Huberman continues to fire the best teachers while talking doubletalk about teacher quality... Experience at Little Village High School just one example of the hypocrisy of the current purge of veteran teachers so Huberman can fill the ranks with 'Teach for America' and other novices

The mainstream media are praising Chicago Schools Chief Ron Huberman for firing the "worst" teachers in the system. The fact is, he is continuing to terminate the best. Sunny Neater-DuBow received her layoff notice two weeks ago at the Multicultural Arts School (MAS) in Little Village. She and seven of her colleagues were layed off before the new school year, when it is estimated that more than 1,500 teachers will be terminated.

Sara White, Sunny Neater-DuBow, and Daniel Lopez are three of the hundreds of teachers who have recently been terminated by Ron Huberman. Although the terminations are done by local school principals, Huberman and his senior staff are encouraging principals to assert their powers and allowing principals to "clean house" for political reasons without regard to seniority, tenure, or teacher credentials. Substance photo by Jim Vail.Neater's accomplishments make her sound like one of those star performers the Board should be proud of. She has taught for seven years in CPS, two at MAS, and earned her tenure after completing her National Board Certification, which is the highest certification a teacher can earn in the country.

She has been recognized by outside foundations who have awarded her education grants and was tapped to sit on the education advisory committee at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Her focus was on community based art projects "honoring the voices of each of our own students" and collaborated with the School of the Art Institute, where her students have art shows.

Neater's sudden termination comes after Huberman's decision a couple of months ago to fire more than 30 CPS mentor teachers, many of whom were also National Board certified and received the highest evaluation ratings.

"I just felt devastated," Neater told Substancenews, adding that she is the sole breadwinner for her family.

So when the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times write to applaud Huberman's decision to fire unsatisfactory teachers (when only 26 of the 426 recent layoffs were rated "unsatisfactory") without due process, it appears this corporate-backed media is justifying the massive teacher layoffs which could be averted.

Last week's budget hearings, which took place between August 17 and August 19, presented lots of testimony of other sources of revenue, such as Daley's TIF funds, almost $700 million sitting idle and unbeknownst to Chicago taxpayers until recently, a reserve fund, which Board president Mary Richardson-Lowry said she is against raiding, as well as questionable expenditures, such as increasing the area offices by $57 million and building a new Jones High School for $125 million during this financial crisis that is mandating cutting teachers and increasing class sizes.

They scream they want the best teachers for the city's children, then turn around and fire them.

"I feel what we're hearing is unsatisfactory teachers being layed off, so the public welcomes getting rid of these burned out teachers," Daniel Lopez, another recently layed-off MAS teacher, told Substancenews. "But everyone layed off at MAS is not that teacher."

The question then appears - if the new federal teachers job bill was passed that will provide roughly $100 million to save teachers' jobs in Chicago, why are teachers continuing to be terminated?

A closer look at Neater and Lopez's situation in Little Village may explain why.

The Multicultural Arts School is one of Little Village High School's four campuses that were built after Latino parents and other community activists staged a hunger strike to force the Board of Education to build another high school in an overcrowded southwest section of the city.

The school was considered a new school under the Renaissance Plan to open 100 new schools, Mayor Daley's privatization plan to close public schools and open charter or "turnaround" public schools in which the entire school staff are fired.

Little Village High School became a "performance" school in which the faculty continued to be represented by the Chicago Teachers Union.

The idea of four campuses - Infinity, World Languages, Social Justice and the Multicultural School of Arts — was part of the "small schools" concept first championed by multi-billionaire Bill Gates, who has since declared the idea a failure and is focusing on using tests to evaluate teachers and promote more non-unionized charter schools.

According to Lopez, the first two years at MAS were "magical, everybody was into it and there was a lot of chemistry."

But after the initial euphoria, things started to go downhill.

"There were growing pains in the beginning," said Lopez, a 33-year-old English teacher who has taught at MAS since the school opened. "Then it became very political. There were tensions between the African Americans and Latinos. In the aldermanic race they were saying this is a school just for Latinos. The heavy focus was on bi-lingual, and then they threw the core mission out the window. I think they were saying let it fail, and then we'll take it back."

The Board of Education's idea of "taking back" a school is by installing principals into schools who will implement the corporate agenda from 125 S. Clark Street — tie test scores to teacher evaluations, focus on standardized testing, fire teachers.

In fact, Mayor Daley has openly wondered in public how much easier his job would be running the city schools if there were no local school councils (LSCs), a democratic form of school governance, to deal with.

So that is where Neater and Lopez and other top notch teachers at the Little Village school became collatoral damage — an advisory local school council that forced the school to hire a principal from outside the school community and outside the concept of what the school originally stood for.

Bcause MAS was built and opened under the Renaissance plan, rather than having a regular LSC like all public schools, MAS has an Advisory LSC, which just makes recommendations, rather than wielding more powers a regular LSC has, such as approving the budget, Lopez said.

After Jose Rico, the principal who hired Neater and Lopez, left for Washington D.C. to serve as deputy director of Excellence in Latino Education, the search for his replacement began in the ALSC and a principal selection committee began with input from the teachers.

