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Didn’t the Chicago Tribune support Mussolini last time too?

May 23, 2015


Eloquent testimony from Karen Zaccor on Noble Street.

May 23, 2015
Alderman Joe Moore, the Mayor’s water-carrier, stands alone among elected officials in not opposing Noble Street Charters.
– From Tim Furman’s blog.
This is Karen Zaccor’s testimony at the recent almost-under-the-radar hearing for the Noble Street insertion into Buena Park.

Testimony in opposition to the relocation of a Noble St. high school to the 46th Ward

Children learn what they live. At my school, Uplift, like many neighborhood high school, our children learn that they are important whether they are the most successful student or the least, whether they are the best behaved student or the worst. In our schools we strive to educate every single child to the best of our ability. In our schools, we understand that too many students are struggling with devastating life challenges and act out at times when they are overwhelmed by events like a sibling being shot or the toll of being homeless, and we look for ways to support those students despite the loss of resources that could help with that.

In our schools, we strive to give our students a voice in what happens in school. We want them to be active participants in our democratic society so we want them to practice what that means in school. We want them to learn that they should always stand up against oppression wherever they see it. We teach them not to just accept what they are told, but to investigate and demand evidence, knowing that the path of unquestioning obedience to authority has led to all manner of evils throughout history in our country and elsewhere.

Children learn what they live. At Noble Street charter schools, children learn that they are not all important, that they only matter if they are going to contribute to better statistics for the school, that if they are not successful or not well behaved, they should find another school. They learn that it does not matter if they are dealing with traumas so extreme they would weigh adults down—that will not be accepted as an excuse for a less than perfect performance. A full one-third of its students leave because they can’t or won’t stay in a place where they don’t matter.

At Noble Street charter schools, children learn that it is unacceptable to question authority, no matter how repressive and unjust that authority becomes. A draconian system of discipline makes even the smallest “offense” punishable by a demerit. Demerits quickly add up to detentions—get too many detentions or fail to serve one and students can end up in summer school or failing regardless of success in the classroom. They learn that obedience is more important that scholarship, and that action will be taken against them if they stand up to this unjust system.

Michael Milkie, the CEO of Noble Street, proudly touts the “broken windows” theory as the basis for Noble’s discipline system. The broken windows theory is a theory that promotes fighting crime through criminalizing petty offenses and cracking down on them. So despite the fact that many of us have in our youth done things like break windows or jump turnstiles (or perhaps worse), those actions that were once accepted as natural parts of growing up are now considered signs of criminal tendency and treated accordingly. Young people—virtually exclusively low income inner city youth of color—become part of the criminal justice system through these minor events. At Noble Street, thyey are proud to say that behaviors that we all exhibit every day are criminalized—failing to have one’s shirt tucked in, not looking at the person who is speaking, resting one’s head on one’s hand for a moment in class, talking at lunch. Students are not allowed to question this system: if they disagree with it, they are encouraged to leave.

Now Noble Street want CPS’ blessing to expand its authoritarian empire. Despite the fact that CPS itself is promoting expanded use of restorative justice methods, rather than invest in making those methods work in our existing high schools, CPS instead is poised to invest in the Noble Street network which does just the opposite, promoting instead the widening of the school to prison pipeline.

It is a false argument to say CPS is just offering “choice.” It’s only choice when parents and students have full information. Clearly they do not when the Noble Street network, CPS, the media, and the mayor all promote only the positive elements of the school and completely ignore the number of students pushed out or the problems inherent in a punitive system of enforcing compliance. Let’s be honest: all of our schools would look great if we only had to educate the top students and those who never break any rules.

Mayor Emanuel says Noble Street has the “special sauce.” Apparently the special sauce is the suppression of any challenge to a repressive punishment system that flies in the face of recent actions across the country against this type of discipline in schools and the elimination of any student who struggles to meet the challenges of school.

CPS, you need to use our public tax dollars to support our neighborhood schools, who educate every child, not just the best and the brightest. You need to invest your limited resources in full development of restorative justice programs that keep students in school and teach them better ways to resolve actual conflict. You need to invest in wrap around services to help students who are dealing with the traumas so often inflicted on poor children of color in our city.
Say NO to Noble.

Submitted by Karen Zaccor
Teacher, Uplift Community High School
Resident of the Uptown Community

Keeping retirement weird.

May 23, 2015


In These Times online editor, Micah Uetricht.

This morning The New York Times is reporting on the victory at the polls in Ireland of marriage equality.

It is the first country in the world to enact same-sex marriage by popular vote.

“Some conceded that much of the celebrating had come the night before,” noted the Times.

I bet it did.

Election victory parties are great.

I would assume that the ones in Ireland are pretty damn good.

None better than the one Anne and I went to last night in Chicago’s Tenth Ward.

Tenth Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza hosted the celebration at the Jovial Club which is at 96th and Commercial Avenue.

Right across the street from Ed Vrdolyak’s law offices.

Sue and her husband Raul are friends of ours. Her victory over Rahm water-carrier, John Pope, was hard-fought and even went into overtime.

