Chicago Teachers Union President warns Board of Education to stop business-as-usual... Board continues business-as-usual at July 28, 2010 meeting

Behind the smiles, it was, to use a metaphor, knives out as Chicago Board of Education President Mary Richardson Lowry and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman tried to smile while the newly installed President of the 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union, followed by dozens of teachers and students, warned the Board that business-as-usual would no longer be tolerated.

Following the death of her predecessor in November 2009, Chicago Board of Education President Mary Richardson Lowry has used every meeting of the Chicago Board of Education (which only meets once a month) to tighten security controls over those members of the public who try to bring important matters to the Board. Above, Richardson Lowry (seen both on the TV screen and under the Board seal) interrupted the President of the Chicago Teachers Union during a heated exchange about the Board's claim that it has a "deficit" of $370 million and has had to fire hundreds of veteran teachers, while raising class sizes in the city's hundred high schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Since the beginning of the summer of 2010, Huberman's administration has claimed it had to fire hundreds of teachers (they are still refusing to give the number in public) while retaining one of the largest armies of expensive patronage hirelings in the city, and planning to replace hundreds of veteran teachers with youthful corporate trainees who are likely to leave teaching within a couple of years.

The President of the teachers union tried to explain why the Board's policies this summer were a very bad thing for the education of children, the hopes of parents and families, and the morale of teachers. The Board President and board members listened impatiently and then proceeded to return from their monthly secret deliberations and approve their complete agenda as if nothing had been said and no problems existed across the nation's third largest school system.

The seven members of the Chicago Board of Education (five of whom were present for the July 28 meeting) and the "Chief Executive Officer" are all appointed by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Despite years of talk of "accountability" in Chicago, the Board members and Huberman know that they are only accountable to the whims an policies of one man.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis kept her smile during the two minutes that the Chicago Board of Education allows teachers, parents and students to talk to the Board once a month about important school matters. Above, Lewis was talking while Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman (seen on the TV screen) was trying to locate another bit of "data" on the Dell computer which he holds tightly during Board meetings, as if what he finds on the computer will overcome the human drama that is unfolding before the Board as the cuts and destruction of Chicago schools continues. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The Board's answer might have been the most disrespectful schoolyard "Sez Who?"

Although the Board of Education recognized Karen Lewis as the first speaker at its regularly scheduled meeting on July 28, 2010 — and both Richardson-Lowry and Huberman tried to smile and repeat platitudes about cooperation while Lewis was standing there — the disconnect between the smiles and the reality was evident to most veteran observers.

As usual, the Board's complete agenda for the July 28 meeting was kept a virtual secret from the public. CPS officials telling Substance that only one copy of the 300-page agenda was available prior to the meeting, while an eight-page summary (with no information) was posted at the Board's website.

Despite the fact that Lewis alone, with two decades experience in the classroom, had more teaching experience and knowledge than any dozen members of Huberman's highly paid administrative team, minor level Board officials were calling "time" on Lewis before the two-minute time limit on "public participation" was ended for her. Sitting to Lewis's right, in the administrative section identified by Richardson-Lowry but not itemized, were ten CPS bureaucrats, half of whom had been hired in the past 18 months, all of whom were being paid $150,000 or more while CEO Huberman and President Lowry claimed that the Board was facing a "budget crisis" which had to be solved by firing teachers who, after 20 or more years in the classroom, were being paid half of what the members of Huberman's newly minted "team" were getting thanks to patronage.

On at least four occasions, Chicago Board of Education President lawyer Mary Richardson Lowry (above) jabbed her yellow highlighter towards speaker Karen Lewis and interrupted when Lewis tried to make a point regarding the destruction of the public schools unfolding this summer under Lowry and the Board. Richardson Lowry, a protege of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley who helped him create the controversial TIF programs, has been described by observers at Board meetings since she took office in February 2010 as "nasty and paranoid." She has tripled the amount of security on the fifth floor during Board meetings, lied to people claiming that "safety" limits the number of people who can stand with speakers, forced the majority of those who attend Board meetings to be penned up (behind a wall of security) on the 15th floor in a "holding room", and disrespected the majority of people who try to bring real problems to the brief public meetings of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.When Lewis tried to correct some of the more obvious factual inaccuracies in Huberman's response to her speech [published in its entirety below], Richardson-Lowry officiously demanded that Lewis, in effect, Sit Down And Shut Up, much as a first-year teacher might do (once) with an unruly class.

Lewis and her supporters maintained their smiles the entire time. But viewers of the Board's video version of the meeting will clearly see what was unfolding when the edited version of the meeting airs on Chicago Cable TV beginning this Saturday.

During her time at the microphone, Lewis read from her prepared remarks, a copy of which, supplied to all the media after the meeting by the Chicago Teachers Union, is published verbatim below:

CTU President Karen Lewis Calls for Hiring Freeze on New Hires; End Teach For America Contract

Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman (far left), Board President Mary Richardson Lowry (second from left), and Board members Alberto Carrero and Peggy Davis listen while Karen Lewis speaks. Three hours later, after another secret "executive session," the Board members came out and voted unanimously to approve every item on the controversial agenda that had been presented to them by Huberman, ignoring every criticism that had been made during the public participation. To add insult to injury, the Board also approved a motion by Davis to keep secret all discussions the Board has had in executive session since July 1, 1995, the day Mayor Daley took over Chicago Public Schools. After the Board meeting and votes, Davis refused to answer any questions about the secret meetings the Board has been holding for 15 years. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chicago - CTU President Karen Lewis made the following statement earlier today at the Board of Education Meeting. More than ever, the Board needs to retain career teachers — professionals who devote their lives to perfecting their craft. But sometimes your actions appear as if a lifetime devotion to our children holds no value. That school instability and high teacher turnover is, in your eyes, “good enough” for our children and that our teachers deserve little respect. That makes me want to say shame on you.

