Chicago Mayor Emanuel Defends AUSL Turnaround

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is set to hand the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) its largest turnaround ever in a single year, despite the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) claiming it’s a conflict to have the AUSL oversee six public schools targeted for sweeping “turnarounds” in which all employees are removed, writes Fran Spielman at the Chicago Sun-Times.

“It is a model that is unique to Chicago’s success. It is working here superbly. … There would be a conflict if I didn’t do it — that I had a great model that L.A. wants to steal from us, and I held it back,” Emanuel said.

“It is not a conflict to give kids a good education. It’s the responsibility I have as mayor. The conflict would be if I knew it was here and I was scared to do it because of politics. I told you I would spend political capital to make sure the kids of Chicago have the opportunity to do something in their lives. … I will not let politics stand in the way. That would be a conflict that is shameful.”

If the plan is approved then 429 teachers and school administrators will be out of work. And CTU President Karen Lewis, questioned the “lack of transparency” in selecting the schools to undergo turnarounds.

“We are concerned about how these actions demoralize our students, further decrease their confidence in themselves and also rips them from the adults they do know and have built relationships with,” Lewis said.

If the strategy is approved, it will go to the targeted schools and implement comprehensive teacher training, rigorous course work and standards, tutoring in reading and math and extra-curricular activities to help students who fall behind catch up with their peers.

“You can’t do ‘turnaround light.’ You have to have school leadership. You have to have teachers that are well-trained. And you have to have enough of them in the building so that you can make a fundamental change in the culture of the school,” said Martin Koldyke, AUSL’s founder and chairman emeritus.

David Vitale, Emanuel’s handpicked school board president, once served as chairman of the AUSL board. Tim Cawley, chief administrative officer at the Chicago Public Schools, previously held a top job at the organization.

“We’ve had a recent change of leadership there. That’s one thing that Jarvis Sanford [AUSL’s managing director of elementary schools] doesn’t put up with. He makes sure that the leadership is up to snuff and we’re getting the kind of results that we need,” said Koldyke.

Chicago Public Schools is expected to announce this year’s round of school closings next week.