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Did CTU get a new president recently?... Rosemaria Genova is doing more media talking than Marilyn Stewart, and for good reason as most heated election in CTU history looms on May 21

Readers of the one million circulation Chicago Tribune on January 24, 2010 might have been excused if they were confused about who was running the 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union. Once again, a CTU story came on Page 1 with quotations not from CTU President Marilyn Stewart, but from a hired CTU employee, CTU publicist Rosemaria Genova.

Although she never taught in Chicago's public schools, CTU spokeswoman Rosemaria Genova (above left) is becoming the voice of the 30,000-member union as union leaders try to keep President Marilyn Stewart (above center) from misstatements in front of TV cameras. The above photograph, taken at a rare CTU press conference on February 25, 2008, was on the occasion that CTU announced a program called "Fresh Start." Under "Fresh Start," the union joins with management to fire "bad teachers." So far, three veteran teachers from Wells High School have been dismissed by the Board of Education after CTU spport came for Fresh Start at the school. During the media event two years ago, Stewart proudly proclaimed that the program would show the union was working to improve the schools. Two veteran tenured teachers were fired under "Fresh Start" by a Board vote at the December 16, 2009 Board of Education meeting. Stewart made no objection to the firing, despite the fact that even the hearing officer in one of the cases had recommended that the teacher be retained. As Stewart faces a major challenge in the upcoming CTU election (union members will vote in all schools on May 21, 2010), leaders of Stewart's own caucus, the United Progressive Caucus, are wondering whether to dump Stewart and slate CTU Financial Secretary Mark Ochoa (above right) for the presidency, following Stewart's "retirement." The UPC will announce its election candidates following a meeting on January 29 at Moretti's Restaurant (1645 W. Jackson). Stewart is expected to continue to be the the standard bearer for the UPC, which since Stewart's May 2007 re-election has purged two of the five officers from its ranks. Vice President Ted Dallas lost his job after Stewart convened the union's executive board and held an unprecedented "trial" against Dallas. Shortly later, Stewart tried to force the resignation of Treasurer Linda Porter, who refused to resign. Porter is now one of five candidates who will face the UPC candidates on May 21. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.As the May 21 election campaign in the Chicago Teachers Union heats up, it appears that CTU leaders are making sure that their elected president, Marilyn Stewart, is aired in the media as little as possible, so readers can be assured that Genova and others will be quoted as much as possible, while Stewart, if she is selected this Friday as the candidate of the caucus she brought back into power six years ago, is kept under close supervision — and especially kept away from TV cameras.

Although she never taught in Chicago's public schools, CTU spokeswoman Rosemaria Genova (above left) is becoming the voice of the 30,000-member union as union leaders try to keep President Marilyn Stewart from misstatements in front of TV cameras. As Stewart faces a major challenge in the upcoming CTU election (union members will vote in all schools on May 21, 2010), leaders of Stewart's own caucus, the United Progressive Caucus, are wondering whether to dump Stewart and slate CTU Financial Secretary Mark Ochoa for the presidency, following Stewart's "retirement." The UPC will announce its election candidates following a meeting on January 29 at Moretti's Restaurant (1645 W. Jackson). Stewart is expected to continue to the the standard bearer for the UPC, which since Stewart's May 2007 re-election has purged two of the five officers from its ranks. Vice President Ted Dallas lost his job after Stewart convened the union's executive board and held an unprecedented "trial" against Dallas. Shortly later, Stewart tried to force the resignation of Treasurer Linda Porter.

Porter is now running for union president against Stewart on the slate of the Caucus for a Democratic Union (CSDU). CSDU is one of five opposition groups that have announced that they intend to challenge Stewart and the UPC in the May election. The others are CORE, which is running King High School teacher Karen Lewis, and PACT, which is running Gage Park High School teacher Deborah Lynch (who served as CTU president from 2001 to 2004) for president. Nominating petitions begin to be circulated on February 19, under CTU's complex election rules.

By the second week of January 2010, the only two caucuses in the Chicago Teachers Union that had not declared their candidates for the union presidency in the May 2010 election were the United Progressive Caucus (UPC), currently led by Marilyn Stewart (above left) and the School Employee Alliance (SEA) caucus, which has operated in something of a mystery since its emergence in October 2009. At the January 10, 2010 meeting of the CTU House of Delegates, the buzz was that the SEA caucus was going to run CTU field representative Ted Hajiharis (above, center, with red tie) for president of the 30,000-member union. Hajiharis works for Stewart and the union, but because the union's field reps are protected by a union contract of their own (they are members of the Teamsters Union), Hajiharis could take a leave of absence from his CTU job to run. The move would not be unprecedented. In 2004 (the election that Stewart eventually won after a runoff against Deborah Lynch), union staffer Earl Kelly Prince ran against Deborah Lynch in a four-way race that forced a runoff when nobody got the majority of votes in the May balloting. With Prince and another candidate (Marcia Williams, who is running again in 2010 as the candidate of the "Independent Caucus") splitting the opposition votes in May, Stewart was poised, with the help of a political organization headed by Ted Dallas, to win the June runoff and become union president after a heated controversy in August 2004. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The top local news story appearing on Page 1 of the Sunday Tribune on January 24 somehow couldn't locate Stewart.

The story appears below:

Teachers blast school chiefs over spending inquiries... Union decries budget cuts and layoff plan as investigators probe expensive meals, use of SUV. By Todd Lightly and Azam Ahmed, Tribune reporters, January 22, 2010

The union that represents Chicago's teachers on Friday said school leaders were hypocritical for slashing the budget and laying off staff members while board presidents were using taxpayer credit cards to charge thousands of dollars in meals, travel, gifts and artwork.

