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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Hundreds of CPS employees face potential layoffs to save $16 million

The promised reorganization of the top and middle layer of the CPS bureaucracy has been underway for the past few weeks, with hundreds of staffers receiving word that they no longer have a guaranteed position and won’t know for sure if they have a job til mid-to-late October.

District officials would not disclose exactly how many positions were closed out because they are hopeful that many will apply for new jobs and get them in the new structure.

“We hope they will find jobs that they will be happier in,” said Alicia Winckler, chief human capital officer. 

This re-organization, however, will not yield the type of savings that district officials need to find. When all is said and done, the central office staff will only be trimmed by about 200 positions. This will save the district about $16 million--far less than the $50 million they committed to in the budget.

When the budget was passed in August, district leaders told board members that at the September 28 board meeting they will detail additional cuts. The cuts are necessary because, without them, the district will run a deficit. By law, the district must have a balanced budget.

In the coming weeks, district officials will be looking for more savings.

“We are about 33 percent of the way there,” said Noemi Donoso, chief education officer.

CPS officials found savings by restructuring the central office and shrinking the number and size of what-used-to-be-called area offices and are now called network offices. New district leadership had commissioned an audit to look at teaching and learning and recommend how to make the varied departments more efficient.

In early September, district officials got the audit, which was done by a panel of education experts led by Robert Peterkin, a Harvard professor.

They settled on four key departments under Chief Instruction Officer Jennifer Cheatham. They are: strategy, research and accountability; curriculum and instruction; pathways to college and careers and professional learning.

All other big departments, except for special education and early childhood education, will disappear and be integrated under these departments or migrate to an entirely different area on the organization chart.

For example, the Office of Academic Enhancement won’t exist anymore and instead some of it will be under curriculum and instruction, while the admissions process will be under the new Chief Portfolio Officer whose jobs it is to try to make sure that good schools are evenly distributed throughout the city.

Other goners are the Office of World Language and Culture and  Humanities, which was just created last year. Though CPS officials stress that the functions of these departments, such as bilingual instruction, will still happen, just under a different name.

“We are not eliminating what they do, we are just integrating them into the new departments,” Donoso said.

Donoso stressed that the reorganization was only partly done to save money. “We are focused on figuring out the right structure so every service we provide to schools is of the highest value,” she said.

Back in August, district leadership announced that they were going to eliminate area offices and create network offices. Most of the staff in the area offices were allowed to stay in their positions through the opening of school, but in the first week they were told they would have to re-apply for new positions or be out of work.

Area offices had an average of 14 staff in them, though some had as many as 24 people. Network offices will have between eight and 11 positions with only be five standard ones, including a family and community engagement manager and a data strategist.

Donoso says she sees the main role of the network offices as building the “instructional capacity” of the principal, while area offices worked with entire schools and included literacy and math instruction coordinators, as well as management support directors.

While employees in central office generally agree with the idea of not duplicating services and the need to save money, some were not happy with the approach taken by the administration.

For one, everyone was called into a meeting and was told you will either be laid off, keep your job or get a new one. But employees had to wait until individual meetings over the next couple days to learn their fate.

“That was very traumatic,” said employee, who kept her job.

 Also, the leadership presented this reorganization as though no one has ever tried to reshuffle the deck before.  But most central office employees have gone through this many times, the employee points out.

Even under this strain, the employee says that central office staff have been working hard to get schools what they need.

“There has been no interruption,” she said. “We are professionals.”


Anonymous wrote 3 years 16 weeks ago

Very Sad

"'That was very traumatic,' said employee, who kept her job."

Tell me about it, said an excellent teacher who did not.

Their procedure was a form of kindness compared with the way many teachers found out they were laid off. Frustrating when you're sitting at home and know you're one of the best at what you do.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 16 weeks ago

Here is where the $$$ goes:

Steve Rhodes points out on Beachwood Reporter online:

* "Many of the top-earning lobbyists have ties to top city and state politicians," the Tribune reports.

"For example, onetime Emanuel attorney Michael Kasper and his associates, Courtney Nottage and David Dring, are listed as taking in nearly $236,000 to lobby the mayor, aldermen and others during the six-month period, the data show. Among the firm's clients were Advocate Health Care Network, Apple Inc. and the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit that runs 19 public 'turnaround' schools Emanuel's schools chief has praised..."

