Protesting School Closings in Chicago — story by Jim Vail for Substance News

[Last night concluded the hearings scheduled by the Chicago Board of Education to allow community members and teachers to comment on the 14 projected school closings for the year.  Parading politely in front of the school board does not guarantee that the Board will listen.  Last year it took massive demonstrations from schools through the Chicago area to limit the casualties.  This year, as the story below from Substance News shows, parents, students and teachers will protest the school closings even more vigorously.  Note that when a school is “turned around,” the entire staff is fired (some may be rehired). Closed schools may be replaced by charter schools where staff does not fall under bargaining unit of the Chicago Teachers Union.  Charter schools are also not under the oversight of elected Local School Councils.   The report below was filed at Substance News by Jim Vail.  For  extensive coverage on the school closings issue and much more, see the Substance News Website. —Lew Rosenbaum]

Massive protests lead up to final hearing on Chicago’s 2010 Hit List… Guggenheim school children go to the mayor’s office, Bradwell school facing ‘turnaround’ turns hearing around against Chicago policies…

Jim Vail – February 11, 2010

More than 400 teachers, parents, students and others concerned about Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s ‘Renaissance 2010’ plan to close or radically change 14 more schools this year picketed outside the Board of Education building in Chicago’s Loop on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 before many headed into the final school closing hearing. The hearing inside the building, the last of 14 this year, was on a proposal by ‘Chief Executive Officer’ Ron Huberman to subject Bradwell Elementary School on Chicago’s South Side to what is called “turnaround.”

More than 50 students from Chicago’s Guggenheim Elementary School unfurled a banner outside the fifth floor offices of Mayor Richard M. Daley during protests against this year’s round of school closings, consolidations, phase outs, and turnarounds that swirled through Chicago’s Loop on February 10, 2010. The students and their families asked to speak with the mayor, whose office was a few feet away. Instead, they were shunted to a mid-level press aide, who demanded to know what the school’s test scores and attendance had been. Substance photo by Jackson Potter.

During the protest another dramatic twist to the mounting opposition to Ciy Hall’s privatization plans arrived in the form of a bus load of Guggenheim Elementary School students. The students, from one of Chicago’s most famous communities (Englewood) were dropped off at Mayor Richard Daley’s fifth floor office at City Hall to present him with a petition why their school should not be closed. Guggenheim found itself on this year’s Hit List for “closing” (not “turnaround”) and has been protesting since the hearings began on January 28.

At City Hall, over 50 students unveiled a banner that read ‘Save Our School.’ Letters written to the Mayor were presented to one of his press secretaries who then promptly asked the two questions the school closing hearings have been focused on for the past two weeks: “What are your test scores?” and “What is your attendance?”

Guggenheim teacher Kimberly Walls told him their school had the fifth highest reading score in their Area and their attendance is above the 90th percentile. They demanded that the Mayor meet with them within a week.

My Dad is already out of work

A young child in a stroller says it all on the picket line of more than 400 teachers, students, and parents at the Chicago Board of Education headquarters on February 10, 2010. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

Back down the street to the Board of Education hearing chambers — yet another high-powered political player rose up in defiance to the Board’s plans to make Bradwell Elementary School a turnaround school that would fire its entire staff from teachers and administrators to cafeteria workers and janitors.

“I am here to respectfully request that you do not make Bradwell a turnaround school,” Alderman Sandi Jackson told the hearing officer before a packed attendience filled with yellow-shirted Bradwell children and adults who broke into a loud applause.

Sandi Jackson is now the fifth Chicago alderman to speak out against school’s chief Ron Huberman’s plan to close 14 public schools based on his performance criteria. Jackson was one of a couple of aldermen, including Pat Dowell, to speak against school closings in their wards last year. However, not one addressed the Board of Education and its members who voted to close 16 schools last year.

