One man was killed and four others wounded in a Monday evening shooting near a church in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood where volunteers were serving dinner to the homeless. Witnesses said shots rang out as a car drove through the area, which is one of Chicago Public Schools' Safe Passage routes, which are designed to give students a protected path to and from school.
MANAGING TEACHER EXPECTATIONS: A new study suggests middle-class kids find occasionally annoying the teacher still pays off in the long run. Middle-class students were more likely to ask repeated questions, and further negotiate for help even if a teacher rejected initial requests. As a result, middle-class students she studied were more likely to get in trouble with teachers for talking out of turn or being disrespectful than were working-class students—but, middle-class students also responded differently to teacher criticism than their working-class peers, according to the study by sociologist Jessica McCrory Calarco of Indiana University Bloomington, who analyzed how children of different backgrounds managed constantly shifting teacher expectations. (Education Week)
FOR AND AGAINST COMMON CORE: New York officials say lower scores on tests aligned to the common core are a "wake-up call," while critics slam the tests and other facets of the program. (Education Week)
A KILLING IN PHILLY: Salon asks: "Want to see a public school system in its death throes? Look no further than Philadelphia. There, the school district is facing end times, with teachers, parents and students staring into the abyss created by a state intent on destroying public education."
SEQUESTER CONSEQUENCES: Head Start programs across the country eliminated services for 57,000 children in the coming school year to balance budgets diminished by the federal sequester, cutting 1.3 million days from Head Start center calendars and laying off or reducing pay for more than 18,000 employees, according to federal government data scheduled for release Monday. (The Washington Post)
After a rocky 13-year reign as Evanston's elementary school district superintendent, Hardy Murphy abruptly resigned two weeks before the start of classes, leaving stunned supporters and detractors with questions. (Tribune)
With two years left on his contract, Murphy announced his departure last week — three days after he had already left the job — and said in a written release that he plans to "pursue consulting opportunities."
A Chicago Public Schools wrecking crew early Saturday morning finished the job it started Friday night — controversially and without warning razing a Pilsen school fieldhouse that was being used as a volunteer-run community center. Amid heated scenes at Whittier Elementary School, 10 protesters who’d camped out overnight in a failed attempt to save the run-down building were arrested when they tried to stop the demolition around 6 a.m. (Sun-Times)
ACTIVISTS ANGERED: Chicago Public Schools sidestepped a long-standing disagreement with activists over proposed renovations to a field house at Whittier Elementary School by tearing down the building early Saturday. The move angered activists, who three years ago staged a protest to prevent demolition of the building they used for after-school activities and community programming. But CPS said the building's structural problems made it unsafe and it needed to come down before the start of school. "It was important that we did it right away," said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll.
TIF TENSION: Protesters who gathered Sunday in Logan Square wanted to convey the message to Mayor Rahm Emanuel that surplus funds collected through Tax Increment Finance districts should be used to replace money cut from the Chicago Public Schools budget. (Sun-Times)
STOPPED BUSES IGNORED: A survey conducted in 29 states by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services found 85,279 school bus stop-arm violations in a one-day test conducted this spring. (Daily Herald)
IN THE NATION
GOODBYE, PHILLY: Brian Hackford is divorcing Philadelphia, citing irreconcilable differences over public education. He no longer believes the Philadelphia School District can be trusted to provide his three children with a good education. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
CPS’ sudden demolition of a small, one-story Pilsen community center and library has left a group of mothers stunned and demanding the district rebuild something nicer.
In 2010, the group staged a 43 day sit-in and successfully prevented the building from being leveled. On Friday, avoiding another long struggle, CPS officials sent crews to prepare the building for demolition and, early Saturday morning, they took it down.
But organizers say they won’t give up.
“Now they have to do the state-of-the-art building,” says Gema Gaete, pointing to architect renditions that her group La Casita Youth Center had drawn up. Pro bono architects worked with the group to produce a drawing of a sleek space that won environmental awards. The building would cost more than $700,000, but Gaete says the architects could scale it down to fit a more modest budget.
Three years ago, the fight over La Casita, which means "the cottage," came to symbolize CPS’ heavy-handed approach to dealing with the community. And the insistence by officials to do away with a seemingly innocuous building where students were being served fueled conspiracy theories. Some said it was the focus of a backroom deal with charter schools or the nearby private Cristo Rey High School.
Even on Saturday, as the what was left of the building lay in pile on the broken ground, many could not help asking the question of why.
CPS officials say the building’s structure was unsafe and that the community will be better off with the park planned to replace La Casita in the the courtyard outside of Whittier.
Though shabby on the outside, Angel Calderon says it was a place where she could go to hang out with friends, take an art class and borrow a book. This summer she borrowed the thickest book she could find.
A folk dance class was taking place at the center Friday night when crews kicked them out and cordoned off the building.
“When you have no plans, it was a place to be, instead of sitting at home,” Angel says. Angel, who is in sixth grade, slept outside in front of the building Friday night.
Her mother Delilah Calderon says she is often sick and La Casita gives her daughter a place to go, rather than “stay inside and stare at me.”
