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Academy for Urban School Leadership
District 65 Importing Leadership from Failed and Civil-Rights Violating CPS Program
FOIA Gras is a free newsletter run by Tom Hayden (FOIA GRAS LLC) that explores various topics in local Evanston Governance, especially around School District 65 (Evanston/Skokie). I publish and share all my data and reports. Subscribing is free, so please subscribe or share
In light of today’s announcement of a new District 65 Interim Superintendent, I thought I would finally post a story I’ve been working on for a while. This is a story of a CPS program, which I think is quite sad.
Flashback to 2009. Obama is the President. Daley is the mayor of Chicago. Arne Duncan went from being head of CPS to a position in the White House.
Martin (Mike) Koldyke, a prominent Venture Capitalist formed the Academy for Urban Leadership (AUSL) with a vision to drive reform in CPS through the “turnaround model." Arne Duncan served as an adviser. In fact, President-elect Obama even appointed Arne Duncan his Secretary of Education at an AUSL school (Dodge Academy for Excellence)
The “Turnaround” method involved the following procedure:
Appoint an AUSL Affiliated Principal to a Turnaround School (they are all called “Schools of Excellence” now)
Fire all the Union Teachers and replace them, often, with entry level teachers
Make sweeping changes to the discipline policy
Consider how the Federal Courts defined the Turnaround procedure;
The Illinois School Code, 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/34-8.3(d), provides that schools may be subject to turnaround if they have been on probation for at least one year and have failed to make adequate progress in correcting deficiencies. In a turnaround, the Board removes all staff, except engineers and lunchroom workers, from their positions without a promise of another position within CPS. The mass displacement does not take into account teacher ratings or years of service.
This procedure was conducted at 31 Schools in the CPS system. AUSL had much bigger plans, their own proposal to the ISBE documented wanting to turnaround more schools. In the proposal, they suggest to the ISBE a strong interest in taking this model to schools outside of CPS.
As you can imagine, the Chicago Teachers Union was not a fan;
Beginning in 2006, turnaround actions across the South and West sides of Chicago led to a sweeping purge of Black educators under the guise of “failing” schools, when in reality, mayoral control of CPS had long starved these school communities of resources needed to thrive.
Or consider the absolutely scathing report they published in 2013, "Turnarounds and the Systemic Assault on Experienced Black Educators”
Every other school had a large drop, most significantly at Stagg which went from 80% Black teaching staff to just 35 percent. Even starker are the differences in the experience of teachers that were hired as replacement teachers. There were no first-year teachers in the year prior to turnaround across all the 2012 turnaround schools. After turnaround, first-years became the overwhelming majority at 57%. Teachers with more than 5 years of experience shrank from 85 percent to just 28 percent.
Some of these black educators sued CPS and AUSL for civil rights violations. The casewas bound for court but the parties settled for $9.25 million dollars before trial. It’s not hard to imagine how the case would’ve gone given harshness from the judge the order sending it to trial.
CPS terminated the relationship in May 2021 but continues to support the AUSL Teacher Residency program at a cost of more than $9 million dollars per year. Ultimately, the model did show some promise but by the end of the program, the test scores and other metrics showed no considerable performance improvements at significantly greater cost. The program was functionally a social experiment performed on poor inner-city kids at great cost to the taxpayers and especially, teachers. Furthermore, allegedly AUSL had abusive leadership. Consider, Jarvis Sanford, the former head of AUSL who was terminated as a consultant from Elmhurst District 205 for allegedly “abusing a number of administrators over time.”
Enter District 65
What does this have to do with District 65? Some of the District’s top brass are former AUSL Staffers or Turnaround School Principals. This includes the old Superintendent, the new Superintendent, the Deputy Superintendent, the Head of Operations, Culture, and a few consultants and staffers.
These records can all be verified yourself using the CPS Employee Position Files and LinkedIn searches. Wendell Phillips Academy entered the AUSL system in 2011 and Dr. Horton was the first Principal under the new system.
In my opinion, for a District that continually promotes equity as the top-line goal, it makes no sense to me that the School Board continues to hire and promote individuals that were literally part of a system which contributed to violating the civil rights of black educators.
Northern District of IL Case #12-cv-10311