Oliver Sicat. The Closer.

Oliver Sicat is 32 years old.

He has been a teacher and a principal.

This is one of the screwy things that has occurred in recent years. Some guy gets his teaching certification. He teaches in a classroom for a couple of years. He doesn’t really like it. He goes back and gets his Type 75 administrative certification and becomes a principal. To an ever increasing degree, this is what the principal pool looks like.

I can’t say for sure that Sicat didn’t like teaching kids. I can say he didn’t spend much time doing it.

Now he is The Closer.

His official title is Chicago Public School’s Chief Portfolio Officer.

His job? Choosing schools to close down.

CPS has closed more than 50 neighborhood schools in the last 10 years. 150 more are now on the chopping block. Closing them will be Sicat’s job.

The CTU and Chicago neighborhood organizations have another plan.

Sicat, who previously served as the principal of UIC College Prep, a Noble Street Charter School, has already met his opponents. Last week at a community hearing on the plan for school closings, audience members shouted at Sicat, questioned his decision-making power, and demanded that the district invest in existing schools rather than close them and open up new ones.

The Chicago Teachers Union is vehemently opposed to charter schools, and last week president Karen Lewis said the new guidelines for school closings unfairly favor “publicly-funded, but privately-managed charter schools” that are not held accountable to the same standards.

“The guidelines are more of the same failed policies and practices of previous CPS administrations: moving too quickly to close neighborhood schools and replace them with charter schools without ever demonstrating that CPS faithfully tried to adequately support struggling neighborhood schools,” Lewis said.

23 Replies to “Oliver Sicat. The Closer.”

  1. I had a long comment about this, but somehow it was lost. Nevertheless–I have been saying this for years: how about having a prerequisite for even being ADMITTED to a Type 75 program that one has to have taught for AT LEAST TEN years?! Last time I heard, it wasn’t even FIVE; I knew people who started the program after teaching for TWO years!(& it can take only ONE year to finish all the coursework & take the exam, so then one has taught for only THREE years.)

    Also–to give an example–I earned my Type 75 after having taught for 12 years: I was so disgusted at how special ed. students & parents were being mistreated, & I wanted to be a sp.ed. director or coordinator so that I could actually help them, rather than thwart services. A “yes” woman was hired for the position, but because I was friendly w/some of the school board members (they respected me as an educator, & I respected them as parents/community members), I was asked if I wanted to be the AP of one of the middle schools. I said, “No–are you kidding? I’ve never even TAUGHT in middle school! I don’t know the population or the curriculum. I’d have to have taught in one first, & then, for a number of years.” Now, let’s guess at how many ladder-climbers & money-grabbers would’ve said yes?

    And, of course, that is, I believe, the biggest problem of education aside from the billionaires’ purchasing the public schools. Truly, the inmates are running the asylum.

    (See also–Pissed Off Teacher Blog and Mr. Teachbad–they are out of NYC & Washington,D.C. {think Michelle Rhee–I believe she taught for all of FIVE years?!})

  2. An ISS I know is a 30 something former math teacher who got certified in ISS in a weekend or two. She worked in private industry, supposedly hated it (my guess is they hated her) and came into teaching. It took her two times to pass her licensing exam in math.

    Now this woman is ISS AP. She knows nothing about the kids, doesn’t even like them and is making the teachers miserable. She is the Queen of breaking regulations.

  3. First off I don’t think individuals should judge Mr. Sicat if you do not know him. i am a student at UICCP, and he was my principal for three years. he is an amazing motivator and he really cared about my schools future. I have attended it a public school, and I totally agree SOME should be closed down. by attending a charter school I feel more prepared for college then 75% of my peers that attend Public High Schhols in Chicago. This man is not just closing down a building, but he is changing lives. I want a better education system for my kids in the future, and I feel Oliver Sicat is going to make that possible. He is one of the reasons why I have had the ability to take college credited courses IN HIGH SCHOOL, get accepted to multiple colleges already, and feel more motivated than ever to make a Positive Multigenerational Change. Also Mr. Sicat has spent countless hours with students. In fact, some days I remember he would come into at least one of my classes a day, and just observe us. This man is changing lives, and EVERYONE who disagrees has a right to their own opinion. Unlike them, I have had a first hand account with this man.

