Raise Your Hand statements at the July meeting of the unelected Board of Education

Public comment statements from Raise Your Hand at the unelected Board of Education meeting on July 26, 2017.

Andrea Tolzmann, RYH board member

Hello. My name is Andrea Tolzmann, and I am with Raise Your Hand, and a parent of two CPS students. Here we are beginning another school year in financial “crisis” mode, with about half our schools seeing cuts, and the rest not sure if we’ll sustain mid-year cuts again because CPS balanced the budget with money that’s not guaranteed from the state.  CPS says they have a $544M deficit for the upcoming school year, and even if SB1 passes, which we hope it does, it won’t scratch the surface of what our schools need for full funding.

Yet we have seen no advocacy from you for local revenue, for more TIF funds, as RYH has been pushing for for 7 years. And the children of Chicago are yet again slapped in the face by the absurd recent revelation from the BGA and Crain’s, that instead of surplussing money from the MPEA project, $55M was given to Navy Pier, clearly showing the priorities of this city. When will you speak up about this? 

In addition, on today’s Board report, you have a $1M no-bid contract to Atlantic Research Partners, owned by the person who bought SUPES and who introduced Barbara Byrd Bennett to Gary Solomon. How is this even possible? He has made more than 7 million off of CPS over the past 5 years.

Meanwhile, schools like Fenger, Harper, Harlan, Kelyvn Park, Manley, and Orr are all losing over 10% of their budgets AGAIN, and you’ve found money for this guy? It’s despicable.

Many people, myself included, having been coming to you year after year asking you what is the plan? What is the back-up plan when state funding doesn’t materialize? What is the long-term plan for sustainable funding? What is this Board doing to work with Chicago’s City Council to get more sustainable funding for our schools?

It’s clear there is no plan and there won’t be one as long as we have an appointed school board who works for the interests of the Mayor, not the students. It’s too bad when there are so many dedicated parents and community members who actually understand how important it is to have a strong, well-resourced school system, one in which students know they are more important than ferris wheels and clout contractors.

Perhaps one of you will stand up one day, TODAY, and say, hey, this is no way to run a school district. Have some integrity and don’t tell us our facts are wrong. There’s nothing factually inaccurate about the $55M to Navy Pier or the $1M no bid contract to Joey B. Wise, who introduced Barbara Byrd Bennett and Gary Solomon. Please, be courageous today for our students and speak out against TIF mismanagement. And, do your due diligence, and vote no on this contract. Thank you.


Jennifer Jones

Hello, my name is Jennifer Jones and I’m a parent of two CPS students. My 6th grade son has had an IEP since kindergarten and today I’m here to share our experience with Melissa Holmes, the most dedicated and effective social worker he has worked with.

Ms. Holmes is who I want supporting my child when I’m not there. A child who although being academically gifted, faces challenges navigating a general education setting every day. With the supports Ms. Holmes worked with him to develop, practice and utilize, he was able to thrive this past year. She laid the groundwork to help him function more independently now and in his future.

She didn’t rely on watered down cooperative games to fill her time with him, she listened to what he was struggling with and helped him develop strategies he could actually use to feel better and move past frustrations.

With Ms. Holmes’ guidance, he learned to self regulate and better advocate for himself. Through her innovative movement exercises and creative projects he gained confidence and learned the benefits of self reflection. These skills are so critical to every child and not always easy to achieve for special needs children.

Melissa was a valued addition to our school, Skinner North, and the 4 other schools she supported last school year. She is an asset to our district which is why I can’t imagine why CPS terminated her. As I talked with teachers and parents who worked with her, I learned I’m not alone. She is well respected and everyone at our school had extremely positive experiences with her. She also advocated for the needs of her students and spoke to you about special education cut concerns. I sincerely wonder if this influenced the decision to terminate her? I request that you review and reconsider Ms. Holmes employment standing with CPS. In our budget crisis climate when staff is being expected to do more with less, she should be applauded for her dedication and hard work.

For your reference, I have brought many positive testimonies from parents and teachers, who have worked with Ms. Holmes. Thank you for your time.