into a situation where we have to decided which finger we don&rsquo;t want,&rdquo; Walter said.<br /><br />There&rsquo;s no required amount of minutes for library instruction in the state of Illinois.<br /><br />In a fact sheet to WBEZ, CPS officials touted the expanded virtual libraries available to all students. And at the very top of the page in bold letters and underlined, a spokesperson wrote &ldquo;we will not be satisfied until we have central and/OR classroom-based libraries in every school.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick said librarians do so much more than just check out books. They teach kids how to do research, how to find and evaluate information, a skill that&rsquo;s becoming even more important in the digital age.<br /><br />&ldquo;Kids don&rsquo;t just know how to do that,&rdquo; Cusick notes. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a skill that they develop just because they have an iPhone or because they have a computer at home, which many of our students don&rsquo;t have.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick and her colleagues don&rsquo;t want to see librarians added at the expense of other positions, like art teachers and physical education teachers. But they also don&rsquo;t want to see school libraries just become places where meetings and press conferences are held.</p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547 Parent group wants more eyes on CPS budget http://www.wbez.org/news/parent-group-wants-more-eyes-cps-budget-110517 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wendy katten budget training.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A city-wide parent group wants more eyeballs on Chicago Public Schools spending before the Board of Education votes on its <a href="http://www.cps.edu/FY15Budget/Pages/FY15Budget.aspx">budget proposal</a> for next year.</p><p dir="ltr">On Monday night, leaders of the group Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education transformed a meeting room inside the Eckhart Park field house into a training center.</p><p dir="ltr">The group&rsquo;s executive director Wendy Katten and board member Dwayne Truss gave a crash course on the budget proposal that CPS officials <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444">released late in the evening on July 2nd</a>. Three simultaneous public hearings were held last night.</p><p dir="ltr">But Katten said even people closely connected to the public schools tend to have a hard time figuring out where CPS is spending taxpayer money. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is public money and we want to give people access just to the information,&rdquo; Katten said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s available. It&rsquo;s public information. It can be intimidating and hard to find and read. So we want to get people involved and feeling comfortable.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">There have been major shifts in the last few budget cycles, the biggest being a change in how schools are funded. Each school now gets a dollar amount &ldquo;attached to each child&rsquo;s head,&rdquo; Truss explained to the audience. The per pupil amount this year is up from last year and ranges from $4,400 to $5,400, depending on the grade. &nbsp;Most of the increase just covers the cost of inflation and teacher raises.</p><p dir="ltr">The training was not unbiased. Katten, Truss and other Raise Your Hand members encouraged people to ask specific questions at tonight&rsquo;s hearings, like why the district is cutting librarians and increasing spending on standardized tests. Raise Your Hand mostly advocates for neighborhood schools, which continue to face steep cuts as Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes for more charter and magnet schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Katten said the group is still frustrated by the closure of 50 neighborhood schools last year, a decision that&rsquo;s even harder to swallow given that CPS keeps opening new schools.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Since the fall of 2012, which was when CPS announced there was a massive underutilization crisis, we found that they have opened 21,481 new seats of all kinds,&rdquo; Katten said. &ldquo;We were told that winter, that fall, that the district would be taking resources and investing them more wisely in existing schools, which would make sense. But we see that they continue to just be spread thin.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">CPS spokesman Joel Hood said this year the number of new seats at charter schools is roughly the same as the enrollment declines in existing district-run schools. Hood also said it&rsquo;s unfair to say the district did not invest in the schools that took in students from closed schools.</p><p dir="ltr">However, most of those so-called welcoming schools are seeing cuts this year.