Report From The Board Meeting

Contributor Ben Strauss reports from yesterday's raucous Board meeting:

Ron Huberman, the new face in Arne Duncan’s

old chair, said little during the Board of Ed’s monthly meeting.

Parents, teacher

and community activists were not nearly as quiet.

Even before the Board proceedings

began, Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), an umbrella group for those

protesting Ren10, hosted a press conference in a hallway outside CPS

headquarters.

Karen Lewis from King College

Prep emceed. She stood with around twenty other supporters

in front of a homemade banner that read “Stop Ren 2010.”

Microphones

bearing the logos of Chicago’s major news networks pointed towards the speakers, who stood bathed in light from a half dozen

TV cameras.

Kellina Mojica, a junior at

Julian, was asked what she would say to President Obama if he were there.

“I’d ask him why he chose

Arne Duncan,” she answered. “Is it because he plays basketball

or went to Harvard?”

Contributor Ben Strauss reports from yesterday's raucous Board meeting:

Ron Huberman, the new face in Arne Duncan’s

old chair, said little during the Board of Ed’s monthly meeting. Parents, teacher

and community activists were not nearly as quiet.

Even before the Board proceedings

began, Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), an umbrella group for those

protesting Ren10, hosted a press conference in a hallway outside CPS

headquarters.

Karen Lewis from King College

Prep emceed. She stood with around twenty other supporters

in front of a homemade banner that read “Stop Ren 2010.”

Microphones

bearing the logos of Chicago’s major news networks pointed towards the speakers, who stood bathed in light from a half dozen

TV cameras.

Kellina Mojica, a junior at

Julian, was asked what she would say to President Obama if he were there.

“I’d ask him why he chose

Arne Duncan,” she answered. “Is it because he plays basketball

or went to Harvard?”

It was more of the same on the fifth floor. Eight cameras were set

up at the back of the low-ceilinged room, with additional photographers

walking around snapping photos.

Huberman chatted

briefly with President Rufus Williams as he entered the chambers before

taking the seat Duncan occupied for nearly eight years.

The former CTA boss was introduced

by Williams as “an asset to the Board,” and greeted with a mixture

of boos and applause. Williams quickly rebuked the audience, asking

for a respectful meeting.

After brief remarks thanking the Board, Huberman did more listening

than anything else for the rest of the session. He didn’t so

much as crack a smile when praised by the head of Metra or when speakers

less thrilled with his appointment made wisecracks about the CTA.

After that, the tone of the public participation

session swung back and forth between respectful pleading and confrontational

frustration.

Diane Draper, a kindergarten

teacher at Johnson Elementary, was one of many with school closing on her mind.

“I am a Golden Apple award

winner, a Drive Award winner,” said Draper with urgency in her voice.

“After 29 years, I feel like I’m being placed in a barrel and rolled

out.”

People continued to implore

the Board to listen -- and Williams promised to do so.

“I want you to know the Board

listens to you,” he repeated.

“Please don’t be a rubber

stamp for Daley,” advised a science teacher from Senn High School.

There were also some theatrical moments, as when Wanda Hopkins, draped in a

hooded black robe, showed the Board a baby doll with red marker streaks

drawn on the head.

“This baby symbolizes the

violence you have put our children through when you force them out of

their communities,” she said ominously. “The fifth floor will be held

responsible.”

One of the most frequent criticisms

was the failure of Board members to appear at the hearings for the

schools fighting to stay open.

“It’s like a slap in the

face,” said Demetria Browning, a parent at Las Casas.

CPS spokesman Malon Edwards

said that the hearings matter.

“Just because you can’t

see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there,” he said.

“Lots of strategies were changed last year because of public comments.”

Strauss is a freelance education writer and regular contributor to District 299.

Filed under: Events & Deadlines

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