WBEZ | Chicago Board of Education http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-board-education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Aramark, CPS change plan to cut school janitors http://www.wbez.org/news/aramark-cps-change-plan-cut-school-janitors-110870 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/2979169728_730927ae16_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today was supposed to be the last day of work for 468 janitors in Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>But Aramark, the private contractor now overseeing the management of custodians in CPS, is changing that plan <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767">after complaints about cleanliness</a> from principals, parents and teachers.</p><p>The union representing privately employed janitors in CPS said 178 janitors will keep their jobs and the remaining 290 will work for another month. Aramark spokesperson Karen Cutler confirmed those numbers and said they are working closely with the union and CPS to make sure schools have &quot;appropriate custodial staffing levels.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;We would prefer to see no layoffs anywhere and see everybody have good paying, full-time jobs,&rdquo; said Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1.&nbsp; &ldquo;But again, we do think with the technology Aramark&rsquo;s brought in and the readjustment on the number of janitors, we think that we will be able to maintain a good level of cleanliness in the schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Balanoff said they are working to find jobs for the 290 janitors being laid off at the end of October.<br /><br />CPS has had privatized cleaning services for more than a decade, but last February, the board <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/chicago-further-privatizes">voted to award two contracts worth a total $340 million</a> to Aramark and SodexoMAGIC. The two companies would manage all 2,500 janitors in the school system, even though the janitors remain employed by subcontractors, like <a href="http://www.wecleaninc.com/">WeClean Inc.</a> and Total Facilities, or by the Board of Education directly.</p><p>Balanoff said the change allows 83 of the longest-serving janitors employed by private subcontractors to keep their jobs. Another 95 will be hired directly as Aramark employees for at least the next 10 months.</p><p>The changes do not impact 825 janitors employed directly by the Board of Education. Those janitors are represented by SEIU Local 73. However, many of those board-funded janitors have been reassigned to other schools in light of the pending layoffs.</p><p>CPS officials did not immediately comment. It is not clear how much the move may cost and who will foot the bill, the district or Aramark.</p><p>At <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-takes-cleanliness-controversy-110851">last week&rsquo;s Board of Education meeting</a>, district Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley said Aramark was &ldquo;flooding the zone&rdquo; to fix any issues related to school cleanliness.</p></p> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/aramark-cps-change-plan-cut-school-janitors-110870 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 Custodial contract causing problems at start of school year http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s one of those jobs that you don&rsquo;t really notice, until it&rsquo;s not done.</p><p>Dave Belanger knows firsthand. He once worked as a part-time, fill-in janitor for extra income early in his teaching career.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve scrubbed toilets and washed bathrooms and cleaned classrooms and I know if you don&rsquo;t keep on top of that every single day, it just quadruples,&quot; Belanger said. &ldquo;A school that could start out clean on Monday by Friday, if things haven&rsquo;t been done, is really almost a pig sty.&rdquo;<br /><br />Dave Belanger is now the principal of Hanson Park Elementary School in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood on the city&rsquo;s Northwest side. He said, this year, the deep clean that usually takes place in schools over the summer was &ldquo;the scariest and least efficient&rdquo; process he has seen over the 14 years he&rsquo;s worked for CPS.<br /><br />&ldquo;Many teachers spent a half a day to a day, last week, before kids came in, scrubbing their classrooms, tops of bookcases, window sills, walls, baseboards, things that would normally be cleaned were not cleaned,&rdquo; Belanger said.<br /><br />Belanger is just one of more than 230 principals recently surveyed by the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education, or AAPPLE, a member-driven arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The results reveal problems across Chicago Public Schools&mdash;dirty classrooms, damaged materials, theft and an overall lack of communication.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Shifting control of custodians</strong></span></p><p>How CPS got to this point is complicated. For years, custodians fell under the oversight of each school&rsquo;s building engineer. That changed a few years ago, when budget officials centralized the building engineers and put custodians under principals. CPS had previously subcontracted with private cleaning services, like We Clean and Total Facilities.<br /><br />Then this past spring, the Chicago Board of Education awarded a $260 million contract to a company called Aramark to oversee nearly all 2,400-plus janitors in the school system. Another private company&mdash;SodexoMAGIC&mdash;was awarded an $80 million contract to oversee 33 schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Under the contract, private custodial manaagers have been assigned to oversee groups of 15 to 20 schools, according to Leslie Norgren, the district&rsquo;s director of asset management.