All Eyes On UNO

Lots of UNO-related coverage and commentary (WTTW, Mark Brown). More on the utilization hearing at Bridgeport. A little bit on how they're reacting to Cheatham.  Got any good news, anyone?


UNO Charter Schools' Insider Deals Questioned WTTW: Charges of insider contracts surface in building and maintaining a $25 million UNO charter school. Carol Marin talks with the Chicago Sun-Times reporters who uncovered the story.

Brown: UNO gearing up its own political machine involving charter schools Sun Times: My first encounter with the political machinery of the United Neighborhood Organization Charter Schools network came last spring when I was poking around in an Illinois House race on the Southwest Side. I was curious as to why a certain Misty Gillian of Auburn, Ind., had donated $1,500 to Silvana Tabares, a Democratic legislative candidate being backed by UNO CEO Juan Rangel and other charter school advocates.

For Insiders, Community Group UNO’s Charter Schools Pay Sun Times: More than one-fifth of the taxpayer money spent on the Soccer Academy Elementary project went to four contractors owned by family members of UNO’s political allies and a top executive of the group, records show.


Parents react to CPS' plan to downsize WGNtv: CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has already said she will not consider closing Level 1 rated schools or any high schools, but that still leaves hundreds of schools on the chopping block. CPS says about half of its schools are below full capacity so those ...

Bridgeport Parents Plan Rally Before CPS Utilization Forum DNAI: Parents, activists planned to gather prior to start of CPS forum for Pershing Network schools.

Top-Notch Cather School Won't Close But Could See Big Changes This Fall DNAI:Despite being half empty, West Side school could be in line for more resources and students.

Labor Beat Coverage at Truman School Tech Connect: Last year, for example, the good people at Crane made an excellent case for their school. Really, it was one of the best efforts I've seen--- and what an institution, Crane High School. It's been a part of the fabric of the city forever. And they had two alderman turn out to defend their school--- which is something elementary schools have difficulty doing, particularly up here in Joe Moore territory. But what did Crane get for its efforts? A one-day reprieve, and then the mayor announced that he was turning it into a selective enrollment.


A Brief Overview of Teacher Evaluation Controversies PBS: At times, as in the recent case of the Chicago Teachers Union strike, negotiations have become so disruptive that thousands of students are left out of the classroom as the grownups try to reach a deal.

West Chicago school strike idles 4,000 students WBEZ:  More than 280 teachers in the suburban Chicago school district decided to begin their strike Monday after 16 months of negotiations failed to reach a contract agreement. The walk-out comes after an 11-hour negotiation session Sunday stretched into early Monday but concluded with no deal.


Jennifer Cheatham fought for big changes in Chicago schools Wisconsin State Journal: "She's very knowledgeable and well educated and familiar with issues in education, which can't be said for some of the CPS administrators who are business people," said Carol Caref, head of research for the Chicago Teachers Union.

First reaction: Madison superintendent candidates underwhelm observers Capital Times: Several readers suggested that Cheatham's association with the Chicago Public Schoolsis a poor reference for the job of heading up Madison's schools. “Oh yeah — because the Chicago schools are such beacons of great education …” said one commenter.

Students Petition to Save Latin American, African-American Lit Classes DNAinfo:  "Integrating these very important teachings into our classrooms is a priority for [CPS] Chief Executive Officer [Barbara] Byrd-Bennett. She is working on a plan to address this with our Office of Teaching & Learning."



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  • Let's talk about substitutes! Are you getting subs at your school? We never have enough to fill our absences. Students are suffering, teachers lose preps.......We also have vacancies at our school that are filled by subs since the beginning of the year. We NEVER had this problem until the last couple of years. My principal has been complaining to the Network and Alicia Winckler. I think that Winckler has let the sub pool meltdown and doesn't care! Is CTU aware of this mess?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    What has happened to the OSES plan to hire retired SPED teachers to job share in the vacant positions? I attended a meeting in December and was told of this really ingenious plan-no movement since then-I did have hopes that the new director would be able to shake up things and get certified teachers for the 120 or more vacancies.

    I know teachers who would sub for CPS but either they can not access the online system or have completed the online process and
    no one calls.

    At my school the sped inclusion teachers are used as subs and there is no compensatory time is given to the students. This has been an ongoing issue since the strike....hmmmmm.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Off topic but does anyone know when the retirees will get their W-2 forms? I tried emailing HR and then tried calling-what a disaster....we are supposed to have this document by January 31.....big law department in CPS....we no longer have access to the online system to get a copy....even when you retire CPS still aggravates you with inefficiency.......

