Posts Tagged ‘school closing’

Media wrap-up from child mental health press conference

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013


Thanks to Erin Mason, one of the speakers at the press conference yesterday, you can watch all the statements at our press conference on You Tube.

Chicago Tribune:

On Tuesday, at a news conference held by Parents United for Responsible Education, which opposes the closings, a group of child mental health experts called on CPS to add social and emotional supports for students in closing schools. The experts also said CPS should allow counselors who have worked with students at schools being closed to move with those children to their new schools.

Erika Schmidt, director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, said that in a few schools she has noticed more students acting out and expressing concerns about the safety of going to a new school.

“There’s a level of anxiety and uncertainty that is making the ending of the school year very difficult,” Schmidt said. “Many of (the students) are scared to leave because they are going to schools that have traditionally been in conflict with them. They don’t think the welcoming schools will really be welcoming.”



Mental health experts are seeing first-hand how the biggest school closing in the nation is already affecting the students.

I think the most important part of this is they feel disregard devalued they feel like nobody cares their school matters to them,” said Erika Schmidt, of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

Schmidt works in closing and receiving schools. She and others say CPS is not even close to being prepared for handling the emotional needs of the kids. In addition, Schmidt says CPS is controlling what is being communicated to schools about the closings.

“My understanding is the principals are given scripts to talk to teachers about what could and couldn’t say about the closings,” said Schmidt.

When asked about the principal scripts, CPS and the mayor stuck to their script.

They spoke again about closing schools to provide a better education. As for emotional support, CPS says closing school students will have an 8 week class with a social worker.

Mental health experts say much more is needed.

CBS-2 TV did a nice piece at 5 pm, which I can’t find online, but which included footage of the press conference as part of a larger story about school closing protests. The story quoted Erin Mason, president of the Illinois School Counselor Association, describing students’ feelings about the possibility of their schools closing. It also included a clip of me speaking more generally about the closings.

They used the clip of me again at 10 PM with this quote: “This is the year for school closings and I think our mayor wants to be the number one school closer in the country.”

I’m still looking for a link to a WBEZ story this morning which included Erika Schmidt.

School closings “another trauma,” say child mental health professionals

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Here is the letter written by Erika Schmidt, Director of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy in Chicago, and her staff, to CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Byrd-Bennett did not respond. Background on this letter here.


Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis

122 South Michigan Avenue Suite 1301

Chicago IL 60603


April 12, 2013

Barbara Byrd-Bennett

Chief Executive Officer

Chicago Public Schools

125 South Clark Street

Chicago IL 60603


Dear Ms. Byrd-Bennett:

For the past 4 years, I have had the privilege of directing a unique project at the Granville T. Woods Math and Science Academy in the Englewood neighborhood. This project provides group counseling services to children who have been exposed to violence at Woods, as well as several other schools in Englewood. Children are referred because they exhibit behavior problems in the classroom or home, because they do not learn at the level of their potential, and because they cannot negotiate interpersonal relationships successfully. Our goal is to help ameliorate the corrosive impact of exposure to violence on these children’s self-esteem, sense of safety, and hope for the future. We have had the support of the principal, Ms. Rosalyn Armour, and her staff, as well as the dedicated staff from Family Focus of Englewood, who have all contributed to the positive impact of this project on the lives and learning of the children we serve.

As we have helped the children become more effective learners, we have also learned a great deal from them. The most important lesson they have taught us is how the school becomes a vital community for these children, a “safe haven” where they feel protected from the violence outside, supported in their development, and can be respected members of the school community. Many of these children struggle with the problems of poverty, racism, and inadequate resources as well as the traumatic effect of violence. One child said to the group therapist, “If I can run really, really fast, maybe I won’t get hit by a bullet going to the library.” This poignant wish to avoid a bullet in order to read speaks volumes about the challenge these children face. When a child attends a school that inspires him to want to read anyway, that school has become a place that represents a child’s hope for their own future.

Woods School is a safe haven for these children, a source of continuity for them, and a place that represents the possibility for growth and development. The loss of the school environment, and the meaningful relationships they have established there, is another trauma in the lives of children who are exposed to too much trauma. We do recognize the challenge of providing for the educational needs of these children, but we are concerned that the children’s need for a secure community environment, which is absolutely essential for learning to take place, is being overlooked.

