Lessons Learned in Englewood: 8 years of reflections from a CPS teacher

A little over 8 years ago when I took my first job in CPS at a high school in Englewood, people of all races would look at me like I was crazy when I told them where I would be working. During my time teaching in Englewood I had people make assumptions about me, such as, that I must not be a very good teacher if I teach in Englewood , because surely, if I was a good teacher I would be working somewhere else.

Obviously if people were making assumptions about me working in Englewood, they were surely making assumptions about my students who lived in the community. I have written previously about when a random stranger on the bus called my kids animals and how I responded.

Through all of assumptions and stereotypes I realized that the students I taught were all that mattered. But I also very recently came to a point in my professional career that I needed a change of schools. Leaving the students was and is still hard. I didn’t officially make the decision until August so I told my students through email and text messages. That was the hardest thing by far about leaving. But the beauty of the students was they wanted me to be happy. Yes, they were upset and hurt, but every single student (I even messaged kids who graduated awhile ago to let them know) really just wanted me to be happy. So I write this dedicated to every single student I taught in Englewood which is close to 1,000 students.

 So here is some of what I learned from my time in Englewood:

1. Teachers know that kids can detect a good teacher in the first few minutes of meeting us. Well my Englewood students could detect a good teacher in seconds

When we hired teachers at our school we would always have students sit on the interview and ask questions. Once the interview ended, if our students had doubts then that person wasn’t hired.

2. The kids knew the stereotypes about them, but more importantly with guidance knew also how to beat those stereotypes.

3. That most of the kids I taught could make better politicians than many of the people who are in power in this city.

4. That Englewood produces genius. Yup, you read that right. Still doubting? Then watch this.

5. I learned that having open and honest conversations about race wasn’t always easy, but was always very necessary.

Lisa Delpit an acclaimed scholar on race once came to our school and observed me teach and talked to students that I taught. Because of my openness to talk about race and the stories my students shared with her, she was inspired enough to write about me in her 2nd book.

6. That 4 Englewood high school students can stand up and poetically dissect every terrible policy Rahm Emanuel has put in place.

7. That when I experienced the worst loss of my life it was the students that I taught who knew how best to support me.

8. That when the first student that attended our school was murdered students and staff came together.

It was in my fourth year of teaching that I got a phone call at 6am on a cold January Saturday morning from our assistant principal who told me Travell had been killed. Travell was a very likable kid and a kid who had turned his life around from early in his high school career to just get accepted into college. His loss rocked our school. Everyone dreaded going to school that Monday after his death. But it was everyone at the school, students and staff that kept us all together so we could grieve and overcome this tragedy.

9. That when one of our staff members passed away the students and staff came together.

One of the most happy and upbeat people at our school, passed away last year. He was loved by students and staff alike. No matter what, he was always smiling and was one of those people that truly made school a better place. It was at his funeral that students stood up and spoke and shared stories of love for Stokes that helped us all overcome this loss.

10. That there are some amazing organizations, people, and teachers working in the Englewood neighborhood. If you never heard of RAGE then you need to.

11. That a public high school in Englewood had over 90% college acceptance rate, but the Mayor never came to congratulate us.

12. I learned that being white and bald would automatically lead me to be nicknamed Caillou.

13. That every student deserves so much more than this city’s government and poorly run school system is giving them.

14. That everywhere parents and students want to succeed.

While I was growing up and going to school, I have some teachers who still stick in my mind. The teachers who really helped guide, coach, teach, and inspire me. Well the thing that most people who aren’t teachers don’t know is teachers have kids who stick in their minds the same way. While there are way too many students to name individually who stick and will continue to stick with me, I know that I have become a better person, because of the “dangerous” Englewood students that I taught.

**I am still a CPS public high school south side teacher, just at a different school now**

Published in HuffingtonPost Chicago

Published on Gapers Block


The New President Obama School Even Though CPS Closed 50 Schools Last Year

Chicago Public Schools just announced that they will build a new high school and name it after our current president Barack Obama.

This announcement of building a new high school is about a year after the announcement by the unelected mayorally appointed CPS Board of Education to close the most schools in the history of the United States amidst massive community protests.

This announcement comes about one month after this same board of education agreed to give themselves $5 million to buy brand new furniture for their new offices.

This announcement comes one day after the puppets, I mean the handpicked school board by Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to fire every adult (teachers, principals, engineers, lunch workers, security, and custodians) in three elementary schools amidst community protests.

