Commission chairman speaks about school closings decision

Exclusive: Commission chairman speaks about school closings decision

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago public school officials are defending their decision to close 54 schools at the end of the year.

Now, Frank Clark, who decided which neighborhood schools would be closed, speaks exclusively to FOX 32 about the process.

Former ComEd executive Frank Clark says he came out of retirement for one reason: a better education for Chicago's children.

"This is about a population shift. This is about school performance," Clark says. "This is about utilization and scarce resources and more than anything else we're moving kids from an educational environment that has failed them to that is succeeding."

For four months, Clark and nearly a dozen others heard from parents, teachers and students on how to consolidate or close schools in Chicago. When the group first convened, the list of potential schools to be shut down was at 330---that was cut in half and eventually the commission recommended 54 closings to the schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

"All safety considerations were taken into account before we reached any final recommendations," Byrd-Bennett said.

"You should only close a school when you can send a kid to a better performing school," Clark adds.

During this week's rally, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, called the closings racist.

"When the schools you close are filled with black and brown children, I don't know what you call it, that's racist," Lewis said.

"We have to stop the name calling," Byrd-Bennett says. "I think the children pick that up and then we wonder about behaviors. I think we must stay focused with the central question is this good for the children?"

When Lewis ripped Mayor Rahm Emanuel about being on vacation when the closing were announced, the schools chief told FOX 32's Darlene Hill: "the mayor runs the city. The mayor has entrusted me with the leadership of the schools."

Over the next couple of months, hearings will be held to include parents, students and teachers from the list of schools closing. When asked if that input could keep a school open, Frank Clark said no. Their recommendations are final.

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