by kathe myers - richardson elementary | November 23, 2017
Every day, questions come up for which you need a quick answer. But as teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians, we barely have time to go to the restroom, much less make a phone call or check a website! This handy-dandy pamphlet should answer your most common questions, saving you time and worry. The contract articles and best contact people are included for reference and further inquiry. (An asterisk denotes a change or new provision in the 2015-19 Agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education.)
1-12 Professional Problems Committees (PPC) shall discuss school operations, contract issues and any new Board of Education instructional programs or initiatives.
4-9 Late Arrival or Early Departure: More than one-fourth and less than three-fourths is considered one half day, and three-fourths or more of the regular working day is considered a full day.
*5-1 Lunch and prep scheduling: Teachers’ lunch is not scheduled before the first student lunch period and not after the last student lunch period; no more than 296 minutes of instruction, 15 minutes of non-classroom supervision and 60 minutes of continuous preparation time per day; and four days of continuous duty-free preparation time self-directed each week, with one day each week principal-directed.
*5-10 Professional Development Activities: The PPLC (Professional Personnel Leadership Committee), or in its absence the PPC, shall develop and present recommendations to the principal and the Local School Council on professional development.
7-6 Supply Money: the Board shall reimburse teachers, counselors, clinicians and speech-language para-educators up to $250 for instructional supplies and materials, classroom library books and therapeutic materials purchased by them for student instruction and support. Principals and head administrators shall approve reimbursements in accordance with the procedures developed by Board, and paid by the end of the semester in which the receipts were submitted.
13-3 Activity Calendars: Each school shall develop a schedule of activities for the first five months, other than class field trips, no later than September 30 and for the second five months no later than February 1.
*21-14 Individualized Education Program meetings: may be scheduled before, during or after the school day. Bargaining unit employees required to attend such meetings before or after the school day shall be paid their regular instructional hourly rates of pay.
21-16 Principals may use Cadre substitute teachers to provide release time to special education teachers for the purpose of completing Individualized Education Programs.
25-2 Vacation and Holidays: Teachers and PSRPs on a 208-paid day academic calendar will be scheduled for 190 work days (including 10 professional development days if applicable), 10 paid vacation days and eight paid holidays.
26-1 Personal Days: On July 1, the Board shall award active full-time employees three paid personal days for use during the fiscal year to attend to the employee’s personal business (PB). Personal days unused upon separation from employment or on June 30 of each fiscal year shall be forfeited.
26-2 Prorated Days for New Employees: Employees who are staffed after Sept. 30will have their PB days prorated for the first year.
26-3 Employees may use personal days on three successive days. There is no prohibition on use of PB days before or after a holiday.
27-4 Sick Days: Teachers shall report their anticipated absences to the substitute center as early as possible. Teachers shall also report their anticipated absences to the school no later than their reporting time. If the teachers cannot report because the telephone lines are busy or similar such occurrences, the teachers shall report as soon as possible. (Note: A doctor’s note is not required until the employee has taken four consecutive sick days.)
27-5 Missed Preps: Whenever a teacher’s duty-free professional preparation period is canceled, the principal shall schedule a make-up duty-free professional preparation period for that teacher by the end of the next academic quarter, or by the last day of teacher attendance that school year. If cancelled self-directed preparation periods are not made up in accordance with this Article, they shall be considered lost. The Board shall pay the teacher for the lost preparation period at his/her regular hourly rate.
32-1 Benefits: The Board shall provide the applicable coverage for teachers and other bargaining unit employees granted a leave for illness in the family which restricts the duration of said leave to five school months without extension. The Board shall provide the applicable coverage for teachers and other bargaining unit employees granted a Parental Leave of Absence for a maximum of five calendar months. The Board shall provide medical, prescription drug, mental health, dental and vision benefits, flexible spending accounts, life and personal accident insurance and a savings and retirement program.
