Under-Utlilized List: 140 Schools

Today's big news is more detail about the proposed school closing guidelines, which focus on under-enrolled schools rather than low-performing ones, but leave aside the issue of turning schools around or giving them over to charters (which as far as teachers and principals are concerned is the same as closing the schools outright).  CPS put out a press release yesterday, and then held a conference call for reporters.  Still no reaction far as I know from CTU - but then again we already know pretty much exactly what they're going to say.GUIDELINES

CPS discusses guidelines for closing and consolidating schools Tribune: "We've got too many buildings and too few children," district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said during a conference call with reporters to discuss a draft of guidelines for school closings and related actions.

Public school closures to be based on enrollment, not performance Catalyst: The district says 140 schools are more than half empty, but did not put a number on how many of those could be slated for closure.

Minimal cost savings for closing schools: analysis Catalyst: One reason CPS is in this predicament now is that the district has opened new schools, while losing enrollment. Since 2001, the student population has dropped by 8 percent.

CEO's school closing plan: Be open Sun-Times: But Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the newly minted schools chief, isn't rushing to grab the ax — despite facing a $1 billion deficit next year. Having closed schools in other districts, she argues that there's more than brick and mortar at stake here.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett WTTW: There's a new leader for Chicago Public Schools, and ahead of her is the tricky task of deciding what schools to close. We talk to new schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett about what to do with public schools in crisis.


Elective school board? Chicagoans to vote on a bad, bad idea Crain's Chicago Business: But the Chicago Teachers Union is no more perfect than Mr. Emanuel. For instance, in flatly rejecting almost all forms of merit pay, it is denying a basic fact of human nature: People are motivated by both sticks AND carrots.

Politics Being Local and All... Tim Furman: I have not heard anyone argue against the elected school board except one suburban guy who was afraid Jesse Jackson would pick the school board. I think Jesse Jackson is code for "black people."


Unions stand up for the middle class Tribune (editorial): When Chicago teachers were forced out on strike for respect and a fair contract, two-thirds of Chicago Public Schoolsparents sided with the union. When Gov. Pat Quinn set out to slash jobs and vital services while demonizing public workers, their pay ...

Mitchell: Should parents be rewarded to pick up their kid's grades? Sun-Times: Worse yet, if the Chicago Public Schools has to go to these lengths to get parents involved in educating their children, can you blame people for believing all the negative portrayals of minorities?

Editorial: The University of Chicago steps up for city kids Sun-Times: Only 38 percent of Chicago Public Schools students who qualify for a very selective school actually enroll, according to a study by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.




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  • One school which may not need to close, but, needs to get re-structured is oft-mentioned Prosser Career Academy High School. The re-structuring would allow the STEM Program to replace the ineffective Education Through Careers (ETC) aka shop programs in place at Prosser now and get Prosser students ready for college and life after high school.

    Prosser Career Academy, once known as Prosser Vocational, offers the followiing (10) shop classes: Auto (2), Carpentry, Drafting, HVAC, Machine, Graphic Arts (2), Culinary Arts, and Buidling Construction. During the 2011-12 school year, these teachers made between $85,000-$107,000/year with each teaching a 6th class with an 20% more in salary. This costing taxpayers between $850,000-$1,070,000 in teacher salaries.

    However, this school year, all (10) teachers lost the extra 6th period and the extra 20% in pay. Still, these teachers will stand to make between $68,000-$85,600 in salary in 2012-13.

    Unfortunately, if any change takes place under current Prosser Principal Ken Hunter, it would be to rid Prosser of the shop classes and replace them with theater, jazz band, choir, and dance classes ala Whitney Young HS. For the STEM Program to work, CPS would need to reaplace Ken Hunter, and his Language Arts specialty, with someone with a background in Science or Math. (Two areas Prosser students suffer in test-wise).

    A staggering ONLY 5% of Prosser students taking any of the current shop classes actually go into any of these professions or continue training in any of those subject areas after graduating/leaving from Prosser.

