It's teacher hunting season!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

UPDATE: New Tactic: Chicagoans Occupy School Slated for Shut-down; and Who is Hidden Hand Behind Chi Schools?


From ''Fight Back News,'' February 21, 2012: Chicagoans occupied the Brian Piccolo Elementary School overnight, Friday, February 18, 2012 to the next day.
"Chicago protest demands: "Support our schools, don't close them”
Chicago, IL - Yellow buses from across the city arrived with students, parents, staff and community members for a rally at Lake View High School, Feb 20. Their message to Mayor Rahm Emanuel: "Support our schools, don't close them.”

This call rang true for the people on the bus from Brian Piccolo Elementary Specialty School, of West Humboldt Park, where they occupied their school Friday night, Feb. 17. On Saturday morning they announced the end of their occupation. Their school, like Paollo Cassals School

and others, is currently on the chopping block for a privatizing move that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) calls a “school turnaround" and which will be voted on at the Board of Education meeting Feb. 22.

The Piccolo student spokespeople triumphantly told the crowd of hundreds of supporters that they confirmed face to face with Vice President Jesse Ruiz and Jamika Rose of the CPS Board of Education that the community, students and parents would present their case before the board on Feb. 22.

After a night of being locked into the building by the CPS and police without access to food, heat or medicine, these protesters were successful in adding their story to the months of protests, showing that the CPS has wasted millions of dollars with closing, phasing out and ‘turnaround’ policies. In reality these CPS hack jobs tear communities apart and hurt students, particularly in Black and Latino neighborhoods already locked out of resources.

The fight for quality education is at a fever pitch here and the coming Feb. 22 Board of Education meeting (at 125 South Clark) will show the depth of people's frustration. The scene is set to make sure that the vote is stopped. The Chicago Teachers Union call has a call out to pack the meeting, picket outside and to arrive at 4:00 a.m. to get on the speaker's list.

Howard Ryan's report from ''Labor Notes'', "Chicago Occupation Challenges Corporate School Agenda," February 22, 2012:
Parents raised the stakes in the ongoing battle over school closings and the corporate takeover of education when they occupied a classroom inside a Chicago elementary school Friday night.

Brian Piccolo Elementary School, serving 550 black and Latino students in grades pre-K through 8 on the city’s west side, has been targeted for “turnaround” by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board.

The plan includes firing all the staff—from principal to lunchroom workers—and reopening the school under control of a private contractor, Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). The 13 occupying parents and allies, who held the site for nearly 24 hours, didn’t win a reversal of the turnaround.

But the occupiers did force all seven school board members to each engage a team of parents and community members in intensive discussions on the future of the school, cracking a wall of silence from city leaders and dramatizing parent and community opposition to the corporate education agenda sweeping the city—and the nation.

Piccolo is one of 17 Chicago schools targeted this year for turnaround, closure, or phase-out. The school’s occupation came amid a wider community and union fight against the city’s school privatization program. So far, two months of marches, rallies, school board presentations, and a five-day sit-in at city hall haven’t turned back the mayor’s plans.

Activists and officers from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) came to support the occupation, though it was led by parents and the community group Blocks Together.

Scores of schools nationwide have closed or seen “turnarounds” in the past two years, including in Kansas City, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Increasingly vocal protests have met the bid to privatize education. In New York City, thousands of parents, students, and teachers protested this month as the mayor’s hand-picked education panel approved another 18 closings, lifting the number of schools shuttered in the city to 117 in the last decade.
‘Bring Them to Us’

Chicago’s occupation was the brainchild of Latoya Walls, whose seven-year-old daughter and 12-year-old nephew attend Piccolo.

“They’re used to having rallies in front of downtown, just another thing going on,” Walls said. “I said no, bring them to us, and let’s occupy this building. I didn’t know it was going to turn out to be this big.”

The occupiers planned to hold the Piccolo site in rotating shifts. When the first shift hunkered down, police cars began arriving. Two dozen police gathered in the street watching as more than 100 supporters—parents, teachers, students, Occupy Chicago members—linked arms on the school’s front steps singing a version of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.”

The square in front of the school was filled with tents for a planned encampment, and big signs declared “We Do Not Need AUSL.”

AUSL isn’t a charter school operator. Instead, it operates schools within the district, and the teachers are covered by the CTU contract. Parents distrust AUSL, however, because like charter schools, it has a reputation for pushing disadvantaged or difficult children out of school.

AUSL’s backers include Boeing, Dell, Bill Gates, venture capitalists—and the U.S. Department of Education.

The police chose not to force matters Friday night, and a Chicago Public Schools representative advised the occupiers that they could stay. At the same time, CPS and police prevented the occupiers from getting food and medicines, and prevented other parents from entering the building to provide relief.

“Rather than arresting us, they took a strategy of starving us out,” says Ana Mercado, a youth organizer with Blocks Together, a community group that works with parents and students at Piccolo and other schools.

