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A Tale of Two Schools: How to Dismantle Schools and Demoralize Students

How to Dismantle Schools and Demoralize Students: CPS’s Systematic Destruction of Guggenheim Elementary

On May 26, 2011, his first day as CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard began a “citywide listening tour to engage Chicagoans in a dialog about educational issues.”1 During this “listening tour,” Brizard visited Chicago schools and talked with teachers, staff and students, ensuring that many pictures were taken along the way. Accompanied by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Brizard visited his first school, Simon Guggenheim Elementary in Englewood, where he spent a few hours “engaging” the school community. News outlets covered the visit, and CPS released vivacious statements, pictures, and videos of a compassionate Brizard and Emanuel chatting with staff and students and participating in classroom lessons. Just six months after getting his joyous photo-op, however, Brizard placed Guggenheim on the district’s school closings list, the second time in three years that Guggenheim had to fight to stay open.

Insert Photo 2: TaleofTwoSchools_Photo2.png
(Alt Description: Photo is of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Principal Vikki Stokes at a school visit.) Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Principal Vikki Stokes follow along with Guggenheim teacher Jacqueline Jones’s reading lesson during Brizard’s first school visit of his tenure as CEO.(Screenshot from CPS video)

Guggenheim has twice been the target of CPS school actions. Arguing that the school was failing to meet performance standards, then-CPS CEO Ron Huberman placed Guggenheim on the 2010 school actions list along with 14 other schools, all but one having an almost exclusively African-American student body.2 Led by teachers, parents, students and community leaders, Guggenheim organized a spirited resistance, presenting their case at community hearings and creating materials to counter the district’s accusation that the school was failing its students. Opponents of the closing cited the lack of resources and attention given to Guggenheim and questioned CPS’s use of performance data. Despite the hearing officer’s recommendation to close the school, Guggenheim’s united resistance convinced Huberman to remove the school from the closing list.3

However, just two years later the Guggenheim community was again forced to fight to keep the school open. CPS argued that Guggenheim, located at 7141 South Morgan Street in Englewood, had only made minimal progress since the proposed closure in 2010 and the school’s students would be better served attending Carrie Jacobs Bond Elementary School, located at 7050 South May Street, four blocks northwest of Guggenheim. For students newly enrolled for the 2012 2013 school year and beyond, attendance boundaries would be redrawn, dividing Guggenheim’s area between Bond and Amos Stagg Elementary School, a Level 3 school under the management of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL).

Insert Map 1: TaleofTwoSchools_Map1.png
(Alt Description: Map one is of Englewood showing the location of current CPS schools and closed CPS schools.)

Despite a valiant effort from many of the same people as in 2010, Guggenheim could not persuade CPS and the Chicago Board of Education to spare the school from closure in 2012. Network Chief Adrian Willis claimed that CPS, through the 2010-2012 School Improvement Planning for Advancing Academic Achievement (SIPAAA), had invested an extra $1.5 million in Guggenheim, but the school still had not improved to an acceptable performance level.4 Closer investigation and inquiry, however, reveals that very little of the SIPAAA was actually implemented by CPS, and the district actually spent less on Guggenheim in 2012 than it did in years prior. According to veteran Guggenheim teachers, educational resources became scarcer as years progressed at the school, with the decline reported as early as the late 1990s. During the last few school years, teachers received little-to-no money for supplemental classroom materials. If teachers wanted science lab equipment, journals, maps or other essential supplies, they had to purchase them out of their own pockets. Teachers also stated that they had no input in textbook selection and that the books were often not purchased in sufficient quantities for all students.

Rather than helping Guggenheim with the resources it needed in the classroom, CPS simply replaced the administration, which, between 2010 and 2012, had three different principals. In the summer of 2010, CPS brought in a new principal and assistant principal with a combined one year of administrative experience.5 Three teachers with more than 20 years of CPS teaching experience—and the utmost respect and admiration of their colleague—left the school within the first semester of the new administration’s reign. With ever-changing lesson plans and school policies coming from the inexperienced administration, teachers and staff felt that their opinions and approaches to teaching were no longer valued or respected. The community struggled to have its voice heard, but with the Local School Council (LSC) dismantled and extra barriers erected, it was difficult for parents to get involved in their school. Wraparound services, desperately needed in impoverished Englewood, were virtually nonexistent, with a part-time psychologist and social workers not having nearly enough time to address all the students’ needs. When Guggenheim closed, the school had only one paraprofessional on staff. Guggenheim did not have a counselor on staff from the 2004-2005 school year to February 2011, almost six years without this essential support.6

Accounts from Guggenheim staff, as well as from those who worked with the Guggenheim community, portray a school deeply divided, with the administration viewing the teachers and community not as partners for school improvement, but rather as opposing forces, creating a hostile environment in the school. Seeing progress in the children that they spent much of their time teaching, the teachers believed that their strategies would work if given the proper resources from CPS and the school’s administration, but these supports never came. Students from disadvantaged, high-poverty communities such as Englewood need holistic supports to help them thrive academically. Englewood has been devastated by skyrocketing foreclosure rates and is among the most crime-ridden areas of the city, but CPS still failed to recognize the need for wraparound services.7

Guggenheim needed a full, well-resourced curriculum, much like the curriculum found in wealthy, politically-connected areas on the North Side of Chicago, with art, music, physical education, foreign language and a plethora of after-school activities. The teachers needed high quality textbooks and a complete set of supplemental materials to engage their students with ambitious lesson plans and experiments. CPS needed to strengthen the 5 Essential Supports at Guggenheim, working with the community to hire a collaborative, visionary administration; encouraging teachers and parents to partner in school improvement efforts; providing teachers with the resources necessary to design a full, challenging curriculum; and creating small class sizes that allow teachers to address students’ individual needs. Simply put, Guggenheim was never given this chance to improve. Instead, CPS and its hand-picked administration created a contentious school climate and failed to address corrosive problems that systematically destabilized and dismantled Guggenheim until its final days in June 2012.

Students on the Move: Homelessness and Student Mobility

Mirroring the distressed Englewood community, Guggenheim served an almost exclusively African-American student body. For the 2011 2012 school year, CPS reports Guggenheim’s student body as 97 percent African-American.8 Without a single white student, Guggenheim was an “Apartheid school” [schools that have 99 percent students of color] in 2011-2012. The students’ families struggled to gain the resources needed to live comfortably, with 94.5 percent qualifying for free or reduced lunch in 2011-2012.9

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Guggenheim student body was its high percentage of homeless students. CPS reported that at the end of 2011, 65 Guggenheim students—22 percent—were in temporary living situations, which is a student living in any situation that is not permanent, such as in a homeless shelter, on the street or “doubling up” with relatives or friends. The school’s homeless liaison, however, stated that she had 91 children, a third of the student body, who qualified as homeless.10 Given the high mobility of homeless students, the number of children in the homeless education program would change throughout the year, but Parker’s group always remained large in number. Guggenheim consistently has been among the schools with the highest percentage of Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS).

Teaching homeless children adds obvious challenges. Attendance is inconsistent and given their difficulties outside of school, children can struggle to focus on academics.11 When children are worried about where they will sleep that night and how they will get their next meal, it is understandably difficult to concentrate in the classroom. Simply put, homeless children have much more to worry about than understanding the daily lesson, practicing their reading, completing their homework or preparing for the ISAT. They are concerned for their survival.

The large amount of homeless students at Guggenheim contributed to the school’s high mobility rate, which was fifth-highest among all CPS elementary schools in 2012: an astonishing 53.9 percent.12 This means that about 157 children transferred in or out of the school during the year. This rate was nearly three times the district’s already high average of 18.3 percent. Guggenheim’s 2012 mobility rate also surpassed its Englewood-Gresham Elementary Network’s average by 20 percentage points.13 While the excessively high student mobility in 2012 can be explained by the proposed school closing and CPS encouraging students to transfer (more on this in the “Transferring the Homeless” section of this report), Guggenheim regularly had one of the highest mobility rates in CPS. Since 2000, the mobility rate at Guggenheim has never been below 28 percent, with an average rate of 41 percent over the past 12 years. In each year since 2003, Guggenheim’s mobility rate was at least one-and-a-half times higher than the CPS average. The mobility rate at Guggenheim has been higher than the Network average in all but two years from 2000 to 2012. (For more data on Guggenheim’s mobility rates, see Appendix A.)

Insert Figure 1: TaleofTwoSchools_Figure1.png
Fig. 1 Guggenheim Mobility Rates: 2000-2012
(Alt Description: Figure 1 is of a line graph showing Guggenheim mobility rates for 2000-2012. Guggenheim’s mobility rate went up in 2012 while there was only a slight change in both the network average mobility rate and the districts average mobility rate.)

Switching schools, something homeless students do frequently, can have devastating effects on a child’s academic success. Each time children change their school, they lose important mentors and friends. They often have to adapt to an entirely different curriculum, teaching style and school culture. Research estimates that because of these factors, students who switch schools lose 4-6 months of valuable academic time.14 This may even be a low estimate:

David Kerbow of the University of Chicago found that mobile students can lose up to one year of learning by sixth grade.15

“[With] all the craziness going on in these kids’ lives—crisis, loss of permanent housing, moving around— schooling should be stable. Rule of thumb: every time a child changes schools, they lose four-to six months of academic time. Obviously they are putting a lot of energy into renegotiating their environment.”

– Rene Heybach, Law Project Director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Students who move between schools can have “lower achievement levels due to discontinuity of curriculum between schools, behavioral problems, and difficulty developing peer relationships.16 Mobile students are more likely to drop out of school. High mobility at a school also affects non-mobile students. Given the lost months of academic time, teachers must dedicate extra class time to new students so they catch up to the rest of the class. This leaves non-mobile students without the proper instruction needed to stay at grade level. A study of California schools found that non-mobile students in schools with mobility rates higher than 30 percent had considerably lower test scores that those at schools with less mobility.17

A school closing inherently causes mobility, forcing all students to change schools, but schools with high homeless populations have an even more difficult time preparing their students for the disruption, as well as tracking them once the school has closed. This became very apparent at Guggenheim, which will be discussed in the “Transitioning to the End” section of this report.

2010 Closing Hearings: Unified Resistance

“When they were trying to close the school the first time, the involvement of our parents, as well as our former parents, was astonishing. We had everyone coming back to help us keep the school open. We had students that were away at college that were coming back. It was phenomenal. Every time we had a hearing, it was standing room only.” – Cassandra Love-Vaughn, Guggenheim teacher

Just seven days after CPS identified Guggenheim for closure in January 2010, the district held the first community hearing on the action at the downtown CPS offices, more than 10 miles away from Guggenheim. At the meeting, CPS outlined the reasons for the proposed closure, citing poor performance on standardized testing.18 Throughout its presentation, CPS made constant comparisons between Guggenheim and the district as a whole. While it is true that the school’s scores were below district average, teachers, parents and community members pointed out that Guggenheim’s mobility rate was far higher than the district average and that the school’s scores were largely in line with other schools in Area 14, a predecessor to the EnglewoodGresham Elementary Network. (See Appendix B for more details.)19 The attempted 2010 closure of Guggenheim is a perfect example of how CPS uses unfair, misconstrued data when considering school actions.

Teachers, staff, “overly involved” parents20 and community leaders were also quick to identify the struggles of children living in the Englewood community. Many were homeless and even those in stable homes dealt with a neglected neighborhood with high crime, few recreational options and limited access to health care.21 Jonathan Jackson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition spoke out at the hearing to oppose the proposed closing, arguing that Chicago needed to do a better job resourcing South Side neighborhoods such as Englewood. He explained that it was a false assumption to equate poor test scores with poor schools.22 Ward 17 Alderman Latasha Thomas, who represents the Guggenheim community in southern Englewood, said that it was the Board’s responsibility to ensure that a school “does what it needs to do to allow those students, who are sponges for knowledge, to learn.”23

“We compare them to other schools that have no homeless children and these schools have to deal with the indigent and the children that are sucking on gums, that have not had dental care, that have not had eye glasses; and just weeks from now, they have to compete on the same standardized exam.” – Jonathan Jackson, Rainbow PUSH Coalition spokesman, at the January 28, 2010, community hearing

Opponents of the closure also called out Chief Area Officer Adrian Willis and the Board of Education for not supplying the school with the proper resources and for neglecting to discuss important issues with the Guggenheim staff. Guggenheim teacher Jacqueline Jones argued that “the School Board has ‘supported’ Area 14 schools like Guggenheim by removing resources like lead literacy teachers [and] math coaching positions.”24 Although Willis claimed to have spent more hours at Guggenheim than any other school in the area, teachers stated that he only met with the staff twic—once when he was first named chief area officer and again when he announced the proposed closing of Guggenheim. Limited contact from the area office made it nearly impossible to collaborate with district and Board representatives and organize a plan for improvement.25

“Imagine … if the CAO [Chief Area Officer] of Area 14, that’s Mr. Adrian Willis, had devoted more than 23 hours to support our school of the 528 hours our students have been in school this year. We have had 528 hours, and he’s only given us 23. That is less than 4 percent of his time.” – Gervaise Clay, Guggenheim assistant principal, at the February 3, 2010, community hearing


Student Activism in 2010

Despite having only seven days between the announcement and the first hearing, current and former Guggenheim students, their families and staff packed the hearings to testify on behalf of their school and to warn CPS and the Board of the damages closure. Approximately 40 current and former students signed up to speak at the January 28. Teachers and staff did not let the inconvenient location—125 South Clark Street instead of their own community—prevent students and families from testifying; they filled three busloads of current and former students and their families and drove them downtown.26 Another 16 current students signed up to speak at the February 3 hearing. Students advocated against the closing outside of the hearings as well. During one of their field trips to City Hall, one student asked Mayor Richard M. Daley why he wanted to close the school based on low test scores when Daley himself told the children that it took him three times to pass the Illinois Bar Exam. Teachers stated that, during the attempted closing process, their students received a firsthand experience in civic action.27

“Guggenheim to me is an institution. The definition [of an institution] is a custom and practice or pattern of behavior that is important in the cultural life of a society, and that’s Guggenheim.” – Ernest Jones, Guggenheim coach & disciplinarian, at January 28, 2010, community hearing

Students spoke of Guggenheim as a family with dedicated teachers and staff. Echoing the testimony of Jonathan Jackson and other community leaders, one student spoke of the school’s role in helping children navigate their crime-ridden community: “Every day we walk down the street, you see violence, drug dealing, drug users; but when we come there, I feel like I can do something better than what I see.”28 Other students illustrated their strong bond and admiration for their school. “If you close this school, it’s like you’re taking away a part of this neighborhood. It’s just like taking away a child from its mother,” one student said.29 The teachers believed that the inspiring testimony of their students convinced CPS to remove Guggenheim from the school closings list. CPS, it appears, underestimated the amount of fight and passion for Guggenheim in the Englewood community.

“Guggenheim has been a leader to so many people for so many years. Shutting this school down will not only put a lot of people out of a job, but it will be breaking up a family. Teachers try their best to give students at Guggenheim the best education possible. But you wouldn’t just be hurting the teachers and the students at Guggenheim; you would [be] hurting the community. Guggenheim is a way of life for our family. People can’t comprehend how hard we work here at Guggenheim because they are not here.” – Student Number 5, February 3, 2010, community hearing


Planning for Improvement

“We implore you to sit down with us, address our concerns, [and] give us the opportunity to execute our proposed Action Plan. Closing Guggenheim or any other school is not the solution.” – Ernest Jones, Guggenheim disciplinarian, at the February 3, 2010, community hearing

As part of the 2010 resistance, Guggenheim teachers and staff created and presented a detailed Action Plan which they believed, if enacted, would greatly improve the school, as well as raise its test scores. The teachers wanted to sit down with the administration and the Area Office to discuss how this Action Plan could be implemented and how Central Office, the Area, and school staff could work together to improve Guggenheim. These meetings, however, never happened, and CPS ignored the teachers’ plan for improvement.

The Action Plan, which was a separate document from the SIPAAA and is available in Appendix C, detailed the academic problems at the school and offered concrete solutions to fix them. After years of dwindling resources and after-school activities, the Action Plan called for establishing drama and book clubs, founding a parent/student homework center, holding reading nights, hosting writing fairs, planning community barbeques and hiring supplemental math and reading resource teachers.

Many of these ideas came from the SIPAAA that Guggenheim teachers, staff, LSC members and administration had completed in the summer of 2009.30 The SIPAAA was a strategic plan that listed areas in need of improvement and identified programs that would help the school achieve its goals—an “investment” in Guggenheim. The SIPAAA planning group requested funds for various academic and enrichment activities such as spelling bees, science and history fairs, parent training supplies, education for homeless parents, nutrition programs, attendance awards for students, science journals, library books and new computers. The group also wanted funds for new staff positions, such as an art teacher, a music teacher, parent workers and after-school workers to help provide a full curriculum for Guggenheim students. The Action Plan and the SIPAAA, however, were dismantled when the new administration took over in the summer of 2010.

Staff members reported that for the planning of the 2006-2008 SIPAAA, created in the summer of 2005 under Principal Carolyn Baldwin, all teachers made lists of what they believed was working at the school and what was failing. Programs that were not benefiting students were scrapped. Priority areas of concern were extrapolated, and teachers and staff brainstormed strategies, programs and resources that could help address the issue. This process differed greatly from the 2010-2012 SIPAAA. Multiple staff listed as members of the 2010-2012 SIPAAA planning committee stated that they had never participated in any meetings and were not even aware of any SIPAAA meetings taking place.31 Although the SIPAAA is supposed to be revised biannually, teachers stated that they were unaware of any planning meetings from 2010 to 2012.32

Although Network Chief Adrian Willis claimed that the 2010-2012 SIPAAA was proof that CPS had invested in Guggenheim, the SIPAAA had very little of its supports funded.33 The “investment” did not happen, and the SIPAAA, much like the teachers’ Action Plan, was scrapped when CPS placed the new administration in the school in the summer of 2010. As a launching point for their plan for improvement, teachers had devised an all-volunteer tutoring program for the summer of 2010 and had already enlisted staff, lunch aides and security to offer their time to help the students prepare for the new school year. Teachers called and emailed Central Office and the Board several times, but Guggenheim never received a response. It was the start of pattern of neglecting, stalling and killing programs that could have helped Guggenheim on the road to improvement.

“The new administration came in that summer and [the SIPAAA and Action Plan] were disregarded. We were going to come in over the summer and do summer tutoring, but we never got approval from the Board. Teachers called the Board, emailed the Board several times just to get approval. We weren’t even trying to get paid. We had lunch room aides and security all lined up. They were all going to volunteer their time, but it was never approved. We could have used that summer to continue to working with the students, but they didn’t approve it. They didn’t implement anything.” – Kimberly Walls, Guggenheim teacher

The Revolving Door of School Personnel

A revolving door of school administrators made it difficult to maintain any real plans for improvement. Over the same two-year period that saw three different CPS CEOs, Guggenheim went through three principals. Different ideas and strategic plans accompanied these administrative changes, constantly forcing teachers to adapt to new standards and guidelines. Because of Guggenheim’s probationary status, CPS removed Principal Mary McNair, who had been an administrator at Guggenheim since 2007, after the 2010 school year. Vikki Stokes, trained by New Leaders for New Schools,34 replaced McNair while Robert Hubbird replaced Assistant Principal Gervaise Clay, who had fought vigorously against the proposed school closing.35 In December 2011, only a year-and-a-half after taking the job at Guggenheim, Stokes left the school and Hubbird was promoted to principal, remaining in the position until the school’s closing.

Since Guggenheim was on probation, as were most schools in the region, the LSC had no power over the selection of these principals; CPS could select whomever it wished without resistance. As quotes throughout this report illustrate, as well as testimony from many people in the Guggenheim community at the closing hearings, Guggenheim teachers and parents did not support CPS’s choice of administration at the school. In the summer of 2010, CPS imposed a principal with only one year of experience as an assistant principal and one year of administrative “training” to guide the improvement of what the district called one of the lowest performing schools in the state.36 Rather than choosing one of the Guggenheim teachers with a Type-75 to help familiarize her with the school, this principal chose someone with no administrative experience and no connection to Guggenheim as assistant principal. The new administration took over Guggenheim without the necessary experience to fix a struggling, under-resourced school that was now forced to live in fear of future CPS school actions.