    Here's some stats to prove my point of Prosser needing to be re-structured and reason to bring in the STEM program:

    At Prosser Career Academy High School in spring 2010, 5.1% of juniors scored high enough on at least three of the four parts of the ACT to be considered “college-ready” for key freshman classes.

    Reaching the ACT-college ready score shows that high school graduates have at least a 50 percent chance of getting a B or higher, or at least a 75 percent of getting a C or higher in an associated freshman class. (For example, the English ACT subtest corresponds to a freshman English Composition course.)

    Statewide, only about 19 percent of Illinois public school juniors who took the ACT during Prairie State Achievement Examination testing last April met the college-ready benchmark scores on all 4 tests. Nationwide, the figure is 24 percent for English, reading, math and science, though that includes both public and private schools scores for Class of 2010 graduates.

    % College Ready

    -----------Prosser- District- State
    All 4 tests--- 1.7--- 7.2--- 19.3
    3 of 4 tests-- 3.4--- 6.5--- 13.0
    English -------47.1-- 40.4 --60.3
    Reading ------19.9-- 22.7-- 42.4
    Math ----------10.3-- 18.1-- 38.3
    Science --------3.1--- 9.4--- 23.6

    Data is computed based on ACT scores for 100.0% of students taking the test at Prosser Career Academy High School in 2010.

    Source: Illinois State Board of Education, Tribune Reporting (2010)

  • And, don't feel bad for these Prosser ETC teachers with their pensions because of the 20% drop in pay. These ETC teachers have an agreement in place to have the highest paying (5) years out of the their last (10) years to be factored into their pensions, not just their last 5 years of salary like all other teachers. Plus, don't forget adding in those unsed sick days accumulated before this school year into their pensions. In some cases, the unsed sick days help to boost pensions over what the ETC teacher actually made in their last years teaching.

    Not bad pay for teachers in subject areas which only produce 5% of Prosser students continuing on with a career in those fields.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    All teacher have the same pension plan. There are no special deals for any teachers. You can throw around data for any group of CPS teachers and see room for improvement. Also there are no more pension enhancement plans for any CPS employees. College success numbers are not any better than CTE numbers for CPS.

  • You don't have to close the shop programs to offer a stem program. Prosser is big enough to host both programs. Culinary arts is one of the growth opportunities for jobs in our society. Students taking these shop programs might get exposure that leads them to an industry that provides related opportunities. For example a student taking auto shop could follow a carer path that leads to engineering, design or sales in the auto industry. We have too few offering for career programs for a very small number of students completing college. Whay not offer both programs? The $1,000,000 you cited is a drop in bucket of the $5 billion plus budget of CPS. We need more options for students. There are millions of dollars invested in the facilites for these programs at Prosser, CPS students should take advantage of that investment and CPS staff work on improving the outcomes and post secondary opportunities for training and employment.

  • If you read the latest issue of the Chicgao Union Teacher, with Karen Lewis on the cover with her boxing gloves around her shoulders, you find this on the new Agreement (page 17) under SICK DAYS:

    - Old sick days are protected and can be used as they have always been used. They can be cashed out upon retiremnent.

    - All employees will begin accruing a new sick(day) bank, that accumulates up to 40 days totals. Cannot be cashed out, but may be used for pension service credits at retirement.

    - Every employee now receives Short Term Disability (STD) benefits which can be utilized after the use of the sick days received that year:

    ~100% pay first 30 days
    ~80% pay days # 31-60
    ~60% days # 61-90
    ~May be used for personal illness or maternity leave.

    Sick days may be used to supplement STD benfits to receive 100% pay.

  • Here's more number that I don't like about the current ETC Program at Prosser:

    The Tribune stated there are 1388 students at Prosser, but, that number is closer to 1478 now that their Principal Ken Hunter tried to increase enrollment in an attempt to get another assistant principal added to Prosser's staff. This additonal AP would have been in addition to the new AP (Black, female) Hunter was directed to hire by CPS because Prosser had less 4% of its faculty and 0% of its administration being Black in a school where there was 95% minority students with 25% of them Black.

