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Mayor, CPS Chief Discuss Next Steps In Closings Plan

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public School CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett sit down with Mary Ann Ahern and discuss Wednesday's school closings and CPS plans to incorporate students into their new receiving schools.

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The day after the Chicago School Board voted to close dozens of public schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS chief Barbara Bennett-Byrd are focused on trying to look ahead.

The pair met with local media Thursday morning at Brennaman Elementary School on the North Side, a facility that will be acting as a welcoming school for one of the 49 elementary schools and one high school that will be shut down.

Byrd-Bennett says the students are registering at their new schools immediately, and hopes that it will have a better sense of where the students will be by May 31.

The fight against the school closings isn't completely over, however. Also on Thursday, a four-day hearing was scheduled for July to consider a case filed by the Chicago Teacher's Union on behalf of parents in opposition to the closings.

Byrd-Bennett says she understands the high level of emotions involved with the decision to close the schools, but doesn't take it personally.

"What I must continue to do is what I've said since the first day I arrived here, and that is to continue to build the trust, transparency and respect that our parents deserve," Byrd-Bennett said. "And if it means that we have to listen and sometimes take something away that feels a little personal but it isn't, then I'll do that."

The Healing Process

 

So are the students who are moving to new schools transitioning into better schools? One criticism of the plan has been reports that the test scores at welcoming schools aren't always significantly better than the schools being closed.

"If each year they're showing progress? That's a reflection of the leadership there, and there's a lot more nuance and complication, but that's what we look at, not a single Polaroid shot of that one moment," Emanuel said.

Closed Schools Vs. Welcoming Schools

 

Mayor Emanuel has already said that he's not worried about any perceived political fall-out from the school closings fight. After Wednesday's vote, CTU leader Karen Lewis said she planned to mobilize a voter registration movement with the goal of unseating the mayor. 

"If it's between me taking a political hit or our children taking an eductional hit? I'll take the political hit," Emanuel said.

Rahm On Political Fallout

 

Emanuel says the subject of safe passage for the students is already being addressed by putting the police department in a leadership position, and relying on every other department from buildings to transportation and sanitation to ensure that conditions are optimal for kids to get to and from school every day.

"It is literally on everybody, the full force of the city, to ensure that safe passage, not just on day 1, every day," Emanuel said. 

Rahm Discusses Safe Passage

 

Brennaman principal Sarah Abedelal says the process is already under way to make the transition easier for kids going to a new school -- from current students acting as ambassadors to the new students, to providing additional professional development for teachers. 

Brennaman Principal on Transitioning New Students

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