CTU President, West Side officials address state of education on West Side

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More than 100 Chicago’s Teachers Union members, concerned residents and West Side elected officials discussed the state of education across the city and in the Austin community July 11 at the Sankofa Cultural and Business Center.

CTU President Karen Lewis made an appearance to update members and Austin residents on the status of the CTU and Chicago Public Schools contract, which expired at the end of June.

In addition to the contract negotiations, other topics discussed included the longer school day, CPS’ budget shortfall, the power of Local School Councils and the expansion of charter schools, specifically Kipp Charter school, which will open on the Nash Elementary campus this school year.

“People aren’t getting the total picture,” said community activist and speaker at the education forum Dwayne Truss.

Truss said Austin schools are improving and test scores are on the rise.

“Usually Austin’s always been know as being top of the bad things and bottom of the good things, and through leadership of our principals, professionalism of our teachers and hard work, look at what we did in two years – 21 percent [test score] increase.”

CTU’s Lewis said despite some misconceptions, CTU was in labor negotiations all along with CPS and “at some point, there will be a contract.”

“As you listen to the commercials running on television and on radio, you would think that we are not at the table,” Lewis said to the packed room. “Nothing is further from the truth.”

The schools Chicago’s children deserve can be achieved if people work together, Lewis said.

But, she added, the education landscape in the U.S. has changed, and people with “absolutely no background in education policy” make decisions for schools, because they are “extraordinarily wealthy.”

“Because we’ve all gone to school, we think we’re all experts in school,” Lewis said.

Lewis also said those who “write the big checks” send their children to schools with smaller classes with about eight to 15 students, she said.

“Those children get individual attention,” Lewis said. “That’s not what we see in the majority of Chicago schools.”

Audience member Rickey Brown, president of the West Side Historical Society and CPS parent, addressed the crowd and said there’s a rich history on the West Side.

“But do you know what the shame is on the West Side?” he said. “We are not fighting for our children. Our children are becoming extinct.”

Austin children are not getting the education they deserve, he said.

“If we do not begin to educate our children, and do what is needed for our children…our children will implode on us again,” Brown said.

Education panelist Kim Hemphill, the LSC chairwoman at Theodore Herzl Elementary, located at 3711 W. Douglas Blvd., said she saw Herzl- which was turned around this year and currently managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership – through some “really good times” and some “really bad times.”  When public schools are turned around all staff members are replaced.

She told the audience how the school’s LSC, community members, parents and staff fought for years to see capital and other improvements at the school.

“We weren’t fighting in the retrospect, we were fighting for the past 15 years or so to get Herzl the things it needed like books and running water that isn’t brown…paint that isn’t lead based at the school, a play lot,” Hemphill said.

She said she thought CPS would take notice of how hard the teachers and parents were working to improve the school.

“Then we get hit with, ‘Sorry guys, your school will be turned around.’”

She said soon after the announcement, improvements started happening.

“You’re letting kids know you weren’t worthy of books and water that isn’t brown and toilets that actually flush, but now since your going to be a turnaround school, we’re going to pump in $9 million to fix your school,” she said. “That is completely an utter mess.”

Over the past several years, the district has provided Herzl with the significant funding and supports in an effort to improve student achievement, said CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus in an emailed statement.

She said despite these efforts, Herzl has been on probation for five consecutive years, one out of two students at Herzl are not meeting state standards and Herzl is 15 percent below the network average on state standards, she wrote.

“Putting the academic needs of Herzle’s students first, the board made the decision to turnaround the school so it could it receive additional academic supports,” Sainvilus wrote.

2 thoughts on “CTU President, West Side officials address state of education on West Side

  1. Tell Your Alderman to Support an Elected School Board

    The City Council Committee on Human Relations will hold a public meeting on Monday, July 23, 2012, at 10:00 a.m., in room 201 A to consider a resolution to put a referendum on a ballot asking the voters whether they would like to have an elected school board. Call your alderman NOW ask him/her to vote for the resolution. You can find your alderman’s contact information at the following link. https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/about/council.html Make plans to attend the hearing and provide public comments. If you cannot make the hearing, send your written comments to your alderman, as well as Alderman Joe Moore, the Chairman of the City Council Committee on Human Relations. You should also call and e-mail the members of the Human Relations Committee. I have listed their numbers below. You should also personalize and send the emails to the aldermen. Their e-mail addresses are typically the ward number@cityofchicago.org. For example, Alderman Jackson’s e-mail address is ward07@cityofchicago.org. Please check the link I provided above to verify the email addresses before sending the emails.

    Ward # Alderman’s Name Office Phone
    07 Sandi Jackson (773) 375-9180
    10 John Pope (773) 721-1999
    16 Joann Thompson (773) 434-3399
    17 Latasha R. Thomas (773) 723-0908
    24 Michael D. Chandler (773) 533-2400
    25 Daniel Solís (773) 523-4100
    26 Roberto Maldonado (773) 395-0143
    35 Rey Colón (773) 365-3535
    43 Michele Smith (773) 348-9500
    49 Joe Moore (773) 338-5796

    The Human Relations Committee must approve the resolution, which must be approved by the full City Council.

    Chicago is the ONLY City in the State of Illinois that does not have an elected board. Furthermore, the Aldermen, who have been elected to serve the interests of Ward residents, do not have authority to vote on appointees to the CPS board, or on any policies and procedures that directly impact voters. Since 1995, the CPS board has only been accountable to the Mayor of the City of Chicago. This has resulted in a rubber stamp board that has often made decisions against the will of the Chicago voters. The current board of directors has shown a blatant disrespect for educators, students and their parents. They hold meetings and read papers while community members are providing public testimony; advance policies of school closings and turnarounds that have not been effective and have even proven dangerous. They award contracts to corporate insiders while refusing to share the details of budgets with the public. They have recently rubber stamped a budget that will spend all of the CPS reserves and has resulted in a down grade of CPS bonds. As a result, CPS must now borrow money at higher interest rates, leaving even less money available for the classrooms. In some cases, votes have presented conflicts interest, or have advanced the interests of charter schools at the expense of traditional neighborhood school. We need a school board that is accountable to the voters of the City of Chicago, and will look after the interests of all children, regardless of what type of school they attend. Your assistance in this matter is most appreciated. If you have any questions, please, do not hesitate to call me.


    Valerie F. Leonard
    Phone: 773-521-3137
    E-mail: valeriefleonard@msn.com

  2. Pingback: Perspectives on the teachers contract talks - Newstips by Curtis Black

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