    Of the 1478 students at Prosser, 120 of those students were IB students and not forced to take ETC classes. This left 1358 students to choose an ETC program. And, with ONLY 5% of the 1358 Prosser students advancing on to a ETC-type career after Prosser, this means ONLY 68 students out of 1358 utilized the ETC Programs at Prosser. Absolutely horrible numbers for over $1M+ in teacher salaries!!! Where is the bang for the taxpayer buck at Prosser?

    Let's not forget these ETC teachers at Prosser will reap 16% in raises over the next (4) years plus salary step increases.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    All teacher positions are supported by student enrollment. If the facts you stated are true all of these programs could be closed because of lack of enrollment. Shoulds very personal. All teachers get the same raises.

  • sounds like somebody is jealous of both the Prosser shop teachers and the principal.So what if only 5% of the kids go into the trades
    given the .way trades treat minorities that is a really high number..
    I bet most kids do not go to Prosser for vocational training at all
    they go because it is only 25% black.
    Prosser is selective enrollment after all.

  • In reply to rbusch:

    Not jealous at all. What needs to be poninted out is the misuse of taxpayer dollars to fund Prosser programs, like ETC, which no longer are successful and taxpayers are totally unaware of the numbers. And, Prosser is an academy, not a selective enrollment. I'm not sure of the difference, but, I think Prosser has to take a certain number of neghborhood children. Though, if they can choose their students based on academics, why is Prosser an underperforming school? Throw out the numbers of the 120 students in the IB program and Prosser is Fenger, Prosser is Kelvyn Park, and Prosser is Foreman.

    Why does Prosser, a school which can bring in students they choose, have horrible tests scores, high teacher absentee rate (2nd worst throughout CPS), ONLY 33% of students meeting or exceeding state tests standards, ONLY 5.1% of juniors projected to get any decent grades in college, ONLY 5% of students advancing into an ETC field after Prosser, and HORRIBLE Math and Science scores?

    And , is the real reason 66%-70% Hispanics and 5%-7% Whites go to Prosser is because only 25%-34% Blacks go there?

    The funny thing is the Prosser Principal Ken Hunter wil tell anyone that'll listen his school is mon the west side. Yet, unless Prosser was physically moved in recent years, Prosser has and will always be on the NW side of Chicago. And, if Prosser truly is on the west side, wouldn't more Blacks that live on the west side be catered to? It seems Hunter only claims to be on the west side when he's politicking.

  • having been an academic teacher and librarian for many years at a
    vocational school i know i was jelious of the shop teachers.
    They made a lot more than i did.
    But that aside it is almost impossible for a kid to get an apprenticeship
    unless they have a relative in the trades so five percent is a real good
    number. What you are forgetting are the life skills a shop class teaches.
    No kid who ever took auto shop at Simeon where I taught ,was ripped-
    off by a unscrupulous mechanic.Too many young people are helpless
    in the face of everyday problems at home or in their cars.
    To me the Northwest side means Taft HS.Prosser seems to be about as far west as you can go in Chicago.

  • In relation to the WTTW interview with CEO Byrd-Bennett. When I heard Carol Marin last night on WTTW give CEO Byrd-Bennett a very hard and well composed question I listened very carefully to the CEO's answer and it seemed to have almost no relevance to Ms. Marin's question. I listened to this several times and the CEO's answer still seemed to completely evade the question. Here is my transcription of the question and answer (I sure it is not perfect).

    Carol Marin: "Critics of Chicago school closings argue CPS is sending a double message. Close neighborhood school but you open up more charters. How do you define or explain to yourself even the relationship between CPS closings and the welcoming of so many charters?"

    CEO Byrd-Bennett: "I think that this is also - -That comment is representative of the lack of trust of CPS to do anything. What I have charged my team with is to present to me scenarios that would meet my standard for what the conversation the time and resources would look like. To engage the community in conversations. I have not seen those scenarios yet but I will be reviewing them over the next couple of days to ensure that the process and the commitment I made to the community about transparency and reciprocal respect is honored. I don't think we can take many steps forward until we build that foundation."

