Here's some information about Gunsaulus Academy that was presented to the Board last week, according to Gale Suwe, a parent there who wrote me this email:
"There are numerous problems at Gunsaulus Academy, 4420 S.
Sacramento which began with the installation of a new principal in the
fall of 2008 [Amy Kotz]. I am a parent of a student at Gunsaulus Academy, and I represented
the parents' issues at the board meeting. We have been complaining to
our area 10 instruction office [Isabel
Mesa-Collins], and to various CPS departments for
months, only to be rebuffed. I have personally presented proof of forgery, proof of
questionable disciplinary write ups for staff, only to be scoffed at by
the office of the inspector general."
Anyone know more about the situation, or how it's been addressed (or ignored) by the AIO in area 10 or at the Board? Are these personal conflicts, or major problems?
As you may know, the AIO was formerly the principal at Drummond. The new principal comes from Albany Park, and Cooper, via the UIC leadership program she is also an NBCT, apparently. In a March 20th letter to parents, she acknowledges some concerns and says she's meeting with groups of parents grade by grade.
Letter to the Board:
From Concerned Parents at
Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy
4420 S. Sacramento
Chicago, IL 60632
March 25, 2009
To the Members of the Chicago Board of
125 S. Clark Street 6th Floor
Chicago, IL 60603
We are reaching out to you to ask for
your help to save Gunsaulus Academy because we believe the school is
in a state of “Educational Crisis” in accordance with CPS Policy
Manual section 302.1.
Have you ever heard of Gunsaulus Academy?
Probably not because we have a history of being a fine school with excellent
teachers, higher than average standardized test scores, committed parents,
and a safe and stable environment in which our children can flourish.
In the past, the only attention our school had received was when our
students would win awards, or when our test scores would go up. Now,
we would be surprised if there is ANY CPS department who has NOT heard
of our school.
At the beginning of the 2008-2009 school
year the school community welcomed our new principal Ms. Amy Kotz. We
had been without a permanent principal for a year, and our local school
council was in a legal dispute, and we were ready to assist Ms. Kotz
in moving the school forward. However, in the last 7 months, we have
observed our fine school sink into a state of chaos, fear, and mistrust.
Parents and teachers have been contacting the Area 10 Office of Isabel
Mesa-Collins with repeated complaints, with no action. Parents and teachers
have been reaching out to various CPS departments, only to be met with
disbelief, indifference, and sometimes outright hostility, even in the
face of compelling evidence of misconduct. No one takes us seriously,
and we are tired of it.
Below is a list of items which we believe
support our case that the school is in educational crisis.
Repeated improper use of school personnel or school programs by a school's
principal or administrative staff, including, but not limited to the
abuse of disciplinary actions against school personnel or students,
the improper rescheduling or reassignment of school personnel, the improper
closing of school staff positions or programs or the improper expenditure
of school funds without local school council approval;
Principal Abuse of Power:
-The principal routinely uses her position
of authority to intimidate staff, students and parents to keep them
in their place, and also to dissuade them from speaking out. Students
have been repeatedly summoned to the principal’s office during instructional
time in order to be interrogated about allegations about staff. Parents
are not notified that these interrogations are occurring, and our children
are being pulled into the middle of issues which should not involve
-In January, the children of the PTO
board members were summoned from class during instruction time to the
principal’s office and coerced into signing a statement that they
had received a letter from the local school council and would pass the
letter on to their mothers.
Teachers, staff and parents who question
operations at the school are routinely the subjects of retaliation.
Examples of this behavior include:
- Parents called the Area 10 office
to report that there was no security guard on the premises for several
consecutive days. As a result, the Chicago Police were summoned by the
school to ticket parents’ vehicles parked along the perimeter of the
school. When the principal was questioned about this, she replied that
since parents had called the area to complain about security, then “here
was our security”
-Recently, 6 excellent teachers were
given notice that they would not return next year. At the March Local
School Council meeting, numerous parents and students demanded answers
to explain the firings. Not only were the questions rebuffed, but in
the subsequent days, some of the teachers were disciplined for “unprofessional
behavior” because parents spoke up on their behalf.
