Saturday, September 30, 2006

Who knew?

Tribune reports that company with ties to Daley had prime monopoly over all CPS Landscaping (there's landscaping?) then board changes rules to give half of business to minority company. Minority company that gets all of the business turns out to be a front for the company that had the monopoly. In Chicago? Who could have guessed? Check out my take. Oh and wait until we see who gets the contracts for the olympics if Chicago winds the who thing (we won't thank goodness).

Friday, September 29, 2006

My Favorite Math Problem

This was originally posted as a comment over at Russo's District 299 blog. Click here to read the whole thing.

That said, I think this might spark some good comments. Have at it if you will.

Here is my favorite math problem; maybe you might enjoy it too.

Since 20 minutes is the contractual amount of time a principal is required to observe your teaching, try this on for size.

Multiply 46 minutes by 5. That is the # of minutes you teach a day. Then multiply that # by 5, that is the number of minutes you teach a week.

Then, multiply that by 33 (we will just throw 6 weeks out the window to be fair to management, lots of half days, lots of assemblies, and lots of ACT testing, etc.). I picked 33 as the # of weeks and I think I am being generous to administration with this number.

The result is the number of minutes you teach a year.

You teach 37,950 minutes a year.

Divide 20 minutes of observation by the # of minutes you teach.

That infinitesimal percentage is the amount of time administration actually observes you doing your job.

So, one might ask one's self how can management possibly know if you are doing a good job based on the percentage of time they observe you?

Let's be honest, a factory worker gets more observation from a foreman than a teacher gets from a principal.

An even better question would be how your principal, as an “instructional leader”, can help you be a better teacher as your career matures over time. What valid advice can they offer, seeing as how they observe a tremendously small percentage of the time you actually spend doing your job?
Your thoughts? Who has helped you be a better teacher more, the union or CPS? Fire away.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nude Statue in Dallas Art Museum gets Veteran 5th Grade Teacher Fired.

Found this post over at DailyKos.

Here it is in it's entirety (be sure to click through on the link to read the whole story) :

Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 06:19:28 PM PDT

You're a veteran teacher of twenty-eight years. You get permission from your principal to take eighty-nine fifth graders on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art. Some kid sees a nude statue. Well, duh, it is an art museum, that should be no biggie, right?


When the kid gets home and talks about it to the parents they complain. So what does the principal do? The same principal that approved the trip. Does he stand up for his staff. Does he even stand up for himself? After all he authorized the trip. No. He fires the teacher!

I'm sorry if this has been blogged already. I'm mad and I want to blog it.

Read it for yourself here.
Jeff Wegerson
There is nothing quite like the experience of working in a "right to work" state. If this doesn't comvince you of the need for unions, well I sure can't help you.

If I was Dick Cheney, I would be angry enough after reading this story to shoot someone in the face. They sure got themselves some kinda principals in Texas. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Secret Stewart-Duncan Deal to Change Tenure Law

In what appears to be one of the biggest lies and betrayals of the Stewart team to date, CTU and CPS have agreed, in writing, to go to Springfield and change our tenure law to permit peer evaluation/peer review in our schools.

The Stewart team never shared this with CTU delegates or members--and, in fact are lying in the press by calling it a less controversial “peer mentoring” program. Any changes to our agreement must be ratified by CTU members.

This secret deal goes even further by jointly agreeing to change the tenure law in Springfield. The following are just a few quotes from the document PACT received under a Freedom of Information Act request. It is signed by Ms. Stewart (on 5/30/06) and Michael Scott (on 7/25/06).

"Whereas the Board and the Union wish to amend the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and the Fresh Start agreement to provide for a pilot peer review teacher evaluation and retention system…the Union and Board’s joint mission and purpose are to…fairly and respectfully identify, remediate and/or discontinue the services of teaching personnel…the parties recognize this as a radical departure from existing teacher evaluation and teacher removal methods…In or before the Fall 2006 veto session the Board and the Union will jointly sponsor legislation to amend Articles 24A and 34 of the Illinois Code…to allow the Board and the Union to create pilot alternative evaluation, remediation and dismissal procedures for teachers who have completed the probationary period…a tenured teacher intervention program shall commence on July 1, 2007...”
If this is a priority for the UPC team, why the secret deal? Why not run on it as a campaign issue and be open about it? I just don't get it.

What is the sense of the members out there?

Would you vote in favor of having colleagues in on decisions to fire you or not?

UPDATE: Check out TeacherX's thoughts here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Accountabilty for Hiring?

Well, one would hope.

Check out the stories from the Trib and the Sun-Times on how CPS wants to change teacher recruitment here.

Here is what I think: 40 or 50 years of framing the issue as teacher inability comes to a crashing end.

Finally, finally, someone asks "who hires?" the people everyone loves to complian about.

Administration has 4 years to decide on the viability of a teacher before they are awarded tenure (3 years in previous contracts). How did this work in the past? Did they simply hire and hope it will work out?

For the last few eons, the issue has never been about who is responsible for putting us in this mess, no one asked who did the hiring. Not once. That would mean accountability for adminstrators.

The frame has always been that teachers (and by extension their unions) are to blame for all problems. What are the solutions when you look at the issue from that point of view?

I don't know who is to thank for this move by the board, but for once they got it right. Train people to make good hiring decisions and things just might get better (of course that means they have to look at who they have in place to make those decisions...maybe even ask themselves who hired the principal who makes bad choices?)