</p><p dir="ltr">The three public meetings were held at the following locations:</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Wilbur Wright College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Events Building Theater</p><p dir="ltr">4300 N. Narragansett</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Kennedy King College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Theater</p><p dir="ltr">740 West 63rd Street</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Malcolm X College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Theater</p><p dir="ltr">1900 West Van Buren</p><p><br /><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/parent-group-wants-more-eyes-cps-budget-110517 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 New alternative schools, some run by for-profit companies, come with hefty price tag http://www.wbez.org/news/new-alternative-schools-some-run-profit-companies-come-hefty-price-tag-110239 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated May 29, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.</em></p><p>The Chicago Board of Education is <a href="http://www.cpsboe.org/content/documents/may_28_2014_agenda_to_print.pdf">being asked to approve</a> $6 million in startup funds for alternative school programs today.<br /><br />The bulk of the money, about $4 million, will go to for-profit companies that just began working in the district last year.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is recommending seven new schools and four expansions. If approved, <a href="http://www.cameloteducation.org/">Camelot SAFE Schools</a> will open another school; <a href="http://www.ombudsman.com/">Ombudsman </a>will open a fourth school on the North Side; <a href="http://magicjohnsonbridgescape.com/">Magic Johnson Bridgescape</a>, run by Edison Learning, will get three new campuses; and Pathways in Education Illinois will add two more schools. The two existing Magic Johnson schools in North Lawndale and Roseland will expand, as will Banner West Academy and one of the existing Ombudsman campuses.</p><p>The seven new schools come with a collective $6,043,311 price tag.</p><ul><li>Camelot Schools = $2,014,437</li><li>Edison Learning (Magic Johnson Bridgescape)&nbsp; =&nbsp; $1,827,537</li><li>Pathways in Education = $1,431,958</li><li>Ombudsman = $769,379</li></ul><p>Those costs are entirely separate from the money all schools get for each student they enroll. When students begin enrolling, the new alternative programs will get the same amount of per student funding as other schools, plus about $1,000 per child in the first year.</p><p>The extra money appears to be a departure from past practice. In previous <a href="http://www.cpsboe.org/content/actions/2012_08/12-0822-EX4.pdf">board</a> <a href="http://www.cpsboe.org/content/actions/2012_08/12-0822-EX4.pdf">reports</a> approving alternative school programs there was no language regarding extra incubation and start-up funding.<br /><br />CPS Chief of Innovation and Incubation Jack Elsey said the &ldquo;incubation&rdquo; money pays the salary of a staff person or two involved in the planning process for a new school, usually a principal and lead teacher or assistant principal. The &ldquo;start-up funding&rdquo; covers things like furniture, computers and textbooks.</p><p>&ldquo;New schools need this additional funding in order to be successful,&rdquo; Elsey said.</p><p>That may not sit well with district schools facing yet <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140430/lincoln-square/amundsens-budget-down-1-million-as-enrollment-strategically-dips">another</a> <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140516/uptown/courtenay-school-council-votes-yes-on-budget-at-contentious-meeting">round</a> of <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140522/bucktown/drummond-montessori-refuses-pass-cps-budget">budget</a> <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140508/rogers-park/gale-academy-facing-310k-budget-cut-raising-money-for-classroom-books">cuts</a>.</p><p>School officials say there are more than 55,000 dropouts under 21 in the city.</p><p>&ldquo;I believe it&rsquo;s our collective responsibility as a district to find them and re-engage them and get them back into school,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters Friday. &ldquo;The alternative is &hellip; these are the kids that will be on the street.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS data show more than 12,000 students enrolled in alternative schools last year. The overall capacity of alternative programs last year was 8,900, but since many students are not enrolled for a full year, the schools served more students than they had open spots. Next year, the number of open seats will be 11,400.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett plans to continue funding Student Outreach and Re-Engagement Centers in Garfield Park, Roseland and Little Village. Each of those centers has a $2.5 million budget and six people on staff, according to district spokesman Joel Hood.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to actively hit the pavement to find those kids and very often, they&rsquo;re no longer living where our records indicate,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said of re-enrolling dropouts.&nbsp;</p><p>The school operators being expanded this fall appeared to have struggled enrolling students early on last year. The two Camelot SAFE Schools had 37 students on the 20th day of school. CPS officials said that&rsquo;s because those two schools primarily enroll students with severe behavior problems who have been referred from traditional schools. Those referrals don&rsquo;t typically happen until later in the year.