Ironically enough – Sandi Jackson’s brother-in-law, Jonathan Jackson, was the only high-profile speaker at last year’s Board meeting who lambasted Daley’s school closing plan that has resulted in a spike in violence in the schools. He also spoke out at the Guggenheim school hearing and the Board of Education meeting and hosted a large Guggenheim contingent at his Rainbow PUSH forum. Sandi Jackson is the wife of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and daughter-in-law of Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of Operation PUSH.

As the Board presented its “case” for doing turnaround to Bradwell, more and more people noted on and off the record that the absurd was on display at the Bradwell hearing. The Board made a long presentation that included a lengthy list of exceptions to a school being closed or reconstituted with a turnaround. One of the exceptions was that if the principal had a contract and served in the school for less than two years, the school could not be subjected to turnaround.

Bradwell Principal Justin Moore who has only served one year at a school in which test scores have increased, attendance has increased and fighting had decreased to zero would seem to perfectly fit that criteria. However, he is an interim principal, not on contract as the Board stipulates.

“Alderman Jackson has been in our building three times and has been a principal for the day,” Moore said. “We have a partnership with the Black United Fund and we’ve had zero fights. But I’ll be honest – until we got that letter (the turnaround termination note). We then had three fights after that letter came.”

Moore pleaded that the Board give him one more year.

“Please give me one more year,” Moore said before he wiped a tear away. “Our students have bonded with us. We have a lot of challenges in our community. A lot of our students spend more time with their teachers than their families. Over 200 parents came to our Family Math and Literacy nights. We had a 16% increase in report card pick up. We build it and they come. We will outperform AUSL’s Sherman School of Excellence. We will outperform the Harvard School of Excellence. And of course we will outperform the Dulles, Bethune and Johnson (AUSL Turnarounds voted on last year). I cannot be held accoutable for what happened in 2007.” 


Labor Film Database

DC Labor Film Festival

LABOR FILM, FESTIVAL DATABASES IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The DC Labor FilmFest’s <;Online Labor Film Database is this week’s Labor Website of the Week at Union Communications Services, which says “This is an incredibly comprehensive listing of labor films. If you’re into movies that depict the lives of working people, you’ll want to check this out.” The Labor Film and Labor Film Festival databases were also written up last month on the AFL-CIO’s blog. The Labor Film Database provides brief descriptions of over 1,500 labor-themed films, while the Labor Film Festival <>database lists labor film festivals around the world. Both are sponsored by the D.C. Labor FilmFest and co-sponsored by <;LabourStart.

Exhibit of labor film posters and stills at AFL-CIO

The White Stripes, the Super Bowl and the Air Force — commentary by Dave Itzoff in the New York TImes

[Dave Itzoff, columnist for the New York Times, writes the ArtsBeat blog as well.  In it here, he reports on how at 9 AM  FEB. 9 The White Stripes issued a statement opposing the Air Force using their music to promote recruitment.  Shortly thereafter the Air Force removed the commercial, which had aired during the Super Bowl, from their web site.  By 6 pm that same day the composer of the Air Force commercial music said he “truly, truly, truly” had no idea there was a similarity, he had no intention of copying the White Stripes.  But this is not an argument about copyright, entirely.  It is an argument about art and the politics for which it is used — Lew Rosenbaum]

White Stripes Protest Super Bowl Ad for Air Force Reserve


Update | 2:55 p.m. In song, at least, the band the White Stripes has boasted that it can hold off a seven-nation army. But now that rock group is taking on an entire branch of the United States Armed Forces, contending that it misused one of the band’s songs in a commercial that was promoted as a Super Bowl Sunday ad.

At issue is a commercial for the Air Force Reserve, set to an instrumental track that the White Stripes say is an unauthorized version of their song “Fell in Love With a Girl.” To make the point, at the Web site of its record label, Third Man Records, the band has juxtaposed the video for that song with a link to the Air Force Reserve commercial, inviting listeners to judge for themselves. (Update: the commercial appears to have been pulled from the Air Force Reserve Web site.)