35-4 Transfer Period: Teachers may transfer effective the second semester of the school year without the consent of their current principal only when the Talent Office receives the administrative transfer request signed by the receiving principal between 75 and 30 calendar days prior to the conclusion of the first semester of the school year.
36-11 Hourly Rate: Any bargaining unit employee employed in an after-school program in a non-instructional capacity shall be compensated at the rate of $39.90 for the 2017-2018 school year. Any bargaining unit employee employed in an after-school program in an instructional capacity shall be compensated at the rate of $46.46 for the 2017-2018 school year.
36-14 Over Average Salary Makeup: The Board shall augment school budgets at those schools with higher-than-average teacher salaries. On March 1 of each year, the Board shall calculate the district-wide average cost of all staffed teacher positions that are funded with student-based budgeting (SBB) or its equivalent, and then calculate the average cost of staffed SBB teachers for each school. If this average cost at any school exceeds the district-wide average, the school will receive a teacher salary adjustment.
37-3 Sick Day Bank: Sick days awarded on and after July 1, 2012, that remain unused at the end of the fiscal year may be rolled over for future use up to a maximum of 40 days and may be used: as sick days or for purposes of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act; to supplement the short-term disability pay in days 31 through 90 to reach 100 percent income during such period; or for pension service credit upon retirement. Sick days accumulated under this Section shall be utilized prior to sick days in the “retained sick day bank.” Bargaining unit employees shall retain any bank of unused sick days that the bargaining unit employee accumulated prior to July 1, 2012, in a “retained sick day bank.” Employees may use days from their retained sick day bank for the purposes set forth in Article 37-3. Up to 325 retained sick days earned from Board employment prior to July 1, 2012, and left unused in the retained sick day bank at the employee’s resignation, retirement or death shall be paid out at the employee’s rate of pay at the time of the employee’s separation.
37-6 Sick Day Donation: Employees may donate up to 10 sick days from their sick day banks to another employee who is suffering from a serious medical condition and who is on an approved leave of absence. An employee receiving a donation of sick days may not receive more than 45 days of sick leave and may only receive a donation once during his or her employment with the Board.
*39-2 Evaluation: Each teacher shall be evaluated annually or biennially as “excellent,” “proficient,” “developing” (state law equivalent is “need improvement”) or “unsatisfactory” by a qualified evaluator in accordance with this Article and the teacher evaluation plan. Tenured teachers who are rated in the lower half of developing (a score of 210 to 250) in two consecutive ratings periods shall be rated unsatisfactory, unless in the second year the teacher’s professional practice score is proficient or better.
40-4 Teaching Schedule: Where administratively possible, no teacher shall have more than three consecutive teaching periods.
40-8 Grade Level Change: In the event a teacher is programmed to teach a grade level or content area that he or she has not taught in the last four school years, upon request of the teacher, the principal shall explain why the change was made and work with the teacher to develop a relevant professional development plan.
*44-30 Lesson Planning: Principals and/or network administrators shall not require that teachers submit separate unit and lesson plans. Special education teachers who are working in a co-teaching setting or not providing direct instruction shall supplement the general education teacher’s unit or lesson plan, and shall not be required to submit a separate unit or lesson plan.
*44-33 Gradebook: Teachers shall determine the number, type, weighting and frequency of student assignments and tests or other assessments that are used to determine individual course grades.
Hopefully, this will make your teaching life just a bit easier. If you have questions, contact your CTU field representative at www.ctunet.com/lookup.
Kathe Myers is a teacher at Richardson Elementary and former CTU delegate.
by ctu officers | November 21, 2017
Why unify with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers (ChiACTS) and Staff Local 4343, and what would be the implications?
Unification would mean that Chicago Teachers Union members and ChiACTS members both vote to become one merged union. Neither CTU nor ChiACTS contracts would change with their employers, but ChiACTS would continue as a division within the CTU.
A unified organization would also mean that both unionized CTU members and unionized charter school members would all be members of the same union—CTU Local 1—even though we have different contracts.
Why are we even discussing unification?
