The Story of One Chicago School

26 Mar


The following comes to me from Luc Miknaitis who was a CPS teacher before he moved with his wife to New Zealand.  He was a teacher at Bethune Elementary School, which recently became one of 60 casualties of Rahm Emanuel’s crusade against the children of this city.  I don’t agree with everything he says, but I can certainly understand his frustration.  I think it speaks for itself:

I hate you, Chicago! I just found out that the school that I worked hard at for almost four years with talented, dedicated professionals is closing. That building has so much sweat and work put into it. Layers of new paint, air conditioners just installed (with electrical work redone), computer labs, and countless other efforts have physically transformed that building. All of which is just a shadow of the environmental and (dare I say?) spiritual change that we wrestled into it. 

For those that don’t know, Bethune was the school Arthur Agee (of Hoop Dreams documentary fame) attended. It was ranked the worst school in the state of Illinois four years ago and probably before that. The special education department was under two layers of state sanctions for failing to meet any sort of organizational or professional standards. So the school was turned around (ie new staff hired). 

That first year was spent teaching students that school was about learning and that adults cared and demand respect. It was a lesson that we had to teach and reteach time and again due to one of the highest mobility rates in the city. I, with one other staff, chased a 12 year old down and took a gun off of him after school, that first year. 

This neighborhood is rampant with drugs, violence and the pervasive sense of hopelessness. We gave that community something to fight that. We had battered mothers seeking refuge at that school. We had students staying around at all hours because it was safe and there were adults that cared about them. We taught the students that it wasn’t their fault that they were behind and that we were in the process of doing something about it. 

Now Rahm is throwing that all away. He is jamming our students into another school with others. I’m sure parent rooms, special ed/case manager’s offices, social workers’ offices (ie closets) will all be done away with. I’m sure that teachers will become disillusioned quicker and leave their career sooner. I’m sure that kids will lose even more trust in the system that has already failed them for generations. 

Chicago, you need to get rid of Rahm. He is a terrible human being whose ideas for progress are not only misguided in intent, but also tactically. How can he be saving money by closing a freshly redone school? 

I’m glad that I’m gone so I don’t have to deal with this. I’m actually sick to my stomach.

–Luc Miknaitis
“We had an amazing interview with Karen Lewis last night. Powerful. If you didn’t have a chance to listen here is the link.

Karen Lewis stops by to talk to Shaun and Tim. Why? Because we’re good looking of course.”

““This has been very difficult… There is a lot of anguish and I understand that and I appreciate it,” said Emanuel, who appeared to have windburn from his Utah skiing trip.”
“Chicago announced plans to close 54 schools; the most drastic number of closings at one time in the US. Does shutting down schools address the root of the problem?”
“Declaring themselves the Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, they marched from Chicago Public Schools headquarters to City Hall to deliver a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel demanding a moratorium on school closings and a publicly elected Board of Education.”

5 Responses to “The Story of One Chicago School”

  1. Bethune Veteran Teacher March 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Luc, how do you think we felt, the teachers at Bethune before AUSL, who were fired unjustly when WE worked so hard to build community, trust, and confidence in the North Lawndale community? You were fortunate to continue the work we began (some of us for over a decade). But we did it in unairconditioned, paint chipped, under resourced classrooms. We did it without the help of millions of dollars of capital improvements from AUSL. And what amazes me, as I watched Bethune’s “progress’ over the past four years (with all the resources) was the test scores actually went down. Speaks VOLUMES about the AUSL test prep curriculum. So when you talk about getting sick, think of the lives and careers of all the dedicated hard workers who came before you.

    • cps299 March 26, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      This was my issue with printing Luc’s letter. I have known some great people who came out of AUSL turnaround schools, but I know many more who were let go when AUSL came in. I still think it’s worth nothing that a student in junior high had their life turned upside down once by a turnaround already.

    • Luc March 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

      That is an excellent point and one that I frankly never considered as I thought about this. Thank you


  1. Protest-Happy CTU | District 299: The Inside Scoop on CPS - March 26, 2013

    […] The Story of One Chicago School CPS Chatter: The following comes to me from Luc Miknaitis who was a CPS teacher before he moved with his wife to New Zealand.  He was a teacher at Bethune Elementary School, which recently became one of 60 casualties of Rahm Emanuel’s crusade against the children of this city. […]

  2. Bethune | Every Chicago Public School is My School - March 26, 2013

    […] Luc Miknaitis, a former teacher at the school, describes the effort to build a new school culture: […]

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