Meaningless Meetings - And How To Fix Them

One of the things that I think many people find so frustrating about the current CPS is the prevalence of meaningless meetings -- formalized sessions where nothing gets said, no outcome gets changed, there's no real discussion or resolution. It's cold, and you've been duped.

Click below to read more about these meaningless meetings, and what I suggest might be done.

Then tell us about your experiences at CPS meetings, and what you think would be a good response. The most obvious example is the monthly Board meetings -- there's one

next week -- in which folks come downtown, sign up for their time, and

most of the time get little more than a blank stare from the Board

members and CPS administrators they're talking to. Whatever debate or

decision the Board is going to make comes hours later, oftentimes out

of public view. There's little engagement, or influence, or even plain

old satisfaction from finding out the next day that what you said did

or (most likely) didn't affect the outcome. It's hard not to think

that's intentional.

From what I've read and heard, there also seems to have been

little back-and-forth between CPS folks and community members at the

hearings that have been held over the last two weeks. [Smart work of

CPS to hold the meetings at the schools under threat of closure, not at

the schools that are going to have to take in these kids and teachers.]

We'll find out next week, but odds are that the list of 19 stays the

same, except perhaps Edison (?).

Even LSC meetings can take on this formalized,

"I-hear-you-but-I-won't-respond- your-two-minutes-are-up" quality,

especially when it comes to decisions about keeping or not keeping a

principal. All of a sudden LSC members say they can't talk about it,

or can't reveal what happened. The result from all these deeply-felt

feelings released into the air with no pushback is frustration and


When watching these things, it's hard not to feel like the people

who have come have been tricked. The first trick is that now CPS gets

to say they "had a meeting." Check. The second trick is that, without

any response, it's hard even for people with the strongest feelings to

keep talking when they're getting the silent treatment in response.

It's like trying to talk with a family member or friend who says he

"wants to get your input" -- but gives you a slack-faced stare as you talk, won't respond, and never changes his

mind. What's the point of talking, then?

One solution would be to request meaningful responses to what you

have to say -- then and there -- and calling people when they over-use

procedures and administrative rules to duck real conversation. Given 5

issues of public concern, there's no reason that the Board couldn't

schedule an hour for each issue, then debate and vote on each issue

immediately after public comment. Even without an immediate decision,

there's no reason not to push for a response (and make Board members

squirm if they decide to "take the fifth" again and again.)

Another idea would be to make sure that there are both sides of an

issue represented at meetings CPS calls, not just one. Imagine, for

example, if someone had gotten parents from Pritzker and other

"receiving" schools to attend the Andersen hearing. Ditto for Edison.

If the folks up on stage won't talk back, you can at least make sure

that EVERYONE who's affected is in attendance and the full

ramifications are being discussed. This holds true for discussions

about new Ren10 schools, which also often involve "meetings" where

nothing gets said.

The most high-stakes response would be to consider boycotting.

They can't really call it a meeting if no one's there -- and there's a

clear reason why. Just stand outside and tell folks not to go in, and

why. The press -- currently ignoring most of these sessions -- might

pay some attention to the novelty. What is there to lose, really?

But maybe you've had better experiences at meetings than most of the ones that I've seen,

or have better ideas about what to do?

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