    1. Caitlyn,
      Thanks for your comment. My question for you is this: You don’t think that Mr. Sicat should be judged by those who don’t know him. How do you know that some schools should be closed down if you don’t go to them? Congratulations on your graduation.

      1. Sicat has proven to show great results, for Uiccp made it to the top 10 chart on the ACT with being the top NON SELECTIVE ENROLLMENT school on the charts. He hired an amazing staff, made Uiccp successful, and taught us that you don’t have to be a certain race, have a certain income, nor be of the highest class to be successful and show the world that you are great and intelligent. Yet there schools are not showing great results and if you leave the schools open what would the students get out of it?

  4. Mr. Sicat is not closing down these schools just to close them down. The obviously is a reason behind it all. Clearly the schools that are closing down are the lowest performing schools. And we know this by data received from test scores. Sure some teachers are losing their jobs, but if they did their job right in the first place, then the teachers wouldn’t be in this situation. We are always saying how we want to better the gpnext generation and give them what adults now never had. This is one of those things. By closing down low performing schools and opening new schools with teachers who actually care about teaching, students will have a better chance learning. Leanring leads to better test scores. Better test scores lead to more opportunities in the students’ futures.

    And frankly, Mr. Sicat loved to teach. He loved spending time with us students. Actually, he wants every student to have to opportunities we have at UIC College Prep. He made sure we set goals, accomplish those goals, and plan our future. Not only was I provided with an excellent education, but I was also lucky enough to have a principle that cared as much as he did. He developed a relationship with each student there. He is only trying to PMC – positive multigenerational change, which is our motto. You rock Mr. Sicat. Can’t wait to see you at our graduation.

    1. Briana,
      I think it is good that you and your fellow students are going to my blog and commenting. I encourage you to go to lots of education blogs. Teachers write many of them. Look for people who might tell a different story then you are getting at your school. I have found many great teachers who are teaching in tough situations. But test scores may not show how good they are. What if we are losing teachers who have helped their students in ways that cannot be measured by tests? I have had teachers like that. I’m sure you have had them too.
      Congratulations on your graduation.

  5. Briana and Caitlym,

    Back when I was in school (about a zillion years ago) only one person was ever held accountable for a student’s test score, and that was the student. There was no blaming the teacher or anyone else. It was that sense of personal responsibility that made me attend school every day, pay attention in class, and work hard for my grades. Had I been allowed to just blame the teacher for my mistakes, I would not have graduated from high school as an A student. And it was because I had no one to hold accountable but myself that I did well not only in high school, but also in college. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA, and that would not have happened had I been allowed to shift blame for any problems I had onto the professors.

    Current education policy, which allows students to blame the teachers for their problems in school, is not doing the students any favors. It’s a very damaging policy.

    I’m glad you both have plans for college. You need to realize, however, that when you are there, you two will be the only persons responsible for what you do.