Parent, CPS came to an impasse
Gaete says she and others from the group have not had any correspondence from CPS regarding the future of the building since the summer of 2012. At the time, CPS and the group had come to an impasse over a lease agreement. In the 2010 agreement with CPS CEO Ron Huberman, he promises first and foremost not to demolish the building. He also commited to leasing the building to the group.
But when they received the lease from CPS, the leaders of La Casita Youth Center refused to sign it. Gaete says the lease would have given them too much responsibility for the property, forcing them to pay for insurance and giving the district the power to take over the building if they were late paying on bills.
“We are just parents,” she says. The group also had to form an official not for profit before signing the lease--a step they have since taken.
Gaete says the group sent over another proposed lease and never heard back. The group also was promised money, Gaete says. Letters signed by Huberman and former CEO Jean-Claude Brizzard state “CPS will work with Ald. Solis to reallocate TIF funds” and “with Representative Acevedo and Senator Munoz to allocate state funds.”
Despite several letters to the elected officials and CPS officials throughout 2011 and 2012, that money never came through, according to documents provided by Gaete. Also, Gaete says that, when the group approached CPS about getting permits to do renovations on the building, district officials never responded.
Rather than press district officials to work out a deal and come up with promised funds to fix the building, Gaete says the volunteers simply continued what they were doing: providing free programming for children.
“We were trying to be nice,” she says. “We knew they were dealing with other things.”
Building fails CPS inspection
But district officials paint another picture.
CPS spokeswoman Molly Poppe says CPS’ general counsel never received the August 2012 letter--the last letter Gaete says they sent--and that no money was ever promised to the group. She places the blame on the parent group for not signing the lease and failing to bring the building up to code.
District officials had their eye on the situation for some time. Documents provided by the district show that they had structural engineers do an inspection in May of 2013. The engineers reported that the roof was dilapidated, paint was peeling and water was pooling. “The building is in a very advanced state of deterioration,” according to the engineer report.
While the parents say they heard nothing from CPS about this inspection and another one done Monday, August 12, Poppe says she believes the network office had conversations with people from the school and the parent group.
Poppe says the district decided to demolish the building in order to get it done before school opened next week. By mid-December, a soccer field, two basketball courts and a playground will be put up on the site, she says.
CPS officials have maintained that a library should be installed in the school, not in La Casita. Leaders of the parent group, however, worry that the library will be put into a room currently used for special education pull out.
According to district standards, Whittier is efficiently used. The school’s population grew after CPS closed De La Cruz Middle School in 2008. The former De La Cruz has since been leased out to UNO charter school.
In the three years since the struggle began, the library in the school has yet to become a reality. Now, Poppe says that project is ready to go.
CPS’ current plans are similar to the ones they had in 2010. Gaete says she and other parents are not opposed to a soccer field, but that other fields are in the area. She says they don’t understand what CPS officials have against a community center and a library.
Lisa Angones, a parent who is part of the La Casita Youth Center group, says she believes the move was political and compared the weekend demolition to what happened to Meigs Field. She says it broke her heart to see the bulldozer roll into it.
At her son’s graduation from Whittier last year, she says speakers noted that La Casita is part of the children’s history.
“I wanted to be instrumental in keeping it alive,” she says. “Now I have to be on a new mission. We have to keep our community alive. The fight is not ending here.”
The legal effort to derail Chicago Public Schools’ plan to shut down scores of schools came to a likely end Thursday when a federal judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction sought by parents of students affected by the closings. (Tribune)
CASE CLOSED: With a little more than a week until the first day of school, U.S. District Court Judge John Z. Lee ruled Thursday that he will not bar Chicago Public Schools from closing 49 elementary schools and a high school program, rejecting arguments that African American and disabled students’ rights will be violated. (Sun-Times)
VIDEO CAMERAS ON BUSES: When CPS students head back to school, on the first day of school, all buses will be equipped with video cameras. That means big brother in the main office will have his eye on every student, every bus driver and anyone else who steps inside the vehicle. A California company called Seon is among the contractors providing cameras to Chicago bus vendors. 1,400 buses will have two cameras, one in the front and one in back. CPS officials stress the new requirement is not because of any one incident or heighten concerns, it’s part of CPS’s commitment to student safety and security. (CBS Chicago)
FIRST DAY FREE RIDES: The CTA once again will provide free rides for the first day of classes in Chicago’s Public Schools, on Aug. 26. The program will provide rides both to schoolchildren and their parents, courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times, which is paying more than $300,000 a year to be sponsor, much of it in free advertising to CTA. (CBS Chicago)
IN THE NATION
SCHOOL CLIMATE: Schools that struggle most with providing a positive school climate more often disproportionately serve students of color and low-income students, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education finds. The report, "Climate Change: Creating an Integrated Framework for Improving School Climate," also confirms that students of color and students from low-income families are less likely to have access to rigorous course work and experienced teachers, and are more likely to be suspended than their white and wealthier peers. The full report is available here. (Press release)