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Shouting Protesters Drive Chicago School Board To Halt Meeting

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School Board Protest

A woman leads a crowd in a call and response protest at the Chicago School Board meeting Wednesday, as she is escorted from the room. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 12/14/11 4:28 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – A Chicago School Board meeting was suspended Wednesday morning, as angry protesters jumped up and shouted about plans to close and consolidate some schools.

Board members later approved 12 new charter schools for Chicago.

During the meeting, members of the Chicago Teachers Union teamed with Occupy Chicago protesters to fight against closings and consolidations within the public school system.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts Reports

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, many parents, teachers and community activists spent the entire morning in front of Chicago Public Schools headquarters 125 S. Clark St., hoping to get a ticket to speak at the School Board meeting. Some camped out in front of the building all night.

But after the meeting began at 10:30 a.m., protesters jumped up one by one and read a statement. Then they were escorted out of the room.

“As a result of your policy, you have produced chaos!” one woman led the crowd in a call and response.

Then the protesters were escorted out of the room.

The board decided to suspend the meeting until order could be restored.

After a two-hour interval, the board returned, agreeing to listen to parents who remained in the crowd.

“I would like to apologize for what took place earlier, on my own behalf, because not all of us are this way,” Julio Cintron told the board after the meeting resumed. “We as parents can’t be heard if you’re not here.”

The board did allow peaceful protestors to remain present to read their statements.

At the end of Wednesday’s meeting the board approved the opening of 12 new charter schools, one of the issues these protestors vehemently opposed.

At a news conference earlier, demonstrators standing outside demanded that their voices be heard.

“I just want to say we need to stop privatizing public education,” said bilingual teacher Claudia Moreno Muñoz.

“The spirit that we are feeling around the city, you will not get in none of those schools,” said education organizer Jitu Brown. “On top of that, parents have submitted proposals to improve their schools, and to show your arrogance, you’ve ignored those parents’ proposals.”

Earlier, the rain did not stop some parents from camping out all night in sleeping bags. When the doors opened Wednesday morning, they got in line and packed the building, in an effort to send a message that school closings, turnarounds and consolidations must stop.

The board was also expected to vote on 12 new charter schools, which the union argues comes at the expense of neighborhood schools.

“I am here today and stand in a gap for a no on a turnaround school. Pour the resources into Stagg Elementary School. Give us what we need in order for our children to be able to do what is needed to be done,” said Erika Jenkins, a parent at Amos Alonzo Stagg Elementary, 7424 S. Morgan St., which is set for a turnaround in which the principals, teachers and staff will all be fired and replaced.

“Now is not the time to break up students, parents, and the teacher community that works together to make this progress. Now is the time to support us with the resources and funding that is so sorely needed,” said Sharisa Lee Baval, a parent at Wendell Smith Elementary School, 744 E. 103rd St., which is also targeted for a turnaround.

Brizard has asked the Chicago Board of Education to close Simon Guggenheim Elementary School, at 7141 S. Morgan St. in the Englewood neighborhood, and Florence B. Price Elementary School, at 4351 S. Drexel Blvd. in the North Kenwood neighborhood.

Targeted for phase-outs are Dyett High School, at 555 E. 51st St. in the Washington Park neighborhood, and Richard T. Crane Technical Preparatory High School, at 2245 W. Jackson Blvd., on the Near West Side. Phase-outs mean the schools would not admit any new freshmen and the school would shut down once the last class of existing students graduates.

In addition to Stagg and Smith schools, also targeted for turnarounds are:

• Pablo Casals Elementary School, 3501 W. Potomac Ave.;
• Brian Piccolo Elementary Specialty School, 1040 N. Keeler Ave.;
• Theodore Herzl Elementary School, 3711 W. Douglas Blvd.;
• Carter G. Woodson South Elementary School, 4444 S. Evans Ave.;
• Melville W. Fuller Elementary School, 4214 S. St. Lawrence Ave.;
• Marquette Elementary School, 6550 S. Richmond St.;
• Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School, 4747 S. Union Ave.;
• Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School, 2100 E. 87th St.

A total of 92 people signed up to speak at the School Board meeting, but it was expected from the beginning that only about half would have the opportunity, given the two-hour time limit.

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