Union pickets meeting, releases negotiation details; district passes new probation policy

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About 70 Chicago Teachers Union members and others who oppose the
district’s teacher layoffs picketed outside today’s School Board
meeting. Jesse Sharkey, the union’s new vice president, rallied them
with a megaphone.

About 70 Chicago Teachers Union members and others who oppose the district’s teacher layoffs picketed outside today’s School Board meeting. Jesse Sharkey, the union’s new vice president, rallied them with a megaphone.

“They have come into our house at night, the house of the public schools, and they have taken everything that isn’t nailed down,” Sharkey said. “Now they come to us and say, ‘Give us a hand.’”

Inside the meeting, union President Karen Lewis asked the board to freeze new hiring – including the 200 Teach for America members the board agreed to hire in March – until the laid-off teachers had been placed in jobs. “School instability and high turnover is, in your eyes, good enough for our children,” she told the board.

Last week, 400 teachers and 200 support personnel received layoff notices, as the district seeks to close a $370 million deficit.

CEO Ron Huberman responded to Lewis by saying the district has placed over one-fifth of the coaches and citywide teachers laid off in June in new jobs, and extended their benefits an extra month. He also noted that non-union CPS employees have taken 21 furlough days and gone two years without a pay raise.

“In the last three years, teachers across the system have received a 16.5 percent increase, and we believe those increases were well deserved,” Huberman said. “(We will) look at the budget together, brainstorm together, but hopefully come to the realization that we need to do whatever it takes.”

After Lewis spoke, she released a document from the negotiations, showing a CPS estimate of $445.7 million in potential savings from union concessions. (Lewis says that instead of agreeing, the union will look for savings elsewhere once the district releases a draft budget).

The document outlines the different amounts of money that could be saved if concessions were agreed to at different points of the year. Among the cuts CPS is asking for: pay for recess time, nine holidays, and step and lane advancements. Still, “they seem to be working a little harder to be willing to work with us,” Lewis noted.

Savings From CTU Concessions

CPS also adopted a new performance and probation policy at the meeting. There are several changes from last year:

*It will be easier for some schools to get off probation. Those that have only been on probation for just a year need only one year of improved scores, rather than two consecutive years.

*Chief area officers will no longer be able to review and change a school’s probation status. That policy was scrapped because it was being implemented inconsistently and unevenly across the district, said Ryan Crosby, from the district’s Office of Performance.

*The board adopted a policy for the 2011-2012 school year, in addition to the coming year. “By putting it out as a two-year policy, (principals) will be able to plan,” Huberman said.

 

“These changes are being requested in large part by chief area officers and principals,” Crosby said.

Board member Peggy Davis asked about the policy’s effect on alternative schools. Crosby replied that the schools do not get ratings under the policy, but are given their score for informational purposes. “We are working with the new Area 30 office… to develop a score card that is appropriate,” he said.