Rejection of Proposed Candidates in Chicago Protested

By Ann Bradley — May 23, 1990 4 min read

Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, already behind schedule in responding to nominations for the permanent board of education mandated under a state reform plan for the city, sparked protests from black community leaders this month when he rejected 8 of the 15 slates of candidates proposed.

After selecting seven people for the 15-member board on May 11, Mr. Daley asked a citizens’ group that prepared the nominations for new slates of candidates.

Under the process for selecting a permanent board, specified in the state legislation that overhauled the governance structure of Chicago’s school system, the mayor is to pick from 15 slates of three candidates each. He can choose one candidate from each slate, or reject a slate entirely.

Carolyn Grisko, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, said that Mr. Daley’s goal is to “appoint the best people possible. He isn’t going to criticize anybody who wasn’t accepted.”

However, Ms. Grisko said the mayor was delayed in making his nominations because of background checks required of each candidate. Some “serious problems” were discovered during the checks, she said, but declined to elaborate.

The Chicago Tribune reported that some of the candidates had police records, did not live in Chicago, or had falsified their credentials.

Some of the nominees also were known to be political opponents of the mayor who stood little chance of being appointed to the new board, noted Donald R. Moore, executive director of Designs for Change, a research and advocacy group working for school improvement in the city.

The slates were prepared by the School Board Nominating Commission, a 28-member body made up of parent and community representatives and five members appointed by the mayor.

“Our only concern about this process is we want the conflict to be focused on the improvement of the education system,” Mr. Moore said, ''and not on the issue of who’s going to be the next mayor.”

Arrests at Protest

Mr. Daley was to have responded to the commission’s slates by April 23--30 days after receiving the nominations.

The mayor’s delay prompted critics to stage a demonstration outside his office this month that turned into a melee. Five people were arrested, and the protests continued for several weeks.

Organizers of the demonstrations charged that Mr. Daley was stalling on filling the school-board positions, which must still be confirmed by the City Council, in order to give the interim board of education more control over the schools. They maintained that the state law required Mr. Daley to select a full slate for the board by May 15.

“He wants a board that’s politically on his side, rather than an independent board,” said Robert Starks, a professor of political science at Northeastern Illinois University and a leader of the Coalition for a Responsible School Board.

“The mayor is in violation of the law, has disrespected our community, and has put education on hold,” Mr. Starks charged.

But Ms. Grisko responded that the mayor is “not going to be hurried.”

“He said to shave a few days off the process now could cost us dearly,” the press spokesman observed. “He’s said repeatedly that this is one of the most important decisions he has made as mayor.”

Mr. Starks said his coalition is made up of supporters of the late Mayor Harold Washington, but that it is “not about to play politics with education.”

“We come from a community that suffers the most from poor education,” he pointed out.

The coalition also is demanding that at least nine of the new board members be black, Mr. Starks said, to reflect the city’s racial composition.

Four of the nominees selected by Mr. Daley are black, two are Hispanic, and one is white.

Interim Board to Continue

Mr. Moore, whose organization was instrumental in writing the reform legislation, said Mr. Daley did violate the 30-day deadline for responding to the nominations presented by the nominating commission.

But the mayor was not obligated by the law to pick a final board by May 15, he said. The law stipulates that the city’s interim board of education will continue to serve until the mayor has made his selections.

The controversy over the board has generated relatively little interest at the school level, Mr. Moore added.

“People are much more concerned with whether or not the central administration provides help to the local school councils than with what day the new board is seated,” he asserted.

The Rev. Nathaniel Jarrett, minister of Martin Temple a.m.e. Zion Church and a school-board candidate selected by Mr. Daley, said he hoped the mayor would make his remaining selections soon.

“I do not want to speculate on the mayor’s motives,” Mr. Jarrett said, “but I am certainly in favor of the expeditious appointing of the full board.”

The other candidates selected by the mayor for confirmation by the City Council are Albert N. Logan, an adjunct assistant professor of education at Chicago State University; Clinton Bristow Jr., dean of Chicago State University’s college of business and administration; Patricia L. Daley, a former teacher who is not related to the mayor; Stephen R. Ballis, a real-estate developer; Maria J. Vargas, an Illinois Bell Telephone employee and private counselor; and Florence B. Cox, a past president of the Chicago Region p.t.a. and trainer for the city’s local school councils.

A version of this article appeared in the May 23, 1990 edition of Education Week as Rejection of Proposed Candidates in Chicago Protested