Four Chicago Public Schools saved from closing list; fate of remaining schools up for vote today
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK, JON SEIDEL AND DAN MIHALOPOULOS Staff Reporters May 21, 2013 4:22PM
Esteban Burgoa at the Chicago Board of Education Headquarters, continues the protest against school closings which the board is expected to vote on Wednesday, May,22, 2013. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
The Board of Education
David Vitale, president, appointed May 2011.
The former president and CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade, Vitale currently chairs the Urban Partnership Bank in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit and has a long banking resume. He has worked for CPS and also as chair for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, the organization that operates most of the turnaround schools. He lives in Hyde Park.
Jesse Ruiz, vice president, appointed May 2011.
Partner at the law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath, Ruiz chaired the Illinois State Board of Education from September 2004 to May 2011. He serves as legal counsel to the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus and the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation.
Carlos M. Azcoitia, appointed November 2012
A Distinguished Professor at National Louis University, Azcoitia once supervised CPS’ Midway Network of 36 schools and worked as CPS’ deputy chief of Education. Azcoitia founded the John Spry Elementary Community Links High School in the Little Village community, Chicago’s first school to include a pre-kindergarten through high school program in one building.
Henry S. Bienen, appointed May 2011
The former president of Northwestern University, Bienen also taught at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He and his wife have three daughters, five grandsons and a granddaughter.
Mahlia Hines, appointed May 2011
A veteran educator of more than 35 years, Hines was a teacher, principal and mentor of young principals. She currently is CEO of Think COMMON Entertainment, management company for her son, rapper and actor Common.
Andrea Zopp, appointed May 2011
President of the Chicago Urban League, Zopp is a former prosecutor and executive at the Exelon Corporation, Sears Holdings Corporation and Sara Lee Corporation. Zopp lives in Morgan Park.
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Updated: June 23, 2013 6:28AM
Four Chicago Public Schools are no longer up for closing this year, a fifth wouldn’t close until next year and a sixth school would be spared from the staff reboot known as a turnaround, the Chicago Sun-Times learned Tuesday.
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is expected to withdraw her recommendations to shutter Marcus Garvey Elementary School and Mahalia Jackson Elementary School on the South Side; Leif Ericson Elementary Scholastic Academy on the West Side, and George Manierre Elementary School on the Near North Side, according to a source familiar with her deliberations.
She will postpone the closing of Miriam G. Canter Middle School until June 2014 and let Clara Barton Elementary School improve itself instead of firing its staff and turning it over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership, the source said.
If the board approves all of her remaining recommendations Wednesday, a maximum of 50 schools could close in June.
Byrd-Bennett considered feedback from board members and from community hearings in changing her mind on the six, the source said. She apparently agreed with some comments from hearing officers for Manierre and Jackson, who condemned her previous decision to close the schools.
As Manierre’s hearing officer noted, the school has attracted multiple million-dollar investments from outside partners, including literacy investments and a library from Target; an early math project from the Erikson Institute; a Write2Win pilot project, and an expansion of the Child-Parent Center P-K to 3rd Grade program. Planned development in the Old Town area should boost Manierre’s enrollment as well. Sources said safety concerns about sending children to Jenner were not at issue in Byrd-Bennett’s decision.
Jackson’s officer pointed to its unique program specifically designed for children with hearing impairments and for children learning to be sign language interpreters, through a partnership with Columbia College. And the Aurburn Gresham neighborhood school is a model for inclusion, or integrating children with special needs into general-education classes.
Byrd-Bennett recognized Garvey as a model for social-emotional learning in the district, applauded for helping children develop empathy and problem-solving skills. And the Washington Heights neighborhood school had an unprecedented amount of community support during the closing process.
Ericson is the only magnet school on the closing list, a rare option for parents in East Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side.
As for Canter, in the Kenwood neighborhood, which would not accept new students in August, many of its seventh-graders moved from Shoesmith Elementary, closed last year, which potentially would have sent that class through four schools in four years by the time they enter high school.
Barton, in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, is no longer under consideration to have its staff fired because it has been undergoing a kind of turnaround of its own, investing in its own staff, the source said.
Byrd-Bennett declined through a spokeswoman to comment Tuesday. It’s not yet clear whether the STEM and IB programs promised to receiving schools Sumner and Jenner will still open there.
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, who has called for a moratorium on all school closings, called Manierre’s removal “a start”: “This is just too many schools to close.”
The fate of the remaining 50 schools lies in the hands of the six people known as the Board of Education, all appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel: David Vitale, Jesse Ruiz, Andrea Zopp, Henry Bienen, Mahalia Hines and Carlos Azcoitia.
For a school to close, at least four of the members must vote Wednesday to approve it. The board has no tie breakers, so a 3-3 vote will end in that school remaining open, according to CPS.
Board members are expected to take a single vote on the group of schools they all agree on. Where they disagree, they will vote school by school.
Public participation for the meeting, which begins at 10:30 a.m., could last for two hours; all 60 speaking slots have long been filled. Byrd-Bennett is then expected to present her recommendations on 50 closures; 11 proposals to put multiple schools under one roof, and five — no longer six — turnarounds.
Then the board votes.
Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) said there may be a few schools that are pardoned at the last moment, but he thinks that would not be significant.
“That way, Rahm can pat himself on the back and say to people, ‘Here’s what we’ve done for you,’ ” Fioretti said Tuesday, calling the school closures “the most ill-conceived process anyone has ever seen.”
Fioretti said CPS officials have not provided “clear and concise reasons for the closings,” instead variously arguing that poor performance or underutilization make the moves necessary.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), the head of the City Council’s Black Caucus, said he does not understand how CPS can avoid pardoning 13 schools that hearing officers said should remain open.
Brookins said the recommendations of the hearing officers — former judges — should be heeded unless it is shown that any of them made glaring mistakes in their analyses.
“How do you handpick judges as hearing officers and then turn around and say they didn’t know what the hell they were doing?” Brookins said. “What do we then say to people who went out to the hearings? That they shouldn’t be respected? That their opinions don’t stand for anything?”
He added: “I like Rahm. I’m not trying to bash him. I just don’t know who is advising him.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel wouldn’t answer questions directly about what happens if the school board fails to approve the school-closure plan as recommended — “You don’t know what they’re going to do, so that would be premature,” he said.
But he said he wants the board to take its responsibility to Chicago’s students seriously, and that’s what he said is happening.
“The board still has questions,” Emanuel said. “To this very moment they’re still doing the responsible thing for children by interviewing and analyzing stuff. So they’ve taken their responsibility seriously. Didn’t just take the first list and say, ‘No.’ ”