Posts Tagged ‘Chicago school closings’

Chicago united in fight for a better school system – CSMonitor

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Tribune's Brian Casella photo of closed Stewart School sign

Tribune’s Brian Casella photo of closed Stewart School sign

The Christian Science Monitor offered an excellent report on the year ahead in Chicago schools, “Chicago opens new school year: Will it be less testy than the last?

Reporter Amanda Paulson interviewed me and some other Chicago activists and got a strong, unified message:

The district’s critics are focused not only on the school closures, but also on budget cuts, a profusion of standardized tests, large class sizes, and a governance system that includes a mayor-selected school board rather than an elected one.

“It is looking to be our worst year ever,” says Julie Woestehoff, executive director of the parent group PURE, assessing the state of the public schools. But she is hopeful that the problems will be a catalyst for change. “Sometimes you have to bottom out in order to make the changes that really need to be made,” she says. “That will begin to happen because our parents are very organized, our teachers are very strong, and the community groups are working with everybody.

Parents 4 Teachers offers school closing accountability hotline

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Telephone 003From Parents 4 Teachers



  • Erica Clark, 773-851-6287
  • Sarah Simmons, 773-573-9100

CPS parents from closed schools urged to call School Closings Accountability Line to report problems, lack of resources at receiving schools

CPS parents from the 50 closed schools last year are being urged to call the School Closings Accountability Line to report problems, lack of resources, safety concerns and other issues at the new “receiving” schools their children will be attending this year.

The call in number, sponsored by Parents 4 Teachers, is 773-916-P4T4 (7484).

CPS promised facilities upgrades, new programs, I-Pads, air conditioning and other improvements to the receiving schools in a failed effort to win parent, teacher and student support for the largest round of school closings in the nation.

The Accountability Line will track conditions in the receiving schools so that parents, teachers and community members can hold CPS and the mayor accountable for those promises—and for any harm that befalls students because of the school closings.

“CPS is very good at making promises, but they have a horrible track record for keeping them,” Erica Clark, a CPS parent and member of P4T, said.

Parents are urged to call the number and leave a message with any information about their child’s new school.


PSAT for 6-25-13: Sign Xian’s petition to return the public schools to the public

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013


The good news is that my son and daughter-in-law are expecting a baby and have signed a contract on a new house in Chicago.

The bad news is that as of yesterday, there is no neighborhood elementary school in their area.

As someone who has fought for high quality schools for every child in Chicago for 25 years, I find this a hard pill to swallow.

It seems that the whole city has been fighting back, but we still lost 50 schools. To add injury to injury, school budgets are being cut as much as 20% or more for the coming year.

People are angry and not sure what to do next. Sometimes it just helps to express our collective anger. Try signing this petition put together by the wonderful CPS teacher Xian Barrett.



Today’s lesson for Mayor Rahm: Doing something is not the same as doing the right thing

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Rahm2Regarding closing up to 50 Chicago schools, Mayor Emanuel said that “Not doing anything and allowing 56 percent of African American male adolescents to drop out would be a political concern to me.”

We’re not asking the Mayor to do nothing. And we agree with him that past school leadership decisions have led to severely under-resourced schools in some of our most under-resourced communities.

But the right answer to one set of bad decisions is not another bad decision. Report after report show the folly of the mayor’s mass school closings plan. We have learned that the closed schools are mostly on a par with the receiving schools academically and in terms of maintenance costs. Mental health professionals have stated that CPS transition planning is inadequate to meet students’ emotional needs. Substantial money will not be saved. Student safety is a rising threat. The massive instability from 50 school closings is much more likely to increase, not decrease the drop out rate of African-American males and all other affected students.

Here’s what the mayor ought to be doing if he really cares about the students more than he cares about being a drum major for the corporate reform movement. He ought to be putting his considerable fund-raising and get-it-done energies into supporting the schools we have rather than shutting them down and replacing them with more mediocre charter schools. He ought to stop fighting the people who do the hard work of education every day. He ought to put aside his misplaced confidence in his own ideas about what’s best for other people’s children, and open his mind to the rich knowledge and experience of those who have actually walked the walk.

That would really be something.

