Teachers Furious After Board Votes To Close, Overhaul Schools

Updated 02/23/12 – 3:55 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Teachers Union is slamming the School Board, after the board approved a plan to close seven public schools next year and stage “turnarounds” for 10 others.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the board voted unanimously on the closures and phase-outs Wednesday.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports

The reaction was immediate. Parents and teachers at the board meeting expressed anger after the vote, crying, “Boo!” and chanting, “Shame on you!” at the board members.

“We are not surprised that an unelected, unaccountable school board would vote unanimously to continue to the same failed policies that have shortchanged Chicago Public Schools students for years,” said Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis. “We are, however, disappointed that these board members lack the moral courage to do the right thing.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel demanded the move to close or “turn around” 17 schools.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

Lewis and Rev. Jesse Jackson have both said CPS is engaged in educational “apartheid” for starving failing schools, with largely black and Hispanic student populations, of resources and help. But Emanuel said he’s driven by what the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once called “the fierce urgency of now.”

“I understand the noise around change and I’m sensitive to it. But I’m also … I can’t stand by and watch the silence – which is deafening – of failure,” Emanuel said.

Lewis said she fears when students from the shuttered schools have to go to the other neighborhood schools, gang violence will go up.

“Their unanimous vote will force hundreds of kids to cross dangerous gang boundaries in order to get to school,” Lewis said.

She adds that violence has historically spiked at the receiving schools when schools are closed.

Dyett High School board member Jitu Brown agreed that Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Jean-Claude Brizard are continuing the same policies that have been in use since retired Mayor Richard M. Daley took over the school system in 1995.

“When Rahm Emanuel says, and when Brizard says they have to do something, what have they been doing for the past 17 years?” Brown said.

Lewis and Brown said they are suing to stop the closures and turnarounds.

“Chicago Public Schools has violated the civil rights of our young people by violating the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, and the Illinois School Code,” Brown said.

Lewis is also calling for a return to an elected school board, instead of one that is appointed.

School board members defended their action, saying the schools targeted showed too little progress.

“We’ve created a climate where mediocrity is OK for our kids,” said board member Mahalia Hines. “It’s not OK with me, and I don’t care whether I was appointed or elected. My constituents are the kids.”

Board member Jesse Ruiz said the School Board had no choice but to take action.

“There are better hopes for better prospects than what’s been done and proven over years and years of just not meeting the mark in terms of giving them the educational opportunities they need,” he said.

Another board member admitted the board could have worked more closely with the affected communities, and said CPS should try and work with community groups to incorporate some of their suggestions.

The following schools are set to close after the current school year ends:

• Simon Guggenheim Elementary School, 7141 S. Morgan St;
• Florence B. Price Elementary School, 4351 S. Drexel Blvd.;

The following schools are set to be phased out. All of their current students will be allowed to graduate, but they will not accept any new students:

• Richard Crane Technical Preparatory High School, 2245 W. Jackson Blvd.;
• Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St.;
• Julia Lathrop Elementary School, 1440 S. Christiana Ave.;
• Walter Reed Elementary School, 6350 S. Stewart Ave.;
• Best Practice High School, 2245 W. Jackson Blvd.

At the schools set for turnarounds, the entire staff at each of those schools will be fired and replaced, but the students will stay. All of them will become charter schools run by a private operator, in this case the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

The schools set for turnarounds are:

• Amos Alonzo Stagg Elementary, 7424 S. Morgan St.;
• Wendell Smith Elementary School, 744 E. 103rd St.;
• 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.

  • retiredinAz1

    I am a retired CPS teacher and although I understand the anger and frustrations felt by the teachers and parents representing these schools, hey, enough is enough. If you were in a job and not performing, you would be out….same is true here. Perhaps a new environment, new staff, etc is what is needed. I just hope the CPS helps these displaced teachers find new teaching positions! What has happened with CPS Teachers job security? Then people wonder why teaching is not attracting new graduates to come into the profession!

  • Just Axin

    I don’t understand it; all the schools are in black neighborhoods. Could there be racism involved with the board’s decision? No? Is there possibly a chance that most teachers are doing a decent job but when the student goes home there is no guidance? No dad or mom is coming home from work at 6pm to sit down with the kid to make sure homework is done, serve a decent dinner, talk about the day, etc. Wonder if that has anything to do with it. Or maybe these kids just need an IPad and that would make things better.

    • Powell john

      that is part of the problem. most of the staff in these done care one bit about anything but there jobs. the union is the biggest joke of them all. They are just like the school staff they just want to hold onto thier jobs.