We request that you reconsider the decision to close Granville T. Woods Math and Science Academy.



Erika Schmidt, LCSW

Director, Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

Director, Englewood Project


Englewood Project Staff:

Stephanie Beiser, LCSW, Project Coordinator

Sarah Clarke, LCSW

Marcie Hromas

Eva Johnson, LCSW

Sonia Kennedy, EdD, MSW, LSW

Aileen Schloerb, LCSW

Sivan Schneider, PsyD

Deborah R.Weaver, LCSW

Update on school closing bill numbers, hearing dates

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Bill - CongressionalWrote this post earlier, passing on info from Jackie Leavy, and it seems to have disappeared. Woooooo.

  • SB 1571:  Chief Sponsor State Sen. William Delgado, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. State Sen. Jacqueline Collins is Chief Co-Sponsor. As of now, Sen. Delgado plans to call the bill for debate and a vote in the Senate Education Committee on TUESDAY, MARCH 19th, 1:00 PM in Springfield.

Important Disclaimer :  THINGS CHANGE rapidly in Springfield . . . Check the General Assembly website often – – to confirm hearing date!)

  • HB3283:  Chief Sponsor State Rep. Elgie R. Sims, Jr, Chief Co-Sponsor State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch

– the companion bill to Sen. Delgado and Sen. Collins’ bill. PLEASE NOTE:  The House version has been sent to the RULES COMMITTEE-  a standard ploy to prevent a piece of legislation from being debated and called for a Vote.State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, Chair of the House Elementary/Secondary Education Committee joined her Latino Caucus coleagues at Monday’s Press Conference, but needs to be supported and encouraged to work with Rep. Sims to get his bill sent to her Committee.

Upcoming school closing protest activities

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

SaveOurSchoolsChicagoCity-wide Civil Disobedience Trainings

Fight for our kids, schools and communities. City-wide non-violent, civil disobedience trainings. Sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement. Two dates and locations:

  • West Side: Thursday, March 14, 6:30 p.m., St. Agatha’s Church, 3151 W. Douglas Blvd.
  • South Side: Saturday, March 16, 10 a.m., Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church, 4526 S. Greenwood Ave.

Day of Action: Defend Our Schools

Join parents, teachers, students and community representatives from across the city to demand NO SCHOOL CLOSINGS.

  • Wednesday, March 27 beginning at 4 p.m.
  • Daley Plaza

Dilbert explains CPS community engagement plan

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Noreen Ahmed-Ullah and John Chase’s news bomb in today’s Tribune demonstrates to the rest of Chicago what public school advocates have known for a long time – when CPS speaks, they lie.

The internal CPS memo, which outlines in detail how CPS plans to close some 95 schools in one year, clearly takes a page out of the corporate reforrners’ cynically fake “public engagement” strategy book, the one funded by Chicago’s own Joyce Foundation which I wrote about back in February (see point 4 here).

The Tribune reports:

The document discusses how to deal with public reaction to school closing decisions, with ideas ranging from establishing “a meaningful engagement process with community members” to building a “monitoring mechanism to ensure nimble response to opposition to proposed school actions.”

PSAT for 11-13-12: Tell new/re-elected state legislators to deny 3B’s extension

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

First, we want to take a moment to congratulate all of our new and re-elected state senators and representatives. Then we want to remind them why they were elected – to represent us in Springfield.

So, for today’s Public Schools Action Tuesday, please take  a moment to send a message to those senators and representatives still in the legislature who will attend the upcoming veto session and may be considering the request of new CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s for an extension of the state-mandated December 1 deadline for announcing school actions including school closures.

We say NO!

Here’s the letter I’m sending now:

Dear State Senator/Representative:


We oppose the request by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Beverly Byrd- Bennett for an extension of the state-mandated deadline for announcing school actions from December 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013.

CEO Byrd-Bennett says that this change would allow CPS to carry out “a transparent and open process to properly engage the community around this work” in order to “rebuild trust” with the community.

She’s certainly right about the lack of trust in the community, but verbal promises from the fourth CPS CEO in as many years do nothing to rebuild that trust.