Administrative upheaval led to instability among the veteran teaching staff. Only 57 percent of the teachers at Guggenheim in 2009-2010 were still at the school in 2012.37 Within the first semester of Stokes’s reign as principal, three veteran teachers resigned or were reassigned. One of these teachers had been at the school for nearly 20 years and regularly received “excellent” or “superior” evaluations for her dedication to educating the whole child.38

Two Type-75 teachers, a 4th grade and a sixth-through-eighth grade math teacher, who was also the LSC secretary, left the school as well. These teachers complained about being “harassed” by the new administration and were irritated that their request for more Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs) – an appeal that was also in the SIPAAA – was ignored. They, as well as other teachers at the school, opposed the instability caused by ever changing orders on lesson plans and the lack of templates to guide them through the wavering expectations. These experienced teachers took the lead in fighting against Stokes’s attempt to eliminate their 30 minute morning planning time.39 The teachers that remained at Guggenheim also were affected by a change in professional culture at the school; multiple teachers expressed constant fear that they could lose their jobs at any time under the new administration.40 Teachers reported that these actions, as well as a general lack of cooperative collaboration between the administrators and the educators, demonstrated a lack of respect that Stokes and Hubbird had for the Guggenheim staff and teachers.

The University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) lists Effective Leaders as one of the 5 Essential Supports for school improvement. Effective Leaders share leadership and responsibilities with the staff and ensure that teachers have significant influence over decision making at the school, making teachers partners in school improvement. Schools organized for improvement have principals that work to gain the trust and respect of the staff and collaboratively create coherent, long-term plans for improvement.41 At Guggenheim, however, the administration disempowered the teachers, whose input was not fairly considered.The administration treated the teachers as obstacles rather than partners, and regardless of the cause, there was clearly a lack of trust between the two sides, making it difficult for any type of cohesive plans for improvement to be implemented.

“They broke the family bond. CPS appointed Stokes and Hubbird to break the strong bond that the teachers had so that when CPS came back the second time [to close the school], we didn’t have those strong teachers to mobilize the parents and fight for the school. You had new teachers come in that weren’t as vested in the students as the old teachers were vested in the students and the parents. You had some staff that had been at Guggenheim for 20 years –people that have seen families come through the building, multiple generations. They were vested and ready to fight CPS.” – Kimberly Walls, Guggenheim teacher

“It looks nice on paper, they would write up all these plans, but they would never be consistent in what they said they were going to do. It would happen for a week or two, and then it would fall apart.” –Ifeoma Nkemdi, Guggenheim teacher

The CPS-picked administration struggled to manage the teacher turnover. Although the aforementioned 3rd grade teacher left the school in August, Stokes did not hire a replacement for her class until January, leaving the 3rd graders without a trained teacher for five months.42 The 4th grade teacher resigned in November, but a replacement was not hired until January. The middle-grades math position was left open for nearly three months, with the teacher transferring in January and the replacement not hired until March. Teachers reported that substitutes tried in vain to control the classrooms as the students fell further behind academically.43 Then-Assistant Principal Hubbird suggested that it was difficult to find qualified candidates to take over the substitute-managed classrooms and that “the [full-time] applicants did not seem to meet the standards and expectations that we were looking for.” Hubbird acknowledged, however, that the unfilled positions had a negative “academic, social, and emotional effect” on the students.44 The inability to provide a trained instructor impeded the growth of more than 100 students as they could not maximize their time in the classroom. If the Guggenheim administration truly did not believe that the applicants they interviewed met their expectations, why didn’t the Network or Central Offices intervene and sift through the many people in Chicago looking for a teaching job?

ISAT scores dropped dramatically from 2010 to 2011 in the grades affected by teacher turnover because it is difficult for students to learn without a teacher. Even when the new teachers were hired, they had to get acquainted with rambunctious students while attempting to establish discipline and order in a classroom that had been without full-time teacher for months. The percentage of 3rd graders meeting or exceeding state standards in reading plummeted from 44.4 percent in 2010 to 14.7 percent in 2011. Fourth grade reading scores saw a 40 percentage point drop. Math scores dropped 37 percentage points for 3rd grade and 18 for 4th grade. Fourth grade science scores also suffered, falling 19 percentage points over the same time.45 While standardized test scores are certainly not the ultimate indicator of student or school performance, these drastic declines provide supporting evidence to the devastating effect of leaving students without a teacher for an extended period of time, which is hardly surprising. Why did CPS allow so many students to go without teachers for so long? And why didn’t the district consider these administrative errors when closing the school in 2012?

3rd Grade 4th Grade
2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012
Reading Meets/ Exceeds 44.4% 14.7% 21.4% 55.6% 15.8% 9.1%
Math Meets/ Exceeds 63.9% 26.5% 23.8% 44.4% 26.3% 31.8%
Science Meets/ Exceeds46 n/a n/a n/a 33.3% 13.5% 19.0%

Mid-year Restructuring

The administration created more instability in January 2012 when Hubbird restructured 3rd-through-5th grade. Until January, Ifeoma Nkemdi taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade math while her colleagues taught those students reading and science. Two months before the ISAT and a month after the school was proposed for closure, however, Hubbird decided to switch to self contained classrooms for grades three-through-five, keeping each grade level in the same classroom for the entire day. Nkemdi now had to teach reading and science to her class of 38 3rd graders (this large class size is discussed in the next section of this report). Teachers that were only teaching one subject now had to prepare lesson plans for two more subjects. When interviewed by CTU, Hubbird stated that he did not believe that this change had any impact on student performance.47


The middle grades, where teaching was a bit more stable, saw increases in their ISAT meets/exceeds scores. ISAT composite meets/exceeds percentages for seventh and eighth graders rose from 65.5 percent in 2010 to 71.8 percent in 2011, including a remarkable 100 percent of eighth graders meeting or exceeding standards for reading. The two-year increase among seventh and eighth graders is even larger, increasing by 42 percent from 2009 to 2011. These ISAT scores prove that progress was being made among the older students, but CPS decided to emphasize the school’s overall decrease in ISAT composite, falling from 55.6 percent in 2010 to 40.0 percent in 2011.48 These overall numbers dropped because of low scores in the early grades, which were caused largely by teacher turnover. It is these complexities that CPS too often ignores when shuttering our schools.

7th Grade 8th Grade
2009 2010 2011 2009 2010 2011
Composite Meets/ Exceeds 41.1% 55.1% 60.9% 59.5% 75.9% 82.6%

“People feel a disinvestment in the school, the principal changes mid-year, how good is that? And all this conflict starts happening, it makes you feel like your school is disintegrating, and guess what, it is disintegrating.” – Rene Heybach, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

The middle grades, however, were not completely without upheaval. The math teacher left Guggenheim in January 2011 and was not replaced until March (despite the fact that Assistant Principal Hubbird was an experienced math teacher). After being without a trained classroom leader for two months, the students were nearly impossible to manage. New Guggenheim teacher Henry Pera, who had more than 20 years of experience in CPS, had to spend almost all of his energy controlling his classroom and dealing with misbehavior. While his experience still allowed him to make progress with his students, Pera was in desperate need of assistance, either from the administration or from a trained PSRP. The school’s longtime disciplinarian who garnered so much respect that, as one teacher put it, students would stand at attention when he walked down the hall, had left the school one month earlier and been replaced by a martial arts instructor without any experience at Guggenheim.49

“The discipline was completely out of control. I could not teach the class. 99 percent of my energy was dedicated to management and class control. They put me in a very hellish situation with minimum support, especially when the principal [Stokes] bailed out after the school was announced to be closed.” – Henry Pera, Guggenheim teacher


Managing Student Disruptions

Teachers viewed Jones’s absence and the administration’s unwillingness to deal with behavioral problems as the main reasons for increased student disruptions. Rather than removing misbehaving children from the classroom, the administration focused their attention on the teachers, blaming their classroom management. The teachers viewed this reaction as further disrespect from the administration, further reducing the mutual trust at the school and diminishing the Effective Leaders Essential Support. The administration’s discipline strategy also undermined the teachers’ authority over their classrooms, making students even more uncontrollable and teachers more demoralized. Day after day, teachers would have to interrupt their instruction to handle student outbursts or break up fights. Many of these students that consistently disrupted class were repeating the grade but had not been serviced by the special education program.50 Increased access to social workers and more resources for the special education program, both requested in the SIPAAA, could have vastly benefited Guggenheim students.51 Rather than implementing these proven aspects of school improvement, CPS ignored the teachers’ requests.

“I had been there 12 years and I never saw the kids act the way that they did. It wa s like I was in a foreign land.” – Cassandra Love-Vaughn, Guggenheim teacher


Overcrowded Classes, Overwhelmed Teachers

Overcrowded schools mean overcrowded classrooms and overwhelmed teachers. The research on the effect of class size on student achievement is clear: Small classes are one of the best ways to improve learning. With small classes, skilled teachers can spend more one-on-one time with their students, forming mutually trusting relationships while identifying and correcting areas where children are lagging behind their peers, a key aspect of the Supportive Environment support. This is especially true in early grades. Tennessee’s Project STAR (Student-Teacher Achievement Ratio) found that kindergarten-through-3rd graders in small classes (15-17 students) had improved test outcomes, greater school engagement and increased grade promotion. Teachers also were able to spend more time teaching and less on classroom management and addressing student disciplinary problems.52 The improvement of teaching conditions also increased educator morale.53 Small classes are especially beneficial for low income children, which represented 94.5 percent of Guggenheim’s student body in 2012. The STAR study found that low-income children with three years of small classes were over one and-a-half times more likely to graduate from high school. Those students with all four years (K3) of small classes were more than twice as likely to graduate.54 CPS ignored this research, however, inflating Guggenheim class sizes and making it more difficult for teachers to teach and students to learn.

