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Monday Letters: CPS’ circular logic

In a Sun-Times’ op-ed recently I criticized Rahm Emanuel’s new CPS Independent Schools Principal (ISP) program, which will free some principals from oversight by network chiefs who manage subgroups of principals.

CPS’ chief education officer, Janice Jackson defended Emanuel’s program in a letter to the editor. The Emanuel administration has several distinct strategies it uses to respond to its critics. I refer to one of them as the replace-the-critique tactic. It goes as follows:  They ignore the critic’s argument; then they create a weak parallel argument against themselves; finally, they create the illusion of rebutting their critics by rebutting their own anemic parallel argument.

For example, Jackson stated she believes principal interest in the program is a sign of its appeal. However, I never argued the program doesn’t have “appeal.” Indeed, I know several principals who relish the chance to apply for the program in order to leave the incompetent leadership of their networks. The solution however is to ensure that skilled and competent educators lead networks, not to encourage the best principals to abandon them.

Jackson also stated the professional learning of community of ISP principals is the strongest component of the program and that I missed that part “entirely.” I clearly stated the program segregates “the top performers from the colleagues who need them most.” So while the top principals may have an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack and learn from one another, the principals who have the most to learn will be cut off from ISP participants who have the most to teach.

If a football team’s players complain about their coach, you don’t respond by letting the five best players practice separately with someone from management. If practice is organized strategically, the best players will elevate the performance of everyone on the team. CPS’ problem is that many of its district leaders have no idea how to organize practice, or manage a team.

In summary, CPS’ administration did a good job rebutting their own criticisms of themselves, but they have yet to prove effective at rebutting mine.

Troy LaRaviere, Chicago Public Schools principal

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com (Please include the name of your neighborhood or suburb, and a phone number for verification.)


Jordan: Hope Diamond or piece of meat?

“Comparing the Chicago Bulls great to the Hope Diamond, attorney Frederick Sperling revealed eye-popping sums companies have paid Jordan over the years for the use of his ‘most valuable asset’ — his identity,” the Sun-Times wrote last week.

One is never too surprised by lawyers who engage in hyperbole, but I always thought Jordan’s real value lay not in his worth as a commodity but in his ability to inspire the younger generation to believe in themselves and not give up on their dreams, which is something no price tag can be attached to. Of course, his attorney would jump up and object that my point as irrelevant to the issue at hand, but then, when he calls long time Jordan manager Estee Portnoy to the stand to testify how “shocked” she was by the ad in question for comparing Jordan to a “piece of steak,” I think Sperling is laying it on a little too thick (steak sauce metaphor). What is good for the goose is good for the gander. 

You can’t praise Jordan as a “diamond” in order to drum up your case for damages, and then profess moral outrage because somebody else is demeaning his value by treating him like a piece of meat. What is really at “steak” here anyway? I would say “de minimis” or not very much in the usual order of things. What would I award Jordan were I a juror? One dollar.

Edward D. Lasky, Edgewater


Thanks to “Ted” from Des Plaines

I just read Ms. Laura Washington’s column and I was very touched by her feeling about Mr. Katsumura. It was a really nice, heartfelt tribute to a man who died way too young.

I too, knew a man like him who also recently died suddenly and unexpectedly. I don’t know his last name because I never asked. To all of us regular customers, he was just, “Ted.” His diner, L&L Snack Shop in Des Plaines, was a warm, welcoming place to have the best breakfast (and probably lunch, although even for lunch I couldn’t resist the ham & eggs – had the same thing EVERY time for 30 years) in “the civilized world” Ted prepared each breakfast with a smile and LOVE for his customers. It was like you were part of his family.

I don’t know if there was any “tribute” to this wonderful, caring man and I didn’t know of his passing until I went for breakfast one morning and found out. He wasn’t doing the cooking so I suspected something was not right. I asked his beautiful wife Lisa, “Where’s Ted,” and holding back tears while pouring my coffee, she told me he died just a few weeks ago, had a heart attack.

I was stunned and didn’t know what to say. I loved that man and now he’s gone, taken way too young.

 He is missed by many, he brought joy to people’s lives, and his legacy will never be forgotten. Thank you, Ms. Washington.

Paul Fivelson, Pingree Grove

What happens without union protection

For the last many months Governor Rauner has told us that unions are bad and that workers shouldn’t have to join one. Maybe he should read the Sun-Times more often and find out that the Chicago Public Schools just screwed all of their non-union workers by forcing them to pay all of their pension contributions. You’ll notice, this didn’t happen to the union workers. So much for trusting your benevolent employers and another example of why unions have to exist.

John Farrell, Batavia