What next? Will the board revise how professional development is used in the district and make strides towards improving who they already have working for them?

Will wonders never cease?

What do you think?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

DPS loses 25,000 pupils...Departures could cost Detroit $190M

You read right..$190 million.

Full story from the Detroit News here.

Eduwonk is all over this story here.

Here is an excerpt from the Det. News article:

A 16-day teacher strike may have cost Detroit Public Schools 25,000 students, district officials said Thursday, a potential loss that would mean a cut of $190 million in state aid and almost certainly another dramatic downsizing of schools and employees.

The gloomy estimate, which school officials acknowledge is not exact, comes in advance of Wednesday's official count day, when enrollment numbers are used to determine the amount of state funding to be allocated to districts across Michigan.

The district is embarking on a massive campaign to woo students back, with phone calls and letters to every student's home, enlisting the help of community groups and churches, in addition to count-day pizza and ice cream parties to make sure students are in school Wednesday.

"The situation is grim," said Jeff Mirel, author of "The Rise and Fall of an Urban School System," a chronicle of the district through 1981, who suggested staff and school cuts would be certain to follow.

There appears to be no upside to a strike. Kind of a damned if you do and damned if you don't thing. No strike and teachers would face a 5.5% pay cut. Strike (and get sold out with a crappy contract anyway - see here) and lose 100's of job positions.

I mused before if Detroit was a harbinger. Many told me it would be very different here in Chicago due to differences in the tax base, etc.

But I must confess, things don't look good. And my confidence in UPC getting a great contract is low, very low. Will CPS and UPC finally work together to organize "pizza and ice-cream" parties to get student numbers up? How inspired the teachers of Detroit must feel about now.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Why can't

CTU "leaders" just do their job without blaming PACT?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

And Here's The Rest Of The Story...

The last post showcased a letter from a union delegate to the staff of GPHS about the spin being handed out by the CTU executive board.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is a letter from Gage Park Social Studies Chair Andrew Martinek that was distributed to all staff in our mailboxes. I reprint this section with the permission of the writer. It is titled And here is the rest of the story:

On the day that Marty McGreal was fired, I called the union office and spoke with directly with President Marilyn Stewart. She assured me that the people downtown just didn't care and that the union would be contacting me and monitoring our situation very closely.

I did receive a call the next day from Nate Dixon, who told me pretty much the same thing and assured me that he would be in touch once school started after taking my cell phone number.

I HAVE NOT HEARD FROM OUR UNION SINCE! Actually, that's not true. They did see fit to disseminate lies and accusations about OUR elected union delegate. How does that help us lower class sizes? How does that cap our enrollments? How does that provide us with more books and resources to effectively do our jobs?

I want everyone to know that I am speaking as a non-aligned union member. I believe that a union should be just that, united, not a set of factions [Ed. - Yeah, that works until even non-aligned members get sick of cronyism and incompetence, then you take sides.]

As a union, reasonable people should have reasonable discourse about how to confront and solve problems. What has been the most disappointing thing to me about our current union leadership, is that it makes a habit of bashing union members. Just look at any edition of the union rag, the front page trashes Debbie Lynch or some other PACT official and page three calls for unity.

The priorities are obvious. Winning re-election is clearly more important than serving our needs. I haven't seen my working conditions improve in my six years as a CPS teacher, but I have witnessed plenty of griping and infighting. The Mayor and the Board don't need to break our union, it is already broken [Ed. - I prefer to think of it as in a coma until we throw the UPC incompetents out on their ear.]

It is up to us to fix it, or we will lose it.

For the record, I want everyone to know that Susan Steinmiller has been and continues to be an extremely dedicated and effective union representative. When I called her during the summer about the over-crowding issue, she responded immediately. [Ed. - to see her dedication in action, click here to see her interview with ABC7 at our informational picket]

She even drove in from Rockford to meet with Marty [McGreal], myself, and some community leaders. Even today, she is staying late to help us grow and build our community organizing effort. Just recently she helped negotiate overtime pay opportunities for teachers on staff here [at GPHS] in an effort to alleviate over-crowding issues. Where has the union leadership been on this issue?

Why does our delegate, a teacher with 5 classes just like the rest of us have to bear this burden alone, or worse, with the added weight of a smear campaign? Susan has served us well, and usually runs unopposed for the position. She deserves thanks and appreciation, rather than disrespect from the union she so dutifully serves.

A union that now seems willing to sacrifice Gage Park if it will help re-elect the union president. We should all let Marilyn Stewart know how we feel about that.


Andrew Martinek, NBCT Mentor
Social Studies Department Chair

Well, that just about sums it up doesn't it? Your thoughts?

More News From Deep Inside The House Of Delegates!

Since we are primarily a blog by and for union members, I think we need a big healthy dose of union news and views.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is a letter from the Gage Park delegate that was distributed to all staff in our mailboxes. I reprint this section with the permission of the writer, Delegate Steinmiller. It is titled Here is the rest of the story:

By now, most of you received a letter from CTU President Stewart reporting her progress solving the over-crowding issue at Gage Park. She further commented how I failed to report about Gage Park's informational rally and that's why she didn't attend. [Ed. - To view the video of the rally click here and here.]

What you don't know is...I was the one who invited Field Rep Nate Dickson to come to Gage Park for our Sept. 1st meeting. I told him we were discussing the plans on how to fight the over-crowding, which might include an informational picket. I asked him for help. He did not call me until two days later. Then he left me a message that he couldn't attend our meeting since he would be in arbitration hearings. He said he would get back to me with a possible replacement.

