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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.

CTU members vote on new contract, prepare for next fight

In a sign of solidarity with community groups, CTU President Karen Lewis chose to vote on the teacher contract at Dyett High School, which is being phased out amid intense community resistance.

Lewis refused to say how she voted and refused to call the contract a good one. She did note she was in the negotiation room, implying that she marked her ballot “yes.”  

The ratification vote is but the first step in achieving what the contract provides. Now, she said, the union must monitor implementation and participate in the many committees the School Board and union agreed to create. The contract establishes at least 12 committees, including one on professional problems and another on setting a time-table for air-conditioning all school buildings that are used during summer.

At Dyett and other schools, teachers seemed ready to accept the three-year pact, despite some misgivings. In general, teachers saw victory more in the experience of the strike itself than in any contract details.

“I am not happy with every single line in the thing, but it’s a contract,” said Tina Padilla, who teaches at Lane Tech High School and is a trustee of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund and a member of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators. “This is just the beginning. The sleeping giant has been awoken. We are massing up for the challenges that await us.”

Lewis seemed to say the same thing, noting that, the strike empowered teachers. “They know their rights and they are standing up. “

School closings are the next major challenge the school system will tackle –officials openly talk about the need to close as many as 120 schools over the next few years and have indicated that they will vote on some this year.

One teacher walking into Dyett, who declined to provide her name, said she will retire once Dyett closes.  “I wouldn’t want to be a new teacher in this situation,” the teacher said. 

On Tuesday, Lewis framed the  school-closing issue as community participation in decision-making.

“The student voices were heard, but they were ignored,” Lewis said. “These decisions are badly made. They don’t take into account the community, but rather sit in rooms amid spreadsheets.”

After voting , Lewis joined a group of Dyett students, flanked by members of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. The students and leaders of KOCO are still trying to get the decision to close Dyett reversed through a civil rights complaint and a campaign to get the federal government to put a moratorium on school closings. These efforts are longshots considering the U.S. Department of Education is run by Arne Duncan, who started school closings in Chicago.

Dyett students also protested a new school rule that requires they enter the building in the rear. “I am not the maid, I am not the help,” said Aquila Griffin.

Dyett Principal Charles Campbell said that with only 200 students in a building built for 1,200, he wanted to consolidate the space students occupy.  The back of the building was a more logical place for entering and exiting, he said, because the cafeteria  and gym entrance are nearby.

Having all the students in one area helps keep them secure and cuts down on students wandering in the hallways, he said.

Aquila Griffin also complained that as the enrollment decreases with the phase-out, class offerings have dwindled.

 CPS officials are sensitive to the allegations. Knowing that Lewis was going to show up at Dyett and that the students were going to hold a press conference, they sent out security guards to keep press outside on the perimeter of the school. 

Campbell says he is focused on getting all the students to graduate and into college. Students have already have gone on one college tour this year, he said, and a college fair is coming up. He also is attempting to bring back some honors and AP classes.

“A phase-out is a delicate situation,” Campbell said. “I am focusing on students.  … I want to have a laser-like focus on instruction and making college attractive.”


Ben Monroe wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Chicago Schools

Chicago Public Schools just does not seem the same. It seems like a halo is over the city. No rigor. Teachers and staff members are sad. They do not know when they are going to lose their jobs; or what they are going to do when they lose their jobs. So much has been taken away from the teacher force. It makes them want to just go to work at a dependable job. One that they know will be there when they go back the next day. A teacher can't be enthused about their job if they are working in fear. It's so bad that if this keeps up; the ones making the decisions will be begging any kind of teacher to work for the schools. It is a sad thing to have taken seniority rights from the CPS teachers. It is like pulling the rug from underneath them. No foundation to stand on. And young teachers; you had better not get too comfortable. You're in trouble too. Majority will not retire from CPS. Chicago teachers want to work for some other school district. Where they will be treated like teachers. With respect. There is no respect for teachers at Cps.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago


Cps teachers area like the blacksheep of teaching. The jobs arent there. Its a contract job. Look at you principal wrong and your teaching days are possibly over for life m teachers who are non renewed are like ex felons. Thats why i voted no. Read what happens to satisfactory/developing teachers in layoffs. Not pretty. Charlotte danielson cant protect you from a vindictive or ambitious principal.

Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

more problems for teachers coming

There are more problems for the teaching profession than just the esteem or lack thereof the public at any one time may hold for teachers. In Chicago, we are faced with several demographic factors that will significantly reduce the number of teachers needed for years to come.

There is a continuing decline in Chicago’s African American population. This it based in part on an increased out migration to the suburbs and an out migration to southern states. Chicago has ceased to be a major port of entry for Hispanics, more and more new immigrants are moving directly to suburban areas instead of the city itself. Overall because of the Great Recession fewer Hispanics are migrating to Chicago too.

Lastly, for the fourth year in a row U.S. births fell. Birth rates for teen moms have been falling since 1991 and hit another historic low this year. This decline is directly impacting Chicago.

The birth rate for adult Hispanic women dropped nationally 6 percent from 2010 to 2011. It declined about 2 percent for black women over the same period. The only area where the birth rate has increased has been for married women, it rose 1 percent. Married women regardless of race tend to be more financially secure and have a propensity to leave urban areas after the birth of their first child.

These demographic changes will impact both charter schools and traditional schools in Chicago. Combined in the years to come Chicago will need fewer teachers, unless class sizes dramatically decline which given the fiscal situation of education seems unlikely.

Rod Estvan

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Every lie from CPS will be outed, every atrocity thwarted...

As CPS moves now (with the help of the hacks at Moody's and Fitch who helped bring us the crisis of 2008 by overrating all that speculative junk out of Wall Street) to double down on its various lies, one that will be called out is the "underutilization" scam.

CPS uses a kind of "Apartheid Math" to calculate which schools are "underutilized" and then close or threaten to close them. The way it works is to demand that every "classroom" (not all are actually so) be packed to the walls with kids, and then claim that any school that isn't sardined is "underutilized." Calculating a student/room ratio of 30 or 35 to one will do that.

All we have to do is provide the public with "Cawley Math" to counter that lie. Take a visit to the North Suburbs, say Wilmette and Winnetka, where the CPS CAO has his home (and his residency waiver) and the "utilization" rate is calculated at 20 to one. Suddenly, a school like most in Chicago has the space for real teaching and learning, and there are very few "underutilized" schools in the "Portfolio" (an odious Wall Street term that...).

As this year's Hit List struggles evolve, the activism that has grown will take students, teachers, and parents from the ghettos, where David Vitale and Oliver Sicat are rendering the numbers based on their love of Apartheid, to the affluent (and mostly white) northern and western suburbs, where the children, when we visit their classes, will be smiling in large rooms (most, air conditioned) with fewer than 20 in a class.

It's all in the math.

Just as the rating agencies were lying five years ago — when their raters (er., "analysts") were swooning over every Synthetic Collateralized Debt Obligation (or whatever the Orwell room cooked up for that week) and "Tranche" (French words are great when you're in the con game) — so they and their numbers people at CPS are lying now.

The difference is that on our side this year, there are more brains and better people (with ethics to boot, rather than some Atlas Shrugged nonsense rattling around evaporating their brain synapses) than on the other side.

Each lie is going to be called out, each fact proved, and then the mobilizations will continue. The Bruce Rauners, Tim Cawleys and David Vitales of the world decided on waging this class war against the poor and the unions. Sowing the wind, in Biblical terms, and now they will reap what they have sowed.

Just take the latest CPS/Wall Street garbage. The latest guy to be named "Chief Financial Officer" at CPS came to Chicago from Diners Club (you can't make this stuff up) and for some reason the sages at Moody's and Fitch sat still while this guy and his "team" rolled out lie after lie about the CPS budget, those lurid "deficits," and the rest of their "confidential" nonsense.

Only in Chicago could this stuff get media traction. But with the strike and the mobilizations, these lies are now in their own End of Days.

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