Last year, CPS under CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said “Trust us” when school actions were announced:

There will be significant opportunity for the parents and the public to provide feedback on any proposed school actions, including a formal public hearing – and, for closures and phase-outs, two additional community meetings. Parents, community members and the public can comment on the proposals during these meetings in January and February. CPS will evaluate the testimony presented and careful consider the issues raised during these meetings prior to presenting final recommendations to the Chicago Board of Education for a vote.

This promised “careful consideration” resulted in no change to the original list of actions.

CEO Byrd-Bennett’s proposal includes disappointingly similar hollow promises of involvement.

More troubling, Byrd-Bennett did an end-run around the state-mandated Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force by appointing her own commission which, unlike the CEFTF, includes no one with a strong public track record of advocacy for Chicago public school students, parents or communities, and reportedly does not plan to meet in public as public bodies must do under the Open Meetings Act.

Further reason not to trust CPS this time is the about-face in the premise for school closings this year. Gone is last year’s set of three criteria, all of which were related to supposed underperformance. Since the CPS community has thoroughly exposed the unfair and illogical list of schools generated by this “criteria,” suddenly CPS is focused on saving money by closing underutilized schools, a concern that was not even mentioned last year. And where is the cost savings when CPS continues to open new charter schools, this year to the tune of $75 million, especially when charter schools overall do no better than regular schools CPS puts on the chopping block?

In order to give CEO Byrd-Bennett the extra time she seeks to rebuild trust with the community, we suggest that you:

  • Deny the request for a legislative extension. A delay until March 31 will only cause more inconvenience and disruption to families, staff and communities.
  • Propose a full year moratorium on CPS school actions instead, which should give the community enough time to determine whether or not her promises for community engagement are real or simply more empty words.
  • Require CPS to respect all mandates of SB630, which has yet to be fully implemented.

Thank you for your attention,

Julie Woestehoff

Executive Director

PSAT for 2-21-12: Do something!

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Anger and action are cranked up to 11 on the volume control in preparation for tomorrow’s Chicago Board of Education vote on school closures and turnarounds.

Overnight camp outs.

School occupation.

Marches. Press conferences. Releasing new reports. Noble critiques. Call-ins.

You name it, folks in Chicago have done it – and mostly in the last week!

Enough already?


Let’s crank it up a little more. So, for Public Schools Action Tuesday today, please DO SOMETHING!

-> Set your alarm for tomorrow’s Board meeting.

Come to CPS, 125 South Clark at 4 am–we need 40 people there—URGENT

6 am–Picket line begins.  Teachers, plan to come before school.  Other folks, come before work. Spread the word. Urge your colleagues and coworkers
Parents 4 Teachers wants you to call CEO Brizard one more time.
Keep the pressure on today! Call CPS at 1-773-553-1500 and ask the board to halt the closings and turnarounds.

And please get TWO more friends, co-workers, family members to call today. Say which school your children attend when you call so we can show there is city-wide opposition to these school “actions.”

Please forward this to everyone you know who’s committed to working for quality schools for ALL Chicago children.


Call or e-mail the members of the Illinois House Education Committee regarding HB 3239, the moratorium on CPS closures and turnarounds bill that will come before the committee on Friday. Details here.


Spread the news on your networks about today’s Designs for Change report showing that LSC-led schools elementary outperform turnarounds: 33 LSC-led elementary schools serving 95% or more low-income students scored above the city wide average on state tests, while NO turnaround schools achieved that level. More here.


From the SOS March:
Thank you to all who joined us for a very successful #SOSchat on Twitter last Tuesday! We’re committed to weekly #SOSchat’s and hope that you will join us today at 6 pm PDST  – 9 pm EST to discuss the upcoming National Save Our Schools Convention and the national dialogue!

Please share on Facebook and Twitter!  Invite your friends in all other listserves, etc.  Follow me @GetUpStandUp2 and @SOSFlashMob on Twitter! Also follow @SOSMarch on Twitter!  Find each other and tweet using #SOSchat hashtag ALL WEEK long to be able to easily connect on edreform topics and RT easily!


Finally, because the fish rots from the top, please sign the “Dump Duncan” petition if you have not already done so!


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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.