Catalyst's Reality Check

Catalyst's Reality Check

The big news of the day is probably Catalyst's in-depth package of new stories about receiving schools, displaced teachers, and funding for enhancements promised by CPS such as IB and STEM. I've linked to two of the stories but there are lots more -- check them out and let us know what you think.  What else?  Let us know.

Minor fire damage at elementary school Tribune: Fire Department officials are investigating the cause of a small fire at a South Side elementary school Monday morning. Students had yet to arrive and there were no injuries. Classes are expected to resume Tuesday at Oglesby Elementary School.

Art Institute receives $1 million grant to work with CPS Tribune: The Art Institute of Chicago announced Monday that it is receiving a $1 million grant to fund a five-year collaboration with Chicago Public Schools to foster students’ engagement with original artworks.

Waiting on STEM, IB Catalyst:  The 11 STEM schools got $376,000 each and seven International Baccalaureate schools got $255,000. The money was to pay for one-time start-up costs such as teacher training, and two extra staff members. At the IB schools, the two extra staff members include an IB coordinator and a world language teacher. The STEM schools get one technology specialist and a math/science specialist.

New school transitions Catalyst: The historic closing of 49 elementary schools in Chicago left many parents bitter and feeling left out as they try to get involved in new schools. Yet parent engagement is essential for school improvement, and principals are faced with the challenge of building trust at schools that scored poorly on surveys of parent involvement.

Haines Elementary School Receives a Playground Rain Garden DNAI: Water experts selected the Chinatown school for installation of the eco-friendly playground feature.

Principal at a Top CPS Magnet Says He'll Step Down When His Contract Ends DNAI: Andrew Jackson's Mathew Ditto said the move was not related to a disputed computer purchase.

Shutdown impact: Defense workers return to work WTOP: Rather than sitting around, Threat decided to volunteer for a veteran patrol for the Chicago Public Schools “safe passage” program.


Shuttered Head Start Centers to Reopen, Thanks to Philanthropists PoliticsK12: Houston-based philanthropists John and Laura Arnold have extended $10 million in emergency funding support to the National Head Start Association, which will in turn be used to reopen Head Start centers that closed, or were on the brink of closure, after the federal government shutdown cut off their funding.

Mixed reviews to Common Core highlight of Education Nation Town Hall Hechinger Report: Students and teachers at the annual Education Nation town hall on Sunday expressed mixed reactions to the Common Core, mirroring divisions in the wider national conversation about new standards in math and English adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Obama's pre-Kindergarten plan expensive, shows little results ABQ Journal: Duncan spoke mainly about Obama's early education program, which was introduced this past spring as part of the president's fiscal year 2014 budget proposal.

The GED Test Is About to Get Much Harder, and Much More Expensive The Atlantic: The higher standards on the GED test will be paired with another change—starting next year, students will take the GED test on computers only. Pencil-and-paper tests will no longer be allowed.

Report: Millions Paid to Teachers Who Cannot Teach in the Classroom WNYC: The Daily News reported on Monday that the city will spend $29 million in 2013 on the salaries and benefits of educators who are considered "too dangerous or incompetent to work in public school classrooms but cannot be immediately fired."



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  • Re: Andrew Jackson's Dell computer purchase. I can see why the LSC is upset, I mean spending $30,000 for 33 Dell laptops comes to a little over $900 per lap top.

    I mean you can buy a Dell Latitude 3330 totally loaded with a with a 13.3 inch screen from Dell for $649 each direct from Dell. Exactly what kind of a custom package was ordered for the staff?

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Maybe they are touchscreens and therefore expensive. The commercial rate for the MS Office suite is expensive and the annual Windows license fee was probably included as well. I agree with the LSC member; schools need touchscreen laptops if they are used by teachers in the classrooms - especially if the classrooms have wireless lcd projectors which the better CPS schools have.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I am sure you know that CPS purchasing sets specs and prices for Dell computers, all sorcers. On this point, it is unfair to blame principal.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Get real Rod what part of middleman don't you understand?
    In the 1980's I was the librarian in charge of AV at Simeon.
    When we actually got money to spend on equipment it came from
    a storefront in Bridgeport and was always 25-100% more than the
    open market.
    later we were required to purchase all our magazines from a minority
    vender who charged 20% more than the board price which was
    already 25% higher.they were shipped from a house in Country Club Hills.
    The worst case was in the late 80"s when all the librarians were invited to lunch at the Area office.We did eat ,but had to endure a sales pitch for a set of Laser Disks which had over 20 hours of
    National Archive footage.The Area Leader bought two for the area
    the price was $12,500 each.One went to Kenwood the other to Bogan.Sitting on my desk back at Simeon was the sales brochure
    the same outfit sent us three days before .Our price was$10,000..

  • This feeling is true of many CPS principals:
    He said then that he was under too many demands, including immense pressure and daily scrutiny from his higher-ups at CPS, ...

  • What a left testicle. Never mind he donated his 5000 back to the school. You'd think he was entitled. He should have bought toilet paper, or new office furniture, or maybe take his staff on a retreat to Puff Luck, Kentucky. But no. He had to blow it on stupid computers that have a half life of 9 months, and are just about useless in an academic setting.

  • CPS funds must be spent in specific categories or the principal can lose their job. (He would be in trouble for what you suggest spending the money on.) It has to be spent by a certain time and by CPS specs or you lose the funds. CPS principals are overwhelmed with stupid and repetitive things and insane and useless rules they must do or lose their jobs. I have visited Illinois public schools in the poorest & most rural areas. These school district have experienced employees who do purchasing and finances separate from the principal. They even have a secretary. A noticeable difference is that other school district value their principals. CPS principals have too many items on their plate NOT related to instruction. They are not valued as instructional leaders, which is of great advantage for the teachers union.

