The Forrest Claypool gimmick. The first thing they do is paint their office.

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First thing: Kudos to my bro for his prognostication.

Two weeks ago he predicted that the new CEO at CPS, Forrest Claypool, would hand out banker boxes to the Byrd-Bennett crew and show them the door.

Some cynics might claim that this was an easy prediction since the new boss will always bring in his own people after firing the old ones.

Not all will be smart enough to claim it as a budget cut to be used in contract negotiations with the teachers union.

This is Claypool’s modus operandi.

Wherever he goes, the playbook has been the same. Start by cutting the heck out of your own executive budget. Then move on to the tougher job of challenging costly union work rules.

Now Claypool is bringing to CPS the strategy he executed at the Chicago Park District, the CTA and during two stints as former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff. Claypool had planned to do the same as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief of staff before the resignation of CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett altered the game plan.

It’s like, what is the first thing a new principal does when they come into a building?

Paint their office. Even when the old principal only lasted a year and painted the office when they got hired.

One day at lunch a bunch of us were talking in the teachers lounge. How would our work be different if there was no central office?

Nothing would be worse, we all agreed. In fact, our work would be better because it would give us more time to focus on teaching and less hoops to jump through.

Some of the jobs Claypool is claiming to get rid of?

Chief incubation officer and director-talent generalist.

As goofy as these job titles are, don’t be fooled.

The first has to do with charter schools and the second is the latest name for Human Resources.

Is Claypool getting rid of those jobs? Not likely.

Changing job titles? Probably.

My old board changed the assistant superintendent for curriculum to the director of student learning.

A budget cut?

Nah.

Money just changed budget lines.

My old board changed the assistant superintendent for personnel to human resource director.

Same switch of money to a different budget line.

Now human resource directors are called talent generalists.

For those who can decipher a school district budget, and believe me when I tell you that the CTU has those people, we will see soon enough that this is all smoke and mirrors.

Claypool will hire his own incubator and call it something else.

This is all to impress the media and to justify blowing up any progress in bargaining with the teachers.

In the end, CTU president Karen Lewis is right.

As usual.

Claypool will have to stop playing games and bargain seriously.

And one way or the other, as long as we have collective bargaining and a union, the teachers will get a contract.

“CPS’s tragic shortcoming over the years has been its penchant for distortion and deception, and its well-earned lack of credibility in all corners of this State.”

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James C. Franczek
Franczek Radelet P.C.
300 South Wacker Drive
Suite 3400
Chicago, IL 60606-6785

Dear Mr. Franczek:

The Chicago Teachers Union has directed that I promptly respond to the maliciously false letter you issued today purporting to justify the decision by Chicago Public Schools to precipitously withdraw from its proposed one-year contract extension.

The misstatements in your letter are profound and disturbing. As you know, our last meeting on July 30 ended on the verge of an agreement pending resolution of two issues. President Lewis then met with the Mayor on August 2 to hear the Mayor’s concerns. As we entered the room to resume negotiations today, CPS immediately withdrew the entire extension proposal without bothering to hear the Union’s response, and now falsely suggests that we were at impasse.

How far were we apart? The Union had proposed that for one year a small subgroup of tenured teachers be added to the much larger group who, in the event of economic layoffs unrelated to pedagogy, would be laid off in order of seniority. Already, CPS currently provides over 80% of tenured teachers such protections. To contend that this small addition for a single year would “irreparably undermine the effectiveness of our evaluation system” is flatly untrue – though we had not in any event concluded our negotiations on this subject.

And the remaining issue? The Union’s proposal that CPS commit $10 million to a community-based anti-violence initiative at 20 local schools – a proposal your team heartily endorsed from the moment it was raised, and required only agreement on where to secure the funding. You now call it “an issue that divides us,” but you know better.

