On eve of vote, Huberman grants two more repreives

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And then there were eight.

With a Chicago Board of Education vote fast approaching Wednesday
morning, CPS CEO Ron Huberman late Tuesday pulled two more schools off
the school closing and turnaround list, nearly cutting in half the
original number of targets.
And then there were eight.

With a Chicago Board of Education vote fast approaching Wednesday morning, CPS CEO Ron Huberman late Tuesday pulled two more schools off the school closing and turnaround list, nearly cutting in half the original number of targets.

Prescott on the Near North Side and Marconi on the West Side will be spared, at least for now. Both were set to be closed for low enrollment. Prescott parents and staff were able to convince Huberman that they had a plan to fill the 400-some empty seats in their building.

Huberman said that Marconi could still be consolidated with Tilton and made into a magnet school, but that he would grant the community’s wish to help plan the magnet school and work to fill seats.

“Both these schools put forth really specific cogent plans,” Huberman said Tuesday evening.

Making-last minute changes was not the only drama Huberman was dealing with Tuesday. CPS survived a court order that would have stopped the district from taking action at two other schools.

The Chicago Teachers Union wanted a judge to force CPS to leave McCorkle and Deneen alone. These schools are involved in TAP, a teacher merit pay program that includes numerous supports for teachers.

“We have spent 10s of thousands of dollars training these teachers,” said CTU spokeswoman Rosemaria Genova.

McCorkle is set to be consolidated with Beethoven, and Deneen is to be turned around.

The judge rejected the union’s request, but union president Marilyn Stewart vowed to file the motion with the court again.

Huberman said that Beethoven will probably become part of TAP and that the Academy of Urban School Leadership, which is set to manage the Deneen turnaround, is interested in incorporating it as well.

But Genova said the larger point is that Stewart serves on a council that manages the TAP program and that it was not involved in discussions about school actions at Deneen or McCorkle. “This was done unilaterally,” she said.

A communications problem

Complaints about how Huberman and his staff communicated about the turnarounds have punctuated the process.

Some of the flaws were displayed Monday at a City Council education committee meeting. There, Ald. Ed Smith confronted Huberman. Smith was infuriated that he was not told about Marconi’s closing until the day before the announcement.

“You think that because there are poor people in my community, they don’t have a voice and they can be walked on,” he said. “Well, my people are here, and they understand what is happening to them.”

Later, Smith said Huberman’s plan to consolidate Marconi and Tilden and make the new school into a magnet  was a fallacy. Calling it a magnet will not make the school any better, he said. “It is not there,” Smith said.

Smith was to meet Monday night  with CPS Chief Administrative Officer Rob Runcie.

Huberman said that that meeting figured into his decision to spare Marconi. He added that the changes show that his administration is adept at listening to the public and taking into account their concerns.

Huberman has been upfront about the need to reform the process. He says he won’t “walk away” from taking dramatic actions to improve struggling schools. But his goal is to have the actions “supported by the community.”