Which makes her victory that much sweeter.

She is the real deal.

The joint was packed: Karen Lewis and her husband John Lewis. A bunch of Sue’s friends and colleagues from the CTU. Retired steelworkers. Her primary opponents. Leftists, socialists and progressives of all stripes. And neighbors who have known the Sadlowski and Garza families for generations.

Ex-alderman John Pope apparently hasn’t gotten the news that he lost.

He is still sending out Tweets claiming he is the alderman.

Sad, really.

As I sipped from a plastic cup of ice and Dewer’s,  friends of Sue’s traded war stories and jokes.

It is May and nearing the end of the school year. It is a crazy time for teachers and teacher union folks.

Administrators make decisions in May and that always is cause for concern.

And grievances.

In May teachers get notice that their jobs are gone.

One of the teacher friends told us her story.  She discovered that she was fired in an email from Human Resources. The email said it was confirming the conversation she had with her principal.

A conversation she never had.

The email was the first time she heard that she was released.


I remember hearing once that a CPS teacher heard he was released by way of a voice mail left on his mother’s phone.

At the party, In These Times online editor Micah Uetricht complained that I had never done a drawing of him.

Now I have.

Dianne Daleiden: Intrinsic Charters tip toe past the graveyard.

May 22, 2015


Intrinsic Charters coming to rest at Rosehill Cemetary.

– Exclusive by Dianne Daleiden

Alderman O’Connor is on record as stating, “No charter school expansion in the 40th Ward.” Of course that was before he was re-elected in February.  He is now a proponent of a new high school proposed by Intrinsic to be built on land purchased from Rosehill Cemetery.  The sale is pending approval of zoning changes.  O’Connor has put the developers in touch with select members (invitation only) of the Bowmanville Community Organization for a cocktail party at the Leadway Pub on Damen (Tuesday, May 26th) . This hook-up allows O’Connor to say that he is not involved in any discussion and it also allows him to say to other members of the Bowmanville community that the developer has the right to invite anyone they want to their private party. So, no responsibility for not inviting the entire community. Will an open meeting ever take place?  Stay tuned.

In the meantime Instrinsic is moving ahead with the assumption that whatever O’Connor wants he gets. Yesterday at the Board of Elections hearing on charter school expansion Intrinsic media representative, Soloman Lieberman, who arrived 30 minutes late but was allowed to walk straight to the microphone with no regard for being out of order, greeted each of the board members personally by first name only.  He requested an extension for the opening of their new school for a location “TBD”.

One of the important details about this development is that the high school will have its entrance on Western Avenue which will of course qualify it for TIF money since Western Ave. is in a TIF district.  Bowmanville residents have been requesting a modest amount of TIF money from O’Connor for years so they could add-on to a small plot of land they currently have as a green space.  The answer from O’Connor has always been, “No way.”  His intention all along has been to develop this land.  After all, his family empire is real estate development.

If Rahm can give De Paul a new stadium with TIF money then we have to assume there is no money for the green space in Bowmanville because O’Connor does not want it to happen….

O’Connor is completely side-stepping the residents’ concerns about the systemic elimination of public education and the outsourcing of our tax dollars and our children to charter corporations.  He is acting as if they are building a mall. He has no respect for public education.  If he did he would not have had Barbara Byrd Bennett waive the regulations for hiring of principals and personally place O’Connor’s little sister, Cathy Sugrue (who failed the principal selection process twice) into a Network 1 school (Gray).

Hopefully there will be public hearings at some point.  But for now most residents in Bowmanville and Andersonville are completely in the dark.

The BCO has been contacted by  a developer and by the alderman’s office regarding a contract pending for purchase of four (4) of the eleven (11) acres of Rosehill land north and west of the BCO green space.  The full 11 acres has been listed for sale for some time now.

A charter school called Intrinsic Schools<> has contracted to buy and build a 7-12 grade High School on four acres of this land.  The attorney contact for the buyer is Andrew Scott of Dykema. (<>)

Mr. Scott is planning to reach out to immediate neighbors this week to propose an informational meeting where neighbors could learn about their plans and ask questions.  This May meeting opportunity will be in advance of their formal zoning change request filing, which they expect to take place in June.  As part of their zoning change process, they also plan to be available for a broader town hall meeting and any other steps as outlined by the city’s planned development process.   A city council vote on the zoning change request could take place in the July to September timeframe of this year.

