CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public Schools leaders were again denying Wednesday that they already have a list of scores of schools they are targeting for closure next year.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the latest denials were prompted by a Chicago Tribune report detailing an internal memo about school closings.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett has long insisted the process for deciding which schools to close due to under-utilization or poor performance is starting over after she replaced Jean-Claude Brizard in October.
But the Tribune obtained a memo from before Bennett took control of CPS, containing a breakdown for closing or consolidating more than 95 schools – most of them on the South and West sides.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports the Tribune story became the focus of a protest by teachers, parents, and students as the Chicago Board of Education was meeting to vote on plans for new charter schools.
“As released in the Tribune just this morning, is the list that Chicago Public Schools have had since September,” teacher Tara Stamps said at a protest outside CPS headquarters Wednesday morning.
Teachers, parents and students expressed outrage about a Tribune report saying 95 Chicago Public Schools in minority communities have been tarteted by CPS for closure or consolidation.
CPS student Aquila Griffin said, “We reject an appointed school board that sells our futures to private operators.”
At Wednesday’s Chicago Board of Education meeting, Byrd-Bennett stressed the plan came from past district leadership under Brizard, not her.
“There is no list of schools to be closed,” she said. “Whatever my predecessors may have proposed, whatever has been floated, does not reflect what I endorse or I support.”
Byrd-Bennett said what she does support is the public having a voice in the process.
“We will work with our neighborhood schools to develop high-quality options that support neighborhood school efforts,” Byrd-Bennett said.
Byrd-Bennett has said the district needs more time to talk to parents and the community about possible school closings, and she has formed a commission to study the issue and recommend school closings.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said she doesn’t doubt Byrd-Bennett, but said the Tribune report looks bad.
“CPS has a public relations problem with the communities, and … what’s discussed in this memo underscores the issue, the public trust issue that people have,” she said.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, three new charter schools were approved by the board:
• Chicago Collegiate Charter School
• Intrinsic Charter School
• Frazier Preparatory Academy
CPS parent Marion Frazier said his daughter attends a charter school.
“She’s had an excellent experience there. The teachers are very supportive. The environment is safe, and conducive to the learning experience.”
Two other new charter schools – Orange Charter School and Foundations College Prep – will be voted on at a later date.
Six new International Baccaulaureate schools also were approved Wednesday, along with a health and sciences magnet school and two programs geared towards technical education.