Thursday, June 26, 2014


Board members refuse to sign Declaration for the Right to School Libraries at June 25 meeting of the nation's third largest school system

George N. Schmidt –Substance News Boardwatch |

June 26, 2014  ::  A group of Chicago Public Schools librarians surprised the five members of the Chicago Board of Education who showed up for the Board's June 25, 2014 meeting with detailed information that this Board has created massive cutbacks in the libraries of the nation's third largest school system. The cuts have reached the point where it is possible that in the coming school year only half of Chicago's nearly 600 real public schools will have libraries staffed by professional librarians open to the children. The cuts in libraries have come most at those schools in the city's poorest ghetto and barrio communities.

Megan Cusick, librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School (the school serving the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center), delivered the first of four presentations on the library crisis in America's third largest school system to the June 25, 2014 meeting of the Board. Standing to the right (above) are Ellen Damlich, librarian at Chicago's Senn High School (far right), and Marci Merola of the American Library Association. Each made a presentation to the Board meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. >>

Speaking on behalf of themselves and a Chicago Teachers Union task force analyzing the library crisis in Chicago, three public school librarians provided the Board meeting with detailed information about the current state of affairs. They were joined by an official of the American Library Association, which will be considering the Chicago scandal at its meeting in Las Vegas this week.

The librarians also told Substance that the claim made during the Board meeting by Chief Executive Office Barbara Byrd Bennett that there weren't enough available librarians to staff Chicago's schools was simply a lie. In response to the public presentations by the librarians, Byrd Bennet had told Board members that there were only seven librarians available. Among other things left out in the CEO's claim is that fact that principals, especially at the high school level and in some of Chicago's most prestigious schools, have been placing their librarians in classroom programs as English teachers and staffing the libraries part-time with school clerks. The "college prep" schools at which this is happening, according to the librarians, include Payton and Lane Tech high schools.

Many observers believed it was a national scandal three years ago when a study showed that 163 schools in Chicago did not have libraries. But later, investigations (including one by Substance) showed that many schools had libraries -- but that principals and CPS officials were keeping the libraries closed and unavailable to children -- without librarians. According to the librarians studying the problem in 2014, more than a third of Chicago's public schools are now denying their children libraries, either because the school has taken professional librarians out of the libraries (as at Lane, Payton, and Clemente high schools currently) or because the libraries have been closed (in some cases, to be used as storage rooms, as at one South Side elementary school).

<<Chicago Public Schools "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley (above left, foreground) and "Chief Talent Officer" Alicia Winckler (right) showed their interest in the librarians' presentations in different ways. Above, the photo was taken while Megan Cusick was presenting to the Board. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

The librarians presented the five Board members present (there are seven members of the Chicago Board of Education, all appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel) with a"Declaration for the Right to School Libraries" which had been signed by more than 2,000 people, including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. The Board members -- David Vitale, Mahalia Hines, Jesse Ruiz, Carlos Azcoitia, and Deborah Quazzo -- refused to sign the "Declaration" at the time of the meeting.

Instead, the Board members gave CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett the opportunity to claim a falsehood -- viz., that there weren't enough "available" certitifed librarians -- as the reason why the number of non-libraries is increasing in Chicago. What the Board members do is either respond themselves to public criticisms or ask for a response from their CEO, but they refuse to allow anyone who has raised an issue to respond when a CPS official lies or presents the public record with a half truth.

The statements by four librarians, including Marci Merola, a representative of the American Library Association, follow below here:


First page of the ALA letter to Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale presented to the Board on June 25, 2014.Good morning. My name is Megan Cusick and I am a CPS Librarian and a CPS parent.

This year, all schools are required by CPS to include literacy as a focus area in their School Improvement Plans. It is particularly troubling, then, that professionally staffed libraries—a key

contributor to student literacy—are disappearing from the CPS landscape.

In 2009, approximately 16% of CPS schools lacked a professional librarian. Next year that number will surpass 50%.