Our understanding of the concept and plans thus far includes the following:

Site and building related info:

  • Intrinsic and Dykema as their attorney are at the beginning of the process for community consultation.  They are reaching out in advance of filing the zoning change request to ensure the community organization and neighbors get looped in and are ready to engage on the topic.  They fully intend to participate in a broad community forum and follow the planned development process as outlined by the city.
  • Stay tuned for specific timelines and communication from Intrinsic or Dykema representatives, likely via flyer or mailing.  (Note:  the property itself is unique in that there will be very few households that fall within the city required notice zone, therefore their engagement with the broader community will be important!)  We have advised them to reach out and engage along both sides of Bowmanville Avenue and Bell Avenue as a starting point.
  • The project will be a planned development that includes outlined uses for the ~4 acres they have under contract.  Their planned development will not include the remaining parcel of Rosehill’s land for sale that surrounds their site.
  • Their 4 acres does not come right up to Bowmanville Ave, but extends east from Western Ave at Balmoral Ave in a rectangular shape next to the Streets and San lot, going back perhaps to a endpoint just behind the caretaker house land. (see attached diagram for site specifics)
  • The proposal does fit within the covenants held by cemetery plot holders for appropriate use of the Rosehill land that is for sale
  • The buildings on the property towards the back portion are planned to reach ~34feet in height (~50 feet in height from the Western Avenue frontage, due to the sloping grade of the property)
  • Ingres and egres are planned to be limited to Western Avenue only (no pedestrian access planned into the Bowmanville community at this stage)
  •  *   -An artificial turf athletic field is planned to be located on the easternmost portion of the land. (no bleachers, no lights, no access into Bowmanville currently in their plans)

Intrinsic Charter Schools info:

  • Intrinsic has been previously approved by the Board of Education to open up to 5 Charter schools in Chicago. The targeted site on Western Avenue would be their second location.
  • Intrinsic has one other site they have launched as a school located at Belmont and Kedzie.  That school is in its second year, first year on site.  Intrinsic is a Chicago based company, focused on the Chicago education market and Chicago students.
  • Intrinsic has chosen this Western Ave site partly for its access to public transport (the bus turnaround on Western Avenue namely) and the site proximity to Western Avenue and the Brown line.  Their location search has focused on Western Avenue and westward, to be accessible to students on the North and West sides of the city.
  • The student body will be selected via an enrollment lottery but strives to include neighborhood kids. Intrinsic’s first location serves predominantly low-income families and students from all over Chicago.  We have asked for the percentage of kids in their existing Belmont school that come from the surrounding neighborhood and await that data.
  • Our understanding is that whether or not Intrinsic Schools should open charter schools is not up for consideration by our community as part of this process.  That debate takes place as the Board of Ed considers charter applications and  a community groups called
  • Whether this location is a suitable place for Intrinsic to open a school is the issue we are asked for feedback on, as it pertains to the zoning change that will be required to make use of this land in our community, and this location will put their school squarely in our community.
  • The founders of Intrinsic have a background in public education in Chicago, and have indicated that while their student body would inevitably draw some students away from Amundsen High School or Chappell Elementary, they expect the majority to come from a broader geographic representation.  They have indicated an interest in using their presence and their teaching methods, and they hope ultimately their success to help elevate all schools in the area and would be looking to collaborate with Amundsen, Chappell and other local schools where possible.  [Note, there is no track record to show this as a likely outcome, and a BCO board concern identified already is how this school’s presence will compete for resources and students with our local public schools that are working so hard to improve.  We are also concerned how addition of this school in this location can distract community focus from the GrowCommunity effort that has been building momentum for Amundsen recently].

Background Links/Info we’ve identified thus far on Intrinsic:





Other site related info:

With respect to feasibility to build on this particular patch of land:  Intrinsic acknowledged that it will cost them a ‘premium’ to build on this land due to the landfill underneath and the lands history as a sand quarry.  They have done initial studies to determine this and did mention that it is their understanding that this issue is what led Senior Living developers to back away from the land.  Intrinsic finds it feasible (thus far) for their height and usage plans, which are quite different than what a senior housing building might have looked like.


May 22, 2015


In 1965 I was not the greatest of students.

How is it that so many bad students aspire to be good teachers?

I stayed in school mainly to be with my friends.

I thought about this when I read the story of the Ohio high school teacher who was forced to resign after he obliged a student request to read an Allen Ginsburg poem, Please Master.

My Los Angeles high school defaulted to a college track. But I forced my parents to sign me out of that track.

This gave me the freedom to opt out of a required trig class, for example, while taking a bunch of classes I really wanted to take. Like one in international relations and a string of wonderful literature classes.

I was also looking to cause trouble and so spent many a lunch hour with our principal, Jim Tunney. He later became a National Football League chief referee.

In one of my lit classes the assignment was to bring in a poem to read aloud.

I chose Allen Ginsburg’s Howl.

Have I written about this before?

On the one hand I loved the beat poets.

Ginsburg in particular.

I spent many nights at the Venice West Cafe, listening to beat poets like Larry Lipton reading to the sound of bongo drums.


On the other hand I secretly hoped that reading Howl would get me in trouble.

And another lunch with Jim Tunney.

But my teacher, whose name has long escaped me, responded as if I had just read Emily Dickenson.

As the bell rang he called me up and opened a desk drawer, pulling out Andre Malraux’s Man’s Fate.

“Here,” he said. “Tell me what you think by Monday.”

Tell me what you think.

The best thing a teacher can say.


May 22, 2015


Parents: Nothing noble about Noble Charter.

May 22, 2015

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