Your misstatements continue with the false claim that we disagreed over matters about which total agreement was already achieved. Most particularly, you claim we “have disagreement” over pension pick-up, when you know that CPS had proposed, and the Union had agreed, that CPS would maintain the pension pickup for another year. How can you claim this issue divides us when the CPS itself proposed to maintain it?

CPS’s tragic shortcoming over the years has been its penchant for distortion and deception, and its well-earned lack of credibility in all corners of this State. Regrettably, once again CPS proves true to form in making more specious claims to support its perceived short term interests.

Sadly, CPS walks away from agreements that the Union was prepared to accept and submit to membership ratification, including no increase to base salaries, a commitment to achieve significant healthcare cost savings, mutually agreed reforms to evaluation practices, grading practices and student testing, plus CPS’s promises not to unilaterally open new charter schools, not to close more neighborhood schools or to impose disruptive school turnarounds – agreements CPS now throws out the window.

After four months of bargaining over an extension agreement that CPS requested and proposed to the Union, it has evidently decided to seek confrontation rather than compromise, setting us directly onto a collision course. We have no doubt that CPS will now seek to impose a 7% educator pay cut, destroy more neighborhood schools, and continue its ranking and sorting of teachers and children by unproven educational methods – all at the expense of CPS students and the dedicated professionals who educate them.

Sincerely,
Robert E. Bloch
CTU General Counsel

“The list of stipulations is longer than the list of autonomies. That signals a net loss for autonomy.”

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– By Troy LaRaviere is principal of Blaine Elementary School and chair of the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education.  Troy blogs at http://troylaraviere.net/author/troylaraviere/

On Monday, principals across the city received an email from CPS’s central office announcing yet another program that will do more harm than good.

It stated: “In order to further develop and retain our experienced and high-achieving principals, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools are launching the Independent Schools Principal (ISP) program. In this program, a cohort of 25 high-performing CPS principals will receive greater autonomy from several existing CPS structures.”

The letter goes on to list certain “autonomies” and “stipulations.” They are as follows:

Autonomies: 1. Exempt from network oversight; 2. Modified principal evaluation; 3. Continued access to School Support Centers; 4. Increased flexibility with budget.

Stipulations: 1. Opt-out of access to Network support and professional development; 2. Opt-in to a professional learning community with other ISPs; 3.  Maintain or increase the School Rating Level; 4. Participate in pilot research; 5. Participate in external site visits; 6. Respond to direct Central Office inquiries.

The list of stipulations is longer than the list of autonomies. That signals a net loss for autonomy. Furthermore, only one of the autonomies listed is an actual autonomy (exempt from network oversight). The other so-called autonomies don’t come close to living up to the term. For example:

#2: A modified evaluation is not autonomy; it is a modified evaluation.

#3: All CPS principals currently have access to School Support Centers. Only in the spin-laden world of CPS can “continued” access to something you already have access to be thought of as more autonomy.

#4: The last time CPS offered us “increased flexibility,” they took hundreds of thousands (in some cases millions) of dollars away from each of our schools and gave us the “autonomy” to piece together an instructional program in the wake of their slash-and-burn budgeting. Given CPS’ track record, why would any principal with a working long-term memory trust the district’s latest promise of autonomy?

Furthermore, removing your best principals from their regular principal meetings is a backward and thoughtless strategy for improving an entire district. Our network chief (network 4) often has two to three principals lead workshops for their colleagues in our meetings. These workshops illustrate thoughtful approaches to solving problems that many of us have in common. What happens when you separate the most effective principals from their colleagues who can no longer use their ideas to benefit the tens of thousands of students they serve?

To add insult to injury, CPS has decided to tempt high performing principals away from their colleagues with an unspecified offer of additional funding.

As expected, the elitist and separatist approach of CPS officials is rearing its divisive head once again. After all, this is the same cash-strapped district that decided to take $60 million it doesn’t have and spend it to build yet another selective enrollment school. Their approach to principals is no different; segregate the top performers from the colleagues who need them most, and leave the latter to fend for themselves.