    • Anglo-Saxon

      It really is unfortunate that that is a subject considered to be politically incorrect. If the realities of your statement were adressed in a public forum, solutions might come from it. But no, we wouldn’t want to offend any Afro-Americans!

      • THEE Yard Ape

        @Anglo & Just – EXCELLENT COMMENTS!!!!

  • Beas

    If the schools are failing, not educating children, I do not understand the hysteria from some parent, teachers and so-called community activists to maintain the status quo. If my children were getting a sub-standard education that does not prepare them for the world what is the uses of the schools? Close the schools, fire the teachers and let’s see if there is an improvement but I believe there will be. Hopefully other poorly-performing school systems in the suburbs will see the writing on the wall, take a page from CPS and start advocating for the children.

  • del mar

    Its unfortunate that the Teachers Union only cares about the teachers jobs and their own power rather than the children. These schools needs drastic measures – all the children who attend need to be able to learn and not graduate with poor basic skills. Unfortunately the shouting comes from those that only have their own self interests not the children. I give kudos the Chicago School Board for having the guts to stand up and say enough is enough. We need change!


      I have read that many turn around schools are still doing poorly. New principal, new staff, still poor performing children? No matter what you have, if a child does not want to learn or they see no value in education, the results will be the same. Low test scores and failing children. When will the “professionals” realize that all of the problems children have begins in the home.

  • Mc-Square

    I personally know some CPS teachers that work in public schools in mostly very poor neighborhoods of Chicago that are predominantly black – some of them are white, some are black but all come to the same conclusion. There is no point in teaching these kids because they will not study or learn no matter what they do so they just do the minimum required of them. Most of their parents are single, unemployed, on drugs or work 20 hours a day to support the family and the kids have no one to turn to and fall under the influence of their peers which often ends bad.

    The only way to make CPS schools better is to get rid of the union (good luck) – the union is the reason why the schools are in bad financial shape, horrible teachers like the ones described above still have a job and are almost impossible to get rid off without a public outcry or two year process. The only thing they care about are money, money, dues, and teachers – students come in the very last spot.

    • saywhat3

      What a stupid comment. In your first paragraph you hit the nail on the head. But, in your second you blamed the unions. So I’m trying to figure out how getting rid of union teachers will solve the problems mentioned in your first paragraph.

  • Jay

    I think a lot of the outrage comes from the fact that many of the schools that are being affected were given a certain amount of time to make substantial improvement and the plug is being pulled on them half way though the time given. The teachers are being fired, not redistributed, not given time to find new positions, not being given an opportunity to voice an opinion where it would matter, the vote was taken last night and the termination letters were being printed. I spoke with a friend this morning and she said they went in to work and the police were there with CPS security turning the staff away, less than 24 hrs after the vote.
    In the private sector a company has to give notice to nix an entire division. The transition for the children would have been better done at the beginning of the following school year, busing the children from these schools which were pretty much killed this morning is going to cause massive upheval at the receiving schools, and it is going to cause security problems.
    A fair question needs to be asked, for the board members, how many of them had/have a real steke in the neighborhoods that are being affected or the schools being closed. Or are they just making a decision based on the numbers and the politics.
    Then the schools are being handed over to a charter company that many are saying is not making a substantial difference and greater than the schools were achieving on their own, so the real question is why cause all of this damage in the middle of the school year.

    • Bob Haaga

      Private companies do not have to give you anything, I was with a company that with our check week got notice that the company was closing effective immediately.

  • greg

    ““We are not surprised that an unelected, unaccountable school board would vote unanimously to continue to the same failed policies that have shortchanged Chicago Public Schools students for years,” said Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis”

    Really? Charter Schools have shortchanged our students?? No, You have shortchanged the students Karen Lewis. You and the “teachers” you represent have spent decades shortchanging the students and the taxpayers. You have all ridden the cash cow that was the CPS into the ground and shown nothing for it. You extorted more and more money out of the taxpayers every year, going on strike and holding our children’s education hostage time and time again. Yet despite getting pay and benefits that no other city employee does you have continued to graduate illiterate kids and cry foul every time the government tried to hold you accountable for your complete lack of performance. Work less than 9 months a year, straight days with weekends and holidays off and still only actually spend 3.5-4 hours a working day in the classroom. Then you steal a pension based not on your scheduled salary but on your total compensation, including overtime and all the extra pay for the ridiculous, created positions that every principle rotates through the upcoming retirees so they can pad their pensions at our expense. Your union even had the balls to ask the city to use other city employees pensions to pay for your raises. What does it say about a union when their president’s job credential is a failed career as a Stand-Up comic??