</p><p>Sue Fila, with Ombudsman Educational Services, said they had issues finding facilities and didn&rsquo;t open their second and third locations until October. Over the course of the year, they enrolled about half the number of kids their contract allowed.</p><p><em>Updated May 29, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. for clarification. A previous version of this article stated that alternative programs get about $1000 per student they enroll. They get the same amount that other schools in CPS get, which was between $4000 and $5000 per student last year, depending on the grade. Anytime a new school opens, CPS gives the school an addition amount, roughly $1000, for the first year.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 28 May 2014 09:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-alternative-schools-some-run-profit-companies-come-hefty-price-tag-110239 Protests planned as Chicago's school board considers adding more charter schools http://www.wbez.org/news/protests-planned-chicagos-school-board-considers-adding-more-charter-schools-109552 <p><p>Charter school opponents are gearing up for multiple protests&mdash;including an overnight vigil Tuesday sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union&mdash;as Chicago&rsquo;s school board considers adding more charter schools to its portfolio.</p><p>The board&rsquo;s scheduled vote Wednesday on whether to add up to 17 more schools to the system comes just eight months after Chicago closed a historic 50 schools. Another 10 charter campuses already have permission to open in fall of 2014.</p><p>Charter protesters cite varying reasons for their opposition: some are union supporters, and most charters aren&rsquo;t union.</p><p>Others, like Prosser Career Academy ninth-grader Lizette Lopez, think money and improvement efforts should be put into existing schools. &nbsp;She spoke Monday from the site of one of the proposed charters, which is directly across the street from her high school.</p><p>&ldquo;My school is a great school, and it would be even better if they actually started investing in it, instead of spending &hellip;on unnecessary schools in my community. &nbsp;How does even making a new school even make sense?&rdquo; she asked Monday afternoon at a protest organized by students and community groups, among them Citizens United for Quality Education.</p><p>Zerlina Smith is mad her tax dollars could go to politically connected landlords, who plan to rent space to charters.</p><p>&ldquo;You raised my tax dollars&mdash;that&rsquo;s what my property taxes are for, my neighborhood schools. Evidently they&rsquo;re not going to OUR children&rsquo;s neighborhood schools. They are going to Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s friends,&rdquo; Smith said at the protest, which featured a few dozen youth, parents and members of Action Now.</p><p>And Darryl Truss of the group Raise Your Hand questioned why a church group with no experience running a school would be tapped to open a charter in Austin, where four schools were closed in Chicago&rsquo;s massive school closure.</p><p>Behind the protesters, bulldozers rumbled through the Rubenstein Lumber site where Noble Street Charter Network is proposing to locate its 15th campus. (The board will consider a 16th Noble Street campus to be located temporarily in the Loop.) Protesters blasted the charter school network and CPS for moving ahead with demolition at the site even before the school board votes.</p><p><strong>Dispute over &ldquo;priority areas&rdquo;</strong></p><p>In May, CPS closed 50 schools on grounds of declining enrollment. But in a Request for Proposals issued in August, officials invited charter schools to submit proposals for new schools to help relieve longtime school overcrowding on the Northwest and Southwest sides. In the past, the district had prioritized charter schools locating in areas that lacked &ldquo;quality&rdquo; school options. Those were often areas where enrollment was declining as well.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/charter%20schools%20lutton%20photo%202.jpg" style="width: 620px;" title="A bulldozer works to demolish the Rubenstein Lumber Yard at 5321 W. Grand, where Noble Street Charter Network is proposing to build a school. Protesters complained Monday that the demolition was taking place even before the school board vote. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></p><p>The activists protesting Monday said based on the school board agenda and the charter schools&rsquo; proposals, they could find only two schools that fell within the wide swaths the district identified as priority areas.</p><p>The Noble Street campus to be located at 5321 W. Grand Ave., for instance, is technically about a half mile outside the priority-area boundaries identified on a map in the RFP.