Intelligent school systems offer incentives for such principals to take on additional leadership responsibilities among their colleagues who are doing well, and among those who are struggling. Our district officials however have opted to do the opposite; they offer incentives for principals to segregate themselves from the colleagues who need them most. To anyone concerned with the overall health of our system, this makes no sense.

In summary, there is no credible evidence of increased autonomy offered in CPS’s description of this initiative, and the initiative completely ignores effective school system practices that encourage effective principals to collaborate with colleagues who need them.

This initiative is among the first major announcements of the latest schools CEO to be appointed by Rahm Emanuel: Forrest Claypool. It is also — unfortunately — an indication that his new leadership position will not signal a change in the leadership direction of CPS. It is business as usual. Unfortunately — for the students and educators in our district — business as usual for CPS under Emanuel is as backward as it gets. It’s time for an elected school board.

– Sun-Times

Life in Rahm’s Chicago. CPS board never says no to the Mayor.

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Y’know that family in the next booth at Dunlay’s.

The ones with the kids that are throwing spaghetti into your water glass and running all over the place letting out periodic banshee screeches.

They’re cute enough. But the parents just don’t know how to say no.

Families and a democracy need to use the word no.

A report in the Chicago Sun-Times today gives further evidence that when it comes to CPS, Chicago is no democracy.

The CPS board of education just can’t say no.

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They voted unanimously, of course, for the crooked $20 million SUPES deal that has led to a federal investigation and the resignation of CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Former board president and banker David Vitale, who cast one of the six votes for the SUPES Academy deal in June 2013, has never said no since he began voting in June 2011.

Three other former board members were also no averse: Deborah Quazzo, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and who the Sun-Times calls “corporate spokesman Rod Sierra.”

Which of the board members, current or former, is not a corporate spokesman?

The Sun-Times looked at voting records from about 50 board meetings held since the middle of 2011 when Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed his chosen seven members. Two of those members changed in 2013. Several of the nine total told the Sun-times no one ever told them how to vote.

Board vice president Jesse Ruiz, an attorney, and Henry Bienen, president emeritus of Northwestern University, dissented just once each.

Former principal Mahalia Hines, who along with Ruiz remains on the board, and U.S. Senate candidate Andrea Zopp each disagreed with CPS in three votes.

 The most public dissent came from former principal Carlos Azcoitia, who voted against CPS nine times during his partial term from January 2013 to June 2015.

He was out of the country on the day of the SUPES vote and missed it but told the Sun-Times:

“Had I been in that meeting, I would have voted ‘no.’

Right.

If I had a boat I’d go out on the ocean.
And if I had a pony I’d ride him on my boat.
And we could all together, go out on the ocean.
Me upon my pony on my boat.

Logan Square is lucky. We have neighborhood public schools that have budgets to slash. East Humboldt Park doesn’t get that priviledge.

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When Mayor Rahm set the record for closing neighborhood public schools it left East Humboldt Park with none. No neighborhood public elementary school.

They don’t have to worry about budget cuts.

Anymore.

Neighborhood public schools in Logan Square, on the other hand, will lose $4 million dollars.

The good news is that we still have neighborhood public schools. So we still have budgets to cut.

In Rahm’s Chicago that’s called a privilege.

City-wide, Mayor Rahm’s CPS  cuts amount to over $100 million.

Logan Square’s Kelvyn Park High School will have to do with $1.7 million less than last year.

That will follow a 27% budget cut in 2013.

A bunch of us protested at the Logan Square monument on Tuesday.

By the way, I did my student teaching at Kelvyn Park.

The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund votes general support for CPS borrowing offer.

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Chicago Teachers Pension Fund Executive Director Charles Burbridge.