      You are completely wrong in your statements but I will not argue with a fool like you.

  • Spookiest spook

    Face it, your children are going to grow up stupid like you and your parents, until you agree that education is the most important thing.

  • greg

    Privatize it all. Don’t hire any more of these dregs and just let the remaining ones work until they retire to pay into the pension. In fact raise their pension contributions by about 25%. Every time a schools worth of these slugs retires replace them with a charter school. Eventually, we can have an entirely private system. We won’t be stuck with their pension costs or medical insurance and if they don’t perform there will be a line of private companies willing to take their place.

  • greg

    Maybe, if we can actually get our schools out of the gutter then Rahm can finally send his kids to a Chicago Public School.

  • Taxpayer

    My relative is a teacher/counselor in the CPS. She is a nut job. She has done the lemon dance many times (bounced around from school to school). I’m surprised she hasn’t gotten fired or caught. She physically beats her daughters and lives a very unhealthy lifestyle for a person who teaches/counsels children. She can’t even keep up with her two daughters. She steals from the CPS by reporting laptops given to her stolen where she sells them and then gets another from the CPS. It’s not my job to keep an eye on her. It’s up to the employer. That’s right!! No can do because then the union wouldn’t collect their dues. Get rid of the Unions!! They are turning their heads when it comes down to firing a nut job like my ______.

  • Disgusted by CPS

    Lewis is not afraid for the kids. She’s afraid that if she looses her job she knows she’s not going to make it as a comedian!! Lewis needs to shut up and ship out!!! She’s nothing but a big mouth liar!!!!


      How do you know that? You don’t, do you?

  • David

    ERROR CORRECTION. (How about accuracy above speed?)
    • Richard Crane High School, 2245 W. Jackson Blvd.
    • Best Practice High School, 2245 W. Jackson Blvd. — Address Error

    Hey Guys,
    How about getting the information CORRECT before getting up first!!
    Best Practice High School is located at 2040 W. Adams St, not at 2245 W.
    Jackson Blvd, with Richard Crane High School. Little attention to quality and
    detail please.

  • Imustbestupid

    So the teachers Union and the teachers want to keep the underperforming schools open while the CPS system is broke? On top of this they want a 30% raise over two years? Why don’t I see anymore coverage on their request for the 30% raise?

  • Steve Bayne

    I seldom agree with anything done by Chicago’s powers that be. The Board is exercising its best option, knowing full well that there would be this kind of heat. In this particular instance the Board has acted courageously. The interest shown by teachers and parents on this issue will hopefully persist when the day to day routine resumes.

    However, if the Board had the courage required for a long term solution they would have found an alternative to closing Chicago Vocational High. Crane and Tilden as well. Still, the Board was right. Now the real “dirty work” begins.

  • Imustbestupid

    Very well said Steve.

  • Herr Rhamulus

    Those of you puppets that slamming the teachers and the union, and you are puppets handfed your views from the media, need to once in awhile pick up a book, and read a study, after a study, after a study that links crime and low performance of schools to terrible socio-economic conditions. Do you think that a kid that eats once a day is very concerned with his lessons on ancient Egyptians? Take North Side Prep, put it in the middle of Lawndale, and lets see how those teachers do.

    • Mark

      these kids eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the school on the taxpayers dime. their parents have food stamps and don’t pay taxes. What are you reading?

    • Imustbestupid


      You need to blame this on the parents not the socio-economic conditions. When does responsibility replace blame?. I agree with you on the once a day meal. If a child is hungy they won’t be interested in learning. It’s like us attacking Iraq and wanting to give them freedom when a child is worried about their next meal. Money is easy in a gang when they get nothing from their parents. I don’t have the answers. nor do i have a solution. So you’re saying if we feed the kids they will succeed.

  • Imustbestupid

    hungry. might be more spelling errors. It’s hard to see.

  • Jim

    The Twinkie Queen and her goons need to shut up. CPS unions are a joke!

  • saywhat3

    A coach at Al Raby high school is going to be out for a couple of weeks after being stabbed by a 16 year old female student. Maybe one or two of you that think teaching in the ghetto is a piece of cake ,can volunteer to take his place till he comes back.

  • Another day in the Neighborhood a/k/a "Hood"

    Remember Columbine?? Crazy is crazy no matter rich or poor!!

  • http://hopenewsdigest.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/february-23-2012/ February 23, 2012 « The Hope Institute News Digest

    […] 2 23 CPS: Teachers Furious After Board Votes To Close, Overhaul Schools « CBS Chicago Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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