Unifying would support the growth of unions in every charter school in Chicago and build up the level of benefits in charter union contracts to match, then help raise, the level of benefits in the CTU contract, which sets the standard for the city.
A merged union would also allow us to use our collective power politically as a movement to advance public education and benefit the students and working families we serve. For example, prior to the establishment of Richardson Elementary, a traditional, public school in the Midway area, the school had been slated to become a charter before we helped to organize a union in the UNO charter school network. Advocacy and efforts to organize unions in charter schools have slowed the momentum of privatization, and will help stop future school closings.
Additionally, the collective effort of both unions has inspired other non-union charter teachers and paraprofessionals to organize unions and even prepare for strikes. At Passages, UNO, ASPIRA and now Noble, educators are standing up for themselves and their classrooms, united, in greater numbers.
How could unification happen?
Eighty-four percent of ChiACTS members have already voted to join the CTU. Now it is the CTU’s turn to vote and decide whether or not to accept our brothers and sisters in the charter local into our union.
There is more power in greater solidarity to organize new schools, raise the level of benefits in our contracts and win changes that benefit our students and our profession. Also, in an increasingly union-hostile and rapidly changing political environment, unification would mean the extra security needed to accomplish ambitious goals. We all need smaller class sizes, more investment in our classrooms and wraparound supports. We all benefit when we are not pitted against each other, but when we act on our shared interests.
What would change for CTU members and ChiACTS members?
Not much. ChiACTS would retain its internal council structure and its contract with each employer. ChiACTS would begin to elect representatives from its councils as representatives to the CTU’s House of Delegates and Executive Board. In the event that we unify, ChiACTS would still have separate contracts from those of us who work for Chicago Public Schools. State law prohibits our bargaining units—those who work for CPS and those who work for charter networks—from being under a single contract. State law does not, however, prohibit us from being in the same union.
What are the benefits of unification for CTU members?
When ChiACTS members organize unions and expand membership, they negotiate a contract and move tax revenue out of management’s hands and into the classroom in the form of dedicated resources for students and educator salaries. This decreases the financial incentive for charter proliferation, which has caused decreased enrollment, the greatest number of school closings in Chicago’s history, budget cuts and layoffs at the majority of schools in the last decade.
Also, when a growing number of charter teachers in the city earn substantially less than our members, it is harder for the CTU to negotiate wage increases in our contract. All educators in Chicago benefit when all educators in Chicago have a union voice to defend and uplift the working conditions in all schools.
When could a ratification vote of each local take place?
In October or November of the 2017-18 school year.
If approved, would ChiACTS members vote for CTU officers?
Yes. They would have the ability to vote for both officers and CTU Executive Board members, as well as run for those offices and positions in CTU elections in 2019 and beyond.
How would this affect CTU financially?
Full-time ChiACTS dues are currently $717 per year, and will rise in the coming months to better approximate the amount of dues that CTU members currently pay. CTU would see an increase in number of members and associated revenue.
I thought we were supposed to hate charter schools?
ChiACTS members are educators who care for the same population of young people as we do. Our policy criticisms of charter proliferation and models of school governance, privatization, lack of transparency, instability in our school system, school closings and turnarounds, union-hostility, and decreasing union density in Chicago schools are shared by most ChiACTS members. Together, we can better fight any efforts to dismantle public education and pit unionized charter teachers against unionized district teachers.
The CTU and ChiACTS have done a lot of common policy, legislative and political work within the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers, especially over the past six years. We are working together in campaigns to fight special education cuts and defend immigrant students, and our fates have often been tied together. In fact, the CTU has been a key partner, along with the IFT and AFT, in resourcing and helping to strategize unionization drives within charter schools throughout the last decade. Coming together in one union, like they have in New York and Los Angeles, would be the natural next step in our work on this effort.