</p><p>But Noble Street spokeswoman Angela Montagna says her organization has always considered that site part of the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, identified as overcrowded. Montagna said about 400 students from the neighborhood are enrolled at other Noble Street schools, showing &ldquo;there&rsquo;s demand there for a Noble education,&rdquo; she said. Montagna also said construction on the site would stop if the board votes down the Noble campus, but she said in order to get a school up and running by the fall, demolition needed to begin. The school&rsquo;s construction will be privately funded.</p><p>Noble Street high schools&mdash;where students apply and are selected by lottery&mdash;post strong ACT scores in the city, though officials admit about 35 percent of Noble students don&rsquo;t make it to senior year. They transfer to other high schools or drop out before then.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools has been unclear about the actual number of charter schools the school board will consider Monday&mdash;saying as recently as last week the board would vote on 21 proposed schools. CPS spokesman Joel Hood now says the district received proposals from nine organizations hoping to open 22 campuses. He says four of the proposals were withdrawn by the operators. The district now counts 17 schools up for Wednesday&rsquo;s vote, but five of them would service dropouts, a separate type of charter school.</p><p>Hood says by CPS&rsquo;s count, five proposed campuses serve the prioritized Northwest and Southwest sides, including the Noble campus. He says ultimately it comes down to this: Who would argue with having another really high performing school in the neighborhood?</p><p>&ldquo;This was never intended to solely be about priority areas,&rdquo; says Hood. &ldquo;If a really great school comes in and wants to locate in an area we don&rsquo;t necessarily consider a priority, if it&rsquo;s a really great school, we&rsquo;re going to consider it.&rdquo;</p><p>Normally by this time, district administrators would have made public which charter schools they think should be approved by the school board. But this year, for reasons it has not explained, the district is not making public its recommendations until the morning of the vote.</p><p>School districts in Illinois are required to consider charter proposals annually. Any denied charter can appeal to a state charter commission, which can overrule the district and order the school be opened.</p><p><strong>Charter campuses to be considered by the school board Wednesday:</strong></p><ul><li><p><strong>Be the Change Charter School </strong>(Location TBD in McKinley Park, serving grades K-2 in 2014, eventually serving 475 students grades K-8)</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Chicago Education Partnership</strong> (&ldquo;By the Hand&rdquo;) (K-6 campus to be located at 400 N. Leamington in Austin, grades 7-8 to be located at 415 N. Laramie in Austin. Opening in 2015, serving grades K-1. Eventually serving 810 students in grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Concept Schools--Horizon Science Academy- Chatham Charter School</strong> (8522 S. Lafayette in Chatham, serving grades K-8 in 2014, eventually serving 725 students K-12. This would be Concept Schools&rsquo; third campus in Chicago).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Concept Schools--Horizon Science Academy- Chicago Lawn Charter School</strong> (5401 S. Western in Gage Park, serving grades K-8 in 2014, eventually serving 725 students K-12. This would be Concept Schools&rsquo; fourth campus in Chicago).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Connected Futures Academies Options Charter Schools </strong>(five campuses, all TBD, each serving 165 re-enrolled drop-outs ages 15-21 in 2014).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 1</strong> (location TBD but according to founder tentatively at 7939 S. Western in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood), serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 2</strong> (location TBD but according to founder, tentatively at 87th and Kedzie in the Ashburn neighborhood), serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 3</strong> (location TBD, serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 4</strong> (location TBD, serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Great Lakes Academy Charter School</strong> (location TBD in South Shore (per hearings and proposal), serving grades 1-2 in 2014, eventually serving 576 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Intrinsic Charter School 2</strong> (temporarily located at 4540 W. Belmont in the Kilbourn Park neighborhood), eventually moving to a location TBD on the Northwest Side, opening fall 2015 with grade 9, eventually serving 959 students grades 7-12. This would be Intrinsic&rsquo;s second charter school in Chicago).(Intrinsic initially proposed opening four campuses under this RFP; a spokesman for CPS says the group withdrew three of those applications).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Noble Street Charter School- ITW David Speer Campus</strong> (To be permanently located at 5321 W. Grand Ave. in Belmont-Cragin, serving grade 9 in 2014 and eventually serving 900 students in grades 9-12. This would be the 15th Noble Street campus in Chicago).