Guggenheim’s SIPAAA requested additional funds to hire staff and reduce class size. Despite CPS’s current obsession with “underutilized” schools and “right-sizing” the district, Guggenheim was actually overcrowded for many years and had classes far larger than the size most productive for students. Last year, CPS was closing “under-performing” schools to help students, but this year, CPS is “helping” students by closing “underutilized” schools and supposedly providing more resources to schools like Guggenheim. Rather than instituting contradictory policies year-after-year, CPS needs to focus on research-based aspects of school improvement instead of the whims of its ever-changing Central Office administration.

Guggenheim’s lowest capacity in the past 12 years was 86 percent, above the 80 percent barrier that CPS currently uses to classify schools as “underutilized.” Until 2009, Guggenheim enrolled more students than its CPS-determined capacity of 300. (See Appendix D for more enrollment data.) While enrollment figures did decline as Englewood’s population decreased, the school was still at 97 percent capacity in 2012, the year Guggenheim was closed.55 Guggenheim was so crowded that the school needed to use a mobile unit to house additional rooms. Mayor Emanuel and his charter school allies state that families “vote with their feet” when it comes to school selection, but the district did not give Guggenheim any credit for being so popular that it became overcrowded for many years.56 Using Emanuel’s theory, Guggenheim must have been doing something right.

Insert Figure 2: TaleofTwoSchools_Figure2.png
(Alt Description: Figure 2 is of a bar graph showing the down in percent of capacity of Guggenheim enrollment from 2001-2012.)
Fig. 2 (Guggenheim Enrollment: Percent of Capacity)
*CPS classifies schools enrolled at less than 80 percent of capacity as "underutilized."


The 2011-2012 3rd Grade Class

Perhaps the most egregious example of the class size problem at Guggenheim was the 2011-2012 3rd grade class taught by Ifeoma Nkemdi. On the first day of school, there were only 17 students in Nkemdi’s classroom. The idea of teaching a small class excited Nkemdi, who believed that she would be able to make exceptional progress with her students. The next day of school, however, there were 42 children in Nkemdi’s class. Since the 2010-2011 3rd graders went through the first five months of the school year without a teacher, many had to take summer school in order to progress to the 4th grade. CPS, however, had failed to notify students that did not pass summer school that they would have to repeat the 3rd grade, so the students and their families assumed that they were promoted to 4th grade.57

“On the first day, they ran to me and said. ‘Ms. Nkemdi, I’m in 4th grade now.’ And the next day, they’re in my class and upset, and they stayed upset the whole year.” – Ifeoma Nkemdi, Guggenheim teacher

The children were understandably upset, believing that they had passed the 3rd grade only to be surprised and embarrassed on the first day of school. These angry nine- and ten-year-olds, some of whom still could not read yet had not been evaluated for special education services, were forced to join a classroom with eight-year-olds, many of whom were further along academically than their older peers. This created animosity in the classroom and became a major source of bullying. The dramatic increase in behavioral problems forced Nkemdi to dedicate most of her time to classroom management and discipline, leaving little time to give the older children the assistance that they needed or to keep the younger children progressing at grade level. “It was a nightmare,” Nkemdi summarized.58 It is simply too difficult for any teacher, no matter how skilled, to reach 42 children of drastically different academic and emotional development all in the same classroom. Due to the repeated overcrowding of Guggenheim, these large class sizes and the problems that came with them were all-too-common, negatively affecting student achievement.

Nkemdi brought her worries to the principal, who eventually reduced the class to 38. The children who switched classes, however, were not assigned to a new 3rd grade class, but instead, put into either 2nd or 4th grade. Nkemdi’s class was still far-too-large, and those students transferred out of the room were forced into grades that did not match their academic progress. While these students were still supposed to be taught the 3rd grade curriculum, the size of the 2nd grade (32) and 4th grade (26) classrooms made it nearly impossible to teach both groups of students.59 These “left behind” students needed to be in a small classroom with another 3rd grade teacher. These large class sizes also expose the misleading nature of the CPS “student/teacher ratio,” which was projected at 19-to-1 for the 2011-2012 school year at Guggenheim.60


Rather than investing in new teachers for grades too crowded for one classroom, some of the students were placed in split-level classrooms. In split-level classrooms, teachers have to manage the academic standards and emotional demands of multiple grades within the same classroom while somehow finding the time to teach both grade levels the required material. This extra challenge further limits the amount of one-on-one time that teachers can spend with their students. These split-level rooms did not help reduce class size; split-level classrooms at Guggenheim were often large, with the 2011-2012 fifth/sixth grade split class having 29 students and the seventh/eight grade class having 32.61 The age difference of students can create behavioral problems, much like in Nkemdi’s classroom (see previous box). One teacher stated that in her fifth/sixth grade split class, she could never get through a full lesson without some type of student disruption.62

“It’s very hard to teach in a split-level classroom. You have your 7th grade academic standards, [and] you have your 8th grade academic standards. You got the kids who are not on grade level in either strain, and then you still got to try teach to the middle. But then after a while because of exceeds [on the ISAT], you have to teach to the top and hopefully they’ll make it there.” – Kimberly Walls, Guggenheim teacher

“We had a first/second grade split. And what I tried to explain was that these are two different curriculums. When you’re pushing kids together and you have some students that are barely able to recognize their letters, you’ve got a big problem.” – Freda Davis, Guggenheim teacher

The SIPAAA request to invest in teachers and PSRPs to help control classes was not honored. The “jack-of-all-trades” paraprofessional juggled her time between managing the homeless education program (which often involved fighting with the principal to ensure that laws were followed), coordinating multiple after-school programs, providing assistance to children in the special education program and helping overwhelmed teachers control their structurally dysfunctional classrooms. In February 2011, Guggenheim finally got a guidance counselor for the first time since the 2003-2004 school year. To assist the new counselor, the school partnered with the Adler School of Professional Psychology to bring in interns to provide art therapy and conflict resolution.63 In a school where a third of the students were homeless, social workers only visited the school once or twice a week and never had enough time to address all students’ needs. Teachers asked for an additional math and reading teacher to focus on struggling students because the large class sizes at Guggenheim did not allow the time or resources to intervene and raise them to the same level as their classmates.64 This request, however, was also ignored.

Engaging the Community and Parental Involvement

The teachers’ Action Plan created during the 2010 closing attempt, as well as the SIPAAA, highlighted the need to engage the community, inform families and encourage parents to take an active role in their child’s education. The staff intended to create a clear, concise newsletter, design a handbook to better structure tasks for parent volunteers, host a community barbeque and hold monthly school planning meetings with the community. They planned community talent shows, reading nights, math nights, science nights, writing fairs and a parent/student homework center to engage and enrich students, while giving parents and the community another opportunity to participate at the school. Teachers also wanted to have workshops and trainings for parents on the curriculum and programs offered at the school.65 Involved Families, one of the 5Essentials, can have a huge impact on student achievement, and Guggenheim teachers planned many programs to incorporate parents and guardians into school activities.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the school also held a literacy program for parents. Staff worked weekends to brainstorm viable solutions for the low adult literacy rates in Englewood. Teachers had evening and Saturday reading classes for parents so they could better the community and enjoy literature with their children. The teachers viewed the low education of parents as a detriment to their children’s performance and wanted to help, but limited resources made the program impossible to continue.66

Prior to the 2010-2011 school year, Guggenheim made progress recruiting parent volunteers. These volunteers would tutor small groups and assist teachers with classroom management. At the 2010 closing hearing, Principal McNair said: “There were maybe one or two volunteers when I arrived in ‘07, and we increased that to nine volunteers who came on a regular basis. We had Open House on Saturdays so that we could have and talk to more parents.”67 This number had declined to four regular volunteers by 2012. [On the plus side, Principal Hubbird stated in an interview that some parents volunteered in the younger grades because they wanted to learn how to read.] Staff also alleged that paperwork for parent volunteers would routinely go missing once it was given to the principal.68

According to the 2010-2012 SIPAAA, increasing parent meetings, expanding “face-toface contact with the community” and having an “open-door policy,” were key parts of improving the school’s learning climate and family involvement.69 In 2012, however, CPS allocated no money for community/parental involvement at Guggenheim.70 At the school level, the administration further deemphasized the importance of these two areas of improvement— family involvement and a productive learning climate—and enacted policies that completely rejected the goals of the SIPAAA and the Involved Families Essential Support.

According to Guggenheim staff, the administration’s attitude toward parents became increasingly hostile as the 2011-2012 school year continued, especially to those parents who advocated against closing the school. One staff member stated that Hubbird had asked her to stand by the back door of the building and prevent parents from entering the school.71 Extra security guards were brought into the school, not to help with student disruptions, but to prevent parents from coming into the building. Hubbird began imposing restrictions on when Sherri Parker, the school’s homeless liaison, could hold meetings for the homeless parents.72 At these meetings, Parker would distribute the legally required bus cards and often bring breakfast or lunch for the families. These meetings provided essential services and information to homeless families, but Parker still faced resistance from the administration.

“I would describe the feeling as one of hostility and discomfort at the school. The administration was unavailable [and] didn’t step in and solve problems.” – Rene Heybach, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Teachers also reported that Stokes would only see parents on designated days. While Hubbird alleged in an interview that he had an “open-door policy” with parents, multiple teachers and staff, including those that worked in the main office, dispute this claim. Office staff stated that under Hubbird, all parents requesting a meeting with the principal were required to write a detailed description of what they wished to discuss.73 Guggenheim parents had trouble dealing with this extra red tape; many of the parents could not read or write, making it impossible to fill out this form without assistance.

