Posted tagged ‘CORE’

CORE Wins!

June 13, 2010

After an election on may 21st that saw CORE and UPC each take about 1/3 of the Chicago Teachers Union votes, it all came down to a runoff between CTU and CORE on this past Friday, June 11th. The result was a resounding CORE victory 60% to 40%. For me personally, it means I will be a delegate to the AFT convention and one of 17 elementary school advisers to the union. To the teachers, parents, and students of Chicago I believe it means hope.

The Chicago Public Schools waited until after all the teachers had voted Friday to announce an emergency board meeting for this coming Tuesday. The purpose of that meeting is to clear the way to be able to fire 3,000 teachers in a cost cutting move. The 3,000 teachers won’t find out until the middle of July for the most part, after virtually all teaching jobs are filled. They will then have until September to find a job or lose all seniority, cutting their pay drastically and taking away their tenure. Meanwhile, the children of Chicago can look forward to classes of 35 next year. CORE is taking over in the middle of a crisis and that kind of sucks, but there is nobody I’d rather have lead us through a crisis.

Teachers are going to need to mobilize and that’s difficult. Nobody signed up to teach to be a labor agitator, but unfortunately, we can’t do the job we love unless we do.


CTU Election 5/21

May 19, 2010

We’re down to the final two days before the Chicago teachers get to choose between business as usual union politics where we throw money at politicians and hope they save us and movement style union politics where we save ourselves.   If you have been following my sporadic postings since October you know that I took Howard Zinn’s advice and joined up with a social movement.   As a teacher, the thing that was most important to me was education and naturally that’s where I went.  I can’t tell you how CORE has impressed me in this time.   While the other caucuses seem exactly one person deep–maybe two—CORE has 20 or 30.

I talk about CORE a bit differently than most.   You see, since I didn’t join until October I was able to pick a caucus that felt like they would take the union where it needed to go.   Since, I joined I’ve seen CORE’s partnerships with Teachers for Social Justice, Chicago Youth Initiating Change, and a host of community organizations.   We have something developing here and I’d ordinarily be quite content if we lost the election to sit back and continue to let the movement germinate, but who knows what will be left of the union or the city’s schools if another caucus wins—especially UPC.

The CORE Slate

Karen Lewis – She’s a firebrand.   She reminds me a bit of my sister.   Most of the time she’s pretty laid back and easygoing, but let her talk about education and she lights up.   She makes such an eloquent spokesperson for the teachers and students of the Chicago Public Schools.   It’s about time we had a CTU President that we can watch on Chicago Tonight without cringing.

Jesse Sharkey – He’s the perfect counterpoint to Karen.  I see him at CORE meetings with his young son and I see not only a great feather, but also a guy who really knows how to organize his time.   He’s a very effective speaker as well who was quite effective during the city council hearing on school turnarounds.

Kristine Mayle – I blogged about Kristine on the last day before going into work this year.   I was shocked to find out the next day that she would be working with me.  She reminds me of a turn of the 20th century labor leader.  She is so polished and well-spoken.  She also seems to be a font of endless stamina.  She made it to every school closing hearing 2 years ago and most of them this year.

Michael Brunson – Michael is fun.  He’s a former boxer and a second career teacher who is extremely gentle and charming, but like you might expect there’s a fighter there.   He’ll be smiling and you never see the jab coming.

I could go on and on.   This is an organization that is passionate about public education.   Check us out at   If you are a Chicago Public Schools teacher I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to tell you educate yourself and make up your own mind.   I’m looking forward to Friday when the votes are cast, but I’m also nervous as all get out.

The House That Ron Huberman Bought

May 11, 2010

The budget belt is tightening in Chicago and the schools are getting squeezed.   Schools will be shoe horn  35 students into a room and many teachers will be losing their jobs, but cheer up because the education business isn’t bleak for everybody.  CPS head Ron Huberman just bought a new $900,000 house.   According to several real estate sites, “LUXURY & ALMOST NEW CONSTRUCTION “GEM” IN THE HEART OF LINCOLN SQUARE! 5 BED/3.1BATH ON XTRA WIDE LOT. CHEF’S KIT W/ VIKING SS APPLIANCES, HUGE ISLAND, CHERRY CABS & EAT-IN KITCHEN+FAM ROOM! HOME FEATURES BRAZILIAN CHERRY HWFS, 3 FIREPLACES, 2 WET BARS, 8 FT SOLID CHERRY DOORS, CRWN MOLDING, 2 W/ D HOOKUP UP & DWN, SECUR/SOUND READY. HUGE DECK OVER GARAGE!WALK 2 PARKS, TRANS & STARBUCKS.”