PSAT for 5-21-13: Do what you do to stand up to the school closings

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

psat_logoEveryone can do something.

Today PURE held a press conference with six child mental health experts who spoke out about the damage the proposed school closings may do to children, giving their professional backing to what parents, teachers, students and others have been saying over and over for the past few months. We faxed 11 powerful statements from those six and others to the Board of Education members this morning .

You can share these excellent resources with your networks. They need to be in the hands of parents, teachers, and other public school advocates wherever corporate reformers are moving to close big numbers of schools.

I was also able to speak out on Channel 2, the local CBS station – not sure when today it will air.

Lots of folks have been marching all over the city, making connections among all the schools threatened with closure. Many more are planning to be at the Board of Ed meeting tomorrow to make some noise as the decisions are made. You can be there.

You can start calling the Board of Education number now – 773-553-1600. If you’re not sure what to say, read any of these excellent articles that detail the many ways that CPS and the Mayor have lied about the schools. You’ll be inspired.

Do what you do, and what you can do. Just do something.

Statements from child mental health experts concerned about Chicago school closings

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

The following statements were presented at the PURE press conference on May 21, 2013 (press release here) and shared with the Chicago Board of Education members. They include information from a variety of child development perspectives which substantiate some of the concerns raised by parents and others at the school closing hearings and in other venues and events over the past months.

Also included with the packet for the press and the Chicago Board of Education were:

Press release from PURE press conference on school closings and child mental health

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Erin Mason speaks at PURE press conference

Erin Mason speaks at PURE press conference

Press Release **** For Immediate Release

 May 21, 2013


Julie Woestehoff, Parents United for Responsible Education. 773-715-3989

Diane Horwitz, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE). 847-332-2756

Ann Aviles de Bradley, Assistant Professor, Northeastern Illinois University. 773-339-8479

Child mental health experts raise serious concerns about the impact of proposed mass school closings on Chicago students

Today, several notable social workers, counselors, and academic researchers from prominent Illinois and Chicago organizations and universities submitted a set of statements to the members of the Chicago Board of Education detailing their serious concerns about the potential negative impact of school closings on Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students’ social-emotional health. Their statements are available here.

Tomorrow, the Board of Education is scheduled to consider approving up to 54 school closings and consolidations.

The experts shared their statements at a press conference held at Roosevelt University and sponsored by Parents United for Responsible Education, a Chicago public school parent advocacy organization, along with education professors Ann Aviles de Bradley and Diane Horwitz.

Among those speaking at the press conference were

  • Ann Aviles de Bradley, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Daniel Cooper, Assistant Director, Institute of Public Safety and Social Justice, Adler School
  • Francisco X. Gaytan, Assistant Professor School of Social Work, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Erin Mason, President, Illinois School Counselor Association
  • Cassandra McKay-Jackson, Assistant Professor, Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Erika Schmidt, Director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis

Significant concerns raised by these experts include grief and loss, issues of transition, schools as community cornerstones, inclusion of student voice, and lack of adequate mental health services.

Erin Mason, speaking on behalf of the Illinois School Counselor Association, said “not unlike losing a loved one, leaving a school that is closing may be devastating for some students and families who have built strong ties to faculty, staff and other families.” Mason cites articles that state, “transitions for some students result in academic difficulties, social/emotional problems, decline in self-concept, poor motivation, decreased attendance, and increased dropout rates,” and another which concludes, “States, schools, and districts need to recognize student mobility as a barrier to success.”

UIC’s Cassandra McKay-Jackson highlighted additional negative outcomes associated with school mobility, “(L)ow attachment (or school detachment) is related to higher levels of violent behavior and aggressive beliefs, more negatively perceived school climate, and lower academic motivation as well as higher risk for school dropout.”

According to Erika Schmidt, director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, “School communities are built on a network of important relationships. While the primary relationship is between the child and teacher, other relationships within the school – the principal, assistant principal, classmates, older and younger students, the security guard – all these people provide an integral role in supporting children and helping them thrive. The continuity of these relationships is critical for children whose lives may be frequently disrupted by trauma or loss. Without this kind of stability and continuity, children have a difficult time engaging in learning or even feeling like learning matters to them.”