– The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund:

Yesterday the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF) Board of Trustees met in a special meeting where representatives of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) presented a proposal to create a short-term employer payment plan. At the meeting, CPS Interim Chief Executive Officer Jesse Ruiz, Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley, and the City of Chicago’s Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown outlined a proposal which would not reduce pension funding, but would help CPS close a $500 million budget gap for 2016.

Under the terms of the proposal, CPS would discontinue its practice of making a single annual pension payment on the last business day of the year and would instead make monthly payments to CTPF, beginning in January 2016 and continuing for the next 10 years.

This new funding schedule would defer approximately $500 million of the FY 2016 payment into the FY 2017 fiscal year. The proposal requires CPS to pay interest at 7.75% on the deferred amount and requires $750 million in collateral to secure the agreement.

Following a period of discussion and debate, the board voted to communicate its general support for the proposal, and authorized a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees to continue negotiations and discussions with CPS. The subcommittee is expected to meet in July and will make a recommendation to the full board later this month.

“We were encouraged to see representatives of CPS at our meeting this morning and appreciate the opportunity to openly discuss payment security for the Fund,” said CTPF Board of Trustees President Jay C. Rehak. “While we still have concerns about this proposal, we look forward to working through these issues so that our members’ interests are protected and our Fund receives all the revenue necessary to meet the pension commitments made by CPS.”

“Under the current statute, CTPF receives revenue once a year, on the last business day,” said CTPF Executive Director Charles A. Burbridge. “This proposal revises the payment schedule, but ensures that we have a monthly revenue stream and provides security and interest on a deferred amount, which is reassuring for our members.”

The subcommittee is expected to make a recommendation in advance of the full board meeting on July 16, 2015.

CPS to Chicago Teachers Pension Fund: Two tens for a five.

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Chicago Sun-Times:

One day after using borrowed money and savings generated by 1,400 layoffs to make a $634 million payment to the teachers pension fund, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is asking the pension fund for a five-month, $500 million loan.

At a pension fund meeting Wednesday, Chicago’s newly-appointed Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown said she’s well aware it’s a “big ask,” particularly after the history of pension holidays and partial payments that created the $9.5 billion pension crisis at the Chicago Public Schools.

CPS pension bill paid for with the the lives of teachers and students. In debt by design.

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CPS did not meet its pension obligation yesterday.

CPS teachers and students made the payment for them.

Yes, there was a transfer of $630 million into the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

But it was paid for with classrooms that in September will be overflowing with students and teachers in the unemployment line.

1400 current teachers will lose their jobs.

Bankers are smiling.

They will be paid and none will lose a job.

The Chicago Teachers Union has argued that the city is broke on purpose. The CTU is right as rain.

Yes, the Mayor is a terrible manager.

Yes, his hand-picked board is made up of a bunch of hustlers and bumbling fools.

Yet.

Can anyone really believe that the mayor who ran as a wise financial wiz kid, who made millions on Wall Street, didn’t know what was happening?

We are a city and state in debt by design.

“We are blindsided by reports that the district intends to lay off 1,400 public school educators, given that we just met with them yesterday and there was no mention of this action. These layoffs prove that the Board never intended to make the pension payment in good faith and that they are using this to justify more attacks on our classrooms,” said Karen Lewis, president of the CTU. “Putting 1,400 people out of work is no way to balance a budget and resource our schools. This is going to hurt our students and the most vulnerable children in our district. These cuts are a result of a history of poor fiscal management by the Board of Education. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked board has led this district over a financial cliff.

“We are outraged at this deceptive action that only furthers the distrust teachers, parents and students have with the Board. We thought it suspect at the time that the Board was pressuring us to sign off on an agreement on yesterday, before we had a complete agreement. This is retaliatory and unnecessary because (the mayor) refuses to seek revenue options to stabilize CPS. ”

Who will be targeted by the layoff of 1400 teachers?

Union activists, trouble-makers, and senior teachers.

“Let no good crisis go to waste,” the Mayor has said.

The CTU leadership saw this coming. That is why their bargaining focused more on evaluation than on salary.