Now, as schools are being asked to cram 35 students in the room, a little controversy has erupted because the fire code requires 20 square feet per student.   Isn’t it great to know that if Ron wanted to have a teacher hold class in his living room, you could legally seat 20 students in the spacious 18×23 room.  In fact, you could fit another 15 students in the master bathroom.   The house has 3 fireplaces and a whirpool.   The house, which is located at 2031 W. Wilson is in addition to the $400,000  condominium that Huberman has not yet put on the market.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Rob Huberman’s spacious new home where the man at the top of CPS can stretch out and let the stresses of the day float away.  For lifestyles of the rich and clueless, here’s wishing you cafeteria pizza wishes and dry erase dreams.

Bedroom Information

  • # of Bedrooms (Above Grade): 5

Bedroom #3

  • Size: 22X12
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Living Room

  • Size: 18X23
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Additional Rooms

  • Family Room
  • Gallery/Foyer
  • Recreation
  • Utility/Laundry Room (1st Floor)
  • Utility/Laundry Room (2nd Floor)
  • Has Basement
  • Full Basement
  • Finished Basement

Additional Room #3

  • Laundry Room
  • Size: 8X14
  • On Lower Level
  • Ceramic Tile Flooring


  • Oven/Range
  • Microwave
  • Dishwasher
  • Refrigerator
  • Disposal
  • Humidifier
  • Security System
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • Ceiling Fan
  • Whole House Fan
  • Sump Pump

Utility Information

  • Water: Lake Michigan
  • Water: Public
  • Sewer (Public)

Property Features

  • Deck
  • Porch
  • Bar (Wet)

Property Information

  • # of Rooms: 11
  • Ownership: Fee Simple
  • Listing Agent Must Accompany
  • Foreclosure
  • Parcel Identification Number: 14181280020000

Listing Information

  • Possession: Closing
  • Holds Earnest Money: No
  • Foreclosed
  • Seller Concessions: No

Master Bedroom

  • Has Master Bath
  • Size: 22X14
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Bedroom #4

  • Size: 12X12
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Dining Room

  • Combined with Living Room
  • Size: COMBO
  • On Main Level

Additional Room #1

  • Bedroom #5
  • Size: 14X12
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Additional Room #4

  • Pantry
  • Size: 6X5
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Fireplace Information

  • # of Fireplaces: 3
  • In Family Room
  • In Living Room
  • In Basement
  • Wood Burning
  • Attached Fireplace Doors/Screen
  • Gas Logs
  • Gas Starter

Parking Information

  • # of Cars: 2
  • Garage
  • Side Apron
  • Detached Garage
  • 1.5 Car Garage
  • 2 Car Garage
  • Automatic Garage Door Opener(s)
  • On-Site Garage
  • Side Driveway
  • Heated Driveway
  • Other Driveway

Lot Information

  • Less Than .25 Acre
  • Dimensions: 37 X 110

Financial Information

  • Tax: $7,297.11
  • Tax Year: 2008
  • Finance Code: Conventional

Bedroom #2

  • Size: 10X11
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Bathroom Information

  • Master Bath (Full)
  • Whirlpool
  • Separate Shower
  • Bathroom(s) in Basement


  • Eating Area (Table Space)
  • Island
  • Pantry (Butler)
  • Size: 22X23
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Additional Room #2

  • Recreation Room
  • Size: 18X24
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Additional Room #5

  • Foyer
  • Size: 4X9
  • On Main Level
  • Other Flooring

Heating & Cooling

  • Gas Heating
  • Central Air Conditioning

Building Information

  • Age: 1-5 Years
  • Aluminum/Vinyl/Steel Siding
  • Concrete Foundation
  • Wood Shake/Shingle Roof

Censored Student Finally Allowed to Speak

March 1, 2010

CORE passed out Yes/No signs at the Board meeting where Shantell was silenced

[Operation Push allowed Shantell Steve to deliver a speech after the student who was honored by President Obama earlier this year was censored at the Chicago Board of Education meeting this past week and it was reprinted by Substance News. If you’re not reading Substance, you’re not getting the real story of what’s going on in the Chicago education scene.]

