CORE, led by Karen Lewis, wins CTU election in landslide, with Lewis defeating Marilyn Stewart 12,080 to 8,326

Karen Lewis has been elected president of the Chicago Teachers Union, and CORE has won the leadership of the 30,000-member CTU by a landslide. Lewis, a Martin Luther King Jr. High School Chemistry teacher, headed the slate of candidates from the caucus called CORE (the Caucus of Rank and File Educators) and won a landslide victory on June 11, 2010, in the hotly contested Chicago Teachers Union runoff election. CORE not only won the top four offices in the union, but the other nine citywide offices, and all of the vice presidencies for high schools (six) and elementary schools (17). By the time the final vote counts were announced in the early hours of June 12, it was clear that CORE had completely defeated the United Progressive Caucus (UPC) and the six-year CTU president Marilyn Stewart.

The CORE victory, the size of which became clear early in the evening during the counting of the votes at the headquarters of the American Arbitration Association at 225 N. Michigan in Chicago, was a landslide. Karen Lewis defeated Marilyn Stewart by a vote of 12,080 to 8,326, with the other three CORE candidates for officers in the 30,000-member union each receiving more than 12,000 votes to fewer than 8,300 for each of CORE's opponents. The final vote tallies were certified by the American Arbitration Association at 3:00 a.m. on the morning of June 12, 2010.

Senn High School history teacher Jesse Sharkey was elected vice president by a vote of 12,000 (to 8,233 cast for his UPC opponent Mark Ochoa).

Displaced elementary teacher Michael Brunson was elected recording secretary by a vote of 12,016 (to 8,200 cast for his UPC opponent Mary Orr).

Eberhart Elementary School Special Education teacher Kristine Mayle was elected financial secretary by a vote of 12,032 (to 8,191 cast for her UPC opponent Keith VanderMeulen).

All six CORE candidates for trustee were elected. They are: Jackson Potter, Jay Rehak, Lois Ashford, Eric Skalinder, Sara Echevarria, and Albert Ramirez. Their margins over their opponents' were roughly 11,900 to 8,000.

The three CORE candidates for area vice president were elected. The are Carol Caref (Area A), Jennifer Johnson (Area B), and Norine Gutekants (Area C).

All 17 CORE candidates for elementary functional vice president were also elected. They are: Beverly Allebach; Jeffrey Blackwell, Brenda Chandler, Susanne Dunn, Nathan Goldbaum, Alexandra Gonzalez, Francine Greenberg-Reizen, Lara Krejca, Garth Liebhaber, Joseph Linehan, Cielo Munoz, Annette Rizzo, Wade Tillett, Kevin Triplett, James Vail, Cassandra Vaughn, and Terri Wilford.

King High School chemistry teacher and CORE presidential candidate Karen Lewis (above) at the May 25 protest outside Chicago's City Hall. Lewis promoted an aggressive strategy of direct action by CORE and the CTU for more than two years, including the May 25 action, which was originally brought about by a motion from Jackson Potter, CORE co-chair. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.The acrimonious campaign saw Marilyn Stewart's supporters in the union's United Progressive Caucus spending in excess of a quarter million dollars (if one includes union staff time that was used to try and re-elect Stewart), but the CORE slate won handily.

Observers estimated that a total number of about 20,000 votes would be cast. The voting ended in the schools on the morning of June 11, and the counting began at the headquarters of AAA by 2:00 in the afternoon as hundreds of ballot boxes were delivered. The number of eligible voters in the 30,000-member union is approximately 27,000 (retiree members of the union were not allowed to vote). The union refused to provide Substance with an exact number of eligible voters at the end of the campaign.

Above: Senn High School history teacher Jesse Sharkey (who is CORE candidate for vice president of the CTU) tried to get CPS Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman to answer questions about the Board of Education's budget at the May 26, 2010 Board meeting. Huberman refused to "opine" in response to Sharkey's specific questions. For two years, CORE members have studied the CPS budget and challenged Huberman's claims about the budget, but CPS has refused to be specific. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Because each candidate gets a unique number of votes, but votes for caucuses generally fall in the same range, the number of votes for the presidential candidate generally reflects the success or failure of the rest of the caucus slate.