“A lot of the parents were illiterate. He began to create ways to make them unable to voice what they wanted to get out. He had us create a binder and wanted them to sit down and physically write down what their issue was, knowing that they couldn’t do it.” – Alisha Atwater, Guggenheim staff

Teachers also reported that Guggenheim did not have an active LSC for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. In an interview with the CTU, Hubbird claimed that he “engaged” with the LSC during his tenure at Guggenheim, helping them understand how the school’s budget operated. He stated later in the interview, however, that he did not recall if the LSC was actually meeting on a regular basis at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.74 A member of the LSC confirmed that it actually only met three times—in August, September and October of 2010—during the Stokes-Hubbird administration.75 Staff alleged that Stokes removed the school’s bulletin board that posted the dates of LSC meetings and stopped posting the meeting dates on the school’s marquee outside the building.76 LSC members indicated that the administration did not cooperate with them. Unlike under previous administrations, the LSC was not consulted about major ideas for school improvement, curriculum or activities.77

Research has linked active LSCs to effective school improvement. CCSR found that “elementary schools that made substantial progress … have active LSCs.”78 A 2005 study by Designs for Change found that schools making the most progress had active LSCs with the power to select the school’s principal.79 Active LSCs work as partners with the school’s administration and serve as advocates for the students both academically and politically, far different than the relationship at Guggenheim.

As CPS limited the resources and destabilized the school, parents and the community became increasingly irritated with the learning environment for their children. The LSC, a vehicle of democratic power, was dismantled. Parents wanted to volunteer their time to assist their neighborhood school, but the new administration put up barriers to prevent them. It became nearly impossible for parents to even speak with their child’s principal. The administration treated parents and teachers as rivals rather than partners for school improvement. This division caused a further disintegration of the school community.


Struggling for a Full, Effective Curriculum

Eliminating Successful Reading Programs

Guggenheim teachers reported that upon taking over the school, Stokes and Hubbird quickly changed key parts of the Guggenheim curriculum, including programs that had proven to be effective. To improve their students’ reading skills, Guggenheim teachers had instituted two-hour reading blocks for sixth-through-eighth graders. Guggenheim teachers found that giving students this extra time for reading sparked an interest in literature, fostering a passion for reading that they could use for the rest of their lives. With the extra time, reading teachers at Guggenheim had their seventh and eighth graders reading more than 60 books a year on average.80 Eighth grade ISAT reading scores validate these programs’ effectiveness: 89.7 percent of students met or exceeded state standards in 2010 with 100 percent meeting or exceeding standards in 2011, well above the city average.81

Stokes, however, reduced these two-hour reading blocks to an hour and fifteen minutes.82 While it may have only removed 45 minutes from the daily schedule, Guggenheim students lost more than 100 hours of reading instruction over the course of the year. Stokes also eliminated the school’s leisure reading program, where staff and students would “drop everything and read” for 20 to 30 minutes each day.83 This program helped further grow the students’ interest in reading and provided much needed practice time. Guggenheim saw its ISAT Reading meets/exceeds percentage grow with these programs, rising from 32.5 percent in 2004 to 60 percent in 2010.84 One must wonder why a principal whose goal is to improve a “failing school” would choose to alter some of its most successful programs.


Despite requests for each position in the SIPAAA, Guggenheim had no official art, foreign language or physical education program when it was closed in 2012. The school had art for part of the 2009-2010 school year, but the short-lived program ended when the part-time art teacher passed away in the fall of 2010. In January 2012, after the school had been announced for closure, Guggenheim brought in a part-time music teacher.85 Prior to this, however, ISBE teacher service records indicate that the school did not have a music or foreign language teacher within the school’s last decade. Physical education was also eliminated from the curriculum, after the 2008-2009 school year.86

Guggenheim tried to use community partnerships to compensate for CPS’s neglect of fine arts instruction the school. In an attempt to “transform the culture,” Guggenheim partnered with Chicago Cares, a nonprofit organization that recruits volunteers to coordinate and perform community-building activities. Chicago Cares volunteers collaborated with students to paint about a dozen murals inside and outside the school. The group started a large mosaic outside the school, but it was left unfinished when the school closed in 2012. This partnership “beautified” Guggenheim while giving students an opportunity to experience art.87 The new administration also attracted two after-school activities that focused on the arts, SMART Club and Columbia College’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) program. These programs will be discussed in more detail in the “Supplementing the School Day: After-School and Summer Programming” section of this case study.

Research has discovered that arts education correlates with higher class attendance, lower drop-out rates and increased student ambition. Art and music programs can also enhance students’ confidence and self-image, develop their interpersonal skills, increase their creativity and improve their abstract reasoning.88 Physical education can help students stay fit, develop social skills, practice teamwork, improve concentration and self-esteem, and increase positive feelings toward school.89 In an increasingly global society, fluency in a foreign language can be extremely beneficial. Research also shows that learning a foreign language at an early age can increase students’ cognitive ability.90


Multiple Intelligence Instruction and Successful Community Partnerships

Before threats of closing, Guggenheim teachers attempted to give their students a full curriculum by incorporating fine arts into core subject instruction. Through this Multiple Intelligence curriculum—which incorporate many different skills, fields, and subjects, such as reading, art, culture and history, into the larger lesson—students could experience enrichment programs like art and music while reinforcing their reading and math lessons. Students also got the opportunity to learn not only through lecture but also through experiments and tactile lessons.

The Junior Great Books program utilized Multiple Intelligence by linking art, reading, and culture. In the program, students would discuss stories and create artwork based on the plot. This approach allowed the students to experience fine arts while engrossing them in the literature. The stories in the Junior Great Books program also supplemented teachers’ cultural education lessons. If students were reading a story about African culture, the Junior Great Books instructor could supplement the lesson by having students construct models of native African huts, make traditional African clothing or perform customary African dances. Guggenheim teachers also employed Multiple Intelligence instruction by partnering with the Chicago Urban League and the Chicago Dance Company to teach reading through fine arts.91

“Everything that was being presented in the classroom wound up in music or in the arts. The Junior Great Books program gave us a resident artist, so that when we were teaching about different cultures, [the instructor] would actually work with the students to create some of those cultures. Junior Great Books also tied mathematics to the art program. The instructor wove geometric concepts into the readings.… [In one lesson, students] used geometric figures to create the huts that were indicative to African culture. … The students needed that additional stimulation to get interested in reading.” – Freda Davis, Guggenheim teacher

“It is important to tie all curriculum areas in for kids to learn. During social studies, kids in my class were building maps using different colored clay. Then they chose one state and did research on it. That tied into our history fair as well.” – Freda Davis, Guggenheim teacher

With resources becoming scarcer, the Junior Great Books program ended in the early 2000s, and the partnerships with the Chicago Urban League and the Chicago Dance Company ended in the late 1990s. Teachers tried to still incorporate art and music into their lessons, but with the increased emphasis on standardized testing—especially with the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001—and limited funding for supplemental resources, many Guggenheim educators did not have the resources or time to educate the whole child.92


Inadequate Learning Materials

By the 2010s, quality textbooks and supplemental learning materials had become a luxury at Guggenheim. Teachers were forced to use outdated or low-quality textbooks to teach their students. Generally, teachers got new textbooks only through the Network’s free pilot programs with publishing companies, which eliminated any teacher input in the selection process. Some teachers attempted to bypass the administrative chaos by using Donors Choose, which allows people to donate money directly to specific programs at specific schools, and applying for funds from the Chicago Foundation for Public Education to purchase new textbooks for their classes, but these grants could not fully replace the money that teachers had once received for textbooks and materials.93

“The textbooks were horrible. I had to bring my own textbooks and teach. When I was hired, I told [Hubbird], let me sit with you and let’s choose books for the students. He didn’t even bother to respond.” – Henry Pera, Guggenheim teacher

Supplemental materials, such as reading books, lab equipment and journals were often not available or not supplied in sufficient quantities for the entire class. A veteran teacher stated that she had to start dipping into her own pocket for supplemental resources as early as 1995, with her personal expenses increasing through the 2000s. She would purchase a large selection of fiction books so her students could sharpen their reading skills. The teacher even bought extra textbooks when her class did not have enough for all students. Not having enough resources became the norm at Guggenheim, the veteran teacher reported. She would use her income from summer school classes to purchase the materials that her students needed to succeed.94

“I bought books from the companies that supply schools, doing what I had to do for the students to get scores up [and] give those kids enough confidence to make it.” – Freda Davis, Guggenheim teacher

Other teachers felt the pain of reduced supplemental supplies as well. The school’s science teacher described her science lab as a “hodgepodge” of incomplete and inadequate equipment.95 Reading kits that were used to evaluate a student’s skill level were not purchased in large enough quantities to be used for all children. The 3rd-through-5th graders were unable to use videos that accompanied their math textbooks because there was no money for repairs to the laptop that played these videos.96 Even basic classroom materials such as pencils, paper, tape, chalk, rulers and calculators, were in short supply. As years passed, teaching became more and more difficult as CPS dis-invested in the academic materials that could have allowed teachers to better instruct their class and guide their students for improvement.

There was no money for supplementals. If you didn’t buy them yourself, you didn’t have them. There was not enough money or materials to really help the students. … I spent a great deal of money to make sure my kids learned. That was the only option. That was my job.” – Freda Davis, Guggenheim teacher “In April, the principal used to come to us and say, ‘This is what’s left in the budget, order what you need for your classroom for the following year.’ That ended with Stokes.” – Rosie Burns, Guggenheim librarian


The Assistant Principal’s Attempted Disposal of Academic Materials

The new Guggenheim administration also played a role in the supply shortage. Insisting that the classrooms were “cluttered,” then-Assistant Principal Hubbird began entering teachers’ classrooms and throwing away textbooks and supplemental materials. Multiple teachers and staff reported that starting in August 2010, Hubbird went into classrooms and grabbed textbooks, lab equipment, books from classroom libraries, supplemental CDs and videos, classroom decorations, bulletin board materials, drama costumes and teachers’ personal items and threw them in a dumpster. Teachers tried to retrieve their materials but were not always able to recover everything. Teachers and staff stated that throughout the year, Hubbird continued snatching materials out of the classroom. One teacher mentioned she had to pack away the books from her classroom library each time Hubbird did observations to prevent him removing them her classroom. Office staff reported that he eventually started selling Guggenheim materials to book stores.97 These events did further damage to the level of trust and respect between teachers and the administration. [When interviewed by CTU for this report, Hubbird had no comment on these allegations, only saying that he believed that the teachers needed help with classroom organization and that he and Stokes focused professional development sessions on the issue.] The elimination of learning materials had a profound impact on student achievement. Teachers did not have enough materials to teach their lessons. The middle-grades science teacher had an incomplete set of textbooks from the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year to November (students had to share the textbooks that were recovered from the dumpster). Even when a publishing company’s pilot program allowed teachers to have new science textbooks, the accompanying lab materials—essential for a well-rounded science education—were not purchased. The science teacher had to purchase new lab materials so that her students could apply their knowledge through experimentation.