</p><p style="margin-top:0in;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:13.5pt;margin-left: 0in;line-height:16.5pt;vertical-align:baseline">At the board meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley talked up the privatization deal to board members, saying Aramark and SodexoMAGIC would be &ldquo;like Jimmy John&rsquo;s,&rdquo; so when a principal called with a need for say, paper towels, &ldquo;the guy is showing up with more paper towels before the principal hangs up the phone.&rdquo;<span style="font-size:10.5pt; font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;color:red"><o:p></o:p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/137054470&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></span></p><p>The private companies now oversee subcontractors that employ thousands of custodians as well as 825 board-funded custodians that are unionized and covered under a contract negotiated by the Service Employees International Union Local 73. SEIU Local 73 did not respond to requests for comment about how the change to Aramark has affected its members.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Communication problems and more &#39;red tape&#39;</strong></span><br /><br />District officials promised the new contract would not only save money, but would also lead to cleaner schools and give principals more time to focus on teaching and learning.<br /><br />But that hasn&rsquo;t happened. Teresa Chrobak- Prince, principal of Hearst Elementary on the Southwest Side, said because &ldquo;nobody knows who&rsquo;s directing who,&rdquo; the responsibility falls back into the principal&rsquo;s lap.<br /><br />When WBEZ spoke with Chrobak- Prince at the end of the first day of school last week, she still didn&rsquo;t know who her Aramark custodial manager was. She also said the new contract has created more red tape.<br /><br />&ldquo;For something as simple as making sure the air-conditioning is regulated, you have to make ten phone calls and send five emails before anything gets done,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t just simply go to your engineer and say I need this done because then they have this whole new system and they have to put it in the computer and they have to call their FM and they have to get it approved, and then we have to get three quotes.&rdquo;<br /><br />Norgren of CPS said &ldquo;that should not be happening.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;[Principals] should feel very comfortable directing the custodian that that garbage can needs to be dumped,&rdquo; Norgren said. &ldquo;It shouldn&rsquo;t be this process where they&rsquo;re running it up the flagpole.&rdquo;<br /><br />Norgren says Aramark officials will be meeting with individual principals in the coming weeks to address any problems.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Fewer custodians, cleaner schools?</strong></span><br /><br />CPS officials insist overall cleanliness of schools remains the same, despite reports indicating otherwise and an overall reduction in the custodial workforce.&nbsp;<br /><br />Of those who took the principal survey, 87 percent reported at least one janitor being cut. Additionally, WBEZ spoke with more than a dozen people at schools across the city and nearly all say their school has fewer custodians.<br /><br />&ldquo;As of right now, we have six night custodians, when we used to have ten and only two daytime custodians,&rdquo; said Carolyn Brown, a teacher and parent at Kelly High School. She says at least one of the bathrooms in the school is now only being cleaned once a week.&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;My daughter actually goes to school here and it makes me, the parent in me, cringe at the idea of her going into a bathroom that&rsquo;s only cleaned once a week when we have thousands of people come through this building,&rdquo; Brown added.<br /><br />Jonathan Zielinski, a teacher at Drummond Montessori in Bucktown, said the school used to have four custodians, one for each floor of the building. They now have two.<br /><br />One of them has been at Drummond for more than 20 years and is being reassigned to another school, where he&rsquo;ll take the place of three custodians that were cut over the summer.<br /><br />&ldquo;He&rsquo;s not losing his job, but he&rsquo;s losing his family, his community,&rdquo; Zielinski told WBEZ. He added that for a school like Drummond, where the Montessori curriculum requires students to work in very specifically prepared environments, a clean, neat classroom is important. The custodians, like the one being reassigned, play an important role.<br /><br />&ldquo;He knows everybody in this building too,&rdquo; Zielinski said. &ldquo;A stranger walks into this building, [he] will recognize a face or not recognize a face. If I saw somebody who I didn&rsquo;t recognize in the building, I would ask [him] if he knew who they were, because he is here every day, every moment.&rdquo;<br /><br />And the reassignments are just the beginning. Norgren confirmed that roughly 475 custodians will be let go by the end of September. None of the 825 custodial positions covered by SEIU Local 73 will be cut, Norgren said. Many of those positions, like the one at Drummond, have been shifted as a result of the layoffs.<br /><br />Two and a half of those positions will be cut from Dave Belanger&rsquo;s school, Hanson Park.<br /><br />&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see how it would be physically possible for three and a half custodians to clean the campus we have,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />That campus includes four buildings with a total of 65 classrooms.</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, 08 Sep 2014 17:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767 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