    That did not answer Marin's question as far as I can tell.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    BBB is full of BS. Rod is correct, her "real talk" was a tactic. Acknowledge reality, but continue charter subterfuge. When she declares a moratorium on opening ANY school including charters then I will believe her. Furthermore, she MUST close failing charters this year, otherwise she is just another puppet of the eduprenuers.

    I'm not keeping my fingers crossed.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I agree.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Good call – BBB completely dodged it

  • OT-- the $25 bribe to come to school and get you kids report card: Wonder why parents, who receive welfare/food stamps and have all their children in school, do not have to work in the school for just 10 hours per week, before they can get their monthly food stamps or welfare? Just does not seem right. Parents just sitting at home—uninvolved and doing nothing—why cannot they come and work in the school even 1 day per week before they get their government check?
    It would teach them a skill, earn them student/child respect and improve their own self.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Would they be paid?

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    The pay for parents would be the welfare-food stamps--the pay also would be experience, self-satisfaction, learning a skill, building references, becoming a parent leader, your child's pride, supporting your child's school--endless.

  • Headache299
    And you can also expect many of those cards will never make it into the hands of the parents…just like Target and McDonalds certificates…everything at CPS is advertisement space, commercial content and building franchise brand loyalty.

  • CPS got caught with its pants down. There is no list.


    Where is the under-utilized list? School closings are supposed to exclusively come from this list according to BBB.

    Here is the real math for school closings.

    1) Take the charter wish list of buildings they want.

    2) Cook the books so as many of these appear "under-utilized" as possible.

    3) Hold a few meetings and see which communities fight the hardest.

    4) Cross a few of those schools off the list to make it appear you are compromising

    5)Close too many schools, creating overcrowding and dangerous conditions at adjacent neighborhood schools.

    6) Open charter schools in ideal buildings and maintain those at less than capacity.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I believe there is a list, but I'm guessing CPS doesn't want it floating around causing a disruption at the schools that are on the list, which is understandable. Also remember, this is the weakest CPS has ever been under Mayoral control, there are only a few supporters out there. This is a stall tacit.

  • In reply to Mike:

    Most of the schools that will be on the list have been "disrupted" due to official neglect for years. The point about "disruption" is moot. The law is the law.

    Seems pretty late to be asking for this waiver as well.

  • I mean, seriously, what kind of Rick Perry moment is this? How can you know schools need to be closed down but not know which ones they are? Clearly, the prejudice (in the most sweeping and inclusive form of the word) behind the bulk of the preceding lists showed that performance had very little, if anything to do with the motivations for the blacklist, I will say that community leaders should immediately go find the original plans for their neighborhood's buildings and find out the original capacity for which they were built, not the ones they have been fudging for decades in order to shoehorn kids in instead of building new schools before the charter schools boondoggle was born. I know schools in Pilsen, built for 500, staggering towards the 1K mark for years, who more recently have been threatened with having to add a charter school because the school population had plummeted to - 800! And STILL no room for a preschool program, mind you, but plenty enough room for a charter...

  • What CPS claims is a schools capacity and what is the true capacity of these schools is up for debate. Many schools have been so overcrowded for years that their "capacity" has been boosted. Now that makes it easy to claim they are underutilized.

    What is the criteria for labeling a school "under utilized"? Is 99% capacity "underutilized"?

    Finally, doesn't it seem odd that all of a sudden CPS has hundreds of schools that need to close due to under utilization. Why are we just hearing about this now?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    This his been known for years - Daley just never dealt with it as it was happening. Similar to not meeting the pension obligations - just pushed it down the road.