He never called me back. In fact, I thought no one from the union was coming, until I walked in the auditorium when low and behold there was six members of the CTU executive board!

At the meeting, I was met with rudeness, as Vice President Porter asked me "Why wasn't this meeting started when it was supposed to?" At that time, I presented VP Dallas and Field Rep Dixon with our meeting agenda which included discussion of our rally.

Please note, by this time there were several articles and news stories about Marty [McGreal] being fired and our over-crowding situation. NO ONE from CTU called me or any of our associate delegates about how they would help us.

On another note, last Wednesday at the Delegate's meeting the Executive Board slammed Debbie Lynch for being at our rally as "she's the cause of our over-crowding."

When it was my turn to speak at the house meeting, a member of Stewart's caucus motioned to adjourn the meeting. Again, no one from the CTU asked what they could do for the teachers and staff of Gage Park.

I know this is an election year for the city, state, and union, BUT there's a time and place for politics and it should not be at the cost of our jobs and our students' quality education.

Respectfully submitted,

S. Steinmiller
Well, this has moved people, mostly un-aligned union members (a response to this letter is coming soon). Many members of the GPHS staff are understandably upset at this treatment of one of Chicago's hardest working teachers (and our delegate to boot). Maybe UPC needs to change their name to CYA, since that is what they seem to be concerned about.

Do other schools get the same brush off and disrespect from the UPC team?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Makes Sense To Me (Or How Russo's 299 Rocks...Again).

"Why free a group of schools from bureaucratic oversight? If that oversight is harmful, free all schools. If it is supportive, don't "free" any. If it is harmful, change it. It's like Cunningham is saying, "we not imposing our stupid rules and regs on everyone, just the bad schools.""

From a discussion at Dist.299 blog. You gotta love that. Cuts to the quick doesn't it? Nub of the issue...Core of the problem...and any other cliche you can think might apply about now.

I bet politicians must really hate people who make sense, especially those who can make it clear to anyone listening.

You can catch the conversation here.

P.S. - Whoever you are who wrote that...Would you like to use our blog as a platform to speak out more regularly? Email me here.

first year, first post, first few weeks...

As a first year teaching, there are just a few things I would like to post on this blog. I just graduated in May of 2006 and being my first year teaching, I know that I have my hands full in the CPS. I am excited to meet the challenges that all teachers face and am blessed to be able to work with the students of Chicago's southwest side. There are so many good people in CPS, I am not having any problem turning to any of my department members for support and everyone has really been more than willing to help me out. For that, I would like to thank all of my fellow teachers at Gage Park High.

I have had some very scary encounters with students already, threats and what not that have set me thinking about many different issues. I am lucky and unlucky to have recieved the first year teacher's nightmare schedule (all freshmen with a tenth period class ending at 4:25 pm), but so far I have found many postives. I have been working relentlessly trying to involve the student's parents and so far I have had a lot of sucess in that department. Aside from the disconnected telephone numbers (which is a constant problem for me) the parents I have spoken with have been concerned and more than eager to assit me with their children's education. Granted I know this is only the middle of the third week, but so far the parent's enthusiasm to help their children is very comforting to me. I just need to find a way to reach the parents that have no phone...

As a 22 year old teacher, classroom management has become my most important issue and I am slowly learning the ins and outs of creating the ideal learning environment. Once again, I owe a tremendous thank you to the faculty for helping me withtheir advice and wisdom. I am glad to see that there are no teachers that have sunk to showing up, follwing the routine, leaving, and taking their paychecks. This is one of the most postive aspects of the school I have witnessed thus far. The other first year teachers (and there are many) are also experiencing this wave of excitement and progression with me, all while keeping the most hopeful and optimistic views. I can feel a change occuring in the attitudes of the teachers, the students, and the parents causing me to be extremely excited and hopeful for the future of the Chicago Public Schools.

Thank you for your time and to all the teachers out there reading this post, keep up the positive attitude. If you have any great advice with classroom management (other than do not smile till x-mas, which I have heard thousands of times and I have already completely blown... I wish I could do that, I am just having too much fun) please leave me a comment with some advice. Take it easy

also, I had a blast at the Sox game last night, probably one of the most fun games I have ever been to. Hopefully they can still pull it out... I am keeping the faith.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Union Action Alert

The AFL-CIO blog has some great stuff.

I found the following over at Firedoglake and thought everyone should read it.

Here is a snippet to get you started:

When Your Gall Bladder Gets Sent to India, Have You Had Enough?
By: Jordan Barab
Guest Blogged By Tula Connell

Carl Garrett, a paper mill technician in Canton, N.C., needed gall bladder and shoulder surgery. So his employer, Blue Ridge Paper Products, came up with an increasingly less- than-novel solution: Send him overseas for surgery.

India, in this case.

Garrett volunteered to go. But let’s face it, how much of an option did he have? Let’s see: Agree with your employer and take your chances overseas, or risk paying out-of-pocket costs for the entire surgery in the United States? Duh.

But Garrett has a union, and the union didn’t stand for what the media and others have euphemistically dubbed “medical tourism.” The USW International Union (USW) persisted until management backed off the plan. The USW and Blue Ridge will work together to find an alternative within the United States.
Really, read the whole thing. It's quite inspiring.

Teacher Night With The Sox


Gotta love it when even sports teams do their best for the hard workin' teachers of their city.

Did you go?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Oops. Sorry About That.