One important group impacted by school actions are homeless students.“CPS has failed to provide needed support even for its most vulnerable homeless children.” Ann Aviles de Bradley added that “instability in both home and schooling environments is associated with the poorest educational outcomes.”

Approximately 18% of students impacted by school actions are Latino. NEIU’s Francisco Gaytan stated that “The complex lives of newcomer immigrant youth and Latinos often require a single, easily and regularly accessible site, where comprehensive and culturally sensitive services are available. Schools often are the only site that plays such a role in the lives of Latinos and immigrants.” Further, as one of the rare institutions that welcomes all, closing down a nearby neighborhood school would place a large burden on many immigrant Latino families when the school is quite possibly the only social service that they can access.

Many of the experts mentioned that significant cut-backs in mental health services make mass school closings even more problematic. Researchers stated thatproviding critical services for students experiencing mental health has become more difficult due to the closure of several community-based centers. Further, Illinois ranks third in the nation for cuts to mental health services and funding for community mental health services for children has been reduced by 13 percent between fiscal year 2009 and 2012. CPS has a ratio of approximately 1 social worker for every 1,000 students, which is well above the ratio recommended by the National Association of Social Workers, which is a ratio of 1:250. Similarly, elementary school counselors in CPS are only 1 to a school building and have student caseloads well beyond the American School Counselor Association’s recommended 1:250 ratio. Many of these also serve in a second clerical position as the special education case manager which severely limits the services they can provide to all students.

The efforts CPS has made so far to address these concerns have fallen far short of what our experts consider appropriate. Aviles de Bradley said, “The current whole class exercises that have been reported in some closing schools are simply inadequate to meet the myriad of complex individual needs of children and their families.”

Schmidt added, “CPS has demonstrated a disregard for the health and well being of these children and their families through its handling of the slated closures….CPS has assigned outsiders to go into each school to help bridge this transition. These are people the children do not know or trust and those people the children do know and trust are given scripts to program their communication, rather than being allowed to help the children deal with the fears and anxieties that inevitably attend such disruption in their lives. Children, parents, principals, teachers, and all the staff that make a school a community feel devalued by this impersonal and unrealistic handling of these closures.

According to Aviles de Bradley, “We must criticallyexamine and understand the potential negative outcomes, as they are not in the best interests of students, families, schools and their respective communities. This lack of planning and resources will be especially harmful to students experiencing poverty and homelessness. To minimize and ultimately eliminate the negative social-emotional impacts on students, a reconsideration of the proposed school actions must occur.

McKay-Jackson added, “When school detachment is coerced it could be likened to a traumatic event that occurs without any preparation, shattering feelings of security and promoting a feeling powerlessness and vulnerability to a potentially dangerous world. McKay-Jackson urges school leaders to involve students in their deliberations: Engaging student voice and their meaningful participation in positive decision- making also fosters social emotional development. Yet through the exclusion of student voices from the school closure conversation there has been a missed opportunity to support future school attachment. Supporting student voice does not require adults to abdicate their decision-making roles but it does invite youth to participate in joint problem solving, promoting an equity-based reform that requires participation of those who are intended to receive support and who have been most affected by inequitable policies.”

Mason’s statement for the Illinois School Counselor Association includes a detailed list of recommendations, including hiring critical staff from the closing school at the welcoming school and adding additional school counselors. She also recommends minimizing or eliminating administrative and clerical responsibilities of all school counselors so that they have the time to develop transition and adjustment plans for students from the closing and welcoming schools Suggested steps toward this would be creating a transition team at each school that would include parents, school counselors, and school social workers and using school social workers to offer positive, proactive programs to address student, family, and school community needs.

PURE’s response

Parents United for Responsible Education is grateful to all of these professionals who took the time to providetheir expertise and opinions about how Chicago’s proposed mass school closings may affect our children.

These experts’ concerns echo those of many parents who spoke out during the hearings and in other venues and events over the past months.

We have been more than disturbed by the apparent lack of attention by CPS leaders to parents’ concerns and to similar issues raised by education experts, including CPS teachers. We hope that today’s presentation by these professionals will be seriously and thoughtfully considered by those leaders before making a decision that clearly has the potential to cause a great deal of harm to so many children.


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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.