The new selective enrollment high school will be located on the north side of the city, which is nowhere close to where nearly all the 53 closed or “turn around” schools are located.

Kevin Coval one of Chicago’s great poets wrote an article for CNN.com titled “Chicago A Tale of Two Cities” and in it he stated, “One white (city), one black (city). One for the rich, one for the poor. One for private schools, one for closed schools. A new Chicago for the saved and the damned. Gold coast heavens and low-end hells. It’s biblical, binary.”

This is not an exaggeration by Kevin Coval we all are watching this mayor blatantly create two cities. Rahm and his pal Barbara Byrd-Bennett attempt to use fancy buzz words like “rigor”, “quality seats”, “world class”, and “21st century” to make their actions seem justified, but be real they do not care about kids.

I do not care if Barbara Byrd-Bennett happens to be black she does not care about lower income black kids in this city no matter what she claims and neither does our mayor. How can the students at the high school I work at in Englewood be receiving a “world class” education when we went without basic sanitary necessities like soap in the boy’s bathroom for five weeks? How are my kids getting a “world class” education when we lost three teaching, one administrative, and three security positions this year due to budget cuts?

All Rahm and Barbara Byrd-Bennett care about is how to make profit off of lower income brown and black children while giving more opportunities to affluent mostly white families. They build charters (that perform no better than public schools) on the south and west sides, but build new public schools or find money for public schools like Jones downtown and Payton on the north side.

Rahm and BBB are firing every adult three schools and then turning those schools over to privately run AUSL to re-staff the very same buildings. AUSL who not at all coincidentally the president of the unelected school board David Vitale served as the chairman for until 2011. 

What Rahm Emanuel, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and prominent members of the appointed school board Andrea Zopp, David Vitale, Jesse Ruiz are doing to our city is a attempting to maximize their profits at the expense of lower income people of color. Even though some of these school board members are Black and Latino and represent organizations such as the Urban League they have sold out their own people and everyone in this city that values transparency and Democracy.

I’m well aware of the fact that me being white and calling out prominent Black and Latino leaders is problematic, but damn what they are doing is downright criminal and I hope one day that all the “leaders”of CPS and especially Rahm Emanuel are found to be guilty of crimes against humanity.

My Englewood students wrote about Mr. Wreck It Rahm and the blueprint that these “leaders” are unleashing on our city in their now famous poem with nearly 60,000 views,

“Step one: Take away our schools
Step Two: Put them out their home
Lastly: Destroy it all and
Deny Deny Deny
But remember, to always keep a straight face when you lie!

Try to pour the cheap paint over our eyes while stealing dollars from under our mattresses
There’s not enough? Close their schools
But he’s building a new DePaul stadium
Using our TIF funds to Transform the South Loop into the Promised Land of redevelopment
and some river walk
of course downtown
The paint is starting to streak.
Building a new Chicago or extending a new lie!
How can a city so in debt blueprint something so expensive?”

Rahm’s plan is simple. Create a new Chicago one well resourced and another Chicago underfunded to be experimented on with charters and privatization schemes. One Chicago safe with lowering crime rates and another Chicago that is not even safe on Easter Sunday.

Yet for the Mayor to continue make this plan a reality he has to make everyone believe that certain neighborhoods or areas of the city are better than other areas. He has to convince people on the North Side that people in Englewood (or insert any other South or West side neighborhood) are lazy, dangerous, and don’t want to improve their neighborhood. By getting people to believe the stereotypes about huge areas in this city it allows him to keep doing what he has been doing, which like Kevin Coval said is creating two Chicago’s.



The Real Status Quo of Chicago Public Schools

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Mayor Emanuel, and Becky Carroll the CPS spokesperson have used the justification (among many others over this year) that we must close schools that children are in under-utilized schools. They have even blasted the Chicago Teachers Union saying that, “union leadership remains committed to a status quo that is failing too many children trapped in underutilized, under-resourced schools.”

As a high school history teacher in Englewood for the past six years I agree that we must break the status quo. We (parents, teachers, and tax payers of this city) must break the status quo that CPS and our Mayor allow to go on. The status quo of having a mayor control the school system. If as a mayor you have to close any schools you obviously are failing at running the schools. If as a mayor you have to close the most schools in the history of our country you have obviously failed at running the schools.