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Noble Street Charter School- Noble Harkness Academy Campus</strong> (To be temporarily located at 17 N. State St. in the Loop, serving grade 9 in 2014 and eventually serving 900 students in grades 9-12. This would be the 16th Noble Street campus in Chicago. The network would be authorized to educate 13,875 students).</p></li></ul><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 21 Jan 2014 12:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/protests-planned-chicagos-school-board-considers-adding-more-charter-schools-109552 Chicago Board of Ed: Downsized headquarters, supersized contract, and military school http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-ed-downsized-headquarters-supersized-contract-and-military-school-109410 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed (2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Chicago&rsquo;s school board approved a number of measures at the monthly board meeting Wednesday:</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>New district headquarters</strong></p><p dir="ltr">District CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told board members that five years of cutbacks have shrunk the district&rsquo;s central office staff by 34 percent, and CPS is operating in more space than it needs.</p><p dir="ltr">Byrd-Bennett compared the need to downsize to the closing of 50 schools. &ldquo;Both the underutilization of schools and the underutilization of central office have stretched our limited resources. We could not continue to throw money after half-empty schools,&rdquo; she told board members. &ldquo;And likewise, we can no longer afford to support a half empty building here at 125 S. Clark.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Byrd Bennett said the district looked at 86 options and determined that moving around the corner to three floors on 1 N. Dearborn was the best one. A district press release says CPS will save $60 million over 15 years by moving.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Logistics contract triples</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The board also approved a significant increase in the amount it is paying to empty out Chicago&rsquo;s closed schools.</p><p dir="ltr">The original moving &nbsp;and logistics contract with Global Workplace Solutions, inked in April, was for $8.9 million. But <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cost-empty-out-closed-schools-doubles-109364">as WBEZ first reported</a>, the contract was quietly amended in September and increased to $18.9 million. The new contract could be for up to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/more-overruns-cost-empty-out-closed-chicago-schools-now-set-triple-109387">three times the original amount</a>&mdash;$30.9 million.</p><p dir="ltr">District officials say that despite the overruns on the logistics contract, the overall cost of closing a historic number of schools will remain within budget&mdash;$78 million this year, not including capital costs. (In addition to the logistics contract, the $78 million includes things like &ldquo;principal transition coordinators&rdquo; who were assigned to help ease the transition between closing and receiving schools and &ldquo;integration&rdquo; events for the consolidating schools.)</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been able to move things around&mdash;as we discovered&mdash;a little bit more here, &nbsp;a little bit less there, so it&rsquo;s gonna end up in balance,&rdquo; CPS school closings czar Tom Tyrrell explained to board members.</p><p dir="ltr">Tyrrell said there&rsquo;s an &ldquo;emerging requirement that is time sensitive&rdquo; to board up and secure more schools than the district initially thought would be necessary. He says the district is avoiding costs for new books and furniture by <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happened-all-stuff-chicagos-closed-schools-109360">repurposing items from closed schools</a>, but that takes investment to inventory and sort items on the front end.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Ames Middle School&rsquo;s conversion to a military academy high school is approved</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In an unusual divided vote, the school board voted 5-2 to approve a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/parents-lose-fight-keep-military-school-out-109044">controversial plan to change Ames middle school to a military academy</a> affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps.</p><p dir="ltr">Alderman Roberto Maldonado was the plan&rsquo;s key backer, and he made his final case before board members at the meeting, saying he had worked to &ldquo;scientifically verify&rdquo;&mdash;with a telephone poll of 300 residents&mdash;that there was overwhelming support for his plan.</p><p dir="ltr">Ames Middle School is currently unpopular, he said, with just half of nearby kids electing to go there.</p><p dir="ltr">Maldonado presented himself as both a peace activist and a supporter of the military and military schools. He said he had protested the Viequez military base in Puerto Rico, and he promised that the new school would &ldquo;not be a training ground for sending our children to enlist in the military when they graduate.