The CORE officer candidates elected with Karen Lewis were:

Jesse Sharkey, a Senn High School history teacher, who was elected vice president.

Michael Brunson, a displaced teacher currently working as a substitute teacher, who was elected recording secretary.

Kristine Mayle, a special education teacher at Eberhardt Elementary School, who was elected financial secretary.

Other CORE candidates who won citywide offices in the June 11 voting were six candidates for trustee (Jackson Potter, Jay Rehak, Lois Ashford, Eric Skalinder, Sara Echevarria, and Albert Ramirez) and CORE candidates for "Area Vice Presidents" (Carol Caref, Area A; Jennifer Johnson, Area B; and Norine Gutekanst, Area C).

The voting was also determining the 17 elementary school "functional vice presidents" and vice presidents representing school clerks and school community representatives.

The runoff election was held in all of the schools on June 11, 2010. The runoff came following a five-way race, the voting of which was held on May 21. In the five-way race, Stewart was opposed by two of her former supporters — former Vice President Ted Dallas and field representative Ted Hajiharis — and by former CTU President Deborah Lynch. Stewart had first defeated Lynch for the presidency in 2004, winning a second term in 2007, in a race organized by Dallas.

CORE candidate for recording secretary Michael Brunson (above at microphone during the April 28 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education) won handily as part of the CORE slate in the June 11 runoff election. At the time of his election, Brunson was a substitute teacher because he had been displaced from Aldridge school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Some executive board seats had already been decided in May 21 voting.

In each category, the winner is the individual with the majority of the votes. Since the voting is for "functional vice presidents" for each of the major groups within the union, that means that some executive board members were elected prior to the June 11 voting. According to the CTU website, the CORE candidates for high school functional vice presidents won a majority in the May 21 voting, and the UPC candidates for teacher assistance and audiometric technicians won a majority in the May 21 voting. Although the high school vote totals are available on the CTU website (, the union never published the complete totals for all PSRP candidates.

The union website was stating the following from the May 21 voting: "The winners for the High School Functional Vice president group are Sean Barrett, Valerie Collins, Lois Jones, Joseph McDermott, Adria Mitchell, and Zulma Ortiz." All are members of CORE.

The union website was stating the following about the PSRP results from the May 21 voting: "The winners for the Teacher/School Bilingual Spanish/Montessori Program/Educational Sign Language Interpreters/ School Social Service/ Instructor Assistants Functional Vice president group are Gloria Higgins, Myra Johnson, and Linda Williams." All are members of the UPC.

Kristine Mayle, who is CORE's candidate for financial secretary, one of four elected offices in the CTU, has spoken at Board meetings and hearings more than 30 times since she became active in CORE in 2008. Above, she is asking questions about the Board's revised policies for special education staffing at the May 26, 2010 Board of Education meeting. At the time of the June 11 CTU election, Mayle was a special education teacher at Eberhardt Elementary School in Chicago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The union website was stating the following about the PSRP results from the May 21 voting: "The winner for the Vision, Screening & Audiometric/Audio-Visual Technicians, Speech/Language Pathology Paraeducator, and Bilingual Assistants and Hospital Licensed Practical/ Health service Nurses Functional Vice president group is Arlene Williams." Williams is a UPC candidate.

Two other groups of PSRPs are being contested in the June 11 runoff.

After the CTU failed to publish the complete vote counts from the May 21 election (as of June 11, the vote totals for the PSRP candidates were still not up on the CTU website), CORE observers and canvassers on June 11 were prepared to demand that all observers and canvassers be provided with digital copies of the information before leaving the offices of AAA. 


June 12, 2010 at 6:11 AM

By: Susan Ohanian


Yeah! Congratulations all. This gives hope to people across the country. Kudos from Vermont.

June 12, 2010 at 6:34 AM

By: Rho Leo


WELL DONE!!! Just don't let Marilyn give contracts to "her" people. That is what hurt Debbie Lynch. And continue to cost us.

June 12, 2010 at 7:33 AM

By: Howie Gold

Retiree, and current Subsatance subscriber.

Congratulations, Jackson, Karen, Jesse, Jay, Eric, et. al.

While naturally disappointed that we of CSDU were not successful, I'm thrilled that you won, and I encouraged others to vote for CORE in the runoff, as did members of the other groups who ran against UPC.