In a statement posted Monday evening on the Third Man Records site, the White Stripes wrote:

We believe our song was re-recorded and used without permission of the White Stripes, our publishers, label or management.

The White Stripes take strong insult and objection to the Air Force Reserve presenting this advertisement with the implication that we licensed one of our songs to encourage recruitment during a war that we do not support.

The White Stripes support this nation’s military, at home and during times when our country needs and depends on them. We simply don’t want to be a cog in the wheel of the current conflict, and hope for a safe and speedy return home for our troops.

We have not licensed this song to the Air Force Reserve and plan to take strong action to stop the ad containing this music.

Blaine Warren Advertising, the company that created the advertisement for the Air Force Reserve, said on Tuesday morning that it would be issuing a statement later in the day.

February 9, 2010, 5:39 pm

<!– — Updated: 5:41 pm –>

Musician Apologizes for Advertising Track That Upset the White Stripes


The composer of an instrumental track used in a Super Bowl commercial for the Air Force Reserve, and which the White Stripes said was an unauthorized copy of their song “Fell in Love With a Girl,” apologized to the band and said that the similarities between his composition and the band’s song were coincidental.

The composer, Kem Kraft, a freelance musician based in Salt Lake City, said Tuesday in a telephone interview, “I’m sorry it sounds the same. It wasn’t my intention, truly, truly, truly.”

Mr. Kraft said that he was hired by Fast Forward Productions, a local production company, to score a commercial that the company produced for the Air Force Reserve, and which was shown during regional broadcasts of the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Mr. Kraft said he submitted three different high-energy musical tracks to the ad’s producers. They chose one, and at their request he said he made further changes to “beef it up, make the drums stronger and put on an echo guitar.”

Mike Lee, the owner of Fast Forward Productions, said in a phone interview, “We went back and forth on the song several times. We changed stuff quite a bit, just to match the tempo of how I cut it together.”

Mr. Lee added: “I wasn’t familiar with the White Stripes song. I’ve heard of the White Stripes but I’m not a listener of theirs. I had no idea there was similarity until after the fact.”

In a post on the Web site of their record label, Third Man Records, the White Stripes said that they took “strong insult and objection to the Air Force Reserve presenting this advertisement with the implication that we licensed one of our songs to encourage recruitment during a war that we do not support.” They added that they “plan to take strong action to stop the ad containing this music.”

The Air Force Reserve said on Tuesday that any similarity between the two songs was “completely unintentional.”

Mr. Kraft said that if the White Stripes “want to call me and talk to me, as far as I’m concerned, I’m responsible for this. Just me.”

He continued: “I’m pretty much a one-man band here. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Air Force. They didn’t know anything, and I didn’t know anything either.”

Collectivism After Collapse — Chicago Activist Art Spaces, Collectives and Projects

Collectivism After Collapse: Chicago Activist Art Spaces, Collectives, and Projects

The two-night event at Mess Hall is an open invitation to Collage Art Association conference attendees and the public to come to Mess Hall to informally gather, meet, and learn about Chicago art and activism, including an exhibition highlighting various Chicago-based collective art spaces, periodicals, campaigns, and activist art projects from 2000-2010. Come to Mess Hall and meet many of the people who are involved in this work!

Workshop in Mess Hall

Exhibit opens:
Friday, February 12th 7:00pm-on


Saturday, February, 13th 7:00pm-on.

Mess Hall
6932 North Glenwood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60608

Working-class poet Craig Paulenich on the steel mill experience

[John Russo, from the Youngstown State University Center for Working Class Studies sent this note.]

Poet Craig Paulenich, author of Blood Will Tell

At the CWCS website, Working-class poet Craig Paulenich talks about the steel mill experience and reads his poem “A State of Industrial Grace” from his new collection, Blood Will Tell.  The video was produced by Bill Lewis.