A vote for unification would be a hugely significant act that allows all Chicago educators to speak with one voice and engage in a powerful form of solidarity to defend and advance our schools, public education and the needs of all the students and families we serve.
by Maria Moreno, Financial Secretary | November 17, 2017
CANDIDATES for the FUNCTIONAL VICE PRESIDENT VACANCY
November 1, 2017
|John Bembenek||Washington High School|
|Benjamin Coyle||Hubbard High School|
|Frank Menzies||Jones College Prep High School|
Three members were nominated for Functional Vice President of High School Teachers at the November 1, 2017 House of Delegates meeting. At the December 13, 2017 House of Delegates meeting, all voting delegates who are members of the High School Teachers functional group may vote for one candidate to fill the Functional Vice President of High School Teachers vacancy on the executive board.
by ctu communications | November 16, 2017
"We have been dealing with rodent issues for the past two years," says a CTU member at Mollison Elementary. "It is documented in our LSC minutes what has been done—sticky traps, spraying areas and concern from staff and parents. The issue has gotten completely out of hand the past few days."
Friday November 10, 2017
-A rodent ran over a teacher's foot in her classroom around 6 p.m.
-Another teacher was in her room straightening up and found multiple baby rodents that had just been born sleeping on a large pillow that sits in her classroom library.
Monday November 13, 2017
-At 11:36 a rodent ran around a room and caused students to scream and run out of the classroom hysterically, disrupting the learning environment.
-Earlier this fall a teacher spotted a dead rodent in the hallway, and multiple teachers have spotted rodents running around their classrooms and rodent droppings on the floor, desks etc. A kindergarten teacher was informed by a janitor that there was a massive amount of rodent droppings in the base of a table where students play. The teacher ended up cleaning the droppings herself.
This member, rightfully concerned, has notified parent reps on the Local School Council and asked them call the Chicago Board of Education. This situation is not only disturbing, but makes for a completely unsanitary teaching and learning environment. If you are having issues with school cleanliness (or lack thereof) or rodent problems in your school, please let your field representative know ASAP, or email CTU Staff Coordinator Jackson Potter at email@example.com.
CTU wins contract fight with CPS – and commitment to hire over 100 additional teachers, teacher assistants
by ctu communications | November 09, 2017
After a multi-year battle with CPS management, CTU has pushed the district to hire 91 additional teacher assistants and 11 additional teachers for schools struggling with lack of resources and overcrowding. Rank and file members joined with CTU field staff to successfully organize around the issue – and to force CPS to enforce our contract, specifically around K-2 class size issues.
The agreement means more living wage employment opportunities for CTU PSRPs – a job category that has been under attack by Mayor Emanuel’s hand-picked school bosses for years.
“We know that classrooms in dozens of schools are overcrowded – and that teacher assistants play a critical role in supporting classroom conditions that allow students to learn and teachers to educate,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “This victory is a powerful rejection of management’s endless nickel and diming of our members and our students – and an opportunity to put our union PSRPs back to work. We also want to push Emanuel’s school CEO to be mindful of a central demand from our neighborhoods – that CPS hire from within our communities, and that placement focuses on Black and Brown workers who reflect and have a real connection to neighborhoods in need.”
This hiring initiative is an important win in a larger fight. Many other schools need – but have not yet received – staffing support, so it’s critical that members reach out to your field representative and organizer if you need relief with school staffing needs.
The new hiring commitment opens up slots for TAs, plus some full-time teaching slots, at schools that include Audobon, Daniel Boone, Bouchet, West Ridge ES, Byrne, Rachel Carson, Carter, Chase, Clay, Cook, Dixon, Dore, Drake, Ebinger, Edgebrook, Esmond, Fort Dearborn, Foster Park, Garvy, Grissom, Josefa Ortiz, Gregory, Sapata Academy, Smith, Hitch, Hoyne, Cullen, Green, Mason, Wells Prep., Pasteur, Pickard, Sauganash, Sawyer, Solomon, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Taylor, Lavizzo, Ward, Ella Flagg Young, Von Beethoven, Willa Cather, Morton, Richard Henry Lee, Dubois, Wacker, Belmont-Cragin, Talman, Tarkington, Delgado Kanoon Magnet, Gallistel, Jackson Language Academy, Sheridan Math & Science, Skinner, Metcalf, Hendricks, Higgins, and Richards Academy.