Last week I changed the blogger settings on comments to moderate.

I thought it would let me delete abusive or off-topic comments.

Instead it stopped all comments from publishing until approved, an activity no one here has the time for. This was an error. I did not realize that comments needed to be approved to show up.

So, we are taking all comments again and apologize for the blocking of previous comments.

Be nice to each other.

No Words Necessary

I know there is a joke about Ms. Stewart and the UPC in here somewhere...but I will leave it up to you.

Calling I.M Stillanoptimist! (And Russo, too)

Interesting discussion going on over at Kevin Drum's Washington Monthly blog.

I read it and some of the comments. It made me think of I.M. Stillanoptimist discussing the role of poverty, etc. and why schools struggle so much over at Mr. Russo's District 299 blog.

Below is the post in full. Go and read the comments. Some good and some weird stuff there.
Here is Mr. Drum's post:

DO YOUR HOMEWORK!....Conor Clarke writes today about a rash of back-to-school articles suggesting that homework is a sham that does nothing to help student achievement. In fact, he says, it's worse than that:

It would be a mistake to view this as a surprise, or even an isolated failure. After all, it's not easy to find a connection between academic success and most educational policies....What if academic success is so overwhelmingly predetermined by outside factors that schools can do little to change the situation?

The recent spate of homework hatred raises this same question, and it should produce the same answer: Educational debates should focus less on education policy as such, and more on socioeconomic inequality.

The connections between inequality and academic success are well-documented. As a recent report in The American Journal of Sociology found, early social context is so important that children are "launched into achievement trajectories when they start formal schooling or even before" that are "highly stable over childhood and adolescence." These trajectories, in turn, create achievement gaps that are evident in early grades and grow with age, so that "even a slight edge in test scores during the early years can predict long-term advantage." And this isn't just because wealthier students go to ritzier schools: the trajectories are almost as predictable even when well-heeled students end up in economically disadvantaged institutions.

I'll confess that I have a lot of sympathy for this view. The education world seems to be perpetually riven by fantastically shrill battles between traditionalists and progressives, and in the end it's hard to see that either side ever manages to win decisively in any area. These battles have swung back and forth for decades (the traditionalists seem to have won the latest round in the math wars, for example), but there's precious little evidence that kids today learn any more or less than kids in the 40s and 50s. Or the 60s or 70s. Does any of this stuff really make a difference?

Maybe. But I think Conor is probably right: simple socioeconomic inequality is such an overwhelming factor that everything else combined is barely a blip on the radar. Unfortunately, addressing that requires lots of money and an enormously intensive effort. A year of two of Head Start just doesn't do the trick. There's not much hope of anyone making a serious push on this front anytime soon.

I thought this was a good way to start an argument with teachers of every political/philosophical stripe. Tell them homework is a sham and stand back and watch the fur fly.

I think that Conor Clark's assertion that "After all, it's not easy to find a connection between academic success and most educational policies...." is something I think the good folks over at the Education Trust can quickly refute. They have all the data on the importance of teacher quality and its impact on student achievement (check out The Real Value of Teachers at their site).

Your thoughts Mr/Ms. I.M. Stillanoptimist?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Who is Steve Huntley?

Steve Huntley is (I think at least according to his column) a member of the Sun-Times editorial board. He makes a really lame attempt to show that vouchers will save us from the school funding crisis - or something like that. Uhh, no. Anyay, not to toot my own horn or anything but I took the liberty of reviewing his column. My verdict - Steve Huntley is not so swift. I mean, I wouldn't interview myself if I was writing a column. You don't believe me. Read my post - you'll see. Really, I think he interviewed himself.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How About Some Good News?


Two weeks. Classes still over the limit, kids restless and antsy, I could find 100's of things to complain about.

I want to hear a couple of good things. We do this job for lots of reasons, but most of all for the payoffs you can't get anywhere else.

Anyone have one of those yet?

Don't be shy. I'll start it off ok?

I had a young woman transfer into my class just a couple of days ago. I had her as a freshmen at my old school (CVCA) and now here it is years later and she walks into my class.

She said she transferred over into Gage. She saw my name on the teacher list and asked if it was me and insisted on being in my class.

Makes you feel good, eh? It did me.

So, how about a couple of nice stories today to get over all the difficult things going on right now?

Fire away.

Detroit Teachers Agree To End Two-Week Walkout

Full CNN story here.

The financially struggling district initially sought a 5.5 percent pay cut over two years, part of $88 million in concessions it wanted from the 7,000 teachers and 2,500 other unionized professionals. The district has a $1.36 billion budget and is trying to close a $105 million deficit.

The union wanted raises after years without them.

The two sides eventually agreed on a one-year pay freeze, followed by increases of 1 percent the second year and 2.5 percent the third. Veteran teachers will start paying 10 percent of their health insurance costs, something that only those hired since 1992 had been doing. Teachers will lose three days' pay for three preparation days that were canceled because of the strike.
Someone please tell me this is not the future. Freeze for a year, and paltry 1 and 2% raises? CNN posted this story at 10:52pm on the 13th.

Just for some perspective, the following story was printed in the Detroit Free Press on the same morning, Sept. 13:

Foreclosures soar
35,000 Metro Detroiters lose homes so far this year
Dorothy Bourdet / The Detroit News

Metro Detroit homeowners are skidding into foreclosure at nearly three times the rate as they were last year as a slumping economy, falling home values and risky mortgages leave more household budgets in the red.