  6. I agree that it is wrong that some teachers are losing their jobs. I know how it is, my mom has recently lost her job, its tough. Like Briana said they are closing the doors to these schools because of poor test score. I mean not one person can tell me that test scores do not matter. Every University in the country look at GPA and ACT. Test scores are the only way to determine how a school is doing. Im not too sure if you know about Noble Street Charter Schools, but I want to explain you where im coming from. To get into my school they use a lottery system. The school does not look at test scores, GPA, anything from your past, etc. All they care about is taking you from were you are and building your education from there. We take our core classes all four years, expected to have 70 community service hours, one enrichment credit, a physical fitness test, and 3 hours of homework every nigh. We are also aiming for one mission, and that mission that we have is to make a Positive Multigenerational Change by having scholarship, Discipline, and Honor. If I didn’t choose Noble I would’ve ended up at one of these failing Public High Schools. I am also not taking the side Public Vs. Charter. I believe in a school that “works”, and Noble efforts Do “work”. Also Public school teachers shouldn’t talk poorly about Charter School teachers. I understand the Public school teachers have a union and Charter school teachers don’t. Charter schools can set their own rules. On top of this Charter school teachers get paid less. I believe they should pay teachers off of performance. They have their degree to do whatever in their will to make that student as educated as they can. If you know what you are doing and your students are interested then there should be no problem with the data. If they are failing then why are you even wasting your time! I will also say it again, I am worried about my future childrens generation if we do not change something now. I really hope Noble keeps doing what they are doing because I WILL be sending then there because I know they will not only want to graduate High School, but come home everyday and tell me how excited they are for college!

    Thanks! I cant wait to go to UIC 🙂

  7. Katy,
    Speaking as a proud UIC alum, I think you will enjoy your time there.
    Think about this. You say that test scores are the only way one can see how a school is doing and yet you also say that you got into Noble by way of a lottery rather than test scores. As a teacher I use lots of methods for looking at what my students know. I’m pretty sure your teachers do too. A test is one method. But sometimes I know what a student knows by using other methods which I think are better. Apparently Noble Charter agrees with me about that, since they admit students by ways other than tests.
    I have many friends who are teachers at charter schools. They are great teachers and I am glad to hear that you have had the opportunity to have great teachers too.

  8. I agree with you Fred to the fullest here, but they are closing school that are doing really poorly. Also Annoymous I see were your coming from, and im not saying ALL Public Schools are bad. Also I know never to hold my instructors responsible for my education. I go to a college prep school, and it is a college envirnment. Our teachers always tell us “figure it out” or “make yourself accountable for your education”. Also I agree that some students can blame their teachers for their poor education. I went back to a grammer school, and I was doing community service there. I sat through a whole class, and the teacher just sat there while the children did whatever they wanted to do. These are the teachers im talking about. Teacher should be observed, and the system should keep the teachers that are valuable to the students education. After all they are the ones in charge of their education to a certain extent. If they arent answer me this, why are they even there?

  9. Fred, you are right. There is a mixture of good and bad teachers out there. But what really needs to happen is eliminate the “bad” teachers. Speaking as a student, I expect a teacher to teach me and prepare me for college. If the teacher isn’t passionate about teaching, then why teach? Passionate teachers are what motivates the students to want to learn and work hard. We need more teachers like this. Over my four years in high school, I have developed close relationships with my teachers. When I tell my friends that I need to call or text my teacher for homework help immediately, they look at me funny.But that close relationship really helps me in the long run. Like Katy, I believe that the teachers should be observed because it’s not fair that the “good” teachers are losing their jobs because of the performance of their co-workers.

    P.S. Have you ever seen the documentary “Waiting For Superman”? If not, then I recommend you watch it. It really gets at the point of what Katy and I are trying to make. And it’s just a shocking yet educational film 🙂

    1. Briana,

      Having a passionate teacher who loves to teach and who makes the subject interesting is great; However, you won’t always get that in college. Some professors are there to do research and they are not especially good teachers. You can expect some professors who are great at teaching and others who just mumble to the wall. The really brilliant ones are especially bad at interacting with the students. If your learning is dependent on the passion of the teacher and his ability to make the class interesting, you’re going to have a difficult time.

      Also, don’t expect to have your professors’ cell phone numbers; It will be up to you to clarify homework before you leave the class. Your professors may have office hours, but I had one who did not. You can try to complain about the professors who are not great, passionate teachers, but if the person is someone prominent in his field, the university won’t care.

      In other words, once you are in college, your learning is all up to you.

      Again, I really think the current trends in education are not preparing young people for what is ahead. Depending on a passionate teacher to learn, and having a teacher’s cell phone number to get through homework, is not necessarily preparing you for what lies ahead.