by kevin hough - ctu teacher field representative | November 08, 2017
When REACH was introduced to Chicago Public Schools, proponents argued that it was less subjective than the evaluation checklist used prior to the 2012-2013 school year. Veteran teachers remember the old evaluation system as arbitrary and easily manipulated by the personal sentiments of the evaluator. Now in its sixth year, REACH was designed with the intention to remove or greatly reduce evaluator bias in evaluating the effectiveness of teachers. Yet during the 2014-2015 school year, two schools confirmed that evaluators can still manipulate REACH scores to the harm or benefit of teachers.
Jose De Diego Community Academy is a school that experienced significant trauma over the past four years. In the 2013-2014 school year, Diego became the largest “welcoming” school in CPS, absorbing 215 students from shuttered Duprey, Lafayette and Von Humboldt schools, ensuring that 24 percent of the students were new to the school. Despite effectively managing the merger of four distinct communities, the Chicago Board of Education removed Diego principal Alice Vera and assistant principal Michele Gulo in June 2014, placing both on suspension pending an investigation into attendance fraud.
In 2014-2015, late Network 5 Chief Wanda Washington appointed Patricia Gonzalez as interim principal of Diego. Gonzalez previously served at two charter schools—as principal of Multicultural Academy of Scholarship High School and academic director of UNO Soccer Academy. This was her first position as principal of an elementary school. Simultaneously, the district implemented a new student code of conduct which drastically changed the ability for schools to assign discipline.
Gonzalez’s inexperience compounded instability created by the new policy. During the first weeks of school, a female teacher was inappropriately grabbed by a student. The administration allowed the student to remain in the teacher’s class and recommended the teacher create more engaging lessons. A student brought bullets to school on another day. When the principal asked Central Office if she could suspend the student, she was told that she could suspend a student for only one occurrence of such behavior.
An experienced principal would have known how to handle both situations differently, navigate CPS’ disempowering bureaucracy, maintain security at the school and ensure that teachers felt safe reporting to work.
As the year progressed, it became increasingly obvious that Diego needed a leader with practical experience rather than theoretical best practices. Members brought their concerns to the Chicago Teachers Union and publicly advocated for a new principal at Board of Education and Local School Council (LSC) meetings. While Gonzalez never displayed overt forms of retaliation, a collective view of the 2014-2015 REACH ratings for Diego’s teaching staff told a different story.
In 2014-2015, approximately 80 percent of CPS teachers received a rating of “Proficient” or “Excellent,” with 18 percent receiving “Developing” ratings. These statistics were true for Diego’s teachers as well. At the end of that year, however, Diego’s Proficient- and Excellent-rated teachers decreased to 40 percent and Developing-rated teachers increased to 33 percent. One teacher reported receiving ratings of all 3s and two 2s in 2013-2014, but received sixteen 3s and seven 2s during two observations the next year. Another received seven 4s and seventeen 3s in 2013-2014, but then received three 3s, seventeen 2s and three 1s the next year.
Especially revealing were the cases of two teachers who taught first semester at Diego, but transferred to different schools during second semester. The first received one observation at Diego, receiving mostly 2s, before transferring to a top-performing school, where the teacher received all 3s and 4s. The second teacher also received one observation at Diego, receiving nine 2s and six 3s, before transferring to a school on the far North Side. There, the teacher received one 4, thirty-two 3s and only two 2s over three additional observations. Unfortunately for these teachers, their one observation at Diego decreased their scores to the Developing range and they were placed on professional development plans with an annual rating cycle.
The Union consequently filed a grievance on behalf of Diego’s delegate and 19 other colleagues, collectively presenting evidence of each grievant’s involvement in advocating for a change in administration and receipt of miscalibrated observation scores.