From the manors of Bloomfield Hills to the bungalows in south Warren, Metro Detroiters in every walk of life are having trouble making their house payments and fending off the repo man.
According to figures to be released today by RealtyTrac, foreclosures shot up 137 percent, from 14,789 to 35,041, in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Livingston counties from January through August, compared to the same period last year.
I am speechless.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hey everyone

Teacherx here.

I feel honored to have been asked to post at Chicago Teachers Speak out. You can look for me here, or you can find me over at I just posted a piece which is really a meditation on the whole big box thing going on. How does it relate to the schools? Children are affected when families do not have enough money. When people have to worry about basic neccessities then in the long run, the children suffer. We need real jobs in chicago that pay real wages so that families can worry about their child's homework instead of worrying about paying the bills.

My Daily Dose

District 299 Chicago Public Schools Blog
All about Chicago schools -- all the time.

If you haven't checked out Russo's blog, it is a must read.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kids Suspended Over Free-Speech T-shirt Protest

Full story from the Detroit Free Press here.

It was Gandhi's philosophy of peaceful, nonviolent protest that inspired Kelly and Todd Galley's children to revolt against the Lincoln Park School District's new, stricter dress code.

But it was the text of the First Amendment -- ironed onto their T-shirts -- that got them suspended.
I have always thought that uniform policies made little sense. The rationale is always shifting, kinda like why we are in Iraq. One year it is gang affiliation, next it is parents want it because it makes shopping for clothes easier, one time someone told me it was a good thing because it helps blurs class lines, last year someone said it is about maintaining order in hallways and discipline.....the answers to the question keep changing.

So I'll ask you. Why do we have a uniform policy?

P.S. Kinda of a cool story about kids suspended for wearing the first amendment, yeah?

Where's My $1 Million?

Remember this from September 1 of this year?

The Associated Press

September 1, 2006, 9:24 AM CDT
SEATTLE -- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is putting $16 million into a new high school improvement program that's to be launched this year in eleven high schools in Chicago and two other districts.

Well, It's been over two weeks. 1/11th is well over a million dollars. Why isn't this money flowing into my building? Are our students undeserving? Where is it going?

Did your school get any of this cash? Did it have any impact/make changes?

What would you do with $1 million dollars if you could use it to "improve" your school?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Teacher X Goes To The Mat

There is a serious smackdown of the whole Charter concept going on over at Teacher X.

Read the post in full here.

Money Quotes:

"Once again, if Urban Prep had their own building, I wouldn't be so outraged - but I am completely outraged at this quote. First of all, I ask the same question that I asked again - WHY IS HE THERE? What model is Duncan talking about? Overcrowded schools? 30 students in a classroom? Firing principals with principles and installing bureaucrats to do the boards dirty work? Since he is Daley's man, is he signaling that CPS is going to further Charterize the system? Where are all the "surplus" kids going to go? Eventually they are going to put kids in McCormick Place because they have nowhere else to go."

"This whole dog and pony show over at Lindbloom is crazy. It's ridiculous and a parody of what responsible school administrators should be doing about the system that they are (unfortunately) adminstering."
Don't you wish your kid was in this person's classroom?

Detroit Battle Goes On...

Full CNN story here.

Teachers defy judge's order to return to work; contract talks resume

DETROIT, Michigan (AP) -- Thousands of striking Detroit teachers defied a judge's order to return to work Monday as school officials and the union resumed contract talks in the two-week dispute.

Circuit Judge Susan Borman on Friday ordered the 7,000 teachers to go back to work Monday, but district spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo said the overwhelming majority remained off the job. He said attorneys would go back in court Tuesday to ask the judge to "enforce our rights."

State law allows for fines and other penalties against employees who ignore a back-to-work order, but Oguntoyinbo would not say what action the district would seek.
I'll be keeping my eye on this...but one might ask, why the strike? What is Detroit asking of its teachers?

Check this out from CBSNEWS.COM:

The union last month rejected a two-year contract proposal that sought 5.5-percent wage reductions and copays for health care benefits of up to 20 percent.At Beaubien Middle School, many parents dropping their children off expressed sympathy with the teachers, who are being asked to make $88 million in concessions."They have to provide for their families," said Diane Madlock, whose son Jonathan is starting seventh grade. "They can't do that if their salaries are continually being cut."
Let's see...5.5% wage cut, check. 20% rise in insurance co-pays...check.

What would you do? Do you support what the teachers in Detroit are doing? Anyone know how we can help out our union brothers and sisters (Is it just me, or does the "brothers and sisters" part sounds too 70's?) across the pond as it were?

Detroit...Could This Be Chicago In One Year?

No one, and I mean no one I know, truly wants a strike.

Not for ideological reasons, not for any reason. But a strike there may be if CPS forces the issue.

Look at what the teachers in Detroit are going through right now. Nasty business. I promise to post some info on what is going on in Detroit ASAP.

To the teachers out there, what is the deal-breaker issue for you? What would you strike over?

To our other readers, what issues, if used for a strike, would make you think the teachers went too far in walking out? What issues would make you think CPS pushed it too far?

I would like to say, if a strike, real or theatened, is on the agenda, why isn't our union holding informational meetings right now? They should do the math and advise us how much we should start saving right now for a one week, two week, or one month strike. The credit union could make a marketing coup right now if they would help us open up anticipated strike savings accounts.

How much would be enough to get you through a strike?

Let's figure a month long walkout (I know that is long by historical standards, but better safe than sorry). How much do you need to set aside starting now?