After intense negotiations with school board Vice President Jesse Ruiz, the occupiers exited the building Saturday afternoon—hungry, but satisfied.

AUSL management company pushes students out of school
“The principal picks a random number of absences—20, 30, whatever it is—and instructs the attendance office to drop those students,” she said. “What really bothers me is that there’s no due process, no attempt to remediate.”

Students complain about the rigid discipline policies at Orr. “If you say a cuss word, you get two days’ suspension,” says 11th grader Malachi Hoye. “If you don’t have your ID, you get suspension.”

Says another Orr student: “The fights are almost every day. Many of us are homeless, in foster care. If you want us to learn, you have to try to understand us, not try to suspend us or turn us away.”

AUSL takes the “push out” and “counseling out” methods that have become so familiar within charter schools and applies them directly to traditional public schools. Students with special needs, difficult home lives, or other disadvantages are weeded out, and a military-like discipline imposed, in the attempt to boost the school’s test scores.

Despite such practices, AUSL is politically favored by the mayor, who appointed former AUSL board chair David Vitale as school board president. The organization currently operates 19 schools within CPS, and hopes to double that by next year, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Labor Notes site for the complete article.

"Occupy Piccolo! Chicago Communities Occupy School In Protest of Privatization," February 18, 2012, article portion prior to ongoing updates:
The Brian Piccolo Specialty School in Humboldt Park, Chicago is currently Occupied by parents, teachers, and students. Occupy Chicago and other allies are outside the building in solidarity and have set up an encampment. Around one hundred people are present and are taking shifts to ensure the safety of the occupation. The Chicago Teachers Union has expressed support for the action. Piccolo, an elementary school with a student body that is almost entirely from low income communities of color, is one of 16 Chicago public schools slated to be closed by Mayor Rahm's service cuts to the poor.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis today on "The Ed Schultz Show" [radio show] said that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has said judged the school children in advance and said that 25 percent of the students will not graduate, as part of Emanuel's rationale to close this and other Chicago schools and turn them over to private management companies.
Lewis also reported that Emanuel or his allies have paid protesters to rally for the school closures. This was also reported in Live Occupy@, February 20, 2012:
On the other side of the issue, “rent-a-protestors” emerged this year, saying they were paid at least $25 a head to carry anti-closing signs or to speak at closing hearings by a non-profit headed by Rev. Roosevelt Watkins III. Watkins, whose non-profit is a CPS contractor, has contended he paid protestors “stipends’‘ that were supposed to go to training on “community organizing,” although several protestors said they received no such training.

The report of paid protesters also appears in ''The Chicago Sun-Times."


Dateline Chicago, Oct. 7, 2011, George Schmidt, "Substance News": "Corporate attack on Chicago public workers, defined benefit pension plans escalates in Illinois... Mayor, Republicans propose legislation to destroy Chicago Teachers Pension Fund Board of Trustees and replace it with mayoral appointees":
Penny Pritzker, billionaire heiress a Rahm Emanuel appointee to the School Board; Pritzker sits on Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, a who's who of Illinois corporate elites. Committee and Club determine many initiatives behind Chicago Education deform. (photo is G. Schmidt photo of P. Pritzker)
Dateline Chicago, Nov. 29, 2011,, "CTU Vigil and Board of Education Speak Out": The Commercial Club laid out the Renaissance 2010 plan to shut 60 to 70 schools and replace them with 100 new schools, as effort to weaken the Chicago Teachers Union. Leaked memo indicates Emanuel plans to shutter nearly 140 schools in the next two years.
Dateline somewhere in Florida, Oct. 29, 2010: "Madfloridian" blog, "Rahm begins meetings with school reform leaders in preparation for mayoral control of schools.":
Emanuel started plotting with Chicago power elite (Commercial Club) prior to election. Madfloridian posted [above] hokey CPS chart of school report cards, which similar to NYC, provide the battering club with which to close schools.
Dateline from Naples, FL, Ar. 9, 2009, and yes, it's from a blog waxing friendly about Ronald Reagan, but gives the over-lapping connections between Chicago power circles and Mayors Richard M. Daley, Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama. "Latest research on the suspects -My best source "
Dateline Jul. 13, 2011, from the "Schooling in the Ownership Society" blog, "Who brought Jonah Edelman amd SFC to town? Bruce Rauner"
Chicago Teacher Union President Karen Lewis' Reaction to Chicago School Board's Feb. 22, 2012 Vote
CTU President Karen Lewis Statement on Chicago School Board’s Doomsday Decisions

CTU Officers and community partners speak to reporters following the Board of Education’s vote.
"We are not surprised that an unelected, unaccountable shool board would vote unanimously to continue the same failed policies that have short-changed Chicago Public Schools students for years.
"We are, however, disappointed that these Board members lacked the moral courage to do the right thing. This is a travesty and a betrayal of democracy."

Chicago Teachers Union Blog, Feb. 22, 2012

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