“In August of 2010, Mr. Hubbird threw away the school books: math, science, reading. Brand new National Geographic magazines, lab equipment, he threw them away.” – Kimberly Walls, Guggenheim teacher

“He went into my classroom and threw away my personal items, my books, CDs, things that I had for the classroom that I wanted to utilize. He went into the desk drawers, the bulletin board, [and] tore down everything that I had handmade. I had same masks that parents from my previous school had made for me when I was doing theater with the kids; he threw them away. He threw away the costumes, costumes that I got imported from Africa.” – Ifeoma Nkemdi, Guggenheim teacher


When Stokes and Hubbird came in to the school, they were able to bring a new computer lab to Guggenheim.98 Teachers used these refurbished computers for testing and supplemental programs but the students did not get the opportunity to use these computers for research. Without a technology coordinator, it was difficult to maintain the computers, which led to frequent outages. Guggenheim also did not have a technology class where students could learn how to use the machines. While having the computer lab certainly was a positive, Guggenheim was not fully utilizing the resource.99

While Guggenheim was lucky enough to have a library, the librarian, who worked at Guggenheim for 19 years, described it as “insufficient” in recent years. Since 2007, Guggenheim librarian Rosie Burns stated that she received no money from the school’s budget for books and supplies for her library. During that time, Burns purchased simple supplies such as tape, paper, pencils, crayons, glue, staplers and printer ink mostly out of her own pocket. Most of the library’s encyclopedias were more than seven years old, and with limited computer access, Guggenheim students found it difficult to complete any research projects without visiting the public library. Because of these shortcomings, Burns ensured that her students could easily apply for Chicago Public Library cards.100

Burns had to be creative to get the necessary supplies for her library. For the first few years after the devastating budget cuts, she took advantage of $500 grants from the Chicago Public Library—with an additional $500 matching grant from CPS—but this $1,000 was a sharp decline from the $5,000 a year she received prior to 2007. When the Chicago Public Library stopped giving these grants, however, it became even more difficult to keep the library current. Burns also utilized the Scholastic Book Fairs, where the company would sell books and supplies to students, parents, and faculty, with a portion of the profits going to the school’s library.101

“My last six years at Guggenheim, I didn’t receive any money for books and materials to go into the library. Ms. Baldwin [principal until 2007] would give me a budget of at least $5,000. After that, I couldn’t get any money out of anybody. The only way I would get money [was through] the Chicago Public Library, [which] awarded grants of $500, and if I got that $500, CPS would match it. So, I would get $1,000. I didn’t have a budget to get tape, pocket, or labels for me to keep up. Everything that I had, I had to always buy myself: crayons, glue, paint. I had to beg for ink. There was no ink for printers.” – Rosie Burns, Guggenheim librarian

Supplementing the School Day: After-School and Summer Programming

Guggenheim staff believed that after-school activities were essential to a well-rounded education. These activities, the staff stated, kept the students off the dangerous Englewood streets and helped solidify the school’s connection to the community. The faculty was able to learn more about their students’ lives and help them through their personal and familial problems, acting almost as pseudo-social workers. Academically, the students benefited from after-school programs that provided extra time to practice reading and math. The students also had the opportunity to enrich their education through arts and sports—programs that CPS did not offer at Guggenheim during the school day.102 Despite the successes of these programs at Guggenheim, CPS did not give the school any money for after-school programming for the 2011-2012 school year.103


Bringing Fine Arts, Athletics, Home Economics and Technology Back to Guggenheim: After-School All-Stars, CCAP and SMART Club

Prior to school closing attempts, After-School All-Stars (ASAS) was one of Guggenheim’s most popular after-school programs. Younger students played board games with their classmates and did arts and crafts under the direction of the school’s librarian. Older students participated in sewing, dance, drama, photography or technology. With physical education rarely offered at Guggenheim and the athletic program discontinued, students took advantage of ASAS’s sports clubs, competing in basketball, baseball, tennis and Double Dutch. Sherri Parker, coordinator of the program, believed that ASAS was an invaluable addition to the school’s programming.104

Guggenheim participated in the ASAS program from 2007 to 2011. For the program’s first four years, Parker received $1,000 for ASAS supplies. When the new administration took over for the 2010-2011 school year, however, the budget was cut in half. A year later, Parker, who had already purchased supplies out of her own pocket, was shocked when the ASAS office informed her that Principal Stokes had not completed her portion of the paperwork before the renewal deadline.105 Despite Parker’s lobbying, Guggenheim would not have ASAS for the 2011-2012 school year.

With the ASAS administrative blunder and the lack of funding allocated by CPS,
Guggenheim had to get creative to provide their students with supplemental programming. During the 2011-2012 school year, Guggenheim was accepted in Columbia College’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) program.106 CCAP served about 100 Guggenheim students, participating in drama, music and art activities. The new administration also applied for a grant from the Chicago Children First Fund to implement SMART Club, which provided similar activities as CCAP. Unlike CCAP, however, SMART Club employed Guggenheim teachers and staff to instruct the after-school classes. Since CPS closed the school in June 2012, these programs could not reach their full potential; the school did not have time to “work out the kinks.” Teachers indicated that CCAP and SMART Club were handcuffed by discipline problems at the school; just as agitated students began to take control of the classroom, they became more difficult to manage after school. The students knew that the end was near for Guggenheim, and they struggled to contain their emotions.


Sherri Parker also coordinated the school’s Supplemental Educational Services (SES) program. SES, mandated and funded by No Child Left Behind, was intended for all students who qualified for free or reduced lunch at schools that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress for two consecutive years or more.107 The school only had to pay for security during the time SES tutors were at the school. The SES provider onsite at Guggenheim supplied trained tutors (some of whom were Guggenheim teachers), giving struggling students an extra four hours of reading and math per week. An employee of the SES supplier who testified at the 2010 closing hearings stated that cuts in federal funding limited the number of students who could participate in SES.108 Parker reported that in 2011 and 2012, participation in the program was further reduced simply because the CPS-appointed administration would not provide the security necessary to expand the program.109

“I have seen [the Guggenheim staff’s] commitment in giving their personal time to meet with me to discuss … how we can address students in our curriculum. I have seen commitments from the students themselves, and I have seen commitments from parents.” – Scott Lovero, Supplemental Educational Services supplier at the February 3, 2010, community hearing


Summer School at Guggenheim

Until 2010, Guggenheim held a summer school program to provide struggling students with extra reading and math instruction. Keeping students on task during summer school was incredibly difficult, however, since Guggenheim did not have central air conditioning.110 (This problem also carried over into the first couple months of the school year.) Teachers had to leave windows and doors open to help alleviate the extreme heat, hoping that the additional noise would not distract students. The classrooms still remained extremely warm, however, and teachers believed that the temperature was a major hindrance to learning.111

“It was well over 100 degrees in the classroom, there’ s no air conditioning, windows are open, doors are open. You’re hoping that the noise from the hallway does not distract kids.” – Freda Davis, Guggenheim teacher


Financial Struggles, Questionable Spending and the Budget

Under the new administration, Guggenheim had difficulty paying for even the most basic supplies. Front office staff reported that the school went through four different bank accounts due to insufficient funds. One bank even refused to issue the school more checks because of a large number of uncovered payments. When teachers and staff attempted to purchase vital supplies for their classroom, after-school programs or special events, the school’s debit card was often rejected. Guggenheim developed a reputation in Englewood for bouncing checks and not paying for services, so when goods or services were absolutely necessary, they would have to visit different stores outside the community. Since Guggenheim did not have the money to buy the supplies, teachers and staff would have to pay for them out of their own pocket, often without any reimbursement from the school.112

“We couldn’t go to anything in the neighborhood anymore. We extended ourselves and went across Stony Island [Avenue] to get stuff, because they didn’t know about us over there.” – Alisha Atwater, Guggenheim staff

But was the cash shortage really so severe that the school’s administration could not allocate at least some more money for the library, textbooks, supplemental materials, or the homeless education program? While there was supposedly no money available for these essential supplies, programs or the countless of other things detailed in the SIPAAA and Action Plan, funds were used to pay for a DJ $800 for two hours of work. A Michael Jackson impersonator was hired for Halloween celebrations. Staff reported that the school’s administration told security personnel that they could stay as long as they wanted, because the school had to “get rid of the money anyway,” despite supposedly being unable to get the necessary security for afterschool enrichment programs.113

“[The SIPAAA money] didn’t come to my science lab, it wasn’t used for science materials. It didn’t come to Guggenheim students. It didn’t come to the teachers in the classroom.” – Kimberly Walls, Guggenheim teacher


A Closer Look at the Budget

The CPS Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) sheds some light on
Guggenheim’s financial situation. As teachers’ testimony would indicate, Guggenheim spent less money per student on regular expenditures—those spent directly by the school on things such as instruction—than the CPS average for elementary schools in four of Guggenheim’s last six years, including $1,302 less in 2012. This regular expenditure spending gap increased over time, with Guggenheim using $1,313 less than average per elementary pupil from 2010 to 2012, compared to only $407 less from 2007 to 2009.114 Given that an estimated one-third of the student body was homeless, the school’s high mobility rate, and the community’s limited access to wraparound services, Guggenheim needed more assistance than the average CPS elementary school to educate its students, not less

During the 2012 closing hearings, CPS stated that it spent an additional $1.5 million from 2010 to 2012 to help improve student achievement at Guggenheim.115 The CAFR, however, disputes this claim. CPS actually spent $2,198 less per pupil on regular expenditures—and $639,566 less across the school—on Guggenheim in 2012 than in 2010. CPS spent nearly $1,000 less per student on regular expenditures at Guggenheim in 2012 than it did in 2009, the year before the SIPAAA went into effect.116 If Guggenheim was receiving less money the year it was closed than it was previously, how can CPS claim that it “invested” in Guggenheim?