The status quo that allows the Mayor to give lucrative deals to his friends like dodgy head of UNO Charter Schools Juan Rangel who in turn has had millions of dollars of state funding cut off, because he was caught giving tax payer money to his relatives businesses.

We have to break the status quo of having the dubious distinction of being the only school district in the entire state with an appointed handpicked NOT elected school board. The mayor not only controls the schools, but then he gets to pick who will be on his school board. The appointed school board is made up of people who do not send their children to public schools and in some cases do not even live in the city. As I teach my students this is called Paternalism. An outsider who claims to know what is best for everyone.

Speaking of outsiders and the status quo we also are on our 4th CEO in 5 years. Barbara Byrd-Bennett who replaced Brizard, who replaced Manzany, who replaced Huberman in 2009 is not even from Chicago. In fact she is still registered voter in Ohio. So like the school board someone not from Chicago telling Chicago parents and students what to do. To see Byrd-Bennett’s true policies just look at her brief but damaging time spent in Detroit.

The notion that students are trapped in under-resourced schools is partly true. I disagree with the trapped part of the statement but the under-resources part I strongly agree with. CPS and the Mayor say to get more resources for our schools we must close 50 schools. Yet the status quo is allowing some schools to be fully funded using TIF money and other schools like mine and many in the black and brown neighborhoods of this city to not be fully funded.

You see with TIFS the neighborhoods with more political clout are allowed to keep their TIF money and have it used for the purposes it was intended such as funding schools. In other neighborhoods the TIF money that is supposed to be used for schools is actually be siphoned from the neighborhoods that really need it and that money is taken downtown for building things like the $100 million River Walk, $300 million to a private university to build DePaul’s new stadium, $55 million for the new Maggie Daley Park.

The status quo allows the mayor to take from the poor and give to the rich. The status quo allows school board members like Penny Pritzker to use TIF money to build new hotels while having her bank accounts located in the Bahamas. This means that the status quo allows her to make decisions for schools, take money earmarked for schools, and then not pay taxes that in part should be helping schools.

So when the regurgitated rhetoric comes from our CEO, Mayor, or anyone high up in CPS about the Teachers Union wanting to keep kids trapped in the status quo, remember that the Teachers Union is made up and run by 40,000 people who work with students and have committed our professional lives to improving the opportunities for our students. We want our kids to have every opportunity and resource possible. We have a plan for education in this city unlike the Mayor. We demand that instead of closing schools to get the resources our kids should have had all along that the status quo of how the resources are allocated be changed. Since teachers are forced by law unlike the appointed school board and certain higher ups in CPS to live in Chicago these are our children. Barbara Byrd Bennett while talking a good game and using catchy sound bites is really just pretending to care about other people’s children, because like her CEO predecessors she will be gone shortly too.



1 of 150 Arrested for Protesting School Closures

Yesterday I a Chicago Public Schools history teacher, a father, and husband was arrested for sitting down on La Salle Street in front of City Hall and refusing to move when asked to do so by the police. I along with nearly 150 others was taking part in an act of civil disobedience against the school closing policies implemented by Mayor Emmanuel, Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the CPS Board of Education.


You see those of us that chose to get arrested and the other couple thousand marching legally against the CPS plan to close over 54 public schools are beyond frustrated that we live in a city that is governed by lies and press releases.

The “justifications” that CPS are using to try to convince the public how “necessary” it is to close public elementary schools in African-American communities are typically these main four points:

1) CPS says closing schools will save money.

In two separate reports by the Catalyst and by CReATE both studies found that school closings either do not save any money or it only saves a very miniscule amount of money.

2) CPS has been toting an alleged $1 billion budget deficit, which is again not true. CPS actually has a $500 million SURPLUS not deficit.

3) The formula that CPS uses to determine if a school is “under utilized” is not a valid measure of deciding under utilization according to research done by Raise Your Hand Illinois.

4) CPS claims that students from closed schools will go to “better” schools. Again this is untrue in a report released by the Sun-Times.

So with all this in mind when I was originally asked if I was willing to participate and be trained for a civil disobedience that would lead to my arrest I stopped to think;

How much longer can I go on letting my students in Englewood be treated as second-class citizens by a school system that says it cares about them?

I believe and am constantly telling my students that if you work hard enough you can overcome many obstacles in life. The issue is that CPS has forced my school (and many like it) to have to get rid of our librarian, second counselor, attendance clerk, technology coordinator, schools accountant, and only have half a nurse for a half-day on Fridays all in the name of “budgetary reasons”. It seems to me that our mayor and CEO no matter what they claim about their policies not being racist are very much in fact promoting and implementing racist policies while letting institutional racism permeate through this district.