The Chicago Teachers Union's criticism follows Tribune disclosures detailing the spending habits of Mayor Richard Daley's last two board presidents, Rufus Williams and Michael Scott. Scott committed suicide last fall. The credit card expenditures were in addition to the yearly spending allowance each man received — $19,200 for Williams and $36,000 for Scott in public money.

Documents obtained by the Tribune show a $2,500 gift to Daley's Chicago 2016 Olympic bid committee, despite the mayor's repeated assurances that no public money was going toward financing the bid, and numerous meals at notable Chicago restaurants.

Rosemaria Genova, union spokeswoman, said the board's spending shows a disconnect between management and the teachers in the classroom, where many use their own money to buy supplies for their students.

Genova noted that the revelations were on top of Tribune reports this month that schools chief Ron Huberman used two taxpayer-funded vehicles, including an SUV with satellite radio and heated seats.

"The leadership at the board needs to set the tone for the rest of the employees by being frugal in their spending," she said. "When you have the board president spending (money) on art, Huberman driving around two cars and Michael Scott spending money on lavish dinners, you really have to wonder what these folks are thinking."

Williams, in an interview, defended his charges, saying they all related to school business.

"My credit card use was fully proper," he said. "There is clearly reasonable and rational explanations for each charge. Each related to our children and to our schools."

Williams declined to answer questions about items attributed to him, such as more than $6,000 charged in September 2008 with the vendor who supplies food and beverages at Soldier Field; a $650 limousine ride in August 2008; and a $640 tab in January 2009 at Table 52, an acclaimed restaurant on the city's Gold Coast.

Scott, who had replaced Williams as board president in March 2009, charged about $1,000 on average each month for meals and alcohol at notable city eateries such as the Chicago Firehouse, Rosebud Prime Restaurant and Spiaggia, according to documents.

The Tribune previously disclosed that Scott improperly used his board credit card to pay for a trip last fall to Copenhagen to lobby for Daley's failed bid for the Summer 2016 Olympics. After the newspaper's inquiries, Scott began to repay those charges.

CPS officials, including David Pickens, Scott's chief of staff, declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

Documents show that Steven Washington, a former board staffer, approved many of the purchases, including more than $5,300 in artwork bought from Gallery Guichard, in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood. The gallery's co-owner, Andre Guichard, declined to talk about the purchases.

Washington, former chief of staff under Williams and briefly under Scott, said the expenses he approved were at the direction of his bosses. He said the Olympic donation and the art gallery charges were at Scott's direction.

"Quite honestly, I don't have a thought process on inappropriate or appropriate as it relates to the presidents of the board wanting to spend funds that were apparently made available for them to spend," Washington said.

Washington said events held at Soldier Field related to school business functions such as football classics and youth violence prevention.

In addition, according to the documents, the board credit cards were used to make thousands in donations to charities and to at least one charter school. The Mercy Foundation received $3,000 in October; more than $1,800 went to the juvenile diabetes organization in November; and Williams gave $1,000 to Urban Prep Academies in September 2008.

"Had there even been a policy in place at the board that outlined what was appropriate and what was not, I imagine the president would not have done that," Washington said.

Disclosures about the board's spending come at a time when the district is cutting programs and laying off teachers and staff members. More than a thousand school employees were expected to be out of work by the end of the year, and millions of dollars in programs have been trimmed because of a shortage of money.

The Tribune's inquiries into the board's spending habits last year fueled an investigation by the district's inspector general and prompted the board to hire an outside lawyer at $295 an hour to investigate. Both of those reviews are ongoing.

Williams said the inspector general's office interviewed him late last year.

Scott, a Daley loyalist, died Nov. 16 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound before he could be interviewed. Sources said investigators with the inspector general's office were to interview Scott on Nov. 20.

Why Scott took his life remained a mystery. Police said they have not found a note.

www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/ct-met-0123-cps-board-expenses-20100122,0,7042117.story. tlighty@tribune.com. aahmed@tribune.com 



Comments:

January 25, 2010 at 6:45 AM

By: AL KORACH

RETIRED TEACHER

I'm sure that by now Stewart's UPC is beginning to feel the heat.The heat would be greater if there was only one united united caucus running against the currect CTU leadership.There is a remote possibility that the UPC would dump Stewart if they see a chance of an election loss. There is no such thing as loyalty when there is a chance of being separated from your high salary, great pension,gereat insurance, cars and being sent back to the classroom.The problem they have in dumping Stewart is that it could split the UPC and cause them to face the same problems of the many caucuses running against her.The one thing for certain is that it will be an interesting election even for a retired activist out of town.

January 25, 2010 at 10:23 AM

By: kugler

stewart has two cars too

stewart has a nice car too paid by the union plus the last one that was leased by the union is now owned by stewart also. so she too has two cars paid for by the union.

January 25, 2010 at 11:39 AM

By: Retired Principal

Vote Out Marilyn Stewart

CTU members, vote out Marilyn Stewart in the next election! I am a former CTU school delegate for over 15 years.

January 25, 2010 at 7:59 PM

By: John Moran

CSDU Candidate Slating Meeting

CSDU Candidate Slating Meeting

Slating / General Meeting

January 26, 2010 4:30 p.m.

Pulaski Park 1419 West Blackhawk Street

All CTU Members welcome to be considered for slating.

Now is the time to become involved in shaping the future direction of the CTU.

Join us for free Pizza and Pop.

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