Meanwhile, in Rogers Park, teachers at Jordan Elementary experienced their own 2014-2015 REACH abnormalities issued by an interim principal. During the 2012-2013 school year, long time Jordan principal Maurice Harvey retired, and new principal Syed Ahmed resigned abruptly at the start of the 2013-2014 year. After a year of interim principals, the 2014-2015 school year began with another interim principal, Ashley Peterson, and it was quickly understood that Peterson intended to apply for the principal contract as she was assigned by the network chief while the LSC conducted the principal selection process.
For various reasons, Peterson was divisive to the staff and the LSC, according to reports. Her supporters felt strongly that she was a positive match for the school, while opponents were vocal in their disapproval. Ultimately, the LSC decided to extend a contract to an outside candidate from Saucedo Elementary School.
In a situation similar to Diego, although not as widespread, six employees—all of whom were previously rated Proficient under the previous two administrations—received strikingly low REACH scores. As with the Diego grievance, the Union filed a grievance on behalf of the members and alleged retaliation and miscalibration in rating scores.
It’s important to note here that in both cases, when the current administrators at Diego and Jordan assumed REACH evaluation duties in 2015-2016, teachers’ REACH scores generally increased to their pre-2014-2015 ratings—Proficient. In September 2017, the Board presented grievants from both Jordan and Diego settlement offers which rescinded the ratings for 2014-2015 and replaced them with an “Inability to Rate” defaulting most to Proficient. One member who was laid off out of seniority due to the flawed rating was granted restoration of all benefit days and placement in the Reassigned Teacher Pool.
These two cases are an example of the necessity for individual schools to closely monitor REACH scores at a school-wide level, particularly when there is a change in administration or evaluators. Every Delegate and Professional Problems Committee should encourage members to share REACH observation scores to track variances. Some may be as simple as observing that scores from one evaluator are regularly lower than another evaluator. Or as in the case of Diego and Jordan, that scores fell directly after members engaged in advocacy which administration determined to be hostile.
Many of our members have heard administrators eagerly proclaim that if you are working in a low-performing school, it is impossible for the school to have high professional practice scores. Such a conclusion is ignorant and unsubstantiated by research. If you believe your evaluators are affected by this bias, contact your CTU organizer or field representative to discuss strategies to confront this false conclusion. Also contact your field representative if you need assistance in establishing a school-wide system for tracking rating scores.
Jose de Diego Community Academy. (Photo: Brule Laker/Flickr)
by sara echevarria - CTU Grievance Department Coordinator | November 02, 2017
CPS has changed the process for submitting your $250 supply money receipts – and is now requiring that those receipts be submitted within 60 days of purchase.
What does this mean for me? All reimbursement requests must be submitted to your school administrators and entered into SAW – “Service Anywhere” within 60 calendar days of purchase/return or within the current fiscal year, whichever ends earlier.
We suggest that you IMMEDIATELY turn in any receipts you may currently have for reimbursement. If you have not spent the full $250 yet and plan to spend those funds going forward, then you must submit those receipts for reimbursement within 60 days of the date on the receipt. If you miss the 60-day window, we can file a grievance over it, but payment will likely be delayed. Also, please note that purchases that are not ‘consumable’ – a chair or a computer mouse, for example – become the property of CPS. The contract language related to supply money is below.
7-6. Supply Money. Each Fiscal Year, the BOARD shall appropriate sufficient funds to each school or unit to reimburse teachers, counselors, clinicians and speech-language paraeducators up to $250.00 per employee for instructional supplies and materials, classroom library books and therapeutic materials purchased by them for student instruction and support. Principals and head administrators shall approve the reimbursements in accordance with the procedures developed by BOARD, and such reimbursements shall be paid by the end of the semester in which the receipts were submitted.
by ctu communications | November 01, 2017
Solidarity is powerful – and at Gage Park’s Florence Nightingale Elementary School, it’s won the struggle against an abusive principal, who was forced out of the school last Friday. DNAinfo reported today -- Wednesday -- that Margaret Kouretsos 'retired' from her $143,000 position, after facing allegations that she "verbally abused employees, retaliated against those who took sick days and kept a "black list" of enemies, according to teachers, a petition, Board of Education testimony and a lawsuit filed against her." A Daily Beast report also said the principal 'screamed' at those speaking Spanish in the overwhelmingly Latinx school.
