Teachers and parents to discuss where to go next on school issue

Parents and teachers worried about the direction of Chicago’s public schools will meet Saturday to hash out what to do next as the schools reach what organizers describe as a “now or never moment.”


“We see the system as reaching a tipping point where corporate forces have assumed a mantle of control over the district,” says Jackson Potter, a history teacher at Social Justice High School and a steering committee member of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, which is organizing the community meeting.


About 200 people are expected, and many are likely to be upset about the 20 public schools slated for closure this year, a record number. The Board of Education designated another 12 as “turnaround” schools, which means virtually all the staff will be fired.


The meeting organizers want a moratorium on school closings and turnarounds, but there’s no chance of that happening, says Mike Vaughn, spokesman for the Chicago Public Schools.


“Our plan is to do the opposite: to accelerate,” he says.


The changes are part of Renaissance 2010, Mayor Richard Daley’s plan to open 100 new schools in Chicago by next year. The schools are a mix of charter, contract and performance schools, which differ in their labor agreements, official oversight and the state laws that govern them.


The Office of New Schools, a division of the Chicago Public Schools, had opened 76 schools as of fall 2008.


Potter says the Renaissance 2010 system destabilizes neighborhood schools without guaranteeing the new schools can deliver promised services. Renaissance 2010 schools depend on donated funds to “ramp up” in their first several years. Costs average about $500,000 per school, and the money raised by the Renaissance Schools Fund, the project’s fundraising arm, comes from both foundations and corporations.


The need for these donations makes the schools vulnerable, Potter says.


“When all the investments dry up because there’s no liquidity, what happens to those schools?” he asked “What happens to those children?”


But Vaughn says funding concerns exist throughout the school system, not just for Renaissance 2010 schools.


Saturday’s meeting is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the cafeteria of Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren St. The agenda will cover how Renaissance 2010 affects neighborhood schools, its effect on local school councils and teachers, and the next steps.



Mr. Vaughn, Arne Duncan, the Chicago School Board and Mayor Daley should be honest about their plans regarding what they are doing to the neighborhood public schools. They are concerned about one thing, that is lowering the cost of the city's investment in education by closing neighborhood schools and offering a poor substitute in its place, called charter schools. We need new people running CPS and ISBE who understand intimately what is necessary to transform the present neighborhood schools into high performance centers of learning. Mr. Duncan, Mr. Vaughn, Mayor Daley and the Chicago Commerce Club do not have that knowledge! Why are policy wonks at CPS in charge of departments in CPS and ISBE who have no classroom experience or have been involved first hand in taking a regular neighborhood school and providing the necessary time for staff to organize and work cohesively to bring up the rigor and learning of children. The certified staff, who have to continually up their skills due to NCLB, are there waiting for the leaders like Duncan to get off their butts and get to the work on developing strong professional educational organizations with the present staff in the neighborhood schools. See http://targetedleadership.net/ It is important that the media unmask the cheap parlor trick that Mr. Duncan and Mr. Vaughn have perpetuated under Renaissance 2010 and calling it progress. Even the charter schools know it for what it is, since they know the foundation and corporate dollars will not be there. Mayor Daley, should put a moratorium on the closings and revaluate the people he has in charge of CPS in general. He should be honest and say that Renaissance 2010 was a bad joke and get experienced educators who can move in the present neighborhood schools and staff!!!