Before the disobedience I also thought of my one year old son and what kind of person I want him to be. I thought of my wife who is an amazing CPS teacher, but because of many of the harmful CPS policies like schools closings sometimes she thinks about other careers besides teaching that she could do.

I thought of every person that inspired me to be a history teacher and all the amazing actions they took. I knew that I had no choice but to participate in this act of civil disobedience.

While I sat on the cold cement among lunchroom staff, custodians, teachers, and clergy I couldn’t help but feel angry that we live in a society that tries to close public schools. While sitting on the ground next to a man in his seventies with bad knees waiting to be arrested I couldn’t help but wonder how many more arrests will it take before this racist mayor actually listens to the people?

While the police treated all of those arrested with the upmost respect, while the crowd of protestors cheered for us and our disobedient actions, I thought to myself we get arrested for sitting on the cold cement in front of city hall, yet our mayor is legally allowed to close 54 public schools and praise that his actions are a positive step for communities he never even visits.

This whole fight around school closings and public education comes down to whom will you believe?

Will you believe a mayor who sends his kids to one of the best private schools in the state with art, world languages, counselors, and resources?

Will you listen to Barbara Byrd-Bennett who was responsible for closing public schools in Detroit in the name of “what’s best for the community”?


Will you listen to the students, parents, clergy, school employees, and people of the communities where these schools are located that are demanding and have been demanding that NO schools be closed?

As Gandhi eloquently states, “All through history the way of truth and love has always won.  There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall, always.”

Remember everyone this is our 4th CEO in three years and Barbabra Byrd-Bennett will soon be gone like Brizard, Manzany, and Huberman.

Our Mayor only has a 19% approval rating so then in a few short years hopefully he will be gone too.

The important thing is to make sure that NONE of their policies like school closings last any longer than either of the people attempting to implement them.

It will take many more arrests, sit-ins, occupations and forms of civil disobedience to bring these school closings to a halt, but once again to quote Gandhi, “First they (CPS) ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. CPS and the Mayor are in a full on attack against truth and against democracy, but as we will see, truth always wins.


Giving High School Students a Voice in the CPS Banning of Persepolis


As we are all aware now last week at Lane Tech Persepolis was removed from classrooms as demanded by a CPS mandate. The removal of the books and the banning of Persepolis immediately prompted students and teachers to protest this decision at Lane Tech. Later that same day, Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the banning of Persepolis is only for grades 7 and under. She went on to say that the book will be reviewed to determine if it is appropriate for grades 8-10.

Currently only 11th and 12th graders are allowed to read the book per the new CPS ruling.

The book is a historical and autobiographical account of the author as a young girl growing up under dictatorial rule in Iran and the revolutions led by the people in an attempt to bring in Democracy.

As a history teacher I decided to let my students review the book and decide if the banning of Persepolis by CPS and Barbara Byrd-Bennett was justified.

Out of the 71 students who took part in the lesson, discussions, and read through Persepolis 53 students did not agree with the ban imposed by CPS and Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Many of the other 18 students thought that the teacher should decide if the book is appropriate for their students, not CPS.

The following are direct quotes from my junior and senior high school students in Englewood.

Renika, “Persepolis is not inappropriate, it may have violence but violence is in the everyday life of a 7th grader.”

Ty’Neequa, “P is something that actually happened, just like people were tortured and killed in the Holocaust. CPS shouldn’t be able to keep information like this from students. We need to learn about revolutions in other countries. The banning of Persepolis would be like CPS trying to prevent teachers from teaching slavery.”

Jaydeisha, “Teachers know what their students are capable of handling, so if the feel their students couldn’t take the book they wouldn’t let them read it.”

Malik, “Children deserve to know the truth.”

Toriana, “There are things in this book that we need to know. Young students in CPS learn about slavery and just like slavery bad things happen to different races too. I think students need to know every piece of information that we can. “

Latoria’ “The truth of the book is not much different than what kids see in their neighborhoods every day.”

Amanda, “There isn’t a problem when teachers teach about the tragedies around Native Americans, African slaves, Mexicans or any other culture that has experienced tragedies and racism, so what is the difference with this?”

Tomas, “Teachers should be able to decide if they want to teach the book or not to their students. “

Ray, “This book tells us what actually happened during the Iranian Revolution.”