Teachers came together to organize parents and the school community and win this battle. Teachers held union meetings, did outreach to parents, met with the network chief, set up an online petition, and spoke out at LSC meetings. Nightingale union members also conducted a staff survey which showed persistent levels of abuse and harassment by principal Margaret Kouretsos.
Teachers used the CTU contract to file a series of grievances documenting the principal’s chronic mistreatment of teachers and school community members. And teachers joined parents and neighborhood residents at monthly CPS board meetings, where they laid out evidence of Kouretsos’ appalling pattern of bullying and abuse. The teachers’ online petition, which was signed by more than a thousand people, became a vital public tool to air complaints and make the case for why Kouretsos had to be removed.
At the October 25 board meeting, teachers and parents once again organized to testify to the board about Kouretsos’ disturbing unprofessionalism.
Nightingale parent Rebecca Lopez delivered searing testimony of how Kouretsos had sought to undermine education for special needs students at the school. “This behavior shouldn't be tolerated – especially for someone who's in power as a principal,” said Lopez. Art teacher Christina Jennings also spoke, testifying for many former and current teachers and students. “This principal has been allowed to verbally and psychologically abuse teachers, parents and students for far too long,” she said, documenting Kouretsos’ shocking treatment of staff and parents.
This was not an easy or short fight – in no small part because Mayor Emanuel continues to thwart accountability and undermine democratic governance in CPS. Top CPS management had chronically refused to hold this principal accountable for her bullying and abuse, instead rewarding Kouretsos in 2016 with less paperwork responsibility and more ‘flexibility’ as a participant in CPS’ program for ‘Independent School Principals’.
Yet teachers ultimately prevailed – a powerful testament to what CTU members can achieve with strong organizing, including union-organized solidarity and support from the community.
Current and former CTU teachers at Nightingale issued the following statement after learning that Kouretsos had at last been ousted: “When union teachers, parents and students stand together to protect our schools, we can move mountains and make the impossible real. That’s what we’ve done together with this victory – moved the mountain that is CPS bureaucracy and forced the impossible: the removal of a bully principal favored by top management but opposed by all who care about the quality of education at this beloved neighborhood public school.”
by Joe Ward - DNAinfo Chicago | November 01, 2017
Principal Margaret Kouretsos retired Friday from the $143,000 position, according to a letter CPS sent to Nightingale families. Kouretsos faced allegations that she verbally abused employees, retaliated against those who took sick days and kept a "blacklist" of enemies, according to teachers, a petition, Board of Education testimony and a lawsuit filed against her. A news report also claimed that she lashed out at those speaking Spanish in the school.
A petition calling for Kouretsos' ouster gained more than 1,000 signatures, and parents and former teachers have gone to Board of Education meetings asking CPS to intervene. A federal civil rights lawsuit was also filed against her by a former teacher.
by chris baehrend - Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff President | October 30, 2017
Like most teachers in charter schools, I did not seek a charter job in preference to a district one. That’s just where I found a job. And like other educators at charters, I quickly came to care deeply about the students and the staff, and that is why I have stayed.
I immediately saw, however, that our school faced challenges I never knew schools could face. Every teacher had been fired at the end of the previous year. There were no textbooks or computers available for class use, and the internet and copier were often out of order.
Although it was a long, tough fight, forming a union has helped my school, Latino Youth High School, improve dramatically on every measure, including student performance, school culture, working conditions, resources and technology.
While there are some corporate education reform advocates on the management track, few actually teach in charter schools. This is because we see ourselves first and foremost as teachers and staff serving the public—as public educators. Whether you consider charter schools public schools or not, we certainly consider ourselves public servants, serving the same public that Chicago Teachers Union members serve. In this fundamental relationship with the community, Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS) and CTU members are already united.
