Raise Your Hand had 2 speakers at the January 2018 unlelected CPS Board of Education meeting. Our statements are below.
You can also read our statement from an earlier hearing here.
Joy Clendenning, CPS Parent & Managing Director of RYH
Good morning. Joy Clendenning, CPS parent, Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education.
Raise Your Hand strongly opposes the closing of NTA and the 4 neighborhood high schools in Englewood.
Dr. Jackson: thank you for showing up to the City Council and Illinois House hearings on Special Education. Although this was forced by 11 organizations who requested ISBE investigate CPS, we appreciate that you are taking some ownership of the problems around special education, and seem much more open to working on the dire issues than your predecessor.
That said, we do need a fully elected representative school board that will be accountable to the public.
Last week, CPS finally published space utilization data, more than a year late. State law requires this data to be published annually but it was not released at all for 2016. We’re pleased that CPS lowered the threshold for “efficient” and “overcrowded” statuses, but the way CPS calculates space still eludes us. The magnitude of the changes between 2015 and 2017 makes no sense. How can CPS have added 855 classrooms at 232 schools and lost 580 classrooms at 192 other schools? Many schools marked “efficient” are using hallways, stairwells, and other inappropriate spaces for learning. There is nothing transparent in the way CPS has released this data, and we continue to reject CPS’ use of 30 students per classroom as an acceptable class size.
Many groups, like Blocks Together, worked diligently on the goal of a transparent accountable democratic educational facilities process, a process that involved those most impacted by any decisions, and the spirit of the resulting legislation was that once a year CPS would reflect upon and update the use of buildings, to guide investments.
CPS needs a comprehensive facilities plan -- a real plan with stakeholder input and best practices. The so-called 10 year master plan does not do this.
One reason this matters is because CPS makes super-high stakes decisions using this data. There are good practices out there about how to measure capacity and actual use of school spaces, but CPS continues to come up with its own methods -- this makes no sense -- it’s not good for kids and not good for taxpayers. Dr. Jackson, as an experienced educator, we look forward to you standing up to the mayor and instead using best educational practices rather than this relentless business model which hurts our kids and betrays tax payers.
Our children, our schools, our city.
Andrea Tolzmann, CPS Parent & RYH Board Member
Hello. My name is Andrea Tolzmann and I am with Raise Your Hand. Congratulations Dr. Jackson! We are happy to see an educator leading the school district again. We are happy to see your public acknowledgment of issues concerning our school communities and your actions towards solutions to improve the education of all our students. Refreshing!
I would also like to thank Dr. Jackson and the Board for eliminating contracts with consultants connected to Forrest Claypool. We’d love to see that list of cancelled contracts! For years, Raise Your Hand has been questioning the expensive contracts to well-connected cronies of the past couple of CEOs. If we start to look back over the decisions and actions that were initiated by Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Forrest Claypool, we must also look at what motivated their decision making. They both have a proven track record of making poor personal decisions. It is possible that they may have made poor professional decisions, too.
With Dr. Jackson at the helm, this Board should take a look at all the contracts that were entered into during the tenure of Mr. Claypool. Together, you can review and reflect on decisions made in the past to ensure they are successfully doing what is needed now. Many of these contracts are nearing the end of their terms and now is the time for you to look at them with fresh eyes and a mindset of “Does this contract help provide the best education to each and every student in this district?”
You have the power to address issues of school cleanliness, environmental health concerns and the management of district facilities in the 1-year renewals of the Aramark custodial and the Sodexo facilities management contracts. These contracts need to be reviewed and reconsidered to determine if they are doing what was proposed. Are schools cleaner, healthier, and better cared for than when district employees took pride in these jobs?
Also, an existing sole-source contract with AUSL is on the table today to balloon by 75%, with the FY2018 amount nearly 5 times bigger than originally appropriated. Why? …And for a company whose ties with a previous board president and past CAO have been questioned as inappropriate for years.
And, why is the Board voting today to award a contract to BEGIN developing a waitlist/offer module for GoCPS when offer letters will go out in less than two months. Shouldn’t that have been part of the original contract and already done?
These are some specific contracts being voted on today. Numerous contracts approved without question from this Board under the previous CEO and should be reviewed and reconsidered for the ethical issues they pose, including professional services contracts to numerous crony companies with connections to Claypool and high-priced consultants.
2 minutes was up here. The below is a list of “professional services contracts to numerous crony companies with connections to Claypool and high-priced consultants” that we planned to list aloud:
Agreements with Jacobs Project Management, Atlantic Research Partners, ECRA and $28M in professional services contracts that includes not only numerous crony companies with connections to Claypool, like Analytic Innovations, but also high-priced consultants charging $580/hour like Navigant.
Please, seize the moment to analyze the Who, What and Why of every contract to ensure they are best serving our students.