-When the Gunsaulus PTO organization
questioned the actions of the principal in regards to the PTO functions
and accounts, rather than requesting formal mediation as the PTO requested,
the principal filed a complaint directly to the Office of the Inspector
General for reported malfeasance. An investigation is ongoing as we
speak. This year alone the PTO provided over $4000 in support to school
programs, only to be maligned and investigated.
c. Abuse of Disciplinary Actions/Investigations:
Teachers and staff are routinely subjected
to disciplinary actions based on hearsay, and word of mouth. When you
look at the written warnings, many of them are based on the statements
of the few same individuals over and over again. Teachers are disciplined
tor statements that were obtained from students under highly improper
and suspicious circumstances. These students were pulled from class
during instructional time and made to speak alone with the principal
or the assistant principal, and their statements were in turn used to
discipline teachers and staff. It certainly is the responsibility of
a principal to investigate inappropriate behavior, but these interrogations
are in the nature of a wide spread witch-hunt. In addition, parents
are not notified when their children are interrogated, as is required
Improper Release of Staff
On 03/06/09, 5 young non-tenured teachers
were given notice that their contracts are not being renewed. While
the principal is well within her legal right to not renew these teachers’
contracts, there is no valid justification to release them. Out standardized
test scores are continually on the rise. Our enrollment figures are
NOT declining, and in fact are increasing. Why would the principal release
excellent teachers who are committed to our children? These teachers
include a grant winner, the basketball coach who helped our boy’s
team reach the CPS finals, the drama sponsor, the gym teacher, and a
7th grade teacher. Parents and students value these teachers,
and are in fact outraged that they will not be with us next year. Why
would the principal want to replace young, committed, dedicated teachers
who have been shown to benefit our students?
3. Repeated failure or refusal by school staff, principal, local school
council or local school council member(s) to comply with and implement
the provisions of the Illinois School Code, all other applicable laws,
state and federal mandates, including but not limited to bilingual and
special education requirements, collective bargaining agreements, court
orders and Board rules or policies;
Principal not following ISBE rules
Prior to the March ISAT testing, teachers
were instructed in writing to violate the testing procedures requiring
that the students be allowed a 10 minute break during testing. Teachers
were specifically directed to only allow 2-3 minutes of break. Although
many teachers knew this violated the ISBE testing guidelines, they felt
compelled to follow the directive out of fear of retaliation. The teachers
who did allow the proper breaks, did so at the risk of being disciplined
for insubordination to the principal.
LSC Open Meetings Act:
The Local School council deliberately
violated the open meetings act at the December 3, 2008 Local School
Council Meeting. The LSC chairman mandated that the LSC board go into
a closed session, despite the protests of LSC board members and the
public. The council discussed issues which should have been brought
forward into the public forum, such as opening and closing positions.
In addition, complaints to the LSC group within CPS have generated no
response and no corrective actions.
LSC Abuse of Power:
The Local School Council has authority
to review all records of internal accounts. However, the Local School
Council deliberately requested information from the PTO organization,
for which they had no legal right. The LSC request referred to a portion
of the ILSC code which specifically references internal accounts, and
the PTO account is NOT an internal account. Subsequent to the request,
the PTO requested the issue be placed on the agenda for the next LSC
meeting, and they were denied the request. This is the situation in
which our children were removed from class, brought to the office and
made to sign a document that they were in receipt of the letter of refusal.
The LSC requested that the children be given the document to sign as
proof that the denial of agenda request was distributed.
LSC Names and Addresses are not available:
The names and addresses of Local School
Council members are supposed to be a matter of public record, according
to the ILCS. This information has not made available to the school community,
and in fact, not all members of the local school council have received
this information despite repeated requests for the information.
Inability of the school staff, principal, local school council, or local
school council member(s) to resolve disputes on matters which are fundamental
to the operation of the school or to structure programs conducive to
Failure to Resolve through Cooperation
Nearly every dispute that occurs in the
school is handled by the principal as a disciplinary or investigative
action. There is no effort on her part to resolve issues through discussion,
mediation or cooperative groups.
Statistically improbable increase in
Since the beginning of the school year,
an inordinate number of police reports, internal investigations, disciplinary
actions, and DCFS reports have been generated. Gunsaulus has always
been a peaceful school, where issues could be resolved through communication
and mediation. The principal routinely uses every agency at her disposal
to target groups and individuals who disagree with her or question her
actions. If a principal is able to effectively resolve disputes, is
there a need for so many agencies to be involved in school operations?
Since September 2008, the following have occurred:
-Surge in the number of teachers and
staff members targeted for repeated disciplinary actions.
