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Five-year ban on school closings would still allow shakeups for academic reasons

Updated: December 29, 2012 6:35AM



A proposed five-year moratorium on Chicago Public School closings would not prevent the district from shaking up schools — and replacing staff — for academic reasons during those years, CPS officials indicated Tuesday.

New Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett revealed Monday that the system would impose a “moratorium on all CPS facility closures for the next five years,’’ starting next fall, if the Legislature lets it produce this year’s school closing list by March 31 instead of the Dec. 1 deadline in the law.

CPS officials have said that this year’s closures would be limited to schools that are underused, and would not include closures based on academics. Byrd-Bennett has said the system needs to “right-size’’ a portfolio of schools with 100,000 more seats than kids.

After this school year’s closings or consolidations, however, CPS officials Tuesday indicated other school shake-ups could occur — for academic reasons.

Over the next five years, CPS communications chief Becky Carroll wrote in an email, CPS still could “turnaround” schools — meaning new school managers could replace all adults in a school over a summer.

Other options to “help low performing schools to get on a path to become high performers” could include “high quality charters and neighborhood replicators,” Carroll wrote. CPS has been seeking charters with proven track records, turnaround operators and parties interested in replicating successful neighborhood schools to apply to operate schools as part of CPS’ 2012 “Call for Quality Schools.”

Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education said a “turnaround’’ has the same affect of a “closure” on adults in a school.

“This seems to be more evidence to suggest that this is a phony moratorium,’’ Woestehoff said. “It’s a moratorium whose details are TBA.

“How can people sign on to support something when the details seem to change from hour to hour? It sounds like a moratorium of convenience and nothing that can be trusted or supported by Chicago parents.’’

Also Tuesday, the new CPS Commission on School Utilization set dates for the first five community meetings on closures and announced that three ministers would be “moderating’’ three of them.

Rev. James Meeks, an independent state senator from the 15th District and chair of the Senate Education Committee, will kick off the hearings from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at Meeks’ Salem Baptist Church, 752 E. 114th St., according to a commission news release.

Rev. Byron Brazier will moderate another discussion from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 at Brazier’s Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester.

Rev. Johnny Miller will moderate a Dec. 15 Commission meeting at his church, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, 2262 W. Jackson Blvd.

Brazier served as co-chair of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s transition team, while Miller was selected by the mayor to serve on the Police Board and the NATO 2012 Welcoming Committee.

Brazier and Meeks said they will be independent moderators of a topic that usually touches raw nerves in a community.

“I don’t receive anything from the mayor,’’ Brazier said. “I know I’m going to be impartial because I’m going to tape it.’’

Meeks said he assumed School Utilization Commission Chair Frank Clark asked the ministers to serve because Clark believed they would be “fair brokers’’ of discussions and had the room in their churches to hold large crowds.

Contributing: Fran Spielman



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