This Week in CPS: Board Meeting Wednesday

Wednesday’s Board Meeting: Sexual Abuse Response

Perhaps the top priority at Wednesday’s school board meeting is the expected transfer of responsibility for investigating sexual abuse allegations from the Chicago Public Schools Law Department to the CPS Office of the Inspector General. As WBEZ reported, CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler requested this authority earlier in June, saying there was an inherent conflict of interest for the law department to investigate cases while at the same time having the duty to protect the district from possible lawsuits.

CPS has also asked the Inspector General’s office to review all cases going back to 2000 and has pledged to invest resources in the office to support these new responsibilities. (Schuler has said he would need to increase staff to take on these new duties.) An additional benefit of the new arrangement should be greater transparency. The Inspector General’s annual report should let the public know the number of cases investigated each year and the findings.

Meanwhile, CPS is also negotiating a contract with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (ChicagoCAC) to beef up training for school staff on how to respond to allegations of sexual abuse. In a statement, ChicagoCAC executive director Char Rivette said, “Although our state’s mandated reporter law is designed to protect children from sexual abuse, it is too often our experience that most professionals do not fully understand the law, their responsibilities or how to spot, report and prevent abuse. This problem is not limited to only CPS. It is one we see at many youth-serving organizations, including athletic and daycare programs.” According to the Chicago Tribune, the district is prepared to spend “at least $150,000” on the new partnership. At press time it was unknown whether this contract would be ready for a board vote on Wednesday. The district has already announced it would spend up to $2 million on additional background checks for school employees, volunteers and vendors.

Wednesday’s board meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. at 42 W. Madison Street. Information on how to register to speak or observe can be found here.

Elected School Board Bill in Limbo; Activists Plan Sing-A-Long Wednesday

About a year ago, the Illinois State Senate passed HR 1774, a bill that would create an elected school board for Chicago. The House had already passed a different version of the measure. At the time, Gov. Bruce Rauner predicted a final unified bill would never come to his desk. So far, he’s right.

But activists from Illinois Raise Your Hand continue to press lawmakers to move the bill to Rauner’s desk. This Wednesday, they’ll be hosting a sing-a-long in front of the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, starting at 9:30 a.m.

No Summer Learning Slide for Teachers: ISTE Conference, Freshman Success Institute

Summer vacation just started, and already many teachers are diving into conferences and institutes to help them hone their skills. This week, Chicago hosts the annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education, which brings 22,000 educators and ed-tech vendors together for a week of geeking out, including the debut of a two-day student Hackathon. Common Sense Media will be offering “sneak peeks” of its revamped digital citizenship curriculum at the conference, too. If you’re not there, follow Education Week reporters Benjamin Herold (@BenjaminBHerold) and Sarah Schwartz (@s_e_schwartz) on Twitter for the latest.

Also this week, the University of Chicago’s Network for College Success hosts its third annual National Freshman Success Institute. High schools from across the country are sending teams of staff to learn best practices in keeping freshmen on-track to graduate. CPS first began making serious efforts to boost freshmen on-track rates in 2007. Over the subsequent decade, the freshman on-track rate rose from a baseline of 57 percent to 89 percent in the 2016-17 school year, the latest on record. Network for College Success has worked intensively with many of Chicago’s neighborhood high schools to help them analyze data on student attendance and grades to devise evidence-based interventions, from lunchtime tutoring to changes in course scheduling, that help students succeed.

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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