I would estimate most teachers would need between 3 and 4 thousand set aside to make it a month without pay and still pay all their bills on time.

To save $3,ooo, a teacher would have to save $125 a pay period for the next 24 checks they receive. For $4,000, the amount goes to $167 for the next 24 pay periods.

Is there anyone out there doing this? Or will you let your credit rating be punished?

Why isn't this part of the teacher induction service?

Violence Against Teachers

From CNN, whole story here.

CHULABHORN NAVAL BASE, Thailand (AP) -- "When you pull the trigger, you've got to keep steady," the instructor sternly told the elementary school teachers. "If your hand is shaking you can't shoot."

Teachers have one of the deadliest jobs in southern Thailand, with 44 killed by the bombs and bullets of an Islamic insurgency since 2004.

So the teachers are learning how to shoot back.
I know that violence against teachers in CPS is a serious issue and should be treated as such, but what the heck is going on in Thailand?

Do you have a story about violence in our schools here in Chicago? Click below to share your comment.

On This Day

I have a unique CPS Bureaucracy memory of September 11.

I was teaching freshmen World Studies that year. The syllabus was Europe and the Americas in the Fall, Asia and the Middle East in Spring.

On the Friday after 9-11, the curriculum coordinator, who had been walking by my room, inquired as to why I was teaching about the Middle East, when it wasn't scheduled until the Spring.

I talked about "teachable moments" and how I felt I should capitalize on what had happened and I would simply teach Europe in the Spring.

I actually had to explain to a CPS administrative employee why I was teaching about the Middle East on Sept. 14, 2001.

Kinda says it all doesn't it?

Found this video on a blog I read often called Firedoglake. I hope you enjoy it as we all pause to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Click on the video to play.


Note to our readers: The following post was emailed to me from deep inside the last house delegates meeting - more to come from this author

DUES INCREASE 10.5% 2006-07 DUES$ 879.27

The increase will appear on the Sept. 22nd check, the dues will be $33.82. The formula for assessing dues is to take 1% of Step 6 Lane 1.

The salary quoted by the UPC/CTU is $59,727, ($597.00 CTU dues) add to that the $282.00 AFT and IFT ‘passthroughs’ and increases (of which Marilyn Stewart strongly supported, and will benefit from).

However the correct salary figure is $54,650 whichwould make the dues $828.50 (still too much). Either the CTU deliberately padded the dues increase by an extra $50.77 or they don’t know what they’re doing; and these are the people who could be negotiating the next contract!

The gain from this ‘mistake’ will give the CTU over $1.5 million of extra money. The total increase amounts to over $2.6 million for the UPC/CTU family and friends. The leadership did not allow discussion or questions from delegates at the House meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 6th. The only people allowed to speak during the question period were UPC members and CTU staff.

They continued to lie to the house and members about the contract. They are not enforcing the contract, i.e. they are not doing their job! They figure if they tell the lies enough everyone will believe them. (Note from Victor: I tried to find the video of Bush at a Social Security meeting saying that his job forced him to repeat things over and over to, and I quote, "catapult the propoganda" to insert here for your viewing pleasure but couldn't find it. This author's take on the UPC just reminded me of that...I don't know why.)

They (UPC) hired 4 more field reps. Patronage, the bad kind, is alive and well at CTU. They are emptying the CTU treasury into their pockets and then raising the dues and are getting away with it.

They have given tens of thousands of dollars to Mike Madigan are supporting Blagojevich and haven't passed one piece of legislation to benefit CTU members or our schools. But their expense accounts are growing bigger and bigger every day. They seem to expending all of their energy and what money they don’t put in their own pockets attacking Debbie Lynch instead of defending and protecting the members of the CTU.

'Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.' And the UPC/CTU takes this to extremes!

Author - Sarah Loftus

In one year the increase goes up by 10.5%...10.5%????

What the heck, golly gosh gee willikers?!@#?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Another Charter Feel Good Story

A feel good story about the new Urban Prep Charter of Englewood from the Chicago Defender.

Here is Rufus Williams, President of the Chicago Board of Education:

"We're closing the achievement gap. Let us have a moment of silence for low expectations because they're over and they're dead," Williams said. "I believe these students will shatter negative stereotypes often applied to our youth - particularly African American youth."
Mr. Williams, is it the magic of charters that will bury low expectations or could it be quality teaching? Better yet, if you know how to get the job done for 150 young boys, why can't you make it happen for all 500,000 students in the city?

Perhaps Mr. Williams needs a partner in this quest to bury low expectations. I would recommend he make the CTU his partner, not high-powered business people with an anti-union philosophy.

What do you think? Is there a way we can help Mr. Williams out?

The More The Merrier

I will post this call for new authors once a week or so until this site is filled with the diverse, authentic and challenging voices the teachers of CPS are. So come on already, drop me an email and write for us. The following call was originally posted on Friday, Sept. 1

Your voice about issues you face at your school is needed to make this site really work. Email me to request authoring privileges.

You can reach me here.

Together we can make this the best source of information about Chicago Public Schools.

You don't even need to use your name, you can post and comment anonymously.

Negotiating on Pension Funding

Our anonymous author "John Dewey" wrote a post about possible negotiating ideas for the upcoming contract (see post in full here).

Although Mr. "Dewey" makes some interesting points, I wonder if the rumor that UPC is negotiating about pension funding is true. Has anyone heard anything about this? (Mr. "Dewey" wrote: "Rumor has it that Stewart will give up the Pension Funding requirement in return for the PAT and charter concessions she seeks.")

