DOWNTOWN — The only member of the Board of Education to talk publicly after the vote on school closures insisted the vote was not a "rubber stamp" of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's wishes.
"I don't know what the mayor wanted, because I've never talked with the mayor," said Henry Bienen, former president of Northwestern University. "I've never had a conversation with Rahm about any particular school or how many schools should be closed. Never happened."
Even so, Emanuel's hand-picked board voted in lockstep to back Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett when she pulled four schools of the list in the final day, and they voted unanimously on 49 of the 50 closures eventually approved.
"Oh, please! I can only laugh at that," said Erica Clark, of Parents 4 Teachers. "Of course it's a rubber stamp. The deal was cut late last night, it seemed like, and everyone jumped on board."
"Of course it was a stamp," said Alison Burke, a parent at Trumbull Elementary School in Andersonville. "We had heard that was a possibility. Truly, I thought there was no way they would do that."
Board members Jesse Ruiz and Carlos Azcoitia divided on closing Von Humboldt Elementary, but did not explain their votes on that one school and were not available for comment afterward. The board voted unanimously on all other closures, as well as all four of Byrd-Bennett's recommendations to save Manierre, Ericson, Garvey and Jackson schools.
"It's heartbreaking," Burke said. "It just feels like a total slap in the face."
Burke also took issue with the process, in which closures were lumped together by agenda numbers and the schools weren't named as they were voted on.
"They can't get any of the numbers right on our schools," she said of the utilization formulas that overlooked special-education students at schools like Trumbull. "But they got that right, didn't they?"
"I'm ashamed to be a resident of the city right now," Clark said after being carried out of the meeting. "I've just had enough."