  • Wow. I haven't considered lead poisoning and student achievement for years --- not since my kids were little and the lead-level tests were required for their school admissions. http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/high-lead-toxicity-in-chicago-public-schools/Content?oid=7819530

  • In reply to district299reader:

    what about he asbestos-the friable type?

    how about the mold from leaky roofs and poor upkeep of univent filters?

    how about the recent inspections in the lunchrooms? the severity of the problem suggests it is a long term issue in the school not just the lunchroom but the lunchroom workers were blamed -where is the principal? were there work orders issued by the principal to clean this up? where is the engineer?

    the inspectors could her the rodents in the walls-WOW! and who thinks the rodents were confined to one wall....come on CPS!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I wonder if there is a list of deficient lunchrooms by board and privatized ?

    on a personal note Alex how are you after sandy?
    Our hopes and prayers go out to everyone effected by the storm.

  • CPS's School Action Guidelines confirm that it will now focus on the real problem it faces: under-utilization. This problem is exacerbated by budget shortfalls and dwindling future enrollment. Nearly half of CPS schools are under-utilized; 20% of schools are only half occupied. CPS must look at its portfolio of schools and develop fair and reasonable procedures to proactively handle population fluctuations. For example, put triggers in place when a school's population rises or falls to redirect future students to other nearby schools to accomodate that change early. Better demographic anaysis and active management could have prevented much of the current crisis. Too many schools were built when the economy was good and credit was easy. Now many Chicago families will face the painful repercussions of those rash decisions: school closures, redistricting, job losses.


    CPS committee to help with community input on school closings

    November 4, 2012 at 11:59 am 1 comment

    I got to sit in on a call with some parent bloggers with the new CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, to learn about this new Commission that has been appointed to be a community liaison with the public in anticipation of upcoming school closings. CPS has asked for 3 additional months to give communities more time to respond to the proposals, so this was all announced this week. Below is a speech BBB gave to the Chicago Urban League From the Urban League’s web site: “For 95 years, the Chicago Urban League has been a leader in building strong sustainable African American communities and creating opportunities with the power to transform people’s lives!” Presumably, many of the school closings will be in largely African American communities where population has dwindled in the past decade so I image that’s why this audience is being addressed.

    To summarize the news, CPS needs to close schools for financial reasons because many are underutilized. BBB/CPS realized that the way it’s been done in the past makes communities feel like CPS is shoving a decision down their throats. They want to give communities more input on how best to handle it. It will still happen, but with input, hopefully the changes can be less painful, more productive, more palatable to the communities affected.

    My one main observation of BBB during the call is her ability to squarely answer questions (which yes, now I can say it, JCB couldn’t do. He’s a tangent/high level guy.) My favorite part of the call was when I asked whether CPS was actually looking for input from community groups on ideas for using building space, consolidation, etc. She said something to the effect of “Yes, we do, otherwise this would just be a fancy way of telling people “here’s what we’re going to do to you.” I like that kind of self-realization and honesty. I guess I too have had the sense that CPS is shoving things down people’s throats, so it’s hard to lose that notion, frankly.

    Jacqueline Edelberg (the Nettelhorst lady, who now blogs for HuffPo) reminded BBB that there used to be a Community School initiative that used building space as a community center – and BBB agreed that ideas like this could be brought to the table, and that communities need to think out of the box on how to handle closings, building space, and consolidation.

    Of course this assumes that communities can take the initiative and come up with ideas that don’t turn into civil wars within the community (which seems to be happening in Lincoln Park.)

    Anyhow, I’m printing BBB’s speech below. What do you think? Genuine? Spin? Will this help ease the pain of school closings?


    1. Jill | November 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Raise Your Hand’s board member, Dwayne Truss points out that there is no West Side representation on the CPS committee named last week. Realistically I do not expect everyone to be satisfied with every committee appointment, but decisions from CPS continue to appear to be made in a private star chamber. Instead of the usual suspects (a la Board of Education members), the resounding response to most of the people named in last week’s announcement is a resounding, “Who?” I urge CPS to change course so the individuals participating is more balanced and recognizable to diverse constituents.

  • Everyone, the 140 schools is the "unofficial list". CPS will pare this list down to 120, 100 or 80 schools to take school actions against over the next two years. CPS already knows what they want to do, including opening up 60 new charter schools..

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