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School board president dresses down CTU

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Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale lashed out at the Chicago Teachers Union at Wednesday's board meeting.

When CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson rose to make a public comment, Vitale went on the offensive before Brunson could utter a word.

Vitale accused CTU of spreading lies, threatening the board and trying to intimidate the board as the union attempts to stop any school closures for next year.

"If you want us to continue to act civilly to you, you need to act civilly to us," Vitale said, noting that protesters had marched on his home, scaring his teenage daughter. CTU says they didn't organize that protest. "You should really stop lying. What kind of example are you setting for children?"

Vitale was furious at comments made by CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey at a CTU rally on Monday to protest school closings. Here's a quote from the Tribune that rubbed Vitale the wrong way. Sharkey doesn't dispute the language:

"We're here to serve notice to the appointed (school) board that if you're going to close schools, we're coming after you," Sharkey said. "We're serving notice to billionaires hoping to close our schools, if we close our schools we'll expose you. And we're serving notice to elected officials if you close our schools, there will be no peace in the city."

At the Monday protest, CTU also went after one of their favorite targets, board member Penny Pritzker, who sits on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp. A developer who is constructing a Hyatt in Hyde Park got $5.2 million in city TIF funds. Hyatt says the developer got the TIF money, not Hyatt. CTU accuses Pritzker of taking money from schools and putting it into the Hyatt.

In an interview with the Sun-Times, Sharkey stood his ground, saying the "we're coming after you" wasn't personal. "That's political, not a private statement about him...It's about holding a board accountable."

The CTU's actions are part of the tradition of the protest movement, Sharkey said.

"When the conversation is about closing 100 to 140 schools [CPS says there is no firm number], that will get an intense reaction. We are right to make a point and we're going to organize."

What do you think?

Is Vitale right to be livid? Is CTU going too far and obscuring the real conversation that needs to happen about what to do with Chicago's under-used schools?

Or is CTU right to go on the offensive to prevent closings of schools that CTU argues are under-utilized because CPS stopped investing in them? Are CPS board members being too thin-skinned?

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2 Comments

If you want to be taken seriously, you need to leave the thuggish threats behind. If you have valid points, they will stand on their own. Use intelligence, not threats, otherwise you appear to be a desperate, uneducated fool.

Teachers, parents, and students have been going to Board of Ed meetings and school closure hearings every year for the last 15 years, trying to make our case civilly and through the official channels to stop them from closing down our schools and turning them into privatized charter schools. For 15 years we have been completely ignored by an unelected, unaccountable school board, voting unanimously to close down our schools anyway. Unfortunately, our valid points have 1. not been reported fairly in the media, and 2. had no effect on the unaccountable officials in charge. We are using the methods of protest to save public education in this city because that is what we have been forced to do.

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