Good morning everyone, I would like to take the time to thank Jonathan Jackson and Rainbow PUSH for inviting me and actually allowing me to speak.

As some of you might know, on Wednesday [February 24, 2010], the Chicago Board of Education invited us to be honored and then decided that Kellina Mojica and I were too dangerous to be allowed to speak to the people of Chicago. Because on that the day they had already planned to vote to close 8 schools and they knew we would tell the truth about this terrible process. In a way, they are right — truth is dangerous to people doing wrong. Kellina and I were at the board to be recognized for our work to promote a democratic society so it was especially ironic to be silenced. So I would like to share some excerpts from that speech.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated that “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice”. I have lived this meaning over my four years at Julian High school. I have worked with different social justice groups like Jaguars for Justice and Chicago Youth Initiating Change to promote strong student voices in our community and education in general. I have advocated for peer-to-peer mentoring and teacher-student mentoring as an alternative to punitive interventions for so-called “at-risk” students. Most of all I have fought for student and community voice in the reforming of our schools — opposing Renaissance 2010 and its closing and turning around of schools against the wishes of our communities and the betterment of our educations. In our experience Ren2010 disrupts schools and takes away the heart of what school is all about—our relationships with teachers.

Our work has been successful in some areas but in others we are still fighting for change. We have made great strides in promoting student voice and improving our individual school. While we have been calm and truthful with the board, they have ignored our voices and continued on their path of injustice. It made me rethink the Dr. King quote: I thought, maybe sometimes to bring true justice, you not only have to endure tension, you have to bring tension to the situation. If they are too comfortable, people with power will not allow justice to flourish. Many people see a good student as playing by the rules, but my activism has shown me that we can’t bring justice unless we decide what’s right and move forward—even as resistance. What good is doing what you are told when the people telling you are sabotaging neighborhood schools all around you?

The Board often refers to first section of the Board Meeting as the “Good News Section”. As if the community section is the “bad news” section. But the only people who truly know how to improve community education are us, the students and the communities who have been long neglected. So we must join together to bring some serious positive tension and demand the implementation of justice in Chicago education. After all, that’s what this recognition is about—helping remind those in power that our schools belong to all of us.

In the end, I hope the board is right. I hope that us raising our voices is critically dangerous to them. These 8 schools must be saved and if the Board is too cowardly to act against the mayor’s wishes, then we must join together to make it tense enough to stop these turnarounds and closings. That would be the best news of all for our Chicago democracy.

A Tale of Two Cities

January 21, 2010

AES Proposed Phase-Out: Shop Classes put to music by Mark Noakes from Save AES CTE HS on Vimeo.

It started in Chicago, but New York really seems to have the hang of this whole resistance to privatization movement and has hit the ground running as they attempt to stand up to Mayor Bloomberg’s attempts to experiment on the children of the city he bought.    The above link (in orange) is to an amazing music video that was created by students at Alfred E. Smith High School to draw attention to their situation. At the January 26th board hearings, which like Chicago will most undoubtedly be a rubber stamp sham, a huge protest of thousands is expected.

The protesters have also won a court case giving them the right to picket the mayor’s house on January 21st. The protests have been massive with over 500 people at the Jamaica High School Hearing alone. It is great to see the students, parents, teachers, and community members of New York so actively engaged in this struggle. Mayor Bloomberg like Mayor Daley in Chicago is going after schools in predominately working class minority neighborhoods for gentrification purposes.

In Chicago, this process has been going on since Mayor Daley got total control of the city’s public schools in 1995 or at least since he and Arne Duncan rolled out the Renaissance 2010 in 2004. Hey, that reminds me–we’re in a Renaissance!! Resistance has been slowly, but surely picking up steam. Last year, protesters even camped out in front of the Board of Education.

