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After CPS Cuts Top Teachers... Veteran teachers continue fighting back against illegal terminations

More than 100 veteran Chicago teachers have begun a grievance and are organizing other fight backs against illegal terminations by Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman. The teachers, more than 100 of whom met at Operation PUSH headquarters on June 29, have filed a major grievance against the Chicago Public Schools and are now awaiting word about how their grievance will be expedited by the new leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union, which took office at midnight on July 1, 2010. Several of the same teachers also met at the CORE meeting, held on June 28, as the date for their terminations (July 1) loomed. As of July 1, all of the teachers were out of jobs and without medical insurance and other benefits.

Beth Pate (above) spoke to the June 23, 2010, Chicago Board of Education meeting about the firing of the mentor teachers, of whom she was one. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.While Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman has been publicly demanding that "unsatisfactory" rated teachers be immediately fired, he swifty terminated what many consider to be the cream of the teaching profession in late June, leaving more than 100 teachers and other citywide school workers out of work on July 1. Part of what Huberman has been doing is eliminating teachers and others providing citywide services, while claiming that those cuts have been from the "central office." [See related stories — including "All Huberman's CTA cronies still in $100,000-per-year jobs following what media reported as central office cuts" — in this month's Substance].

The majority of those affected were mentors from the "New Teacher Center." Two weeks ago CPS fired 54 teachers in the Chicago New Teacher Center due to the budget cuts. Those teachers who were mentoring first and second year teachers across the city were all either National Board Certified or about to be, Golden Apple Teacher of the Year winners or nominated and received only excellent or superior ratings their entire teaching careers.

To add cruetly to the irony of Huberman demanding only the best teach Chicago's children while firing them at the same time - all these highly-rated teachers were terminated, meaning they are no longer CPS employees and are not allowed to work or even substitute in the system until they reapply and do everything from drug testing and background checks to submitting their resumes and applying again.

The teachers who lost their jobs in turnaround schools due to the poor performance of the school are classified as a displaced teacher, meaning they will continue to receive their regular salary and benefits for one more year in which they can substitute and try to find another job before they are terminated.

"We have been redefined as honorably terminated even though we've proven ourselves to be the best teachers in the system," said Phyllis Adkins, one of the 54 mentor teachers laid off, who attended the CORE meeting on Monday to strategize how they can fight back.

Adkins said CORE will help them file a grievance because the Board has violated Appendix H of the teachers' contract which stipulates that terminated teachers should get 10 months to look for a job.

The teachers recently fired — including city-wide social workers and special education teachers — have been meeting at Rainbow PUSH to discuss what avenues they can take to save their jobs.

Math teacher Bill Buchanan (above, speaking to the June 23, 2010 Board of Education meeting) is one of the mentor teachers who were fired by Ron Huberman on July 1, 2010. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."I'm still in shock, but my first question is why are we not eligible for the 10 month grace period where we sub and look for another job?" Lorna Wilson, a city wide special education teacher recently terminated, wrote in the CORE listserve. "This would at the very least allow us medical coverage. 2. Why did we pay union dues this year? We got no protection. 3. Why do we lose our sick days? 4. If the coaches who were in "honorable" standing have someone helping them find a job, why are we not getting help? 5.They're and we're teachers, why is there a difference being made? 6. Can we file a class action law suit? I'm so frustrated."

Seven special education city-wide teachers attended the CORE meeting on Monday and shared their stories.

"Because of involvement with CORE we are heard!!!!!," wrote Pat Gerard, a city-wide special ed teacher recently terminated.

Tensions seem to be sky rocketing this summer as the newly elected Chicago Teachers Union leadership are getting bombarded by calls from frustrated teachers who are being cut and wonder how they will continue to pay their mortgage or medical bills before the new Union even officially takes office July 1.

Adkins said the Board told them they could apply for unemployment compensation after June 30 — the date they are officially terminated. Even though Adkins already applied at a turnaround school, the school will not be able to contact her cps email address which she can no longer log into.