Despite assurances at hearings, press conferences, in videos and in these very chambers, and despite the tumultuous closing of 50 schools last year, the promise of properly resourced schools  continues to go unrealized.

What does this mean for students?

. -- Of 50 “Receiving Schools,” 31 are without a professionally staffed school library, including Courtenay, Chopin, Cullen, Harvard, and Pershing, to name just a few.

-- At least 5 high schools with the much touted, inquiry-focused IB program are without school librarians: Kelly, Farragut, Clemente, Hyde Park, and Back of the Yards.

Many of us watched a ribbon cutting for a CPS/Chicago Public Library partnership at Back of the Yards High School, where students have no access to that library during their school day.

What else does this mean? Hundreds of thousands of students will leave CPS lacking the full range of 21st century skills that are required to succeed in college, work and life.

It is, at best, disingenuous to say that principals are responsible for deciding whether or not to maintain a professionally staffed library program. It is also a disservice to our students.

Parents and community members: I urge you to advocate for schools that offer a comprehensive curriculum to our students—not one that forces one program to be added at the expense of another, but one that our own district leadership and indeed, our own mayor, has indicated that every child deserves.

Thank you.

<<  The two CPS executives largely responsible for the library situation sat without listening closely as Megan Cusick began the detailed explanation of the library crisis in America's third largest school system. Alicia Winckler (above left) is the "Chief Talent Officer" (i.e., Chief Human Resources Officer) of Chicago Public Schools. Tom Terrell (above right) is currently the "Chief Operations Officer." Winckler was hired five years ago after a career as an executive at Sears Holdings and has headed the personnel departments through four different name changes ("rebrandings"). Terrell was hired a year ago after his retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps to oversee the moves that were required after the Board voted on May 22, 2013 to close 49 public schools and put their students into so-called "welcoming schools." Like the majority of CPS executives in 2014, neither Winckler nor Terrell has ever taught in a Chicago public school or served as a principal. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt>>


<<Senn High School librarian Ellen Damlich read her statement and distributed the Declaration to the members of the Chicago Board of Education at the Board's June 25, 2014 meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

My name is Ellen Damlich. I am a CPS teacher librarian of 12 years and I currently work at Senn High School. Prior to that I was at Little Village High School and Ames Middle School -- Proudly all neighborhood schools.

This spring, a group of CPS librarians started a task force out of our collective alarm and concern for the elimination of nearly 50 CPS librarian positions. In some cases, the libraries were closed entirely.

We are here to present this Declaration for the Right to School Libraries, which underscores the fact that school libraries staffed by professional librarians are an indispensable part of a students’ education.

We have collected almost two thousand signatures from students, colleagues and parents. Even Governor Quinn signed our declaration.

To provide some context, I will read from the Declaration’s preamble: "In the spirit of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we believe that libraries are essential to a democratic society. In addition to a vast array of books, computers and other resources, library users benefit from the expert teaching and guidance of librarians to help expand their minds and open new worlds..."

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett (above, photographed during the remarks by Ellen Damlich) did not look happy that the destruction of Chicago's library programs was being exposed by the librarians and brought to the attention of the nation and the American Library Association. When asked to comment on the issues raised, Byrd Bennett lied and said the reason CPS schools didn't have more librarians in libraries was that there were only "seven" available. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.>>

As school libraries are essential to 21st century education, we declare and affirm our right to quality school libraries. Without a qualified librarian, one does not have a quality school library.

Finally, as a representative of the Librarian Task Force, I present these signed Declarations to Marci Merola, an Officer at the American Library Association. I am also presenting a copy to members of this Board.

I urge all of you to sign our declaration after this meeting, take our contact information, and fight for our students’ rights to professionally staffed school libraries.

Thank you.


My name is Nora Wiltse. I’m a National Board Certified school librarian working in CPS since 2003. I believe this board appreciates researchbased educational policies. We spend a lot of time testing our students so CPS can be “datadriven”.