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The situation is really bad at our school! The lack of subs is critical--kids in the auditorium, aides covering classrooms--no instruction! Teacher vacancies remain unfilled. Our evaluations are going to suffer. I believe that they are either incompetent in the Talent Office (Winckler) or they are trying to save money (Cawley). Either way--things are about as bad as ever. I have been in the system 20+ years......when is someone going to wake up and get rid of Winckler--she sunk Huberman and Brizard. BBB--you are next to get fired if you keep your Talent Officer! I hope that CTU can help us.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    A classroom at our school got trashed today- no adult in the room. I was there when our clueless principal was informed. She didn't budge.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Interesting that only the principal was opposed to the teachers on the hallway, the security officers, the clerks who usually are in charge of assigning subs, etc.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Another teacher apparently told security. I witnessed security informing the principal. The school hasn't received enough subs. The principal allows security to open classrooms for students without supervision. She and a number of her friends in administration could cover classes, but they never do.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Clearly more going on than being shared. "Apparently" isn't definitive. It still doesn't speak highly that no other adult responded including you as the "witness". How often are adults in your school not in their rooms that security opens has to open rooms because the flip side is that students shouldn't be standing in the halls, right? This posting was talking about issues with subs but it appears that you and all the other adults in your building are irresponsible. You give an opinion that your administrator should be covering classes, but do you know what the administrator is doing? It seems that all of you are clueless.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    It is the height of irresponsibility for a principal to allow students in a classroom without a qualified adult in the room with them. If there are not enough subs, other accommodations must be made. This is the principal's responsibility. It is NEVER appropriate to allow students to be in a room unsupervised. Even if EVERY teacher was absent, then children should be placed in the gym or auditorium. In a case like this, the hallway is preferable- there are eyes and cameras on the students.

    The administrator's primary responsibility is ensuring that children are safe. If the principal allows security to enter a classroom without supervision then that principal is criminally negligent. It doesn't matter what else the principal is doing, they should ALWAYS make sure students and school property are secure. That is a primary responsibility.

    I'm trying to figure out why you claim ALL the adults in the building are irresponsible and clueless. What would be the proper response for a teacher with a lax principal?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Clearly to get on the blog and make anonymous complaints that don't make sense. You clearly have an issue with your principal and not sub coverage. Every adult in a building is responsible for kids. You just don't get it.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    It looks like you are saying everybody in the building is responsible for the children EXCEPT the principal. If a principal doesn't have a plan to deal with a lack of subs other than placing them in a room alone then the principal is negligent. If this is a frequent occurrence it is the principal's job to figure out how to deal with it.

    The sub coverage issue is two-fold: 125 not supplying subs and principals who don't know how to or don't want to deal with the problem. Clearly, you must be one of these over rated, arrogant new leaders CPS is now fond of. Many CPS principals are not reflective, they just do what they think the area office wants. To be a true leader you have accept responsibility for shortcomings. There has to be a plan to deal with a shortage of subs, and a principal has to show leadership in implementing it. If students are placed in a room alone and a child is injured or bullied that is the principal's fault for not having a plan and not having the humility to chip in.

  • The thought of Cheatham as a Superintendent anywhere just makes me sick. Here we go again pawning off bad talent (see Bob Runcie) on unsuspecting districts and, even worse, unsuspecting kids. Cheatham has the distinction of being disliked by the union, the reform community, almost all network chiefs and the new CEO. Now Vitale is spinning a yarn about her leading all the big reforms in Chicago. I don't understand how since she is two levels below the CEO and three below Rahm. No middle management bureaucrat in CPS leads anything. The only project squarely in her shop the last year was the school calendar and she changed that THREE times AFTER the school year started. Can't she just go back to Harvard and not subject her half baked ideas and dictatorial demeanor on any more teachers or kids. Sadly, it looks like the kids in Madison have a 50/50 shot on getting her.

  • In reply to westofwestern:

    I bet Madison will approve her because of her Harvard pedigree.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    How could they possibly go forward with her after this showing:

    I think this three minute video shows she is a light weight and a little out of touch. It would be interesting if Karen or Jackson made a statement.

  • In reply to westofwestern:

    You're only half informed. Cheatham over saw more than the school calendars. Also, you've being harsh, she didn't have much of a staff, had to pretend that Noemi actually had authority and deal with Becky Carroll often. That said, you did nail BBB not liking her one bit.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Nice try deflecting D299Reader. In fact, I am being too nice and more than fully informed. I see Cheatham in action all the time. In fact, I've watched her since she came to CPS and she has been ineffective since day one. Ask the network Chiefs. Plus, didn't she get fired in California? Even better, just check out her test scores from her tenure as a area supt. Funny, how you didn't call out all of her other great accomplishments that I am supposedly not aware of. I suspect, you, like her, know she didn't lead or contribute to most of the work this past year. That instruction office has been spinning their wheels since Cheatham took over. In fact, she was contrarian to almost everything she is lauding herself for in Wisconsin. But she, like you, takes responsibility for none of it (until you need it for an interview) and blames everyone else for the trouble. My guess is you are just hoping to jump ship with her to Wisconsin. Don't worry, none of us that have made our careers at CPS will mind.

  • In reply to westofwestern:

    No not at all, I'm not even really defending her as I'm indifferent about her, but just pointing out some things you left out. She didn't have much of a staff and was tasked with putting together half baked ideas while dealing with two crazy people and eventually a powerless CEO. I doubt any of us would have done any better knowing that no matter what you present, Noemi/Carroll is going to start screaming across the fifth floor about changing it. I have no clue if Cheatham takes or places responsibility on the Longer School Day on others, but she shouldn't take responsibly as that was pretty much all Carroll.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    From your last comment I am guessing you aren't working under the CEdO umbrella. First, Cheatham asked for everything she was in charge of. She is a bit of a hoarder. Second, her biggest problem is not and was not the number or quality of staff under her nor her supervisors, it is her inability to communicate effectively with the chiefs and principals. Cheatham is very smart in a bookish sense. Good theory, well grounded. But, she is a horrific people person. There isn't a hint of emotional intelligence anywhere in that body. At the end of the day you can't work with people in public education and treat them so poorly.