Adkins is a pending National Board certified 17-year veteran teacher who exudes teaching excellence. She is endorsed in math, science, social studies and language arts, and is certified in dance, drama, and instrumental music. She was named the WGN Teacher of the Month and is listed in the Who's Who of American Teachers from 2002 - 2007 - which is a list of the top 1 percent of the nation's teachers, she said.

She worked at Dunbar High School as a math teacher, as well as Clissold, Nicolson and Stagg Elementary Schools.

Adkins said she has already been offered a job at a charter school on the southside, but she isn't sure she would want to take it. For one, she would have to take a $24,000 pay cut and most likely receive far fewer benefits, although the charter said it would continue to fund her pension.

"I have a problem with the disloyalty of CPS and recognition of our tenure status," Adkins said after the CORE meeting.

Even though Adkins and her fellow mentor teachers had three year contracts with the Board of Education, they were told that they had to be terminated because there was no more funding.

Kevin Higgins, another top mentor teacher fired, is a Golden Apple Scholar teacher, has endorsements in 10 areas, who worked twelve years as a highly rated and tenured teacher, said their program was a key part of teaching excellence the Board of Education stressed.

"Our work is seen favorably by just about everyone, including what we thought were Misters Duncan and Huberman," Higgins responded in an email. "but were inexplicably used as some sort of numbers game. Our work saved CPS tens of millions and improved student performance, why isn't that being highlighted in a slew of 'fiscal responsiblity' rhetoric?"

The Chicago New Teacher Center was funded in its first year by the New Teacher Center, a non-profit organization based in California.

Their website states: "The New Teacher Center (NTC) is a national organization dedicated to improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders. NTC strengthens school communities through proven mentoring and professional development programs, online learning environments, policy advocacy, and essential research."

The New Teacher Center was initially established in 1998 as part of the University of California at Santa Cruz before becoming a non-profit organization that is funded by corporate entites such as Goldman Sachs, Boeing, Cisco Foundation, and Metlife, the website states.

The second year CPS funded the Chicago branch until the teachers were told there was no more money. However, some former mentor teachers say they believe the relationship with the non-profit organization will continue, meaning the services the top Chicago teachers once provided may be provided by cheaper labor, not the cream of the crop. 



Comments:

July 2, 2010 at 1:38 AM

By: Danny

Deceptive Huberman

Ron Huberman says he has cut a thousand jobs at Central Office and Citywide, but he is being very deceptive, and the media have not picked up on it.

The public generally thinks it's a good idea to cut the waste at Central Office, and they don't really know what Citywide means. And so Huberman gets away with this.

Actually, the job cuts have been far bigger among Citywide employees than among Central Office. People don't realize that these Citywide employees are teachers who provide services to children. Besides the teacher coaches, the citywide teachers dismissed also include special education providers and hospital instruction teachers.

The children for whom they provided services aren't going to just go away. Who is going to provide these services next year?

This story needs wider play in the major media (which, unfortunately, cares very little about the plight of teachers).

Huberman's thousand cuts are not Central Office bureaucrats, but teachers and others providing direct services to children.

August 13, 2010 at 2:09 PM

By: irene rogers

descrimated against because of a hearing disabilty. I was a veteran teacher and my principal let me

I was forced to take disabiliy because I have a hearing problem. I was a veteran chicago public school teacher in good standing with an excellent rating.

August 13, 2010 at 2:33 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Forced to take disability

Irene, I wish you had contacted me. I was chairperson of the ADA Committee at the Union and worked with similar cases. I was able to fight two attempts to force me out on disability and made it to early retirement.

There are ways to protect the rights of teachers with disabilities through the EEOC, ADA attorneys, etc. If anyone else is in a similar position, George knows how to get in touch with me or contact me through this sight and I will be happy to do what I can.

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