George, while it's true that Ted Dallas "opposed" Stewart, I remind you that he did not, could not, run in the election, and was not a CSDU candidate. Linda Porter was the leader of our ticket, and deserves mention as such for her contributions. As you cited and documented in previous articles, Linda turned down Marilyn's offers to buy her out of the election, and courageously fought a good fight, while being virtually shunned outwardly daily by most people in her workplace for over a year.

Thanks for your forum.

June 12, 2010 at 7:37 AM

By: Jay Rehak

Thanks, George, for your dilligence.

Thanks, George, for spending all day and all night at AAA to ensure the vote count was fair. The fact that you were at AAA on election day made everyone who believes in fair elections breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks also for your reporting of the issues and the campaign throughout the election. I will continue to look to Substance to see what is going on in the schools and in the Union.

June 12, 2010 at 7:39 AM

By: Howie Gold

Retiree and current Substance subscriber

Sorry for the typo in my previous posting's "Title". I assure you it was not intentional, although who knows if it was Fruedian?

June 12, 2010 at 7:49 AM

By: Marc Schulman

Great News

Congratulations - Hard work does pay off. Go Kristine Mayle and her fellow victors.

June 12, 2010 at 7:53 AM

By: bob


Who won? We did .Now on to the hard part of reuniting our union.

June 12, 2010 at 8:35 AM

By: Julie Woestehoff


Congratulations CORE! This is a well-deserved victory - everyone has seen how hard you have worked and how intelligent and student-oriented your efforts have been up until now. Working together from today onward we can accomplish so much more with a united, strong CTU supported by parents, students and community groups.

George, you deserve a great deal of the credit here - you never gave up and never give an inch! Take a lap!

June 12, 2010 at 9:05 AM

By: june

It is about time

My husband and I both work for the board of ed and love what we do. I am so relieved and excited. CONGRATULATIONS to CORE and the 30,000 members who deserve to have a democratic union again to support the hard work we do and love with our students. I am hopeful that CORE will challenge the garbage downtown and will work to save all of the teaching jobs and Office of Specialized Services jobs, which includes psychologists, speech therapists, social workers, ect. The rumor is that physical therapists are slated to be cut this summer and outsourced followed by occupational therapists. Let's stop this mess. THANK you. And George- thank you for everything!

June 12, 2010 at 9:47 AM

By: Rod Estvan

CPS Board calls a special meeting

I am glad that CORE won, but now here comes CPS to impose class size changes. Get ready for what is ahead.

June 11, 2010

Mary B. Richardson-Lowry, President,

and Members of the Board of Education:

Norman R. Bobins

Dr. Tariq H. Butt

Alberto A. Carrero, Jr.

Peggy A. Davis

Clare M. Muñana

Roxanne Ward

Enclosed is a copy of the Agenda for the Special Meeting of the Board of Education to be held on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, beginning at 9:30 a.m. with the Business Portion of the meeting. The special meeting will be held at the Central Administration Building, 125 South Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois, Board Chamber, 5th Floor.

Registration for Public Participation will be held between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on the 1st Floor of the Clark Street Lobby. The Public Participation segment of the meeting will begin at approximately 10:00 a.m. and end at 10:30 a.m. Public Participation will be limited to issues relating to the items on the Public Agenda.


Estela G. Beltran


June 12, 2010 at 9:53 AM

By: bob



By granting the raise it will put the union in a position of being the villain.

The survivors will get the raise while god knows how many of our fellows

will get the ax. But there is also opportunity here. Let the union have a

plebiscite to see if we are willing to freeze salaries to save jobs. I think we would

vote to forgo the raise. Then let the world know we did it, not the board.

Then we could shove it right back in their faces.

June 12, 2010 at 6:38 PM

By: Pat H


Congratulations to CORE on a great win!

June 12, 2010 at 9:55 PM

By: Jim Vail

Incredible Victory

This CORE victory was a wake up call to the those who rule us and bail out the banks while giving the rest of us pink slips and cutting our health insurance. How much rage must we keep inside? Dare we form our own independent party called CORE and say no to the destruction of our country and the working people - YES! GO CORE!!

June 13, 2010 at 9:41 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Standing up to be counted is easier now...

