Emanuel & The School Reformers

The Mayor was in San Francisco yesterday for a reform conference called the NewSchools Venture Fund education summit (and for an Obama fundraiser, too, I'm told).  He closed the event with a speech and a bit of Q and A with Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

There was no big announcement about charterizing CPS, or about replacing his handpicked CPS team -- that's all still to come (or never was under serious consideration) -- well see.  And there was a LOT of soundbites and cliches and repetition.  But that doesn't mean the event wasn't without interesting tidbits:

As much as a reformer Emanuel may seem to be to some folks in Chicago (and, apparently, to himself), he came off as pretty meat-and-potatoes in front of this crowd. He spoke about extending the day and adding days to the calendar but there was no talk about blended learning or disruptive innovation.  His remarks were printed on a couple of sheets of paper instead of on an iPad or iPhone. He made an appeal to have the summit in Chicago next year but botched an easy question about why charter school folks should come. (In fact, he repeatedly noted that he was for results, not reform.)

[It's worth noting that Rocketship headed to Milwaukee, not Chicago, though I'm told another blended learning outfit is coming to CPS next year - stay tuned.]

The forum was about as friendly as possible, with mostly softball questions during the interview portion and only just a few from the audience.  He was pressed a bit on why the Obama administration hadn't passed the DREAM Act, and dodged and weaved impressively when someone in the audience asked him why he was opposed to vouchers if they had better results than district schools (in DC, specifically).

Emanuel avoided saying anything inflammatory about CTU or about teachers in general, or even about the cushy contracts Mayor Daley negotiated before him. His new, blander version of what happened? "I know what the teachers got, and I don’t begrudge it," he said.  "They work hard."

There were a few current and former Chicago folks there -- Oliver Sicat, Tim Cawley, Brian Sims, David Pickens (now in DC), Mike Lach (now at the UofC).  I'm told Beth Swanson stayed back in Chicago -- Emanuel turned to Sicat when he couldn't name one of the principal training institutions (Loyola, I think).

Other tidbits: Jokes about Emanuel's swearing get old quickly, though the Mayor seemed to appreciate being introduced as a "pretty fucking great" thing for Chicago kids. The Mayor couldn't stop talking about AUSL and Nobel Street, and the city's military academies, and the IB expansion, etc.   Again, it was very much a campaign speech -- lots of sound bites, and talk about proposals and changes rather than actual acoomplishments.  Of course, it's only been a year.


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  • This sounds similar to my father complaining about what the "rednecks in Florida" were doing to the schools, but when he said stuff like "charter schools" I said Daley had already done that.

    One could figure that if Emanuel had proposed something truly disruptive, Karen Lewis would have beaten you to report it and organize a protest.

    The real question may be how Emanuel is doing what a mayor needs to do, if every day he is at some press op.

  • In another city.

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