With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"It's for the kids"

I'm trying to stay away from writing about charter school scams & scandals. There's just too many of 'em, enough to fill all the open space on SmallTalk for years, and then some. But the latest, coming out of Chicago, really got to me.

It's about a veteran Chicago school principal I've known for years, Helen Hawkins. She made quite a name for herself in the world of Chicago school reform and served as a mentor for many reform-minded young teacher leaders. But she was also one of many who gave up on public school reform, after working against the CPS bureaucracy for so many years. When she got an opportunity to start her own charter school, she jumped at the chance. Whenever I would see Helen, she would point a finger and remind me, education has to be "all about the kids. It's not about the grown-ups (teachers)", she would say.

Lately, whenever anyone tells me, "it's all about the kids," I tell the kids to duck. Something awful is about to be done to them.

This morning I came upon this Sun-Times story, "School's money spent on Coach bags, diet pills." Helen Hawkins is now facing a prison term for embezzling at least a quarter-million dollars from Triumphant Charter School to supply herself with Louis Vuitton and Coach bags, Elan Furs, Tommy Hilfiger and diet pills.


  1. It's a shame that Hawkins had to steal $250,000. Here in New York, they pay white charter school founders a quarter mil a year in salary.

  2. Triumphant was finally closed after outside investigation of their finances. But it's charter was renewed despite some of the lowest scores in the district on recommendations from charter cheerleaders.

  3. I am slowly (but surely) coming to the conclusion that because I am too honest and sincere about kids' needs, I cannot break into the charter school sector. If I had my own personal and financial agendas in mind, I would do just fine. Thanks for sharing this story. People need to know what is really going on with taxpayer money.

    BTW: on a brighter note, the great state of Illinois gets Andrew Broy in less than a month. He will be joining the Illinois Charter Network. Godspeed!


  4. At a recent forum on charter schools, I got to hear once again about the accountability of charters, "because they have to face renewal every five years."

    I pointed out to a colleague after the forum was over that somewhere around 1 out of every 20 CPS schools is shut down every year. With odds like that, it's fair to say that the bottom half of schools effectively face renewal (or closure) *every* year...

    Two years ago, when my colleagues were worried about Wells being shut down, I reminded them that we were in the same administrative area as Manley, Crane, and Marshal, and of the old story-- "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun YOU!"


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.