BBB, Claypool, Janice Jackson--What difference does it make, really, who's in charge?

Big news on Friday for all you public education supporters. Forrest Claypool has finally resigned, effective at the end of December. We should be jumping up and down! Throw a parade! Shoot off fireworks! The chorus calling for his firing has been building for some months now. And of course you remember my last two posts?

But there's something...very...anticlimactic...about this resignation. The press conference at which it was announced was a little odd. You could be forgiven for thinking the man was receiving a lifetime achievement award, what with all the random pastors hastily assembled to praise the man to the skies. Claypool himself chose self-congratulation as the best posture for the occasion, saying he hoped others would remember that "even good men can make stupid mistakes, but...a 30-year career of integrity and accomplishments stands the test of time." 

I was left in a state of strong cognitive dissonance after the press conference. All those--who were they?--all those random folks said just the nicest things about Claypool. But wasn't this the man who laid off 69 special ed employees, each of whose role was to oversee the IEP process at several schools, making it harder for already understaffed schools to implement IEPs? Wasn't this the man who chose not to engage the parents at a community hearing at Saucedo school, and instead chose to shut off the lights and heat and call the police? Wasn't this the CEO responsible for firing award-winning teachers and principals who spoke out against mayoral control of CPS? Wasn't this the CEO whose sole idea to fund the schools was to write hundreds of millions of deficit spending into the budget and declare against all evidence to the contrary that Springfield would cover the shortfall--year after year? Wasn't he the one who cut so much special ed funding he had to cover it up and make it look like he was just following the (secret, new) rules? Wasn't he the one who mastered the Hand Over The Cash Or The Kids Are Gonna Get It method of negotiating? Wasn't this the man who was just sent packing because of some rather outrageous ethics violations? I had to go back over everything I and others had written, just to check.

Yup. It was him. Confusing.

Well, at any rate. Now we find ourselves in an eerily familiar state. CPS has a new CEO. We've been here 6 times during Rahm's tenure. But this time, it's different--Janice Jackson is actually someone who attended CPS. She taught in CPS. She's been a principal in CPS. She's even a CPS parent. First time ever! We are supposed to be very happy!

But the thing is.

The thing is, Janice Jackson is still merely the next in the line of mayoral-appointed CEOs. Janice Jackson will still be tasked with Rahm's agenda--which, for those of you needing a little refresher, includes privatization, gentrification, pushing choice and charter schools, promoting educational inequity throughout the district, awarding huge contracts to the mayor's donors, cutting funding, cutting librarians, arts, music, and extracurriculars, spending hundreds of millions on testing, and criticizing teachers for existing.

So Jackson must implement the mayor's misplaced priorities. She will do this in her new role as she did it in her old. She stood behind Forrest Claypool through every unseemly, child-unfriendly, anti-parent, anti-teacher, anti-special education action he undertook. And at present Janice Jackson appears to have no problem with closing the successful, highly rated, mostly black NTA elementary in order to turn it into a high school that would be attractive to wealthy white South Loop families. And she appears to have no problem with closing all of Englewood's public high schools, with no immediate options for these students.

I wish this were not true.

I must state plainly something you probably already know--that it literally does not matter who is the CEO of CPS. Despite differences in background, tone, approach, experience--they do nothing of their own accord. They are present in this job to do the will of the mayor, until it is time for their turn under the bus.

But I think we've had enough. The citizens of Chicago have had enough of mayoral control of the CEO, the board of ed, the district. Two years ago we voted 83% and in some wards 93% in favor of an elected representative school board, which in our scarcely democratic city must be the first step to breaking down mayoral control of CPS. We citizens of Chicago require the permission of our state legislators to make this change, and several bills with numerous sponsors have been initiated. But they have each been ushered quietly into a committee to die. Sen. John Cullerton and Sen. Kwame Raoul have so far been the legislative shepherds who have put these bills to pasture. Don't you think such a bill at least deserves to make it out to the floor for a vote? I do. I don't think Rahm does.

So this brings us to the part of my post where I tell you, weary reader, what you need to do. First, call our newly minted CEO at her new office, 773-553-1500, and give her a good old CPS-parent welcome. Then can you ask ask her to do two things? Please retain NTA as the successful and necessary elementary school that it is, and please do not close all of Englewood's high schools without a plan for these students for the next academic year or two. Next, agitate your state legislators on behalf of that long-overdue elected school board. You might want to go ahead and call the mayor and give him your two cents about an elected school board as well.

And take a deep breath. And begin again. We can do this. We're used to it.


Follow me on twitter @foolforcps.




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