The school’s budget is determined by more than just the funding allocated by CPS; schools can also increase their budget through fundraising. While schools in wealthy neighborhoods can raise tens of thousands of dollars from parents and donors in the community for additional academic supplies and supplementary programming, impoverished areas like Englewood have to rely mostly on funding provided by CPS. Parents and community leaders in wealthy neighborhoods also tend to have more political power, allowing them to influence their elected officials to find new streams of funding for their schools. Politically connected charter school leaders also benefit from this often-overlooked advantage.

CPS also neglected to fund the long overdue capital projects. According to the Guggenheim Capital Improvement Program report, $4.1 million of the $5.4 million requested for construction and renovation was not funded as of December 2010, the most recent report available on the CPS website. Maintenance or full replacement was needed for a variety of projects, including windows, water pipes, the water heater, ventilation, the security system, fire alarms, fencing, the parking lot and lighting. Classrooms, the library, restrooms, the kitchen, and the lunchroom were among the rooms awaiting maintenance. No renovation or construction project had been completed since 2004. A full six years went by without any of these projects funded by CPS.117 This may give some credence to teachers’ speculation that CPS had for long been planning to close Guggenheim.

“If we think there’s a chance that a building is going to be closed in the next five to 10 years, if we think it’s unlikely it’s going to continue to be a school, we’re not going to invest in that building.” – Tim Cawley, CPS Chief Administrative Officer, as reported by Noreen Ahmed-Ullah of the Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2011

Community Disengagement: 2012 Closing

In 2012, CPS completed what it could not do in 2010: close Guggenheim. CPS claimed that it had given Guggenheim the resources and supports necessary to improve, but the school was still “failing its students.” Guggenheim students, CPS argued, could get a better education at Bond Elementary, despite the proposed receiving school having similar test scores (See Appendix E more information).118 CPS failed to mention the numerous resources and programs that it neglected to provide the school (despite promising many of them in the SIPAAA): up-todate textbooks for each student, sufficient supplemental materials, complete science lab equipment, modern and operable technology, fine arts and music instruction, physical education, foreign languages, cultural education, small class sizes, focused parental involvement and education, and fully resourced after-school activities. Despite consistent testimony from parents and teachers during the hearings, the district also did not address the damage inflicted on Guggenheim by the administration that CPS selected to lead the school.

On November 30, 2011, Guggenheim parents received notice via a three-page template letter from CEO Jean-Claude Brizard that he intended to recommend the school for closure. The letter contained the exact same phrasing and format as the notice to parents of Florence B. Price Elementary, another school closed in 2012.119 There would be two community hearings, held not at the school but at Shiloh Baptist Church, so parents, students, teachers and staff could “share feedback” on the proposed closing and “provide alternate proposals or other suggestions.”120 Unlike Administrators McNair and Clay during the 2010 hearings, Stokes and Hubbird were not among those to “share feedback” on the school that they managed. At the hearings (the second of which took place despite a severe snow storm that led to the cancellation of all other CPS activities), CPS presented its argument to an undereducated community through a statistic-heavy PowerPoint presentation. No questions or comments were permitted during the presentation. Members of the community were then allowed to speak for two minutes, assuming that they signed up early enough. CPS representatives would occasionally provide talking point responses to community members, but questions and concerns presented by the speakers usually went without a direct answer and without further discussion. There was no real dialogue between CPS and community; the hearings were rigidly structured, clearly placing CPS as the judge, jury and executioner.121

“I think that as authentic community engagement goes, [the hearings] were horrible. I think that no matter what people said, it didn’t seem like anything was going to change. Those who handled the program quite clearly were in charge, and the people whose school it was were of diminished concern in those meetings.” – Rene Heybach, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Guggenheim teachers and staff admitted that they used the hearings as venue to express anger, feeling that it was impossible to fight off CPS again. Guggenheim “had new teachers who did not have strong connections to the school, and those that did [have strong connections] were exhausted” from the 2010 fight, science teacher Kimberly Walls recalled. Teachers and parents chastised CPS for failing to fulfill the SIPAAA and for neglecting to provide the school with the resources it needed to succeed, but the district had already broken the morale of the school.122 Parents were furious by the administration’s mishandling of the school and the attempted transfer of Guggenheim’s homeless students (see next section) and presented a petition to remove Hubbird as principal.123 Hubbird, of course, did not attend the hearings to address these concerns.

Transferring the Homeless

Under the Illinois School Code, schools are required to provide students suffering from homelessness with free transportation, free uniforms and waivers from all other school fees.124 Schools receive Title I funds specifically for this purpose. According to staff, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and correspondence from the CPS Students in Temporary Living Situations network coordinator, newly-promoted Principal Hubbird was not honoring these rights. [See Appendix F for an email from STLS to Hubbird informing him of the rights of homeless students. In an interview with CTU, Hubbird alleged that he did not have any problems getting these items for his students. The email and testimony from Guggenheim staff dispute this claim.] Sherri Parker, Guggenheim paraprofessional and the school’s homeless liaison, did her best to ensure that homeless families had the resources guaranteed to them under the law by calling regular meetings of homeless parents, where she served meals and distribute bus cards. Since CPS failed to provide the legally required uniforms, Parker also inquired with community organizations about donating school uniforms for the students.125

“[Sherri Parker] and the principal were really night and day. We never had a friendly feeling about [Hubbird’s] concern for homeless students. Nothing he did ever made us feel that he was embracing them or services to them. All the things [Parker] was doing to keep people together were, I think, being undermined by the principal.” – Rene Heybach, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

The Illinois School Code also states that homeless families have the right of “continuing the child’s education in the school of origin”—the school where the child was enrolled when he/she had permanent housing—”for as long as the child remains homeless or, if the child becomes permanently housed, until the end of the academic year during which housing is acquired.”126 During the 2011 Winter Break, however, Guggenheim homeless parents began receiving phone calls demanding that they provide proof of address. Hubbird told the office staff there were many homeless students attending the school that did not reside within Guggenheim’s attendance boundaries. These students, Hubbird alleged, needed to prove their address to remain at the school.127

“We were contacted by people who said, ‘Hey, they’re forcing us to leave.’ We’re getting these transfer forms taped to our door or slid under our door or we stepped up to the [front] desk and they tell us, ‘You should go now, there’ll be no teachers left when you get back.’ Others were saying, ‘You don’t belong in this school and you have to leave.’ Because they had a handy list of the kids experiencing homelessness, and they had a liaison who knew all those families, they heavily concentrated on homeless families. Under the Illinois School Code, that violates their rights; [they] have a right to stay and can’t be made to go.” – Rene Heybach, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Hubbird gave office staff a script to follow when calling the families.128 The principal also requested additional teachers and staff to come into the school over break and “encourage” parents to transfer their students.129 According to letters from parents and the testimony of parties involved, Hubbird and the office staff called Guggenheim homeless parents and said that it was in the families’ “best interest to transfer [their] kids” because “the teachers were not showing up at the school” after Winter Break.130 Shortly after receiving the call, Hubbird or the office staff delivered an official CPS transfer form to the students’ home, listing the child’s contact and enrollment information. There was a blank for the families to fill in the school where they wished to be transferred. See Appendix G for parent letters and email correspondence regarding the attempted transfers.

PHOTO #3 (Chicago Public Schools- Student Transfer Issued 12/28/2011)

“Mr. Hubbird told us the children were being transferred because he had found better schools for them to go to and when we came back, the teachers were going to be using their [sick] days, being that we were closing. He said the teachers will not be there.” – Alisha Atwater, Guggenheim staff

Concerned parents contacted the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Guggenheim teachers and parents organized a meeting at a local laundromat so the Coalition could inform homeless parents of their rights. The Coalition also agreed to set up a legal clinic outside the school and to contact all homeless parents and offer assistance.131

Meanwhile, Hubbird attempted to cover up the push to transfer students. In an emergency Saturday meeting, Hubbird told the front office staff not to speak with any Central Office or Network employees but rather to direct all questions to him. He also tried to confiscate the script used when contacting parents.132 When parents without identification later attempted to testify about the transfers at a Board hearing, Hubbird instructed office staff not to fax the information they needed to enter the building. [Many of the parents did not have official state identification, so the school needed to confirm their status.]133

Rather than focusing on strategies to educate students in temporary living situations, Guggenheim’s principal spent his time—as well as occupying the time of others—encouraging, (at best) or threatening homeless families to transfer to another school (at worst). Despite a myriad of problems facing the school, Hubbird chose to pay his employees not to find solutions but rather to counsel out the most difficult-to-educate students. This action not only violated the law but also attempted to fracture and destabilize the community.

During an interview with Hubbird for this report, he stated that he had no comment on his role in the attempted transferring of homeless students.

“People there expressed a feeling that he was there to kill the school, that it’s a foregone conclusion that [Guggenheim was] going to close. Some people thought that was his motivation to push everyone out early, before there was even a proper process.” – Rene Heybach, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Transitioning for the End

On February 22, 2012, the Board of Education approved the closure of Guggenheim.134 The school was now in transition mode. CPS laid out its plan to “make specific investments in additional instructional programming and personnel support at Guggenheim.”135 Sadly, Guggenheim had to wait until it was marked for closure for CPS to institute and fulfill a plan for investment.

CPS scheduled two open houses at Bond, one at the end of the 2011-2012 school year and a “welcome back night” at the beginning of the next year. These were intended to “give Guggenheim students an opportunity to become familiar with their new school and meet their teachers and administrators.”136 Given the high mobility at Guggenheim, two open houses hardly seem like enough time for students to assimilate to their new school. CPS’s misunderstanding of this problem could explain why only a third of Guggenheim students actually enrolled at Bond for the 2012-2013 school year. This frightening number is discussed in further detail later in this section.