ChiACTS President Chris Baehrend (left, at microphone) and CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey at a press conference before the Chicago Board of Education meeting on August 28, 2017.
(Photo: Richard Berg)
Many of our members have criticisms of the charter model of school governance as our schools have now also become victims of charter proliferation. Last year, the majority of ChiACTS schools experienced enrollment declines, budget cuts and multiple rounds of layoffs as the authorization of new charters cannibalized existing charter and district schools.
At the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention in 2012, ChiACTS called on our national union to support a moratorium on new charters, turnarounds and school closures. All of the other AFT charter locals joined ChiACTS at the 2014 AFT convention, successfully calling on the AFT to adopt as preferred language the phrase “teacher and staff at charter” instead of “charter teacher,” affirming our identity as public servants—not corporate representatives.
ChiACTS and CTU members share the same challenges: unstable school funding, austerity budgets, anti-union politicians and professional problems that look the same in any under-resourced school. Many of our schools endure three unelected school boards: Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education, the charter holder and a charter management organization, to which school administration is outsourced in many cases.
We know that unions are important because workers deserve a fair share of the fruits of their labor. But no one ever came to ChiACTS asking to form a union because they wanted a wage increase—as much as they may have needed one. Teachers form unions to do more for their students. In this sense, educators share a dual commitment to unionism—a commitment to our work and a commitment to our students. So I am optimistic that both ChiACTS and the CTU our will together lead (and win) the fight for a more equitable future, even as labor faces growing challenges from Emanuel, Gov. Bruce Rauner, President Donald Trump and potentially, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last year, ChiACTS had major contract wins at three networks—UNO Charter School Network (formerly UNO), ASPIRA and Passages—winning increased wages and benefits, dramatic reductions in non-student-attendance days and more voice in school policies. In each case, our membership voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike and were ready to walk at midnight when the bosses caved. Without our CTU field reps and the support of CTU staff and members, we wouldn’t have won anything close to what we have.
Yet working in a charter is still like being in a second-tier profession. While our first and subsequent contracts have raised standards and benefits, we are still far from the gains that CTU members have won. We realize that we need greater collective power to win greater rights and benefits, so we have lined up nine of our ten contracts to be negotiated this year. Our goal is to maximize our collective power in order to dramatically raise standards for our profession and hold our administrations accountable to do the right thing by our students.
Since charters receive the same funding as district schools, we need the same level of resources in our classrooms, including educator salaries. Even as taxpayers, we all need to demand that our tax dollars reach the classroom and do not end up lining administrator pockets. Forming unions, demanding strong contracts and removing for-profit ideologies is the only way to do this, and it is the best way to stop charter proliferation.
Nowhere else in the country have unions at charters grown as quickly and as large as ChiACTS, and our pace is set to accelerate. Last year, teachers at the 18-campus Noble Network went public with their demand for a union as the Union of Noble Educators (UNE). When this campaign succeeds, ChiACTS will grow from 25 percent of CPS charter schools to 40 percent. These brave educators are committed to using their collective power to effectuate racial, social, economic and gender justice in their schools and in their students’ lives.
Last June, ChiACTS held a referendum and five out of every six of our members voted to unify with the CTU. As our members overwhelmingly affirmed, unification is an opportunity for ChiACTS to build upon what we already love in our union and magnify our power to win great contracts and score political wins for the families we serve.
Your fight and our fight are the same. We demand well-funded, democratic schools in which those who know the students—parents and teachers—have a say in their education. That only happens when teachers have a fighting, member-driven union and parents have voice on an elected school board and Local School Council.
Most importantly, our values and our vision are the same. What motivates us to teach also drives our union activity. We know our students, with the right supports and opportunities, are capable of doing great things. We are committed to all of them realizing their best, which also means changing a world rife with social, economic and racial injustice. Our collective power is the means by which we fight for the better world our students deserve.