Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thinking About the Teachers Again

Yesterday, I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot Who's Not to their first Chicago Board of Education meeting. On the train, in the rain, despite the flooding, despite the no-food-in-chambers policy that made an over-lunchtime meeting difficult for children used to eating at 11:38 a.m.

But I went because I had signed up to address the Board. And I took them with me because I thought it was important that they see how their government works. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned lunch situation, we left chambers after my remarks, but before a group of high school students demonstrated their displeasure with the system

I wish I were that brave. 

Instead, I stayed on-point in my message to the Board of Education: asking them to reconsider their 2011 decision not to amend magnet enrollment policy 602.2 to include teachers' children. My statements elicited no response from David Vitale or Barbara Byrd-Bennett, in marked contrast to the response that another parent received when he asked that CPS hold his kid's magnet school spot while they went to Bejing on a Fulbright scholarship. (According to The Boy, BBB was stone-faced and he thought Vitale looked like he had to pee.)

Here's what I said:

My name is Caroline Bilicki and I'm the parent of three children--who are here with me today--at Disney II Magnet School, which lost $270,000 in the transition to system-wide per-pupil funding and despite an expansion to high school. But that's not why I'm here today.

I'm here today to ask the board to reconsider its 2011 decision, based on Blue Ribbon Comission rcommendations at the time, regarding admission of teachers' children. My family has benefitted from the 2011 revision to policy#602.2 and I can report first hand the peace of mind I feel in knowing each of my children have an opportunity to share experiences, teachers, and community.

So I'd like you to consider amending the current policy to include a provision for magnet teachers' children. Such an amendment could include a percentage of the class and/or a length of service requirement. I've included sample wording in my handouts, which I provided to the board earlier. I believe a policy that supports enrollment of teachers' children in the schools where they teach is in the best interests of the board for three reasons: 

First, it keeps families and school communities together, emphasizing the shared experiences of school and learning. 

Second, it keeps great teachers in the city/CPS, which provides students with a stability that is so critical in today's times. 

And finally: it is the right thing to do.

Thank you. 

There is more to this story that I did not share with the board: that one of our founding teachers, assistant principal, and indeed, a preschool parent, left system and the city because her rising K kid did not gain admission to any magnet, SE, or neighborhood open enrollment school where she, a top-notch educator, felt comfortable sending her child. That many people I've talked to about this initiative believe teachers have some kind of "in" to better schools or seats. Perhaps that was true during the principal discretion days, but I can name at least five CPS officials who I've met in various capacities whose kids played the lottery like everyone else. That the Board of Education should get its policy house in order for open enrollment/neighborhood/magnet cluster schools in the same way it did for SE and magnet schools. That the inequities in Chicago education are not only around money.


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