CPS board approves whole agenda: $26 million for temp nurses, charter closures

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Anne Uzelac, 11, a 6th-grade student at STEM Magnet Academy, speaks about her diabetes and need for a nurse at her school during the Chicago Board of Education monthly meeting at Chicago Public Schools headquarters, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Anne Uzelac, a self-described 11-year-old Type 1 diabetic, had hoped the Chicago Board of Education might hear her pleas for better nursing care because what’s currently in place scares her.

So far this year at STEM Magnet Academy, she’s already had seven or eight nurses. Only one actually knew about diabetes care, she said, but his breaks coincide with her lunch, when she needs the most help monitoring her blood sugar. And even once he told her to leave the results of her monitor on a Post-it, she said, an anecdote that raised an eyebrow on the face of the longest-serving board member, Mahalia Hines, at Wednesday’s monthly Chicago Public Schools board meeting.

Anne also recounted being sent on a field trip with no nurse and no emergency supplies.

“I want the people who can make changes to know what it’s like to be a kid with Type 1 diabetes at CPS. I’m here to tell you that kids need a real nurse,” Anne said. “I think CPS can do better.”

But as usual, school board members voted to do everything presented to them on the fat agenda prepared by CPS administrators, though CPS Board President Frank Clark called the nursing situation “completely unacceptable,” saying, “You should never be in a situation where you’re dealing with someone that’s not competent, and we are truly focused on it.”

For nursing, that meant approving up to $26 million in spending through the end of 2021 on up to eight nursing temp agencies, including the one that’s struggled since 2015 to provide enough care for CPS students. They offered no public discussion on that deal.

For two existing charter schools, Urban Prep West Campus and Kwame Nkrumah Charter School, it meant signing off on shutting them down for poor performance records. And for three privately-managed charter organizations looking to open new publicly-funded schools, the votes meant denying their applications.

The agenda was jam-packed this month, as Clark again consolidated two of just 12 monthly meetings into a single occasion, eliminating the public’s chance in November to address board members.

Not that the two-plus hours of public participation appeared to affect the votes in the end. Urban Prep West’s principal Cory Cain offered an impassioned plea to keep the school’s doors open to some of the city’s most vulnerable students, 10 of whom have been shot.

“Despite a society aimed at destroying young black males, despite reduced enrollment exacerbated by CPS moving our campus from the East Garfield Park community, despite financial challenges caused by reduced funding and increased expenses including CPS deducting $1.3 million for facility charges over the past five years,” Cain said, “we have continued to fulfill our mission.”

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