It remains to be seen if Chicago can stay united and fight these closings.   In 2009, groups like GEM and CORE saved 6 schools.   They’ve tasted the blood in the water and they will be trying to fight it again.  New York provides a lot of inspiration.   Speaking of inspiration, the video at the top of this article is from Sam Cooke.  He was a graduate of Wendel Phillips High School in Chicago–one of the schools that is on the block.

There've been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
Now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long
A long time coming but I know a change gon' come
Oh Yes it will

Fighting Privatization

January 4, 2010

I’ve made a resolution to do a better job keeping this blog updated this year.  The assault on education in this country and in my own city of Chicago is too pressing not to be vocal about what’s going on.  I’ve mentioned before that I am a member of CORE (The Caucus of Rank and File Educators), a group that has been trying to stop the privatization efforts in the Chicago Public Schools.   I’ve only been a member for a few months, but last year the organization and several community activist groups staged a big summit to protest school closings at Malcolm X College.   We’re having another summit this Saturday January 9th to continue the fight.   Last January, 500 people came out in a blizzard.  This year, I’m hoping we can draw 1,000 committed activists.  I have a lot of problems with Chicago’s program of turnaround schools.   Studies have shown that they do nothing positive for the students in the school that is closed and instead increase dropouts, overcrowding, and student violence.   I took the liberty of reposting here, an article I wrote on the criteria Chicago is using to determine which schools stay and which ones go.

For the third time in three years Chicago has changed the criteria by which schools are eligible for closing.   The ever changing criteria are supposed to help the schools separate which schools are “failing”.  However, despite closing over 70 schools, the administration continues to show a lack of faith in their own ability to come up with fair criteria while their lack of consistency has schools scrambling to find out if they’re on the chopping block.

There are so many problems with judging schools based almost entirely on attendance and the ISAT test.   One culturally biased multiple choice test administered by a politically connected company that was awarded the contract under shady circumstances by the Blagojevich administration is hardly a scientific way to evaluate schools.   Major trends like neighborhood demographics and student mobility can play havoc with test scores, but so can small things like who had a good night’s sleep or ate a breakfast before taking the test.

Elementary schools are judged based on ISAT reading, math, and science scores meeting and exceeding standards; attendance; and value-added scores and composite scores in both reading in math.   Charts have been created for all schools that make it appear very scientific as schools are rated in 8 different categories.   However, three of those categories are determined from the same math test and another three are determined by the same reading test.   Schools which fail to gain 1/3 of the achievable points are then eligible to be closed.

The constantly changing target makes it difficult for schools to succeed.   McKay Elementary School on the South West Side is on the bubble having earned 14 of 42 points.   Like all schools potentially facing the chopping block, they are in a working class neighborhood and service a minority population.  In 2007 38% of their students met or exceeded standards in math, but in 2008 they improved that number to 46%^ of their students, and last year they were up to 54%.   They showed similar gains in reading and science.   Under the 2007 and 2008 scoring systems, McKay would have been safe.   With the new system, they are not.

High Schools use a more complex system that evaluates schools based on average ACT, one year drop out rate, attendance, freshman on track, AP enrollment, AP success,  and PSAE scores.   Again, there are liars and then there are statistics.   At a time when the College Board is pointing out massive flaws in the entire AP program, CPS continues to push it.  The Prarie State Exams have led to a four year program in many suburbs where students are never given junior status so that they never take the examination.   These are the two main criteria Chicago uses to judge high school quality.

Schools can also be closed if a school’s enrollment is less than 250 and it is using less than 40% of available space or if in the opinion of the board, the infrastructure of the building is unsound.   These rules are applied unevenly.   De la Cruz middle school’s unsafe building was rented to UNO for $1 this year.   Carver Military Academy’s “need” for a small program in their large school has prevented Fenger parents from having a safe place to send their kids.   Of course, the test score data is also not rated equally or several of the city’s charter schools would find themselves facing the axe.

When decided something as important as the future of the children in this city, we owe it to them to find an effective way to measure the quality of schools and a fair and open process for deciding which schools are not making the grade.  These criteria are neither fair nor open.  There have been no positive gains demonstrated by Chicago’s program of closing schools, but we have seen the danger it brings for students forced to travel to other neighborhoods for their education.   Our students deserve better.