CPS School Closing Hearing: Tensions Boil Over In Heated Meeting Later Called 'A Disaster'

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WGN
WGN

Tensions were high at a Monday Chicago Public Schools hearing on school closures as community members loudly voiced their opposition to CPS shuttering any schools.

"It was a disaster tonight," Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey told ABC Chicago, calling CPS' planned information presentation "an hour-long infomercial."

Monday's hearing at Truman College in Uptown was the first of several city-wide hearings the district planned as it attempts to gather community input and share plans on closing under-used schools, reports WGN.

Lakeview Patch reports CPS officials were supposed to present metrics on schools in the Ravenswood-Ridge network, though shouts and chants in the Truman College auditorium packed with nearly 200 attendees drowned out the officials.

(See below for a slideshow of live tweets from the hearing.)

Several people left amid the shouts, including the Brenneman Elementary School principal who had attended with dozens of school kids, according to DNAinfo Chicago.

The breakout sessions that followed—which were closed to media—were run by independent facilitators who don't work for the district. According to public schools coalition Raise Your Hand, which live-tweeted the closed-to-media event, the facilitators were from a marketing company called Loran.

Live tweets from the event indicated Loran would not disclose who they were paid by, but said CPS wanted "an independent party" to facilitate. 2011 CPS documents reveal it hired the company to perform "qualitative research on performance evaluation with CPS teachers" at a cost "not to exceed $125,000."

According to DNAinfo, some attendees were angry about not speaking with CPS officials directly, as well as the media ban.

"Reporters ask questions to find the truth," education activist Tim Furman told DNAinfo.

The Sun-Times reported Monday the commission, hand-picked by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, leaned heavily towards capping any school closures in a single year to 20.

“They haven’t demonstrated to us that they can close 100 or even 50 schools. They don’t have the expertise to accomplish that in such a short time-frame. When they closed down as many as 12 schools, it was a disaster,” a source close to the commission told the Sun-Times.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for his part, doesn't seem keen on meting out the school closures over a series of years.

“We know the size of our problem," Emanuel said, according to the Sun-Times. "We know the amount of time it’s been deferred and delayed in being dealt with. And we know this is the year to finally step up and deal with it.”

Byrd-Bennett has until March 31 to offer up a list of schools that will be shut down. Previously, the CEO agreed to spare most all high schools and "high performing" schools.

The remaining school closure hearings:
• Tuesday: Midway Network at Daley College, 7-9 p.m.
• Tuesday: O’Hare Network at Wright College, 7-9 p.m.
• Wednesday: Lake Calumet Network at Olive Harvey College, 7-9 p.m.
• Thursday: Austin-North Lawndale Network at Friendship MB Church, 7-9 p.m.
• Saturday: Englewood-Gresham Network at Kennedy King College, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

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Live Tweets Of CPS School Closure Hearing - January
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