Since Mr. Dewey's post, I have talked with some knowledgable people.

I was told that pension funding means the money the state is obligated to provide the pension fund each year--and if the pension fund dips below 90%, CPS is obligated to put in the difference to keep it at 90% funded.

Our pension pick-up, on the other hand, is the 7% CPS has to add to our paychecks in addition to salary, for our total compensation. That 7% pension-pickup was negotiated in lieu of a raise some years back, and cannot stop unless negotiated away by the union, which, of course, would be suicide.

What have you heard? Would Stewart and the UPC negotiate away the CPS contribution to our pension funding?

Teacher Blogs as Information Centers For Parents

Interesting post over at Edwize (the NY UFT Blog) about how to use blogs in classroom.

Have you ever used them as a teaching or communication tool with parents/students?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Challenge To The CTU And All Unions

This comes from a commenter (aptly named "I.M. Stillanoptimist") over at Russo's District 299 Blog:

Daley is far more clever than he is given credit for being and he knows his audience well. Charters in Chicago are union-busters-- subtle, carefully deployed ammunition in Daley's war to "remake" Chicago and its schools. Eventually, whether its this term or eight years down the road, the CTU may become the most notable victim of "collateral damage" in this war.
Read the whole thing.

What do you think? How does the CTU get Daley to put the charters under the auspices of the union?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Russo Is All Over The CTU and The Governor

Leave it to Mr. Russo to get the latest on the CTU endorsement of Blago.

But still...what about pressuring the Gov. to say he'll consider a tax swap next time around? What about pressuring him to make some of the vague proposals from his Meeks plan more specific? Nope. Nunna that. All they got, far as I can tell, is the "hope" that the Gov will do better by education next time around:

"Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart stated that her membership’s endorsement is based on the hope that the Governor will finally address the crucial issue of school funding during a second term in office. She added that the governor’s voting record on labor issues far exceeds that of his Republican opponent, Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka."

Please read the whole post here.

Looking at the highlighted text got me to thinking...will the UPC be "hoping" that CPS will make concessions?

Will they "hope" the mayor will give teachers a raise, is there "hope" he will bring charter school staff into the union fold?

What is UPC "hoping" for regarding the new contract?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Windows HS: Microsoft designs a school system

CNN Story about Vallas and Microsoft in Philly:

At the 162,000-square-foot high school, which sits on nearly eight acres, the day starts at 9:15 a.m. and ends at 4:19 p.m., simulating the typical work day. Officials said studies show students do better when they start later in the day.

Students -- who are called "learners" -- use smart cards to register attendance, open their digital lockers and track calories they consume. They carry laptops, not books, and the entire campus has wireless Internet access.

Teachers, or "educators," rather than using blackboards, have interactive "smart boards" that allow teachers to zoom in and out, write or draw, and even link to the Internet.
There's no library, but an "interactive learning center" where information is all digital and a "multimedia specialist" will help out students.

Instead of a cafeteria, there's a food court with restaurant-style seating. The performance center -- where two sections rotate close to create a smaller space -- replaces the typical auditorium.

Your thoughts? (Aside from jealousy about the resources)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Marty Goes National!!

Washington Post Story On The Firing Of Principal McGreal.

Brief excerpt:

Chicago Principal Loses Battle on Overcrowding
City Won't Cap Enrollment for Struggling School

By Peter SlevinWashington Post Staff WriterTuesday, September 5, 2006; Page A03

CHICAGO -- Fed up with overcrowding at a Chicago public high school with too many problems and too little space, Principal Martin McGreal indulged a fantasy of overwhelmed school leaders everywhere: He declared enrollment closed.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Can We Hope?

"It's all about the teaching," Allen said. "You can build a beautiful new building, buy all the fancy computers you want and institute the best math and reading program. But if you don't have good, quality teachers, you are not likely to succeed."

Those are the words of Lionel Allen, newly minted principal of Sherman Elementary and whose story was featured on the front page of today's Chicago Tribune (article here).

In keeping with full disclosure, let me state that I know Mr. Allen and I am familiar with the doctoral program he is in at UIC. That said, his quote that I placed at the top of this post, both intrigues and worries me.

It intrigues me that there exists the possibility that there are members of the administration that get it, that really understand that "what a teacher knows and can do" is the single greatest factor affecting student achievement. That is thrilling.

It worries me that in service of the goal to have a staff of excellent teachers as the Tribune story lays out, Sherman Elementary fired everyone but the students.

There is a disconnect somewhere along the line here. Why not intensive professional development? Why not make bad teachers good, good teachers great, and great teachers outstanding? Why is no one, save the CTU Quest center, focused on improving what I like to call "instructional capacity"?

I've said it before and I will say it again, the best professional development I ever had came from my union, not my employer. CPS professional development, although better than it use to be, has been a joke. It was the union that gave us real challenges (ask anyone who went through the Nurturing Teacher Leadership Program or has worked with Dr. Bearden).

Can Mr. Allen turn things around at Sherman? I hope so. I would love to have the concept of effective teachers proven in the most challenging circumstances.

Do I wish they could have reached this point without firing the entire staff? You bet. But I can take solace in that the former staff of Sherman, including the administration, were CPS employees, hired and trained by CPS. If the union had more to say about teacher quality, maybe the firings would have been unnecessary.