Layoffs are tied to evaluations.

The current state of hiring and firing at CPS is a throwback to the worst Chicago patronage days.

Which may, in fact, be now.

The current evaluation procedures give principals the power to down-grade the over all ranking of those who don’t bow and scrape to their every whim with a down-grade in a single category.

Local hiring allows principals the power to hire friends and family.

My old precinct captain, Guido, would be jealous.

At the very same time as the layoff announcement was made Catalyst was reporting:

In 2013 the Illinois State Board of Education and the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute asked more than 100,000 teachers and 750,000 middle and high school students a series of questions aimed at determining which schools had the best climate for teaching and learning.

In three of the broad categories – effective leaders, collaborative teachers and ambitious instruction – Chicago Public Schools had higher ratings than other types of school communities across the state, according to a recently released report.

If this is permitted  to stand, say goodbye to all that.

UNO, CPS and Sister Barbara McCarry.

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Former CPS charter authorizer and UNO COO Sister Barbara McCarry.

Yesterday I posted about Sun-Times’ Dan Mihalopoulos report on the continuing relationship between CPS and both UNO and the UNO Charter Network.

I wonder whether that continued relationship – in spite of UNO’s financial misdealings and federal investigations – might be connected to the appointment of retired Loyola CEO and President Rev. Michael Garanzini to the CPS board of education by Mayor Rahm

What is Rev. Garanzini’s relationship to UNO?

It was under Garanzin’si Loyola tenure that plans were developed for the new Arrupe two-year college at the Loyola Water Tower Campus.

Arrupe is funded by some of Chicago’s major corporations.

Rev. Steve Katsouros, Arrupe’s dean and executive director, said he’s seeking about $2 million annually from institutional donors such as McCormick. Arrupe’s first-year budget is $2.3 million and its second is $3.7 million. He confirmed that the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee is on his list and volunteered two Chicago targets: the Steans Family Foundation and the Joyce Foundation.

CTUnet reports that there will be strong ties between Arrupe and UNO’s network of charter schools.

Arrupe is intended to serve low-income students and so on the surface there is nothing wrong with the relationship.

Unless it hides something deeper and a relationship with a broader agenda.

And so we have Sister Barbara McCarry.

Sister McCarry was once the principal at St. Scholastica in Rogers Park, which is also home to Loyola University.

The St. Scholastica facility is now an UNO charter school.

After leaving her post at St. Scholastica Sister McCarry went to work for CPS in their Office of New Schools which authorizes CPS charter school applications.

From CPS’s Office of New Schools, Sister McCarry moved to UNO as its Chief Operating Officer.

In a September, 2012 Chicago Reader article, Ben Joravsky writes about Sister McCarry’s role in the firing of an UNO teacher.

Sister McCarry is mentioned in a long Chicago Magazine article on UNO from January, 2014.

Behind the scarlet curtain, UNO’s schools could be sloppy. Rangel rarely entered them. From 2008 until 2011, day-to-day operations fell to a strict Catholic nun, Sister Barbara McCarry, a veteran from the CPS office that vetted charters. To make up a budget gap from leaner times, UNO began stuffing more kids in classrooms (up to 30 in kindergarten and first grade, compared with the CPS average of 24) and levying “activity fees” on unsuspecting families. Expectations were high, tempers were strained, and a revolving door of principals (called directors at UNO schools) left a young and largely inexperienced crop of teachers casting about for guidance. Teachers say they felt pressure to please parents and to not draw any negative attention to the schools.

What’s wrong here? Nothing. Unless there is.

What we do know is that there is a long relationship that involves CPS, UNO, Rev. Garanzini and Sister McCarry. We know that the relationship between CPS and UNO has just been renewed by CPS’ acting CEO, Jesse Ruiz. And that Rev. Garanzini has now been appointed to the CPS board by Mayor Rahm.

Just makes me go hmmmm.

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