In June, the Board fired over 200 of our top teachers – the coaches who were chosen by CPS to teach other teachers and help them raise standards of instruction. Had these coaches ignored CPS and said, “I’m closing my classroom door and focusing just on my kids. To heck with the others,” they’d probably still be teaching today. But they didn’t because they are career teachers and care deeply and passionately about education and all of Chicago’s children. And then the Board fired them, callously and capriciously. You fired them without notice, without benefits. For many, you destroyed their lives.

But were these cuts calculated? A few months before, in March, you signed a contract to hire up to 200 Teach for America novices with zero experience this year, 80% of whom will leave our classrooms in less than three years. Four of five will leave their students behind. And last week you announced through the media that you are firing 600 more educators — 400 teachers and 200 support personnel — and threatened to fire even more. You said you would not raise class sizes in our elementary schools, but you did.

What is unfathomable is that, by its own admission, CPS did not even measure how raising class sizes and cutting teachers would impact our children’s education. I have it in writing from your lawyers, Mr. Franczek’s offices, and I could not believe my eyes. But there it was — no Impact Study.

WHAT DOES MORE THAN A HALF MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF PATRONAGE LOOK LIKE WHILE TEACHERS ARE BEING FIRED? Seated to the right of the speakers during Board of Education meetings are the executive staff of the Chicago Public Schools. Although CPS had been ripe with expensive pinstripe patronage prior to Mayor Daley's appointment of Ron Huberman, in the past the majority of administrators had Illinois Type 75 administrative certificates and some teaching experience. Since Daley appointed former Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman (no teaching experience or education credentials) to be "Chief Executive Officer" of CPS in January 2009, Huberman has flooded the Board with similar people. Above, during the July 28 Board meeting, Sara Kremsner ('Chief Performance Officer' at $149,874 per year), Adam Case ('Chief of Staff' to Huberman at $116,000 per year), Robert Runcie (Chief Administrative Officer at $179,166 per year), and Arshelle Stevents (Chief Technology Officer at $130,427 per year) listened during the presentation by CTU President Karen Lewis. All salaries here from the on-line document called the CPS 'Position Roster' (May 2010) on the CPS website. Note that many entries in this document differ from the traditional 'Position File' included in the Chicago Board of Education's materials since the 1980s. None of the individuals above could legally substitute teach in any Illinois school district, let alone serve in highly paid administrative posts, but because of the unique legal structure of CPS, they were eligible to hold highly paid jobs at CPS while Ron Huberman was firing hundreds of veteran teachers, some of whom spoke during the July 28 meeting following Karen Lewis. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. You are making life-altering decisions without even bothering to assess the consequences of your actions.

It is time to redeem yourselves, in part, with a no new-hire hiring freeze today — and keep your word.

Karen Lewis smiling at the Board after being warned to stop "interrupting". Lewis was given two minutes to outline the problems facing 30,000 teachers and other union members and 400,000 children as a result of the Board's actions and policies. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.No new inexperienced teachers until each coach, each experienced teacher, is teaching again. Because our students can’t wait for a teacher to “get good” — that’s a direct quote from a student about her Teach for America novice.


July 29, 2010 at 8:14 AM

By: LaSandra Glass-Gibson


We are encouraged to attend workshops, take college classes, and become National Board Certified, and after doing so our jobs may not be safe. The blanket of seniority offers very little security. I am saddened by the lack of respect the teaching profession has been stripped of.

July 29, 2010 at 8:00 PM

By: Vinicius de Mello

Why do other countries respect and invest in their teachers but not us!

Why do top performing school districts in other countries treat their teachers with upmost respect and not here. Why do these countries invest in their teachers and not here. What is wrong with our city, state and country. Well, it is time to open the public\'s eyes!

July 30, 2010 at 4:08 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Administrative salaries, Position Rosters, and a new version of alphabetical order

You're right, and the photo caption is being corrected. As 'Chief of Staff' in the 'Office of the Chief of Staff' (not to be confused with the 'Chief of Staff' in the 'Office of the Board of Education' Adam Case according to the most recent CPS position report (May 2010, on the CPS website) is making $116,000 — not $160,000 — per year. The (currently vacant; most recently occupied by David Pickens) 'Chief of Staff' to the Board position is listed at $154,000. As many readers know, the manner in which the Board of Education listed its version of the Position File (PDF format) makes it difficult to search (as opposed to the way in which the Position File had been provided to the public in Excel format for more than 20 years). The thing the Board's website calls the 'Position Roster' differs, as noted in the revised photo caption above, from previous iterations of the Position File that goes back to the 1980s. For example, no Position File in history listed the union, while all of them prior to the Huberman administration listed an accurate Date Of Hire. In the 'Position Roster' now provided to the public, the public can learn what union represents and employee, but not the employee's Date Of Hire (and much pertinent budget information. Since we're discussing this stuff, readers should also note that the 'Position Roster' lists schools by First Name (lots of schools named 'William') and has other affectations that make searching difficult for the public. For example, the Performance Management office is listed under "O" (for "Office of Performance Management"). Sorry.

July 30, 2010 at 12:43 PM

By: Heidi

TIF money=Property Taxes diverted from Education to Daley's Personal Slush Fund

This is just business as usual under Daley. What can we do to change the way things work in Chicago when it's all of Daley's zombies pushing through whatever agenda he declares. The only thing that seems to get his attention is when his middle-class white tax-base might be eroding, e.g parents from Raise Your Hand protesting that property taxes are being diverted from education to Daley's slush fund that he calls TIFs. The money is all there people. We have to hold Daley fiscally responsible! People are being fooled by all the pretty trees and flowers. Wake up people!

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