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Preserve Public Education
Hello, my name is Valerie Leonard, with Chicago Citizens United to Preserve
Public Education. We are a coalition of grassroots organizations and individuals
who work with a number of education issues. We are here today to provide
background information on our recent complaints to the Inspectors General for
CPS and the U.S. Department of Education, share updates and make
recommendations for improvement.
I'll start by giving an overview of our complaints. Cathaline Gray-Carter will
provide a status report, and Dwayne Truss will share recommendations. After that
we will open it up for questions.
Overview of Complaint-Valerie F. Leonard
The current Board of Education is appointed by the Mayor and operates under the
cloak of darkness with impunity. They have abdicated their fiduciary
responsibilities of loyalty and care. They serve as rubber stamps to privatize local
schools to the benefit of organizations that are aligned with the Mayor, even if it
means paying a premium for services whose effectiveness has been called into
question. We need to end this culture that, at a minimum, gives the appearance of
self dealing among board members. We are also concerned that decisions to turn
schools around could possibly be driven more by the need to place teachers going
through the AUSL training program, than by an objective assessment of school
performance and alternative strategies. The impact has been destabilization of our
schools, displacement of teachers and disruption of learning environments for our
We have asked the Inspectors General for CPS and the US Department of
Education to examine the last votes to turn over 3 schools to AUSL for turnaround
to determine if there were any conflicts of interest among board members and
AUSL; to analyze the relationship--if any-- between political contributions to
Mayor Emanuel from AUSL board members and the significant increase in the
number of Chicago Public Schools turned over to AUSL on a no bid basis and to
determine if AUSL turnarounds are the most cost effective solution given their less
than stellar results.
We believe that, given the fact that two of the five members present and voting
during the April meeting have apparent conflicts of interest stemming from
relationships with AUSL, that the vote should be nullified. President David Vitale
was the chairman of AUSL's board prior to assuming his position as President of
the Board of Education. Mr. Vitale did not recuse himself from voting to turn over
the 3 schools to AUSL for turnaround. Dr. Carlos Azcoitia is employed by
National Louis University, which is the exclusive trainer for AUSL teachers. Dr.
Azcoitia voted to reconstitute the 3 schools, but abstained from voting on the
underlying AUSL management contract to avoid the appearance of a conflict of
interest. It stands to reason, that if one has a conflict of interest in voting for the
AUSL management contract, then he has a conflict of interest in voting to re-
constitute the school, especially if he knows that the only option for school
improvement at the time is an AUSL turnaround.
At this point, I will turn over the mic to my colleague, Carolina Gaete, who will
Remarks by Cathaline Gray-Carter
Hello, my name is Cathaline Gray-Carter, and I am a retired educator, and a
member of the Chicago Citizens United to Preserve Public Education.
As Valerie indicated, we have asked the Inspectors General from CPS and the US
Department of Education to investigate CPS conflicts of interest, determine
whether there is any pay to play on behalf of AUSL board members and to
determine whether the AUSL turnaround model is the most effective use of tax
dollars to improve our schools. That investigation is ongoing.
Board member Jesse Ruiz has indicated in a Catalyst Chicago Magazine article
that the Board “should always critically review all of our contracts… We should
always be reviewing alternatives to make sure we provide the best for children and
the City of Chicago.”
That same article indicated that Board member " (Carlos) Azcoitia says he would
like for CPS to develop its internal capacity to overhaul struggling schools. He
notes that with budget constraints, the district’s new Office of Strategic School
Support Services, known as OS4, is less expensive than contracting out the
If Ruiz and Azcoitia are serious, they would go to tomorrow's board meeting, and
make a motion to reconsider last month's vote to turnaround 3 schools. They
should vote--not on whether the schools should be re-constituted--but instead, to
improve the schools through a community-teacher driven process.
Remarks by Dwayne Truss
Hello, my name is Dwayne Truss, and I am a member of PACE. I'm here to share
with you a list of recommendations.
1. Nullify the March vote to reconstitute Gresham, Dvorak, and McNair
2. The board's ethics policies should be reviewed and revamped to mitigate
conflicts of interest and swinging door relationships between CPS and CPS
3. The practice of reconstituting schools should be abolished. They are
expensive, disruptive and ineffective.
4. CPS must develop a transparent and fair process to allow additional School
Improvement vendors to bid during the reconstitution process. It is totally
wrong of CPS to give AUSL an "inside track" which so clearly appears to be
a conflict of interest - given Vitale's, Cawley's, and Emanuel's ties to AUSL
and their political support for AUSL. Other bidders like Strategic Learning
Initiatives - which has a track record of success empowering current
stakeholders - should be considered.
5. We need our elected officials to host public hearings to investigate CPS
process for evaluating AUSL.
6. We demand a thoughtful fiscal and performance analysis of AUSL.
7. CPS ALSO should be supporting whole school change led internally by the
stakeholders already in place. We have found that, CPS does
EVERYTHING BUT support efforts by local public schools and their
communities to improve themselves - whether it's on their own or with the
assistance of a structured approach like the one that SRI provides. Putting it
in perspective, CPS provides 5 years of extra support for AUSL and Charters
and one measly year of "support" for welcoming schools after causing major
upheavals through massive closures.
8. We need a moratorium on all school actions, including closures and
turnarounds until each school in question hears from all interested vendors
and/or school submitted alternative plans. A Requests for Bids presentation
session should be put in place for vendors and school committees to present
their bid or alternative plans to a delegation made up of CBOE
representation, the school LSC and School Community members at large
and leadership. This delegation then needs to come to consensus as to which
option or combination of options it feels will best service the needs of the
9. CPS should commit to a process of community-teacher driven school
improvement. Ultimately, we need an elected representative school board
that is accountable to the citizens of Chicago.
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