&rdquo; But he also brought fellow Alderman James Balcer&mdash;a Marine Corps vet&mdash;to speak in favor of the school. &ldquo;Sempre fidelis,&rdquo; Balcer said at the end of his statement.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Ames is a beautiful campus and it&rsquo;s perfect expanded into a high school for the kids of that community so that they will have an opportunity to go to college,&rdquo; said Maldonado. &ldquo;I want my kids&mdash;the children from my community that look like me, brown faces that look like me&mdash;to have an opportunity to go to college.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Ames parents begged the school board to listen to parents, not politicians. They said the alderman has disparaged Ames. One mother, Emma Segura, held a tape recorder up to the microphone and played a voicemail message:</p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1387483231-0" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Click to listen to the voicemail.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>&quot;Hello, the Chicago Public Schools recently sent a letter about moving your child to Ames Middle School, a gang infested school at Armitage and Hamlin, up to two miles away.</em></p></blockquote><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><em>They say your school is too crowded, so the only choice is to move your child to Ames, a gang-infested school where all students must go through a metal detector every morning. There&rsquo;s a public hearing Monday, April 15, at Schurz High School, at 5pm.</em></p></blockquote><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><em>This is the only chance to voice opposition to moving your child to gang-infested Ames Middle School, at Armitage and Hamlin, where all students must go through a metal detector every single morning. If you can attend this hearing, please press 7.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>If you&rsquo;d like someone to follow up with a phone call to give you more information, please press 8. Thank you.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Maldonado&rsquo;s office denies any connection to that call.</p><p dir="ltr">The conversion of Ames will push some middle school kids to Kelvyn Park High School. Ames parents said that&rsquo;s no place for younger kids.</p><p dir="ltr">Board members Carlos Azcoitia and Mahalia Hines opposed Ames&rsquo; conversion to a military school.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Lincoln Elementary annex moves forward</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The board also approved an $18 million annex to Lincoln Elementary in Lincoln Park. The annex is controversial because it puts Lincoln, with well-heeled and politically connected parents, ahead of dozens of other schools that <a href="http://www.cps.edu/qualityschools/pages/data.aspx">by CPS&rsquo; own standards</a> are more overcrowded. Parents and community members who oppose the annex&mdash;because it snatches up part of the playground and calls for a much larger school, or because they believe other schools are needier &mdash;have argued the district could solve the overcrowding problem at Lincoln by adjusting the attendance boundaries of nearby schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Alderman Michele Smith told board members the need for the annex was &ldquo;indisputable,&rdquo; and that she was &ldquo;embarrassed and astounded&rdquo; by those who opposed it. &nbsp;Smith said redrawing boundaries would &ldquo;force students out of this outstanding school.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Board members regularly hear <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-11-21/news/ct-school-board-meets-met-1121-20131121_1_edwards-elementary-schools-ceo-barbara-byrd-bennett-lincoln-elementary">testimony from overcrowded schools</a> on the northwest and southwest sides, many surrounded by other schools in the same situation. Parents from those schools have argued that their children deserve an addition as much as kids from Lincoln Park.</p><p dir="ltr">Board president David Vitale said overcrowding was &ldquo;an issue that will continue to plague us.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The resources are in fact limited; the complexity of prioritizing is difficult,&rdquo; Vitale said in closing the meeting. &ldquo;But I have visited these schools, I visited Canty, I sat in that auditorium while kids ate their lunch. And there&rsquo;s nobody more than me that would like to solve their problem. But we need to go through a proper prioritization process and spend the resources we have in the best way possible.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The district&rsquo;s 10-year Master Facilities Plan, passed in September, was supposed to do that.</p><p dir="ltr">Vitale says he hopes for a clearer prioritization process by the time the district draws up its next capital budget, which will be within the next six months.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 12:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-ed-downsized-headquarters-supersized-contract-and-military-school-109410