Alexis, “This book shows a lot of emotions such as love, hate, and struggle. It is important to know the true events surrounding the life of this girl.”

Tyranesha, “Teachers should be able to decide at what age to teach this book, because teachers know if their students are mature enough for the book. Students shouldn’t be disrupted of their education because CPS thinks they are not mature enough. The teachers know what the kids can and cannot handle.”

As teachers we are the experts in curriculum and instruction. If teachers felt like students would not be mature enough or able to understand the content then teachers would not use a book such as this.

Chicago Public Schools under the “guidance” of Barbara Byrd-Bennett is taking the ability of planning and making appropriate instructional practices away from the experts (we teachers).

This book until last week was only banned in Iran, but now Chicago and Iran have much more in common.

“I feel badly for the children because it sends a message to them that there is something wrong with reading,that we don’t want them to read this book because there’s something in it that we don’t want them to know.” –Judy Blume

The quote from Judy Blume famous childrens author sums up the repressive state that Chicago Public Schools is sadly becoming by banning books and closing schools.


The Night That We Were Shocked, That We Were Shocked….By CPS

Performed at the LTAB 2013 Coaches Slam

Our skin has become thicker
From Chicago
Thicker from the winters
Thicker from the corruption
The lies and double speak
From sacrifices demanded by our city
The violence
The violent sacrifices of our students
Of spirit — Antoine, Terrell, Dre
Of body—Patrice
Of life—Trevell

We know our skin is thicker
It has to be
We know you CPS
Perpetuators of Educational Apartheid
Our Chief Officer
“Graduation Rates?
College Acceptance & Persistence?
Those matter less
Standardized test scores that’s what shows a quality school.
Our CEO says
Trust Us
I come from people like you
I am you
We will listen to you
We are with you
She baptizes Englewood with her lies:
Like she did Detroit

We know you CPS
Been to your bogus meetings before
Seen people yell at you about your budget and supposed deficit
Saw your arrogance (no questions while god is speaking)
Heard your disrespect (25% of kids won’t amount to anything to Rahm?)
Paternalistic tendencies

That Monday night our skin wasn’t thick enough
School field trips
Yellow busses
100’s of kids/teachers K-8
Thousand parents
In Englewood
On a school night
Going  to church

Picture the alter, elevated , on the stage
Only the CPS anointed are allowed on this alter
Protected by position
By power
By the pastors prayers of appropriate worship
Picture the anointed
Security guarded
Suited up
Salaried up
Faulty dated  up
Walton family funded
Bull shitted up

Picture the congregation, coming to pay homage, or bear witness
To repent for their sins
Being Poor,
Being Black,
Being  from Englewood
They have come to beg for mercy
Their souls must be saved

Forgive us CPS for we have sinned
Is that what you wanted to hear?
You give the people 6 minutes of your holy ear

Picture confession
Confessions of children
“We will find the space you say we have if you let us stay open”
“I’m in the 2nd grade please don’t close my school”
They know their god is a just god
A father says, “I challenge you to let your children walk in our children’s shoes”
Their penance
Confessions of parents & students; teachers
Presentations, speeches
Data, testimony
Just visit our school —-you will see

You demand confessions
But on your time
Just 6 minutes                        ( Fiske, Stagg, Bontemps, Banneker, Davis)
Times up
Next in line
Still not enough
You must tithe 33% of your schools
No more public schools in, Auburn-Gresham, Woodlawn, Lawndale, Englewood
Let the children walk longer to school
It is in god’s hands now
Make them cross major streets, neighborhood lines, gang lines,
Make them bus
If they want it bad enough they will go
Make them pray about it
God will guide them

But last night in Englewood a thousand people
Realized they were not the sinners
Realized you were just playing
Just playing god
They flipped the script
When you asked for two minutes
They gave you ten seconds
They counted you down
10 all the way to 1
They will not listen
Will not stand by
Will not let this happen
God no longer
Times up


The “Justification” for Closing Chicago’s Schools

To be honest and straight to the point, closing a neighborhood school means the city has failed that neighborhood. It should come as no shock then that all the school closures in Chicago over the past decade have been in black and latino areas of the city. Many of these neighborhoods, like Englewood where I teach, have been ignored, underfunded, and blamed for their own problems for decades.