But suddenly this democratic approach to select a new principal stopped, and the teachers and parents were forced to quickly select a new principal or the Board would appoint one.

It came down to Politics 101 — the president of the LSC wanted to hire her friend, Patty Gonzalez, an elementary school principal none of the teachers heard of, Lopez said.

The members of the LSC, some of whom are parents, wanted to hire Gonzalez. Many teachers think that Gonzalez had a friendship with the head of the LSC before she got hired, Neater said.

The teachers were against Gonzalez being hired because her experience was working in an elementary school, and she was to lead a high school, Lopez said.

Whatever plans Gonzalez had for the school when she started last year were not communicated to the staff. She told her administration everyone would keep their jobs, then gradually fired everyone, before turning her eyes on the teachers, Lopez and Neater said.

The Professional Problems Committee, where the teachers' union delegate chairs a meeting with the principal about school problems, was shut down, with Gonzalez arguing that the problems the teachers mentioned were not contractural issues, Lopez said.

Gonzalez performed so poorly her first year that the ALAC representing the community rated her unsatisfactory, Lopez said.

Senior Ditch Day is the example Lopez used to illustrate how ineffective the new principal was. Lopez said Gonzalez would tell the students the story that she never graduated from high school to inspire the kids.

But what she termed her "no-nonsense" discipline approach turned against her when she cracked down on all the students who stayed away from school on the traditional Senior Ditch Day.

"The way she reacted she alienated the parents and students," Lopez said. "This was supposed to be a celebratory time, in which the kids were getting ready for prom. But she never graduated from high school, so she didn't even understand this tradition."

She targeted exemplary teachers, such as Neater and Lopez who were rated among the best at the school, suddenly rating them "satisfactory."

Gonzalez told Neater that she was not involved in the community, and when Neater told her her assessment was wrong because she has been focused on the community, the principal told her she could respond in writing, and then did nothing, Neater said.

First, two Probationary Assigned Teachers (PATs) who were not tenured at the school received termination letters from the principal, Neater said.

Then the tenured teachers were next, eventually leading to a total of eight teachers being dismissed.

Neater said she received a voicemail from Gonzalez saying her position was "redefined due to budgetary constraints" and later received a letter from the Board of Education.

But earlier this summer Neater said she saw her position posted online, with a twist, the school was looking for a new art teacher with a dance endorsement.

Lopez, who was the head of the English department, was similarly dismissed when his position suddenly demanded a bi-lingual endorsement.

"She obviously worked with the Board and was closely mentored by someone at the Board," Lopez said.

Sara White, another MAS social studies teacher, said that she was also "honorably dismissed" due to a "program reduction."

All three teachers were tenured.

In other words, Gonzalez appeared to be merely implementing the wishes of the Board of Ed, which is to target higher paid tenured teachers, despite how effective they may be in the classroom, and hire lower cost new teachers.

The Board of Ed plans to hire 200 Teach for America teachers who are fresh out of college, despite the Chicago Teachers Union demanding that all layed-off teachers be called back to their jobs after the funding has been restored, the CTU reported.

Hiring cheaper labor makes sense to the business people who run the schools, but not to the children whose lives were touched by these outstanding teachers abruptly cut out of their lives.

"We were honorably dismissed," Neater said, "which means we are not eligible for the reassignment pool or even cadre (substitute teaching) and in 30 days I will have no benefits. My husband has been out of work for 10 months and I have a one year old at home and mortgage payments." 


August 25, 2010 at 2:44 PM

By: Katherine Hogan

MAS in downward spiral

Knowing the teachers in this article, and working in the school next I am saddened and appalled by the actions of terminating these wonderful educators. The fact is MAS's ACT scores and continued to fall despite the principal mandated test prep instead of colloquiums that were the original mission of the school. The discipline is known as the worst in the campus. I hope for the sake of the kids the adults on the ALSC realize the damage they are doing.

August 26, 2010 at 7:01 PM

By: Kemp

Get rid of the LSC's

LSC's have become corrupt big time. Everywhere you go, a few political oriented parents have ruined the lives of teachers giving way to much power to corrupt principals. Enough is enough, please no more LSC's

August 27, 2010 at 9:09 AM

By: Ashley Scott

a student of the MAS Class of 2009 (first graduating class)

The teachers of MAS were anything but unsatisfactory!! This is ridiculus although I am certainly not surprise at CPS's efforts to "take back" the school. We knew efforts like this would appear at sometime but I guess not like this. In the beginning MAS' core curriculum stood for very revolutionary and open ideas for teaching students in general and as Mr. Lopez said it was beautiful for the first two years! But for anybody in the Little Village Commnity that believes that CPS has got their back has been swindled out of a high school to support a much bigger issue than educational politics. There are definately people that wanted the school for just Little Village and not both Little Village and North Lawndale Communities. But they will soon find themselves out of luck and Little Village Students lost and displaced without a highschool to call their own. I feel very sorry the community, families and students that will be affected by this.