I would like to present ‘data’ on school libraries. Research shows a strong connection to school libraries and student successes. Over 20 research studies by Keith Curry Lance, Stephen Krashen and others find a strong link between professionally staffed school libraries and increased student performance. The studies span over two decades, including an Illinois study from 2005 and they all find the same thing: students who interact with a certified school librarian have higher achievement. This correlation is seen even when other variables are accounted for, including socioeconomic status.

Yet, in CPS, school librarians and school libraries are disappearing rapidly. Due to “perpupil”  budgeting and an unfunded mandate for more PE and art minutes, school librarians are being placed in classrooms and school libraries are becoming store rooms.

This is a huge problem for CPS students. Many students in Chicago have no other safe place to check out books, and have very little reading materials in the home. It’s extremely important for CPS students to all have a school librarian because 87% of our students come from low income homes and school libraries are a great equalizer.

<< Coonley School librarian Nora Wiltse delivered her statement to the June 25, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

As Mayor Emanuel said in a librarian conference just last weekend, our libraries “create a level  playing field, which is what the melting pot is all about.” School libraries are not an “extra.” Students need literacy skills today as much as ever! Students need to know how to research online, and make sense of the information they receive. This happens in a school library. I urge you to return to a former policy to fund a school librarian for each school, paid for by the board and not from “perpupil” budgets.

Thank you.


CPS board warned of drought of librarians

by BECKY SCHLIKERMAN, Chicago Sun Times (Reprinted from Substance News)

WED, 06/25/2014 - 4:33PM,  ::  There is a drought of librarians at Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Board of Education heard Wednesday.

“Professionally staffed libraries, a key contributor to student literacy, are disappearing from the CPS landscape,” CPS mom and librarian Megan Cusick told the board.

Staffing projections show more than half of all CPS schools will lack a certified librarian next year, Cusick, a librarian at Jefferson Alternative High School told the board.

She later told reporters the projections were made by a group of Chicago Teachers Union librarians using data collected by the union.

And despite promises from the district, Cusick said 31 of the 50 schools that received children from closed schools do not have a “professionally staffed school library.”

“Hundreds of thousands of CPS students will leave this system lacking the full range of 21st century skills that are required to succeed in college, work and life,” Cusick said.

Cusick and other librarians and advocates appeared before the Board of Education after creating a task force out of “alarm and concern for the elimination of nearly 50 CPS librarian positions,” Senn High School librarian Ellen Damlich said at the meeting.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told the board there’s a lack of qualified people to fill librarian jobs.

She said CPS is working with universities to determine who is on track to be certified.

“It’s not that we don’t want to have librarians in libraries ... but the pool is diminished,” Byrd-Bennett said.

Later, Cusick said certified librarians have been moved out the libraries and into classrooms, but she hopes to now work with the district to get the librarians back into libraries.

The board took no action regarding libraries, but it did approve a softer Student Code of Conduct that will reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions throughout the district, moving it away from a “zero tolerance” disciplinary policy and toward less punitive “restorative justice” practices.

2centssmf: We tend to believe that LAUSD is ground zero in the big urban district School Reform Battle – and ofttimes it is.

Other times it’s New York City or Chicago – where the mayors run the schools. Illinois school districts are generally governed by locally-elected school boards, where each district board hires a superintendent, who in turn hires administrators such as principals, who then must be approved by the school board. In contrast, the CPS board is appointed by the mayor, essentially making the entire system completely accountable to the mayor.( The Chicago Teacher’s union has been very resistant to Chicago Mayor Emmanuel's flavors-of-reform – many of which revolve around closing down underperforming schools. Fifty schools were closed last year. Closed schools in Chicago close – they don’t open again under new management.

The school library fight in Chicago is interesting because The LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee heard this morning from Library Aide (Elementary Librarian) and Library Task Force member Cathy Ellingford – and Beaudry Library Services staff - that the Common Core Standards require more/not less of libraries and librarians –and that LAUSD is currently increasing libraries, library staff  and services while CPS is reducing theirs.

As the Common Core is supposedly a national movement with shared goals and objectives 4LAKids just gets curiouser+curiouser.

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