Another Unelected BOE Meeting: Our Statements, September 2016

Another month, another unelected Board of Education meeting. Here's what we had to say.

Jennie Biggs, CPS Parent and RYH Board Member, spoke on behalf of RYH. Here is her statement:

Many LSC members are reporting tears at their meetings this week because they don’t know how their schools will run:

You cut $179M from district run schools this summer.

NOW, 306 schools will lose an additional $25M because of the HUGE enrollment drop: 13,800 students left!

There are no guarantees of money promised from Springfield for pension relief. Those of us on LSCs- and certainly principals- are sick to our stomachs awaiting possible midyear cuts- which our schools can not endure- if that pension relief does not come through.

What should you, our unelected Board of Ed, be doing?

1. Demand a larger TIF Surplus: Every unallocated TIF dollar MUST go back to our schools.

2. Cancel Obama Prep: Our district just lost over 13,000 students. Plus, financial crisis! Fund our existing schools.

3. Take current charter proposals off the table. In November you will vote to open 13 or so new charter schools. Again, district enrollment way down! Plus, financial crisis! Fund our existing schools.

4. Examine contracts today & always: Included in the one year capital budget is $20M for “program management and design” on top of design costs for the projects listed. Presumably this in part will go to Jacobs Project Management, who had a new $15.8M contract approved by this board in July.

Outsourcing project management to clout contractors like Jacobs adds almost 120% to construction costs. In a district with $3 billion in unmet repair and construction needs, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

5. Cancel contracts: In August you agreed to spend $12M on a product that's being misused to delay special education evaluations while many schools can't meet IEP minutes.

Cassie Creswell, Raise Your Hand Action Board Member, spoke on behalf of More Than a Score. Here is her statement:

This June Governor Rauner signed into law Public Act 099-0590. This legislation was intended to bring some much needed transparency to the use of standardized testing in IL public schools.

It requires that within the first 30 days of the school year, every district must provide a detailed report to the State Board of Ed on the standardized tests to be administered that year in each of its schools, including:
which tests are to be given;
when they’ll be given and how long they’ll take;
who is requiring the tests (i.e. state, district, etc);
which students will take the tests and
finally, if the results of the test are to be used for purposes other than for guiding instruction, what they’ll be used for, such as promotion, course placement, graduation, teacher evaluation or school performance ratings.

Importantly, the law also says that every school will also make this same information publicly available to parents. As such, we look forward to CPS complying with state law and making available to parents all of this information before next month’s Board of Education meeting, in particular, which tests at the elementary school level CPS intends to use for promotion, course placement and selective enrollment admission.

Second, the state superintendent Tony Smith stated at an IL House Education Committee meeting this past Friday that the state has made no commitment to PARCC past the 2017-2018 school year, when the contract IL has with Pearson is complete. Meanwhile, the CPS Office of Assessment told principals and schools in an annual framework for assessment that “SY17 intended [sic] as final year of NWEA MAP, with a full transition to PARCC in SY18.”

How much time and money in this resource-strapped district is CPS devoting to prepare for a transition to a standardized test whose first year as high-stakes, next year, might in fact be its last at the state level?

If PARCC’s days are numbered at the state-level, it is clear that there’s no time like the present for CPS to transition instead to student assessment and school quality rating policies that do not hinge on whatever flavor-of-the-week standardized test the state board of ed or multinational testing corporations are hawking.

**********************
*”High quality content in, in PARCC I would expect us to stay with, what it’s called after our contract ends, um, you know, High Quality Illinois Assessment for Readiness, I, uh, whatever, it’s, it’s going to be something that has the kind of items that have been developed by Illinois educators, I think we need to keep using, so we’re as a, as a foundation the PARCC work, we’re in for at least two more years, this year and next, and the content which I think is really high-quality, we need to build on, um." (Min 46:56)
https://www.dropbox.com/s/92b0j84usmkg6vh/Elem%209-23-16.MP3?dl=0

You can find Raise Your Hand Action here:
http://www.raiseyourhandaction.org/

You can find More Than a Score here:
https://morethanascorechicago.org/

Terri Smith, CPS Parent of a child in special education and volunteer special education parent advocate, spoke on behalf of families who have children with IEPs. Here's what she had to say:

As stated in the Special Education policy document posted on the ODLSS website last month, the District's #1 strategic priority for improving outcomes for students with disabilities is to "Ensure that all student IEPs are funded first and scheduled first".

Alderman Garza, Troy LaRiviere and a couple of other speakers have already pointed out that the budgetary practices implemented by CPS in service to this strategy are tragically flawed in so much as they pit the needs of Special Ed students against the needs of the General Ed population.

As the parent of a special needs daughter, and as a volunteer special ed parent advocate in regular contact with dozens of special needs families all over the city, I can confidently report that parents of disabled children are IN NO WAY SEEKING, NOR DO WE EXPECT preferential treatment of ANY kind from CPS!

On the contrary. We expect the district to meet its legal obligation to our children in accordance with the civil rights afforded to them by virtue of the federal laws of our great nation.

NO MORE & NO LESS.

It would take me the better part of the two and a half hours allotted for public comment to give you an account of the legal violations committed by the district just since school started less than a month ago. The law aside, these stories are heartbreaking and morally reprehensible.

My own daughter spent the first week of school unable to hear her teacher because CPS failed to provide her with amplification equipment pursuant to the terms of her IEP.

Why? Here is the WRITTEN response I received from CPS: "We are under new management, and things are very disorganized. We have been told that there is a freeze on this equipment until further notice". In my email response, I cited the relevant federal regulations and I made it clear that I knew my rights. This was on Friday; the following Monday the equipment was in my daughter's classroom.

Parents, know your rights, and take CPS to task.

Annie Gill-Bloyer, CPS Parent and LSC Chair of New Field Elementary spoke against the proposal to close Field Elementary, merge its students into Kilmer Elementary, and move Decatur Classical into Field's building.

My name is Annie Gill-Bloyer and I am the Chairwoman of the Local School Council of New Field Primary School, the Pre-K through 4th grade school that feeds into Eugene Field Elementary School. Here's her statement:

Our school communities have heard Alderman Joe Moore’s proposal to close Eugene Field, merge its students into Kilmer Elementary School, and move Decatur Classical School into Eugene Field’s building. The responses to this proposal from the school communities of New Field and Eugene Field have been overwhelmingly negative, yet the Alderman has been unwilling to consider any of our suggestions for an alternative plan.

New Field’s LSC sent a letter to CPS leadership on June 21, asking for a meeting with CPS leadership and stakeholders from both schools, to craft a robust long-term K-8 plan for students in our attendance area. This request went unheeded. On September 21 the LSC sent another letter to CPS leadership asking to explore an alternative plan to the Alderman’s proposal: to re-combine New Field Primary School with Eugene Field, as one school in both buildings under one administration. We have yet to receive a response.

Since it opened in 2003, New Field has been the highest-performing elementary school in Rogers Park with a consistent 1+ rating. This year we have the second highest percentage increase in enrollment of all CPS elementary schools. We parents of New Field and Eugene Field believe that with continuity of curriculum and instruction, strong unified leadership, and a smooth transition from one building to the other, we can continue the excellent educational offerings that New Field provides its students into grades 5-8. By leveraging the proven leadership at New Field, we can work within the existing model and current infrastructure to stem declining enrollment and build a level 1+ K-8 neighborhood school for the children of Rogers Park. Nearly 200 parents and community members have signed a petition saying they support this plan, and the number is growing daily.

You can find out more here: www.reunitethefields.org

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