      I’m not saying this to scare you. It’s just that what you are describing as preparation for college sounds like something that won’t really do that.

      Of course college may have radically changed since I went. When I was your age, disco was still popular. 🙂

  10. I’m wondering if any research has been done on how successful charter school students are once they get into college. I’m sure one of Bill Gates’ psuedo think tanks could design a study that shows all charter school alumni are successful and all public school graduates fail; However, I am wondering if any serious research has been done on this. What I’ve been reading about these various charter school “college prep academies” tells me that they may not all be realistically prepping kids for what they will encounter in a university setting.

    1. The college prep school to which I attended actually over prepare me for college. I am a college student and at first my friend who went to cps schools seen me and said “man you know what you are doing. Can I hang out with you more often so I can see what is it that makes this process seem easy for you.”

  11. Katy,
    I have seen Waiting for Superman. Whenever I see a film that calls itself a documentary but is advocating for particular view, I ask myself, “What aren’t they telling me? Are they leaving out information that contradicts the position that they are advocating for?

  12. Also I would like to make the ponit that it shouldn’t matter charter or public. Either way they are teachers. And inave seen noble students, many of them, that have graduated years ago, and they feel the same way about noble as I do. noble is one of the only charter campuses in the Chicago land that I feel really works. Also you Don’t have to talk to me about a University setting because I have have the luxury of taking college courses with UIC professors, and I am well aware of what college is going to be like. My school is 100% focused on having us not graduate from high school, but from college. That’s why im really the class of 2016. (; thanks for your opinion though!

  13. While I can’t comment on how long Mr. Sicat taught, I do want to note that he won Massachusetts’s Teacher of the Year Award while he was teaching at a vocational and technical school in Boston. A quick Google search of his name brings that information up. As a graduate student, I observed his courses over a dozen times while he taught at Madison Park. He inspired and motivated students with lessons that were challenging and relevant. (I remember a two-variable algebra problem that asked them to compare cell plans based on cost of texts and monthly minute usage. Students had to figure out which plan was best based on various usage patterns and calculate the point at which it made sense to switch from one plan to another.) He was by far the best teacher I saw there, and was someone who treated students humanely while still holding them to high standards.

    None of this speaks to your concerns about charter schools and school closings. (In fact, I largely agree with the points you make there.) However, since your argument here seems to focus on this person, his experience, and your sense (unsubstantiated by evidence) that he didn’t like teaching, I wanted to offer a first-hand perspective. I visited Madison Park twice a week for a semester and sat in on his classes at least once a week. He cares, he did like to teach, and he asked a lot out of students. They respected him — and liked him — for it. And they learned.

    1. Actually, I said that I can’t say much about Sicat as an individual. Except now we can say he is part of the full scale attack on neighborhood schools that is currently under way in Chicago. NIce guy. Inspires kids. Closes schools. You feel the need to defend him?

      1. Actually, Fred, it does seem that you are trying to say a lot about Oliver as an individual to inappropriately advance your agenda.

        1. You start this article by calling him a name.
        2. Then announce his age (which, in my opinion, is not a fair measure of a person’s intelligence or ability).
        3. And finally, you try to make your own ideas about education sound reasonable by slanderously making claims about Mr. Sicat’s background.

        I’m very disappointed to see that your sensational approach to amateur journalism has put a dark cloud on Oliver’s name. If you truly knew the guy, as I’ve known him for more than 10 years, you would pull this post down in regret and apologize.

        I am incredibly proud of the students who have been touched by Oliver’s life that were bold enough to come onto your blog and demonstrate activism at it’s finest. Even if you never get the opportunity to meet Oliver in person, know that you are experiencing just the tiniest glimpse of Mr. Sicat’s ability to positively lead the educational future of our students.

        Fred, I hope this will be a lesson for you to validate your opinions by facts and hard data, not by gossip and bullying.

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