Transitional Academic Resources for Guggenheim Students

CPS declared that it would add an “instructional leader, such as a retired principal, to ensure that students are receiving the instruction they need to progress and accelerate their learning” and that “classroom quality remains high so that students that do not lose any momentum or fall behind in the transition process.”137 Hubbird selected the principal for this role from Kershaw Elementary, where he once taught. Teachers reported, however, that the “instructional leader” rarely interacted with them. If the instructional leader noticed areas of possible improvement in teaching style or classroom management, she did not notify the teachers so these changes could be made and students could benefit more from their last months at Guggenheim. Teachers in the most difficult teaching situations, like Nkemdi in her 38-student class, did not receive the feedback or suggestions from the instructional leader that she needed to manage her classroom.138

“I guess she was Mr. Hubbird’s mentor. All I saw her doing was walking, standing, looking, and then typing something into a laptop. I never knew what she was writing, because she never came to me about anything.” – Rosie Burns, Guggenheim librarian


CPS dedicated only two paragraphs of the ten-page Transition Plan to handling the transition of homeless students. Representatives of CPS’s Educational Supports for Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS) program were made available at Guggenheim “at set times two days per week from March 1, 2012, until the end of the school year.”139 STLS employees worked personally with the families, forming relationships with them and figuring out what assistance they would need to transition successfully to their new school. Independent from STLS, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless also provided regular assistance to Guggenheim families.

With STLS and the Coalition giving special attention to this vulnerable group, it appeared that the homeless students may make a successful transition. Over the summer, however, STLS was “reorganized.” The manager of the STLS program, Tabatha Koylass, terminated most of the staff and brought in new employees. The transition of STLS resulted in lost information and a disruption of the personal connections that homeless families desperately need. The people who knew which services the families needed and how to get in contact with those families were gone. CPS reported at the August 23, 2012, meeting of Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force that, at that time, the enrollment status of a majority of former Guggenheim students was a mystery. The district did not even have current contact information for more than half of the former Guggenheim students.140


Continued Chaos at STLS

Until mid-March 2013, Tabatha Koylass’s six months leading STLS marked the only time during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration that the top position in the CPS homeless education program has been filled with a permanent employee. In March 2013, CPS finally replaced Koylass, who was promoted to a “city wide school improvement” position before the start of the 2012-2013 school year. CPS promoted Amber Damerow, who previously worked as STLS resource coordinator. The resource coordinator position is now vacant, just as CPS proposes to close 54 schools, affecting 2,865 homeless students at closing and receiving schools.


“[STLS staff is] sitting and talking to families and making requests, and figuring out who needs what, etc. And then, more or less, she decided to fire all the people who had direct contact working with us and with homeless people at Guggenheim. And in the fall, Tabatha Koylass leaves on the eve of the start of the new school year. So what happens is [CPS] can’t find half these families. They don’t have the phone numbers, just what you would predict would happen! People in [temporary living] situations, they need personal relationships. They need people who know that even if Tamika’s family is moved, she stays in touch with grandma, and those people know how to get a hold of grandma. You don’t just call old phone numbers and mail things to old addresses, that doesn’t work.… That whole Guggenheim thing is a perfect example of what not to do.” – Rene Heybach, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

The Task Force, incredibly disturbed that CPS had made no attempt to track these students, demanded that CPS locate them. After the Task Force requested this vital information for months, CPS finally presented the data at the Task Force’s February meeting. The data reflected the community’s accounts of the disastrous transition at Guggenheim. Only 36.7 percent of non-graduating Guggenheim students enrolled at the designated receiving school, Bond Elementary. Ten percent of non-graduating Guggenheim students dropped out, left the district or could not be located.141 CPS did not provide definitive information for another 23 former Guggenheim students.142 Combined, these figures equal 19 percent of Guggenheim’s student body. If CPS could not handle the transition of about 250 Guggenheim students in four months, how can it properly plan for the transfer of the approximately 16,000 students at schools proposed for closure in 2013 in only one month? CPS is attempting to close 50 more schools in three less months and the amount of students unaccounted of at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year—or whenever CPS decides to actually track these displaced students—will be exponentially higher. CPS is either suffering from delusions of grandeur or it has not even taken the time to consider the logistics of its irresponsible actions. During the last few weeks at Guggenheim, reality began to sink in for the students. Learning became a secondary concern with nearly all attention fixated on the school’s imminent closure. Students became increasingly edgy and belligerent, making it practically impossible for teachers to control their classrooms. The students struggled to deal with their emotions and expressed their frustration through violence. Fights broke out between the students. The students even conveyed their anger at the principal himself. With Principal Hubbird watching, a student threw a brick through his car window. In a community where hardship and adversity are the norm, the students felt neglected and no longer cared about the consequences of their actions.143

“It was a really dangerous situation. The kids, it hit them about a week before, and then they started crying and became angry, Mr. Hubbird’s car window was broken into. The kids let him see them do it. … They had been together since kindergarten. They fought, they made up and then it kind of hit them. ‘Not only are we graduating, but we’re the last class.’” – Sherri Parker, Guggenheim paraprofessional

The CPS Blueprint for School Destabilization

The story of Guggenheim’s demise is truly reprehensible. It started as far back as the 1990s when CPS began limiting teachers’ access to supplemental materials. Reduced resources, as well as the overwhelming amount of standardized testing that accelerated in the 2000s with No Child Left Behind, forced teachers to alter their curricula and schools to eliminate enrichment programs. At Guggenheim, the school cut fine arts and ended partnerships with organizations that provided supplemental Multiple Intelligence instruction, linking different subject areas into the same lesson. Later in the decade, Guggenheim had to cancel or condense its after-school programming because of limited resources.

Despite a large homeless population, high mobility rates, limited access to wraparound services and inability to fundraise for additional resources, CPS did not provide Guggenheim with extra materials and supports. Not having enough resources became the norm for Guggenheim teachers; they routinely had to make-do with incomplete sets of materials. Textbooks were scarce and students had to share them with their classmates. Teachers had to spend even more of their own money on classroom resources because, as a tenured teacher explained, “If you didn’t buy them yourself, you didn’t have them.”

Rather than having small classes, which have been proven to improve student performance, CPS created split-level classrooms full of students at drastically different levels of educational and emotional development. With their limited resources and often without a paraprofessional, teachers were expected to balance their instruction to reach each individual student. CPS allowed class sizes to balloon out of control, exemplified by a 42-student 3rd grade class. Still, no new teachers or PSRPs were brought in; rather, the administration only addressed the teacher’s “nightmare” by simply shifting a handful of the students to the 2 or 4th grade classrooms.

Guggenheim had a revolving door of administrators with three principals heading the school in only two years. This instability severely hindered Guggenheim’s chance to cultivate any legitimate, school-based plan for improvement. CPS, however, pushed forward with its own plan, setting up the school for closure. To lead the school from the brink of closure in 2010, CPS selected a principal with no connection to Guggenheim and only one year of experience as an assistant principal. Guggenheim’s new administrators implemented strategies that defied research on school improvement. The new administration proceeded to destabilize the school, disregarding the SIPAAA and teacher-devised Action Plan. They pressured experienced teachers out, and even more egregiously, left their positions vacant for months. The 3rd graders lost five months of productive academic time. Fourth graders lost two months of sustained learning. Middle grade students lost two months of proper math instruction. The failure to replace teachers and leaving more than 100 students without a trained teacher—at a school that is supposed to be receiving extra supports—is completely unacceptable.

The new administration methodically detached Guggenheim from the community by restricting parent access to the building and making it more difficult for families to schedule meetings with the principals. LSC meeting dates were no longer posted in visible locations. This lack of awareness essentially killed the LSC, which only met three times from 2010 to 2012. The CPSpicked administration treated parents and teachers not as partners for improvement, but rather as enemies that needed to be destabilized.

When the school was announced for closure, Stokes, who did not respond to CTU’s request for an interview, “bailed” on Guggenheim. Rather than testifying that he wanted to keep his school open, newly-promoted Principal Hubbird accelerated the closing process by masterminding a plan to “encourage” homeless families to transfer their students to another school, marking the beginning of a disastrous transition. Despite leading the school for two years, neither Hubbird nor Stokes even attended the community hearings on the proposed closing of Guggenheim in 2012.144

Where was CPS when all of this chaos and disarray was happening at Guggenheim? At the 2012 closing hearings, CPS proclaimed that it had given Guggenheim all the supports it needed to succeed, but the district made no significant attempt to intervene during this tumultuous time at the school. The turbulence at Guggenheim should have triggered alarm at 125 South Clark Street, but the district remained aloof, allowing the school and its administration to spiral further out of control.

Despite CEO Brizard and Mayor Emanuel’s perfunctory visit to the school, CPS did not understand the internal and external struggles that the Guggenheim community faced. Guggenheim had overcrowded classrooms, an incomplete curriculum, inadequate instructional materials and a detached and unavailable administration. These factors were clear indicators that in order to improve student achievement at Guggenheim, CPS needed to invest in proven solutions such as small class sizes, ambitious and enriched curriculum, increased parental involvement and collaborative and visionary administrators. Brizard and Emanuel got their photo-op, but the students of Guggenheim never received the assistance and investment they needed.

While only 42 percent of 2011-2012 Guggenheim teachers have full-time jobs in CPS, Stokes and Hubbird were both “rewarded” for their “progress” at Guggenheim with new administrative jobs—both at schools on probation—leaving the community voiceless in the decision. In their short careers, Stokes and Hubbird have been administrators at four different schools. Stokes started as an assistant principal at Alfred David Kohn Elementary and is now principal at Garrett A. Morgan Elementary in Auburn Gresham. Guggenheim was Hubbird’s first school as an administrator; he is now principal at Mahalia Jackson Elementary, less than a mile from Morgan. If this year’s proposed closings are approved, all four of the schools run by Stokes and Hubbird—Guggenheim, Kohn, Morgan and Mahalia Jackson—will be closed to students in the fall of 2013.

We cannot allow CPS to continue systemically dismantling and destabilizing neighborhood schools like the district did at Guggenheim. Luckily, educators such as Sherri Parker, Kimberly Walls, Ifeoma Nkemdi, Henry Pera, Cassandra Love-Vaughn, Freda Davis, Alisha Atwater and Rosie Burns; and community leaders like Rene Heybach, are still advocating for the schools Chicago’s students deserve. We must reach out to these educators, listen to their stories, and fight with them as they demand resources and a stable school climate so their students can reach their full potential.

 

Next Section: The Culture of Fear Continues

 

 

Next Section: The Culture of Fear Continues