-DCFS allegations have been launched
against parents and teachers.
-Chicago Police have been summoned on
repeated occasions, few of which have to do with maintaining an environment
conducive to learning. Examples of these actions include the police
being summoned to ticket teachers’ cars in the school parking lot
for city sticker and license plate violations. Police were summoned
on another occasion to ticket parents’ cars for parking violations
which did not impact the school in any way.
We believe many of these actions were
based on claims which were spurious, fictitious, and even the result
of the principal being offended personally rather than based on true
problems. We request that the board look at the number of formal actions
generated since September 2008. Does the number of actions seem statistically
possible, given the history of Gunsaulus Academy? Does the number of
formal actions generated since September 2008 seem possible for ANY
Failure or refusal by a school's principal, staff, local school council,
and/or local school council member(s) to maintain an orderly school
environment that supports and encourages student learning;
-Shortened School Day for Children who
take the Bus
Children who take the bus home each day
are summoned from class very early so that the busses can leave the
school. Everyday, children are summoned beginning before 1:30pm to line
up for busses, even though our instructional day ends at 1:45pm. This
action does not support student learning, and in fact adversely affects
it, since students are not able to complete their full school day and
miss out on at least 10 minutes of additional class time.
-Communication between Parents and Teachers
Teachers and Parents are not encouraged
to interact. Research shows that when parents and teachers work together
and communicate with each other, children have a higher success rate
in school. Teachers are afraid to speak with parents for fear of having
the principal discipline them on acting unprofessionally. Parents are
afraid to speak with teachers for fear of getting the teachers in trouble.
17. Principal's failure to maintain orderly school operations which
poses a significant threat to the safety and well-being of students
-The security guard at our school was
suspended on March 11th. Since that time, there has been
no security guard at our school. Staff members are made to walk around
the building before and after school, but these are not individuals
who have been trained in security, and they are not a replacement for
a properly trained and experienced security guard. Gunsaulus Academy
is located in a neighborhood with evident gang activity, and statistics
from the Chicago Police Department clearly show that the crime rate
in our school’s neighborhood is very real.
Safety-Students at Large:
On several occasions, students were “lost”
from the after school program. Students were released to the outdoors
rather than sent to their after school programs. When parents came to
pick them up, the students were found outside the school unattended.
The students who take the bus to and
from school are placed into an unsafe situation every day. In the afternoons,
the children are directed to line up in the hallways to find their bus
route number. The hallways become quite crowded and noisy, and there
is inadequate room in the foyer to properly accommodate all of children
who take assigned bus routes. In years past, and even earlier this year,
the children were seated in the auditorium and attendance for each bus
taken prior to the children being released to the busses. After a bus
aide’s position funding was removed by the local school council, the
children were not allowed to remain in the auditorium seated in a safe
and organized fashion. Instead, they are called down from their rooms
by bus number, and the students have to hurry to get in line to be rushed
onto their bus. Taking attendance to assure that each child is on the
proper bus is now quite difficult. There was no cogent reason to change
this procedure, and as a result, the children are put at risk each day
to either being hurt in the crowded foyer, or at risk for missing their
Well Being of the Teachers and Staff
Staff and Teacher morale is extremely
low, as they are afraid to speak with parents for fear of being disciplined
as “unprofessional”. Teachers are yelled at and chastised
at almost every staff meeting, and made to feel incompetent. When the
6 teachers were informed that they would not have their contracts renewed,
this was done during the regular school day, with no thought to the
effects on the teachers and the students. Teachers are in constant fear
of disciplinary actions up to and including termination, and they are
unable to effectively work with each other.
As parents we are amazed that our teachers
are able to teach our students at all given the climate of the school.
The teachers do their very best to maintain their high levels of instruction,
despite repeated efforts on the part of the principal to demoralize
them and belittle them to CPS, students, and parents. The parents of
Gunsaulus Academy value our teachers, and demand that they be treated
with respect and professional behavior. It is abundantly clear to the
parents that the current administration does not value teachers in any
Well Being of the Students
Of all of the evidence presented in this
letter, the lack of concern over the well being of our children is the
most disheartening and frightening to the parents. Our children are
not well at all. Morale is low for all students, but particularly the
upper grade students. Many of these children have been at Gunsaulus
Academy since the beginning of their school career, and they are saddened
by the climate at the school this year. They have watched their traditions
be removed one by one. They have watched their favorite teachers be
disciplined, mistreated, and demoralized. Five non-tenured teachers
who are highly motivated and committed to our students are being released
at the end of this school year. The students are saddened to think that
they will spend next year without their gym teacher, their basketball
coach, and their drama sponsor. The lack of stability and the low morale
are affecting the students, and they can not effectively learn in an
environment in which they do not feel stable.