Logic says that CPS should be trying to help improve struggling schools, but using logic and CPS in the same sentence is a fallacy. As CPS Chief Operating Officer Tim Cawley said publicly, “If we think there’s a chance that a building is going to be closed in the next five to 10 years, if we think it’s unlikely it’s going to continue to be a school, we’re not going to invest in that building.” So CPS admits that if a school needs help there is no way that they are going to fund that school.  Since the vast majority of underperforming schools are all in poorer communities, CPS has, through its own policies, decided to give up on the schools in those communities.   They look at a school as a business investment, not a community investment.

This city has consistently failed communities.  Instead of trying to improve, fully fund, and help communities and their schools, Rahm and Barbara Bryd Benett, following the previous policies put in place by Mayor Daley and “CEO”s Vallas, Duncan, Huberman, Mazany and Brizard (wow that is a lot of turnover), believe to really “help” a community it is best to close their schools.   It’s like a doctor saying that you’re really sick, but it’s better for your family if you die.

We are currently in the most violent year in the history of the city of Chicago. Chicago has significantly more deaths than any other major city. If we apply the “logic” of school closing to violence in Chicago then we should close the police stations too? I mean the police must be failing our citizens right?

Schools, like churches, are integral parts of neighborhoods. Schools are places that are used for community meetings and gathering places. Many former students come back to see their teachers and show their former schools to their children and grandchildren. The research shows that when a school is closed it further destabilizes a community. If CPS did any real research they would know that closing a school in impoverished communities harms the community.  Yet contrary to doing real research the CPS PR department claims that school closings, among other things, help neighborhoods.

Chicago continues the proven ineffective practice of closing schools. In the past, when a school was closed, a new school was opened in the same building with new teachers, new principals, new security, new custodians, and new lunch workers yet with worse results than the school it replaced.

Rahm and Barbara Byrd Bennett have claimed at various points in the past few months that they are going to close schools that are underutilized and also that they are going to close underperforming schools, or a close combination of the two.

So if we have an underutilization problem why are they promoting and opening more charter schools? Wouldn’t the logic be that if schools are underutilized we don’t need more schools? Why are they promoting Charters that are underutilized themselves? Charters are proven no more effective than public schools and in many cases they actually perform worse than public schools.

So they are closing public schools to open more charter schools and closing “failing” public schools to open even more failing charter schools? Confused yet? The “logic” of CPS only gets worse.

Another consequence of closing schools in black and latino neighborhoods and firing the entire school staff is that experienced teachers of color are disappearing in CPS.  They are typically replaced with young (read much less expensive), white teachers. So not only are schools being closed, but students in CPS are losing role models that look like them and are often times from the same neighborhoods.

But you say to yourself, come on, they must be closing schools for some good reason, right? At least we can all agree that closing a school will save CPS lots of money, right? I mean Rahm, Barbara Byrd Benett, and CPS spokesperson Becky Carrol said that closing schools will save the district money. I mean if CPS and the Mayor said it, it must be true, right? Well actually closing a school does not save money either.

So closing school does not save money and does not improve the education for students. Charters do not perform better, the schools that replace the closed schools do not do better, so……what are we missing?

What is the incentive to close “underperforming, underutilized” public schools?

The Chicago Appointed Board of Education (none of them are educators) tells teachers, principals, and school staff how to best run their schools.  On top of that the Board also tells parents and community organizations that they may live, work, and have a vested interest in their community but they, the community, do not know what is best for their school – only the Board knows. This model used by the Board of Education of “you don’t know what’s best for you” goes way back in history and is steeped in racism and oppression. In fact, Chicago is the only school district in the entire state that does not have an elected board.

Barbara Byrd Benett in her campaign to convince the public to trust in CPS and trust her just said that no charters will be opened in any closed public schools…well that is likely not true either. In an attempt by CPS to appease the public (who do not want schools to be closed) they are offering an “agreement”. Their “agreement” is that if they can close schools this year there won’t be any school closings in the next five years. That may sound appealing to some, but CPS can still close as many schools they wish this year. In addition, the language of the their proposal to not close schools after this year just says they won’t close schools based on underutilization – they left themselves a loophole to still close schools based on “under performance”. So once again CPS is just providing a “nice” sound bite.

