RYH at the December 2017 Unelected BOE Meeting

The December 2017 meeting was heated! We recommend heading to Twitter and checking out #cpsboard. We also recommend checking out this Twitter moment from Charles Preston and scrolling through our Facebook page for more coverage of the day.

Below are three statements from RYH speakers. You can also watch video of the speech of RYH board member and CPS parent, Deb Hass. Deb handed in Cassie Creswell's research on Art in Motion charter school to all the unelected BOE members- there are some serious concerns here!  

Deb Hass, RYH Board Member

I’m Deb Hass, CPS parent, Raise Your Hand board member, and former member of the Southeast NAC.

In 2015, the NAC reviewed charter proposals including one from New Life for an arts charter to be located in Hirsch High School. CPS’s CEO recommended the board deny it, and the board adopted that recommendation.

Back then, I was surprised by the poor quality of the proposal, disturbed by the potential for perceived conflicts of interest, and unconvinced those involved were prepared to manage a school.

This year, New Life’s proposal is very close to the exact same one submitted two years ago with many of the same problems:

  • It appears at least some sections were cut and pasted directly from websites, including the Encyclopedia of Chicago and an academic planning guide written by Whitney Young staff

  • The proposed management group has no track record running an arts school -- or in the case of Distinctive -- a high school

  • The state rep and alderman support letters are the same -- except that AIM lists Ken Dunkin who hasn’t been the state rep since January and just yesterday Rep Juliana Stratton told a constituent she could not support the proposal

  • Some of the players have changed, but potential for perceived conflict of interest remains, for instance

    • Distinctive CEO Joseph Wise who owns the remnants of SUPES and who Gary Solomon said suggested his first meeting with Barbara Byrd Bennett

    • Charles Johnson, formerly of CPS vendor SodexoMagic, listed as Chief Operating Officer of New Life Southeast

    • numerous design team members employed by CPS vendor Atlantic Research Partners

    • and the Lynn Group, an investment firm owned by the son of a sitting Board of Ed member who in this chamber just tried to influence your decision


Finally, Dyett High School for the Arts just opened in 2016, belying the claim there are no arts high schools on the south side.

Regarding Englewood, how can you, in good conscience, close down every neighborhood public high school there, forcing 400 students to travel well beyond their neighborhoods to get to school?

In 2013 President Clark, you said, "High schools should be taken off the table because the impact, particularly the safety issue around gang boundaries, it's an issue...across the school system..."

What has changed? Why are these 400 students not worthy of a neighborhood high school in their community? 

Reconsider this reckless plan and vote no on AIM, an unproven proposal rife with potential conflicts of interest.

Stop the attack on neighborhood schools.

Mary Hughes, RYH Board Member & Director of 19th Ward Parents for Special Ed

Members of the Board.


My name is Mary Hughes, Director of 19th Ward Parents for Special Ed, a Board Member of Raise Your Hand and a co-signator to the November 16 letter from a Group of Leading Special Ed advocate organizations and attorneys asking ISBE to investigate and take action regarding illegal CPS Special Ed Policies and Procedures. Mr. Claypool replied to ISBE with his usual talking points and we are working on a response.


Meanwhile, our children with special needs in CPS are being systematically denied their rights to a Free Appropriate Public Education. While you have the luxury of pretending ignorance and allowing this District to diminish, delay and deny services our children with special needs – one child has died, hundreds have been kicked off their buses, thousands are floundering trying to navigate their school day without appropriate paraprofessional support and for some, in the absence of appropriate supports, their window of opportunity to make meaningful gains closes forever.


As of November 15, CPS’ Special Ed funding appeals data shows that schools appealed for over $25M and of that, CPS only granted just over $401,202. At the August Board meeting, Mr.  DeNard told Retired Principal James Gray that schools that spent GenEd funds on Special Ed would be made whole through the appeals process. That has NOT happened and I assert that CPS’ positive bond rating has been partially built at the expense of kids with special needs.


You must oppose the classist, ableist and racist policies that take resources away from our neediest children and puts them at added risk or many low income Black students, English Language learners, and students with disabilities will be placed squarely in the school to prison pipeline.


Please, do the right thing, (1) Keep NTA elementary open; (2) Keep Hope, Harper, Robeson and Team Englewood Open- at least until the new School is built; (3) eliminate Non-IEP Team Member approval of Special Education Supports and Services; and (4) immediately fund ALL the special education funding appeals on deck.


Thank you


Linda Hudson, Hirsch High School Community Member

Hello, my name is Linda Hudson and I live in the 8th ward where Hirsch HS is. I stand before you asking you to reinvest in Hirsch HS.  In the Grand Crossing area, Hirsch HS is known as Rev Hannah High.  There are those of us in the community who are very concerned about the fate of Hirsch HS.  Rev Hannah was appointed under Mayor Emanuel to the CPS’s 2012 school-closing commission which is why we know what his presence means to this project.

Rev Hannah and New Life have purchased property all along the Grand Crossing area.  With the assistance and blessing of Ald. Michelle Harris. His church owns a house across the street from the Grand Crossing Park.  Now, he along with Rapper Common want to turn Hirsch HS into a charter school. WHY?  A better question, what’s in it for them?

Yes, the Grand Crossing area is due for a transformation.  Why not reinvest and transform Hirsch HS, it’s been done before.  Why is the answer always privatization?  Why do you want to destroy a public school simply to create a quick fix? Who’s really benefiting?

There has to be a conflict when you have a rapper who just happens to be the son of the longest-serving member of Chicago’s Board of Education at the rim of this. Which is why we need an elected school board!

If rapper Common wants to give back to the city where he grew up and if he is truly concerned about Hirsch HS, he will give his financial support to Hirsch without it becoming a charter school.

Stop starving public neighborhood schools and cheating our children and our African-American teachers.

Rapper Common needs to stay in his musical lane; Rev Hannah needs to stay in his religion lane and let the true educational professionals turn Hirsh around.