Does Barbara Byrd-Bennett know which city’s schools she’s closing?
During an interview on Good Day Chicago, Bennett declared that the Chicago Public Schools’ decision to close 50 schools was “not made haphazardly. It was made with children in mind and not adults, and it was made so that we could level this platform for the children and move forward. I mean, our children in Cleveland are underperforming on every measure.”
The show's host tried to rescue Bennett.
“You meant to say Chicago, right?” he asked. “You said Cleveland. That’s where you used to work. I certainly understand that.”
“I guess coming from Cleveland and New York and Detroit, you get pretty tough,” she responded.
A veteran of distressed urban school systems, Byrd-Bennett was Chief Executive Officer of Cleveland’s schools for seven years. Before that, she was a teacher, principal and superintendent in her native New York City. She also served as Chief Academic and Accountability manager for Detroit Public Schools. So it must be difficult for her to keep track of which city she’s in this year. Byrd-Bennett is the kind of bureaucrat Rahm Emanuel likes: a professional, unsentimental out-of-towner whose first loyalty is to the mayor, not Chicago. There’s always been a question, though, of how well his appointees understand the city.
Byrd-Bennett went on to criticize protestors for using uncivil language “in front of our children,” but said she understood the anger over school closings.
“People are angry because the district has never engaged them, hasn’t trusted them, hasn’t respected them, and despite the fact that people are angry now, we have to continue to engage every level of the community,” she said. “The overwhelming number of people, over 30,000 people, who came out to the 277 meetings, that’s not the behavior I saw exhibited. They were thoughtful, they were angry sometimes, but they also knew, as a result of our listening to them, we removed 277 schools. We moved from 129, we moved to 54. So we were listening.”
The host also asked how CPS could ensure the safety of children who will be crossing gang lines to attend their new schools.
“The security has always been foremost,” she said. “It has been the foremost of consideration, and so in working with CPD, working with our internal security, who does this work every day -- Safe Passages for over 40 schools in our neighborhoods. For the most part, the perimeters of our schools are safe, and we have been guaranteed by the Chicago Police Department and our sister agencies, that we’re locking arms, to ensure that our students are going to be safe to and from school.”