Cynthia Scarpaci wrote 3 years 16 weeks ago

Zero Sympathy

Yes, very traumatic indeed. They had to wait a couple days to find out their fate, as opposed to the foot soldiers who got impersonal certified letters this summer? For starters, I recommend that they fire everyone in Area 30, since most of the schools were closed this summer anyway. It can't be that difficult to manage contract schools. And since many employees at CPS don't even seem able to give a straight answer to a simple question, terminate, terminate. Thank them for their years of service and dedication and get moving, Ms. Winckler!

KarmaGuard wrote 3 years 16 weeks ago

Very Sad


Anonymous wrote 3 years 16 weeks ago

It's about time!

People at the area offices make a fortune doing nothing besides a school walkthrough once a year in order to put down teachers and tell them what "decorations" they should have on their walls. Look at area 2s, Deborah Esparza who recently got caught using CPS money to purchase a home in Hawaii along w decorations and furnishings! Why is this not in the news! And we wonder where the $$ goes??? Ding dong that witch is......Unfortunately there are many more.

What about all of the displaced teachers who lost their jobs at the end of last year? CPS is required to put them at a school every day as a cadre. Instead, they have been clumped in w the regular subs and get morning calls (if they are lucky) at times ranging from 6:28-8:30am. They should be assigned to a school for a period of time vs receiving the morning death call (if it comes at all). If they don't find a job this year they will be honorably discharged from CPS. Hello Union! Wake up!

Why can schools continue to call subs of their choice who are either retired teachers or regular subs not interested in finding a job???? Shouldn't displaced teachers be a priority?

Maestra wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Language and Culture!

If the Office of Language and Cultural Education (not Office of World Language and Culture, btw) is a "goner" what will happen to advocacy for language learning AND language learners? This is one of the only countries in the world in which monolingualism is the norm - If we want to offer kids a "world-class" education, shouldn't we do more to to help them keep their first language while they learn English and/or learn a 2nd or 3rd language beyond English??

Anonymous wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

Displaced teacher and cadre subbing

Yes, why aren't displaced teachers a priority when it comes to calling subs?? After I was displaced, I dutifully went downtown and signed up to become a cadre. When I saw that I got to "choose" an area, I was somewhat mollified. That sounded like I actually had a some choice in the matter. Day after day, the death calls comes anywhere between 5:00 to 6:45, all for schools that are not in the geographic I thought I signed up for. When I asked if I could change my area, I was told "no," and no reason is forthcoming. I have made the rounds of my neighborhood schools with my resume and the clerks have taken my information, but this angle has not worked, because their sub lists are theirs exclusively.
This is truly a miserable situation, and I am actively looking to get out of education. I only wonder how many other teachers feel the same way I do. What a great way to lose dedicated professionals.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 49 weeks ago

Displaced teacher and Cadre subbing 2

I am in the SAME position as the person who posted above. Schools should NOT be allowed to call their own subs who consist of retired teachers (already receiving a pension), friends of the school clerk, people looking to make some extra money. There are SO many displaced teachers with masters degrees and up to date teaching experience that it makes me sick to see schools calling people on their "private" list. Schools should be REQUIRED to call sub center. Why isn't this enforced and/or brought up? Who is helping all of these displaced teachers? Union? NOT. The union has not done anything to help displaced teachers. Basically, I get a call at the crack of dawn telling me to go to a different school each day. The schools provided are all undesirable and unable to maintain any sort of "private" sub list due to horrific behavior issues, lack of assistance via administration and in most cases don't abide by the rules and regulations of CPS. They usually take away the prep (if there actually is one) and have me do lunch duty or take over another class in order to relieve a teacher. At one school (Trumbull) teachers do not get a lunch break! You are required to eat with your classroom. The only break you get ALL day is your prep unless it was cancelled. I was called to that school and did not have a break the ENTIRE day because the prep was canceled. Who is watching over schools like these? The new principal is the one who made these changes this year. Who is over seeing her and ensuring that she follow the rules and regulations. For the teachers it is a catch 22. If you say something you are gone, so everyone keeps their mouth shut. This was the response I received when I asked why no one had reported the principal. Basically, CPS is one huge ball of corruption and ultimately the children suffer. Very sad.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Too funny!

Esparza was my principal when I first started my career as a teacher straight out of college. By far the worse boss I have ever had, the things I could tell you... Simply, an evil lady. She caused me quite a few headaches, but I am today now in such a great position in life! I understand she had to resign from this position and lost her pension with CPS. Any word on her arrest? Either way, vengeance is truly the Lord's.

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