Well Being of the School:
Given the nature of the extreme conditions
currently at Gunsualus Academy, we as parents feel that our school has
a bleak future. What teachers would want to stay in this environment?
What teachers would want to come and work at our school? Many parents
are seriously considering removing their children from the school before
it becomes too unstable. Because there have been so many investigations,
and disciplinary actions initiated by the principal, staff are afraid
to speak to parents, and are afraid to speak up when they know something
Consistent failure by a school's principal, staff, local school council,
and/or local school council member(s) to maintain cooperative and educationally
supportive relationships with parents/guardians, and community members;
The principal and the local school council
do not have a supportive relationship with the parents. The principal
will not meet with parents in an open forum to discuss issues. Parents
want to have a voice in their children’s school. Parents want answers
about the decisions of the LSC and the principal. At our last LSC meeting
on March 11, 2009 over 100 parents attended demanding answers about
the high number of staff who have been released from the school since
September. Neither the LSC nor the principal would openly and honestly
address the concerns, and in fact were distanced and hostile toward
the parents who did attend.
The principal has cancelled or significantly
altered many of the long standing Gunsaulus Academy traditions, without
parents’ input, and in some cases, in direct opposition to what the
parents wanted. Our students used to be granted a few days each year
in which the uniform dress code was relaxed. These occasions made the
school feel festive and bright for the day. This tradition was eliminated.
Our PTO organization hosted an annual fun fair in which all students
were allowed to have fun and interact with each other to foster social
emotional growth, and also just celebrate together as a school community.
The principal’s actions made it impossible for the PTO to conduct
this event this year. When the principal attempted to prohibit holiday
celebrations, the students lead the effort to protest. They demonstrated
outside of the building, wrote persuasive essays and encouraged their
parents to advocate on their behalf. After weeks of outcry, the principal
finally relented. When these situations occurred, no effort was made
to peacefully and respectfully meet with the parents to discuss the
The principal has eroded her bond with
the parents, many of whom mistrust her. The principal has taken many
actions to eliminate and impede the PTO group from serving the school.
The school does not welcome parents in, nor does the administration
value parent input and ideas. As mentioned above, parents and teachers
have little opportunity to communicate with each other.
Gunsaulus Academy has historically been
a high performing school with dedicated teachers, committed parents,
and well behaved and motivated children. Our school was a tight knit
community in which we all had the same vision-to maintain an excellent
environment conducive to learning. We were a stable environment in which
children could learn in a safe and orderly environment.
Gunsaulus Academy is a now bleak place
to send our children. The teacher, parent and student morale is low.
There is a feeling of hopelessness and despair which pervades the school
community. The parents do not have confidence that the current principal,
Amy Kotz has the best interest of our children in mind. The parents
do not have confidence that the school will not be diminished.
For months, the parents and teachers
of Gunsaulus Academy have been asking CPS for help. Repeated complaints
to the Area 10 Officer, Isabel Mesa Collins, go unheeded and unresolved.
We are tired of the indifference, disinterest and disbelief that we
have repeatedly experienced from CPS. We have contacted multiple departments
in CPS, only to be rebuffed, ignored, or referred back to Area 10.
Arne Duncan often said that CPS needs
to recruit the brightest and the best teachers to educate the children
so they can flourish. We believe that the actions of the principal and
the local school council at Gunsaulus Academy have plunged the school
into a state of educational crisis. We are pleading with this distinguished
board to step in, fully review our situation at Gunsaulus Academy, and
take corrective action.
We are requesting that someone with an
OPEN MIND, lack of preconceived notions, and open eyes will evaluate
the facts of the case, speak with parents and staff, and honestly and
impartially assess the school. We are afraid for the future of our school.
We are tired of being ignored. We are frustrated with the level of indifference
from CPS. We are PLEADING with you to fully investigate our concerns,
and help us restore Gunsaulus Academy to the fine school that we knew
and loved. Help pull us out of this educational crisis.
Filed under: When Washington Attacks