By Meribah Knight of the Chicago News Cooperative
(Photo by Andrew A. Nelles)
After discovering last week that nearly a quarter of their teachers were being dismissed, Austin Polytechnical Academy students decided to take extreme action. Holding secret planning sessions under the guise of a robotics team meeting, they plotted.
First, they gathered signatures of more than half the student body on a petition demanding that the decision be reversed. Then on Monday, at 9 a.m. sharp, despite threats of suspension from school, more than a hundred of the school’s 358 students walked out of their classes and into the street.
Chanting “Save our Teachers,” the students circled the school at 231 N. Pine Ave. Police and security guards managed the crowd.
The firings, student walkout, and a flurry of union grievances that are in the works follow a year of abrupt fits and starts at Austin Polytech.
In October, Chicago Public Schools officials placed the school on academic probation. In February, students learned the interim principal was leaving at year’s end. In March, CPS backed off a hasty plan to merge Austin with another school after a community uproar.
Now, seven of their 30 teachers are being dismissed. And the interim principal who made the decision, Fabby Williams, gave five of them the school district’s controversial “do not hire” designation that bans them from future employment with CPS.
Repeated calls and e-mails to Williams over the past eight months were not returned. The Chicago News Cooperative has visited Austin Polytech numerous times this school year, but before the protests on Monday, Williams demanded that a reporter leave the school.
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Here are the earlier stories Chicago News Cooperative has published about Austin Polytech: