Monday, May 2, 2016

Rahm's hand-picked school board. Where democracy goes to die.

Board Pres. Frank Clark (the man from ComEd), also chaired Rahm's School Closing Commission. 
“Often there are public meetings by the school board and hundreds of people may show up and testify. And the general perception is that the school board doesn’t listen, that the decisions don’t follow the will of the people who come before them, the teachers, the parents, the community.” -- Dick Simpson
For the past three years, parents and community members have been complaining about the board's policy of making people sign-up for the limited 2-minute speaking spots at board meetings, a full week before the agenda is posted.

When complaints were filed with Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s (potential candidate for governor) office, that the policy violated the state’s open meetings act, Madigan agreed. On April 13 she sent a letter to CPS, saying the requirement “unreasonably restricts the public’s statutory right to address the Board.”

Her letter seems to have gotten a rise out of Board Pres. Frank Clark (ComEd/Excelon) who now will allow those wishing to speak tosign-up on line (, at 10:30 a.m. on the Monday before each board meeting, a full half-hour after the meeting agenda has been posted.

Now for the first time in years, citizens will be able to speak -- wait for it -- directly in response to matters being voted on at the board meeting. Hallelujah!

But the question still remains. Is anyone listening.

Clark was so pleased with himself, he could pee. He lauded his own “steps to bolster public engagement” that include online tools to make appointments with board members and equal speaking time for non-English speakers — which followed a Sun-Times story about Spanish speakers denied more time to allow for simultaneous interpretation.

S-T's Lauren Fitzpatrick writes:
Board members also will begin holding informal office hours at schools instead of just downtown, starting the appointments at Earle Elementary School next week.
But unlike his predecessor, Clark has yet to hold a meeting after business hours out at a community school rather than at CPS’ downtown headquarters. And he has not yet ruled on suggestions to open up board briefings so the public can watch the mayor’s handpicked board members ask questions and challenge district staff before casting typically unanimous votes to approve CPS recommendations.
“Posting the public agenda before registration opens will allow community members to make informed decisions about their participation in meetings, which should foster more productive and focused meetings,” Clark said in a press release.
He might have added, ,,,which is why we have avoided doing it until now.

The real purpose behind this "reform" appears to be an attempt to slow down or head-off the push for a representative elected school board, which is gaining support in Springfield. Another purpose may be to make things easier for charter school proponents to mobilize support for more privately-run charters whenever that topic is on the agenda.

To Rahm's appointed head-nodding board members, it never really mattered what speakers had to say anyway. Board votes are merely all pro-forma and unanimous, with direction coming right from the 5th floor at City Hall through CEO Forrest Claypool, and certainly not from the gallery.

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