Rahm continues to lie and disrespect the citizens, taxpayers, and voters of Chicago and since Barbara Byrd Bennett is forced to do what Rahm says there is no reason to trust anything coming out of CPS headquarters.  We have had 6 different “CEO”s in the past 11 years who come in and change policy, the message, and vision of CPS at their whim.  In addition since the school system is controlled by the mayor, the “CEO” has no real power.  Just look at Brizard who “decided to move on” conviently after the first teacher strike in 25 years in Chicago. Barbara Byrd Bennet like Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, Ron Huberman, Terry Mazany, Jean Claude Brizard will move on somewhere else or be blamed and let go. All the while the students in Chicago Public Schools will suffer, because CPS will blame the teachers and blame the schools instead of fully investing in the schools. The answers are not simple, but in every community in Chicago there are organizations, parent groups, educators, and committed citizens passionate about improving education in this city. It is sad that we allow a Mayor to run education when he is clearly not interested in helping all kids. I mean didn’t Rahm say that, “25% of the students in Chicago aren’t going to amount to anything” anyway? That comment shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially since after his most recent comments about people can “choose to drive” if they can’t afford public transportation.  Rahm has no concept of the needs of the vast majority of the people of Chicago. He lives in an ivory tower and tells us to eat cake.



Chicago Promotes Educational Apartheid

The use of the word Apartheid conjures up blatant injustice and horrible conditions. As a history teacher I was selected to travel to South Africa a few years to study Apartheid and how the effects of Apartheid still impact much of South Africa. I traveled to schools in wealthy suburbs both public and private and to public schools in incredibly poor townships. I was able to see the outrageous differences between the haves and the have nots. In the United States we do not have people living in shacks in huge numbers like all too many people live in, in the townships in South Africa. However, we do have huge differences between fully funded schools and school districts and the schools and school districts that are not fully funded.

Chicago is suffering educational apartheid.

Rahm Emanuel sends his kids to elite schools where the kids have everything. All kids deserve the same programs and advantages in school. The school I work at in Englewood has one nurse who comes on Fridays, for a half day.  So in reality my student can only get sick or injured on Friday afternoons .

Rahms kids go to a school in a safe neighborhood. In Englewood the kids are often not even safe walking to and from school.

We have a library with no librarian.  We have a social worker that is shared between 3 schools.  He is at our school two days a week. We have just had one of the most violent summers in Chicago history. I am offended as a parent, a teacher, and as a person that there are only 370 social workers, psychologists and nurses for 400,000 students. Demanding that every school be staffed with a nurse, social worker, and psychologist daily is a necessity.

Our school has one counselor for all 500 students. He is required to help kids get into colleges, do test prep, help kids with social and emotional issues as well as many administrative tasks. We have to literally beg the school board for additional Special Ed positions.  Even though we have a high Special Ed student population.

Our school had to let go of our attendance clerk and our school’s accountant, because we didn’t have the money to fund their positions.

My school is not unique.

Chicago has educational apartheid.

Schools in Chicago routinely have 30-40 kids in classrooms especially at the lower elementary grades. I interviewed at an elementary school to teach 7th grade and was told I would have 42 kids in my classes.

We do not have funds available to make sure books are ready the first day of school.  We have to wait until the 20th day of school to get the full funding.

Think about the school you attended and the community you grew up in. Did you grow up having more than the kids I describe in Chicago? Would your community and parents have allowed these gross injustices to occur? Or did you grow up in Chicago where parents, students, and teachers have been doing the best they can with what they are given and in the process they often forgot the advantages that they didn’t have?

Chicago has educational apartheid.

Teachers right now are being portrayed as greedy teachers. I’ll admit it, I’m a greedy teacher. I’m greedy to give my students an education that they deserve. I’m greedy to give every student the same opportunity across the city of Chicago. I know as a teacher I can create amazing lesson plans and engage my students, but I also know as a teacher that I cannot give them fully funded schools that every parent would be proud of. I’m greedy for my students to get every opportunity and advantage that Rahm’s kids get.

Why is Chicago allowing this to happen? Why has the city let the students of Chicago mostly black and brown students go to disadvantaged schools like the one I described? Why does the mayor always claim he has no money to make schools better? Where is all the money going? How can he allow this to occur? A budget is a political document not a financial one. A budget is all about priorities. Clearly the mayor has his priorities elsewhere.

We cannot and will not let this go on any longer. What is happening in Chicago is racist, elitist, and flat out Educational Apartheid and this city will not take it anymore.

Help the city to get an elected school board, ask your alderman to demand for transparency when schools are put on the chopping block to be closed.


Chicago has educational apartheid that teachers are fighting to end, but we need your help to get the word out.