As the poet (W.H. Auden) wrote (in "September 1, 1939"), we've just finished a "low dishonest decade." It's good to remember, even with BP's destruction of the Gulf of Mexico and the murder of millions of our fellow creatures by their uncontrolled greed, that there have been worse decades in recent history. The decade that began on September 1, 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany was even worse than the "low dishonest decade" Auden wrote about so memorably. Auden's is one of those poems we used to memorize... "I sit in one of the dives on 52nd St., uncertain and afraid as the clever hopes expire of a low dishonest decade..."

Auden's words were better, in my book, than those of Yeats: "Turning and turning in a widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart, the center cannoth hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity..."

Why? Because Auden was of the Left then, and Yeats was a fascist. Not as noxious a fascist as Ezra Pound, and not as silly a conservative as T.S. Eliot, but a fascist still. That simple. Art and politics can never be separated in the real world. The "low dishonest decade" needed Picasso's Guernica as much as it needed Auden's poems. Even the Auden poem commemorating so beautifully the death of Yeats...


We have to remind ourselves from time to time of the facts of history. Even those who've been taught a version of history that leaves them trapped in a mendacious eternal present.,

What we now have in Chicago is a group of committed people who are courageous enough to speak out and fight back in our own names. I'm glad to be part of that. With my friends and family. For most of the past decade, cowards and sychophants have ruled the day, and their final outburst of merde — and there is no other way to describe the final week of the UPC campaign — only shows how degenerate things had become. The margin was necessary.

But let's not forget.

When Auden wrote those words, the final cleanup from the messes of that low dishonest decade (the 1930s, which were brutal enough) was still in the future. Guderien's Panzers were rolling into Poland behind the Stukas, as the opening act of a horror that, before it ended with the final surrender of a Japanese Army in the field on Okinawa (a week after the emperor surrendered) took 65 million lives. And left 30 or 40 million people rootless and homeless. And a generation of men and women with memories of horror — called in the briefest or words, "war" — that would scar their nightmares forever (and which they rarely wallowed in, by the way).

So, now we have the chance to stand up and be counted, (as Jackie Vaughn once said), and throw off those who had ordered us to roll over and be mounted (as Jackie Vaughn had warned us against).

But just as September 1, 1939 was a beginning, so was June 11, 2010. Many of those who are now celebrating a significant victory for the good gals and guys are teachers of history or even historians. Let's remind ourselves and our fellow teachers that there have been worse decades, worse challenges, and more horrifying roads to walk and seas to sail...

It may be difficult to do what we have to do, but as we had to remind our fathers and mothers at times, things can get rougher. Whether they were sitting on a ship off Okinawa as the sky filled with a previous generation of suicide bombers (as my mother did as an Army nurse watching the Kamikaze in April 1945) or sitting in a very very cold hole in the ground (as my father did as an infantry man near the Vosges Mountains back then) in December 1944 while a half million Nazi soldiers swarmed west for one last try at "winning", by contrast, even this week when the bad guys take one last bite out of truth and our jobs, we have it fairly easy. Working people have never gotten anything without struggle. Never have and never will.

Hopefully, we'll do this one singing some decent songs and smiling as much as we can. I've been waiting for "Solidarity Forever" to be sung at every CTU House of Delegates meeting and at every CORE meeting. Maybe that can finally happen, too.

June 13, 2010 at 10:04 AM

By: Rich

Missing third?

Congratulations to Karen Lewis and CORE but if we are a union of 30,000 members and CORE got 12,000+ votes and UPC got 8,000+ votes does that mean almost 10,000 members did not bother to vote? What's up with that? I recall a similar situation when UPC first got elected in a recall against Debbie Lynch. Why are a third of us not interested in who runs our union and therefore who looks out for our interests? Sad.

June 13, 2010 at 11:36 AM

By: xian from CORE

Not really missing

Rich, it'd be nice to get 100% returns, but at least a good chunk of those were retired voters who do not possess a vote in the election. Another small chunk were those who have chose or far often often were excluded from the union do to poor processing of their paperwork. I have at least 5 members at my building who sent in their cards 3-5 times and were not processed.

We need to fight harder going forward to make sure that such mistakes are minimized and none of our members are disenfranchised in such a way.

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