That's why I support PACT. Their agenda is more closely aligned with improving teaching than the UPC is. Remember, it was Ms. Stewart who said "we are a union, not a university".

That sentence alone is why I will work day and night to remove the UPC from power.

I believe that teachers can be better and the only entity that has made any progress for the children of Chicago is the CTU, certainly not CPS. Now we need to make the next election about where the union should place its priorities, and the PACT caucus best represents my educational philosophy.

Monday, September 04, 2006

In Honor of Labor Day

Share a union-themed story with us. No one has more union stories than Chicago. C'mon. Give us a story.

Upcoming CTU/CPS Contract

Does anyone have any details on the contract talks? The Stewart people seem to have mastered bravado, but I never trust ANYTHING that's said. I'm more prone to rely on rumors (esp. if I've heard them repeatedly).

I sense that there will be a lot of fighting over the PAT-tenure stuff and charters. I think the charter stuff has more credibility than the PAT stuff, personally. Charters just aren't that good and the teachers are just younger and Gun-ho (some), not skilled, knowledgeable or experienced. Very little beyond surface stuff (I worked @Paz for about 7mths). High scores come because they attract a specialized niche market of parent (not kids). They couldn't deal with the neighborhood populations--they're too ill-equipped. And the administrators? Please......

Rumor has it that Stewart will give up the Pension Funding requirement in return for the PAT and charter concessions she seeks. I haven't hear anything about raises, 5+5, pensionable after-school, summer-school, morning-tutoring, etc.

Daley and Ducan plan an attack on teacher attendance and tardiness. Roz Rossi at Sun-Times is going to LOVE that! And so will your average Joe-Blow who doesn't have any idea of what inner-city teachers have to put up with. Some schools do have some pretty dismal teacher attendance rates though. I hope they don't look at my school! LOL!

I sense that teachers really DON'T want to strike. In fact, many I've talked to have said as much. It's a financial thing mostly. And I think City Hall knows this and plays on it. But there is a sense of futility too. Its like, "Daley is going to do whatever he wants, so why strike"?

If there are any PACT folks who were involved (even peripherally) in the last contract it would be great to hear their replies.

Great Article On Why Unions Matter

From the AFL-CIO Blog. The Article is here.

Short excerpt:

In fact, some 57 million working people say they would join a union if they had a chance, according to a survey from Peter D. Hart Research Associates.

So why don’t more workers join unions?

The answer lies in the nation’s outmoded labor laws. U.S. labor laws, passed in the 1930s, sound on the face of it like a democratic process: They are set up so workers at a jobsite vote in secret ballot elections to determine if there’s enough support to join a union.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Are You Part Of The 94 Percent?

94 percent of teachers said they spent their own money on school supplies.

Washington Post story is here.

The average amount spent by a teacher is $522. CPS reimburses us $100 for supplies.

How much do you spend on your classrooms?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Spellings Says No Child Law Near Perfect

The Secretary of Education said the following: "I talk about No Child Left Behind like Ivory soap: It's 99.9 percent pure or something," Spellings told reporters. "There's not much needed in the way of change."

Read the whole thing here.

Sometimes the disconnect between policy and the classroom just overwhelms me.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Help Us Cover The Whole City!

Last thing I want is for this to became an all Gage Park all the time blog.

Your voice about issues you face at your school is needed to make this site really work.

Email me to request authoring privileges. You can reach me here.

Together we can make this the best source of information about Chicago Public Schools.

You don't even need to use your name, you can post and comment anonymously.

Channel 7 Covers Gage Park Protest

The link below will take to the story page at Channel 7. To see the video, click on "watch video" on the ABC 7 page just below the fold.

Gage Park teachers protest crowded classrooms

Parents of students at a high school on Chicago's Southwest Side say the building is too crowded. Just last week, interim principal Martin McGreal was fired from Gage Park High School for refusing to enroll more students. He said he did so because the school is already overcrowded.

You'll need a version of Windows Media Player 7 or higher to view the video. If you need to download it, go to The video player is supported by Microsoft IE 5.0 and above.

Is "Neutered" The Right Word For This?

I don't want to memorize the contract and I suspect that many other teachers don't want to either.

I think most teachers want their unions to do that for them. Makes sense to me, that way we can devote our energy to being better teachers.

That said, union leadership is vitally important.

So issues of competence and confidence in our union leadership should be important to us.

The Tribune has a story today about how the new charter virtual elementary school has been approved by the state board of education.
Here is the money quote from Marilyn Stewart:

After the vote, Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart vowed to "take swift and appropriate action to stop or block the opening of this school."

Just makes you burst with pride doesn't it? Swift and appropriate. I bet CPS is shaking in their boots. Sounds less like a plan and more like a sound-bite to me.

Where have I heard such rich and detailed plans before?

Will Ms. Stewart let us know that as charters stand up, we can stand down?

Will she advise us that we can't cut and run from our plan to block the opening of another charter school?

Will the UPC campaign slogan for this spring's election be stay the course?

Here is how CPS responded to Ms. Stewart's vow to be swift and appropriate:

...Chicago Public Schools general counsel Patrick Rocks said "it is very unlikely there could be a viable legal challenge."
CPS sounds like her vow really threw them for a loop, eh?

Is neutered the word I am searching for when I think of how CPS deals with the union when UPC is in charge?

16 Million Dollars for Chicago High Schools

Gates Foundation to aid Chicago high schools.

Tribune story here.

Tribune Covers Gage Park Informational Picket

Jammed school ignites parents and teachers

Full story here.
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