  • come join CPS parents at the Neighborhood Schools Fair -on Sat. Nov. 16, 11:00-3:00 at Clemente high school
    email or call 872-444-6880

  • Thanks for the comments on the CPS purchasing process for lap tops. I am aware of some of this because when I was a court monitor in the Corey H case we had to do approvals for computer purchases that were paid for by CPS funds under court supervision. Back then (2006) Dell Direct was on the pre-qualified vendors named on the Strategic Sourcing vendors list and schools did not have to go through a middle man as I recall. School units issued Purchase Requests for new computers based on need and associated funding. Has that changed?

    As long as the lap top met the standard outlined in it was approvable, has that all changed?

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I've tried to get a copy of the elusive "approved vendor list" for years. No one at my school has a copy or can produce one. I contacted the area office and numerous departments downtown and NOTHING is available. When I asked to make a purchase through Amazon however, I'm told they are not an approved vendor.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    it's easy to find:

    found at:

  • from Beachwood Reporter:

    Judge Rips CPS's Hired Guns
    "A federal judge Wednesday blasted lawyers from Shefsky & Froelich Ltd. for displaying a 'disrespectful, unprofessional and petulant attitude' while representing Chicago Public Schools in a class-action lawsuit over the education provided to disabled students," the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reports.

    'In a written opinion, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman said attorneys who litigated the long-running case on behalf of CPS - before Shefksy & Froelich got involved - asserted the district's positions 'forcefully but professionally.'

    "'After the attorneys from Shefsky & Froelich entered the case, however, the court has observed the type of respect and bravado by some of these lawyers that disserved their client and needlessly raised the level of contention when the case was entering its final phase,' he wrote."

    Maybe that's why CPS hired them.

    "Gettleman wrote that the lawyers gratuitously attacked the competence and integrity of the court-appointed monitor in the case - attacks he rejected as 'misplaced, unprofessional and totally without merit' - and repeatedly tried to relitigate long-resolved issues."


    From Gettleman's opinion:

    [T]he court finds that certain positions taken by CPS deserve comment. First, CPS's response ends with a nonsensical request that, "Because [CPS] is in substantial compliance with its Consent Decree obligations, this case should be dismissed with prejudice."
    As CPS's counsel well know, the court has rejected CPS's many requests to find that it has "substantially complied" with the Consent Decree. (See e.g., Docs. 885, 929).

    In any event, despite language in several agreed orders referring to dismissal, there is nothing left in this case to "dismiss" - with or without prejudice. As this court has reminded CPS previously, the Monitor's post-Decree report and the responses thereto were, as agreed by the parties, "for informational purposes" only. Like CPS's misguided motions to vacate the Consent Decree based on alleged and unproven "substantial compliance" and to decertify the class (which this court and the court of appeals have rejected), any attempt by CPS to "dismiss" the case is moot.

    As the court of appeals recently noted in its order affirming this court's denial of CPS's motion to vacate, why CPS continues to expend scarce public resources attempting to relitigate moot issues is "mystifying."


    Rather than engaging in personal attacks and stiff-necked resistance to each other, the parties who are concerned with the issues addressed by [this case] should seek dialogue rather than discord. The scarce resources available to public schools should be spent on educating all children, those with disabilities and those without, rather than on lawyers and litigation.


    It's hardly the first time Gettleman has gone off on CPS lawyers in this case. From 2012 (with case background as well):

    After more than 20 years of litigation and 14 years after a court-approved Settlement Agreement between plaintiffs and defendant Board of Education of the City of Chicago ("Chicago Public Schools" or "CPS"), and within months before the termination of the Settlement Agreement, CPS has decided to waste scarce public resources by filing a near-frivolous motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) to decertify the class and vacate the judgment to which it had agreed in 1998 and again in 2010. (Doc. 852.) This effort is both mystifying and disturbing, driven perhaps by considerations that have no place in the administration of CPS's obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., ("IDEA") to educate children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment ("LRE").

  • As a long time CPS teacher of children with disabilities I had high hopes for CPS due to the Corey H. ruling. I thought things would change for the better for children with disabilities. I was the Education Connection facilitator and remember being so excited that CPS was finally going to do the right thing for children with disabilities.

    At the beginning of the ruling CPS seemed to be making an honest attempt to follow the ruling-Rod Estvan was the court appointed monitor and he was impressive, as were other people. Time went on and the spot light lessened and CPS lost (retirements and movement out of CPS) some of the CO administrators who guided the compliance to the ruling.

    The intent for inclusion was good but now the pendulum has swung too far and now most children with disabilities are dumped into gen ed without supports and a gen ed teacher is expected to meet the needs of 33 students with very little support. I do not believe the intent of Corey H. was inclusion with little or no support yet I am baffled by those who are monitoring the LRE-both ISBE and CPS do not cite schools where all self-contained rooms have been disbanded and dumped into gen ed-where is the justification for an LRE change? who is then looking at the lack of progress at the IEP meeting by those students who were dumped? where is the continuum?

    Principals really do not understand the ramifications of an inadequate sped program on the school's AYP.

    Judge Gettelman is correct-in spite of losing Corey H and having to spend $110,00.00 per school CPS continues to be arrogant in its implementation of special education programs.


  • In reply to district299reader:

    Annie I hope to see you at Access Living's Town Hall meeting on the state of CPS special education on October 19 at 10 am. It is being held at our offices 115 W. Chicago Ave.

    In relation to the enforcement of supports and services as part of the Corey H case I did as much as the settlement agreement would allow. Let's recall I was charged with abuse of discretion by CPS and threatened with a defamation lawsuit by the principals association at one point for my efforts to enforce state and federal law.

    Rod Estvan

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