  • In reply to westofwestern:

    Wisconsin can have Cheatham
    When she was in charge of Area 9, she supervised 25 schools, 23 of which have 2010 reports published by ISBE:

    Armour: 346 student membership, Chalmers: 255, Cooper: 740, Drake: 234, Hammond: 496, Henson: 310, Herzl: 591, Holden: 638, Jungman: 323, Kinzie: 736, Lawndale: 589, Mcclellan: 288, Melody: 387, Orozco: 620, Perez: 485,Pickard: 688, Pilson: 441, Smyth: 662, South Loop: 641, Walsh: 489, Whittier: 405, Williams: 276, and Williams Middle: 112.

    The total reported enrollment for the 23 ISBE reported Cheatham schools is 10,752

    From 10,752 enrolled students, approximately 283 students had marginal testing gains and 131 students had ISAT achievement losses.

    That makes a whopping difference of 152 kids!

    This is what must be meant by “breakthrough results in student learning”

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Some of your claims may be true and some spurious, but to compare Cheatham to Runcie is comparing a walrus to an atom. Not even in the same camp.

  • The UNO story clearly has legs and regardless of whether or not the Office of Accountability for Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity makes any finding related to UNO's possible failure to notify the department in writing of any actual or potential conflicts of interest in relations to contracts. As I said yesterday Mayor Emanuel's advisers I suspect will recommend the Mayor have a less direct relationship with UNO's chief executive officer, Juan Rangel given all of this.

    I watched the WTTW interview with Dan Mihalopoulos and it was notable that no one from UNO was willing to appear on the program. This indicates UNO is adopting a more defensive posture than Mr. Rangel traditionally has when his organization is criticized. I have a hard time believing that the Chicago FBI's public corruption unit wasn't watching and reading all of this too.

    But I have to agree with Mr. Rangel about some things, the rules that apply to public bidding don't apply to private entities that receive state grants. UNO is a private not for profit, effectively a CPS subcontractor, UNO's teachers are not public school teachers according the last ruling of the NLRB. But the influence peddling issues raised in relation to campaign contributions made by UNO contractors to Silvana Tabares, in her campaign for an Illinois House seat are just the type of things that can pique the interest of FBI investigators.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rangle is on the Chicago park district board
    Uno got a contract to clean at O'Hare--no?
    Did anyone confirm if Uno bought a plane?

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Ask anyone in the know at CPS about UNO, and they'll tell you UNO has always played fast and loose. This doesn't come as much of a surprise.

  • Perhaps the dam has broken.Yesterday I got a letter inviting me
    to a Sub Hiring meeting.My online application was accepted March 13, 2012,

  • So you waited almost a year-I would say the delay is much has CPS saved by not hiring subs and shutting down programs to use those teachers for coverage....very sad situation in CPS ....even with the media coverage of the sub shortage CPS does not move to correct this situation- CPS is above the law....fears no consequences

  • Yes it was almost a year.

  • On Wednesday, February 6th, Education Next will release an article by June Kronholz on teacher absences and the impact that the reliance on substitutes has on school budgets and student learning. “No Substitute for a Teacher” will be available at

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Try to stay healthy at a school with 100s or 1000s of kids, many of whom are sick. Overburdened custodians. Keyboards, doorknobs, and desks that are NEVER wiped down. Nurses that have to split time between LARGE high schools- for example our nurse wasn't in the building today, but don't worry she'll be here tomorrow.

    Teacher absences could be mitigated if CPS would get serious about creating a clean and healthy environment for our children. Instead, Emanuel and company constantly cut corners. It is clear they do not care about he kids.

  • Fuzzy Math: The Chicago Public Schools Budget Crises

  • here I sit on hold with HR- wait time is 30 minutes......trying to find out what has happened to my W2 which HR insists was mailed on January 31, 2013 (as required by law) I find it very interesting that none of my friends have received their W2s either.....

  • In reply to district299reader:

    District 299reader,
    I got mine in the mail today. When would CPS EVER do anything on time or legally??? CPS's new motto should be: "Breaking the law, one student, one teacher at a time".

  • Good One! Love it....CPS is above the law!

  • Why don't you all get electronic w2s? It would make more sense.

  • Electronic W2s are only available to current employees. When I retired in June my email was retired the next day. AS a courtesy maybe CPS could let us have our email for a year so that ww could have received our W2s and any other communication-the colleges do this for their alumni. I knew this and was able to give my students, former students and parents my personal e-mail. I am a special education teacher and I do go to my former students' graduations so this way they can email me the dates. Yes, the students and their parents have emailed me.
    It is February 12 and I still have not received my W2-unbelievable in the business world but this is how CPS works.

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