August 27, 2010 at 6:52 PM

By: Lizette

MAS student from the graduating class of 2010

It really breaks my heart to hear that these wonderful, and may i say incredible teachers are being let go. There is nothing that can replace the first two years at MAS, they were infact the best. It wasn't until Ms.Gonzalez came in. Yes, we have had some behavior problem, for which school doesn't but we can look past that. I really wish the best for all three teachers, and I hope that people realize that high school is supposed to be a good experience not a bad one. I really hope that their students enjoy their time in school and won't have to go through the hell we had to go through with the principal and her assistant the last month of school.

August 27, 2010 at 8:25 PM

By: Andreanna Jackson MAS Graduate class of 2010


O Wow i feel that everything such have been handle so different. as far as the MAS teachers in question that are some of the BEST teachers i learned so much from them and for Ms.Gonzalez she was a BIG problem she has very bad people skills she really needs to work on her self but she made my Senior year honorable she messed everything up....... until she came Life at MAS was great... MAS was more than just a school we work together and became a family ...IT SEEM WE WERE BORN THROUGH STRUGGLE AND IT STILL CONTINUES....... IM SO HAPPY NOT TO HAVE TO ATTEND MAS ANYMORE UNDER Ms.Gonzalez

August 28, 2010 at 1:55 PM

By: Delta

to klm

klm: you are just another puppet for a corrupt principal. since you have issues getting alone with people different who have a mind of their own and remain independent and not a kiss a_s. union members lack dignity. you would be willing to sell out your sould and body at any price.

August 28, 2010 at 6:31 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Deleting anonymous spam slanders

Twice today the editors at Substance have deleted an anonymous slander posted by someone calling herself "KLM." Substance is not a blog, and any comment that refers to specific people will be deleted until the commenter signs her own name. We have contacted "KLM" at the email address she gave us to tell her this, and she re-posted the spamnation rather than sign her name.

The e-mail address given to Substance by the anonymous comment person was phony.

August 30, 2010 at 1:43 PM

By: Don Justice


ACT scores over time: 15.8, 15.5, 15.8

The curriculum wasn't, and isn't, working. Of the 4 schools on campus, only SOJO is lower at 15.7. These scores are awful. For schools that want social justice, they need to realize that without literacy, their students will never have a chance to access justice

August 30, 2010 at 3:34 PM

By: mas 2

Typical answer given to discredit other colleagues.

DOn Justice: Your argument is full of prejudice. You are one of those union members who can't stand people with progressive ideas. Every school has people like you, that instead of embracing diversity, you discourage it. Is not like that campus went down 8 pts. If you come from a community that doesn't tolerate people with different ideas, maybe you shouldn't be teaching in the city.

August 30, 2010 at 4:17 PM

By: Don Justice


Where's the prejudice? These students are not doing well at MAS or SOJO. THe other schools on campus continue to get better. World Language has gone from 14.7 to 15.8 to 16.3; Infinity is at 16.9. World Language has gotten close to $ 700,000 in scholarship money for its students last year. Where is the social justice for the students of MAS and SOJO who aren't going to be able to get into competitive colleges? How is this intolerance or prejudice, wanting better for the students of Lawndale? BTW, I'm not a teacher but a community advocate for the Lawndale area.

August 30, 2010 at 5:35 PM

By: mas 2

blah blah blah don

Individuals like you, love to put schools and teachers against each other. "My school beat your school by .1%," "Only 5% of my students failed while John Doe's, 29% failed." "My new principal got us $70,000 worth of scholarship, while the previous principal got us nothing." High school mentality? You are a teacher don justice, and people like continue to infest our schools, and your only purpose in life, is to demean and hurt union members so you can stay afloat with the corrupt.

August 31, 2010 at 10:16 AM

By: Don Justice


When you cannot attack the substance of an argument, you attack the person that makes it. Basic propaganda technique MAS 2. It is not unfair at all to compare schools on the same campus which have similar students populations. Bottom line, Infinity and World Language outperform MAS and SOJO; thus, change needs to take place at MAS and SOJO to create better educational opportunities for inner city students. And for schools that believe in justice, why do the other schools on campus try to send all their special ed students to World Language?

August 31, 2010 at 1:50 PM

By: mas 2

propaganda on your end

You are the one who has on agenda Don Justice. You want to justify your new boss, because by doing so, your boss would guarantee you special rights. You'll get the best students in the house, a label of acceptance among "A" Team members etc. etc. etc. Then you are going to go after non-political union members who just go there to actually teach, and who hate the politics of the school that you promote. Then, your boss would get that $120,000 salary, and bring all her dear relatives, all her political buddies and take over the building. The attack against Social Justice is just a justification to cover the new wave of nepotism in your school. Besides, when you really want to work for your community, whatever you do, just do it. Don't go telling everyone around your petty personal achievements.

August 31, 2010 at 1:54 PM

By: Peace

Oh Boy

That's right! We see the same story at Tilden, Bogan, Gage Park, Washington, Farragut and now Little Village. Who's next?

August 31, 2010 at 2:21 PM

By: Don Justice

No Substance for MAS 2

You still haven't shown that MAS needs to make changes. Their English class for seniors was awful -- they spend forever on The Little Prince and The Absolutely True Diaries of a Part Time Indian. MAS has no control of their students. It takes more than just a principal to build a failing culture. The CTU needs to take a hard look at the subterfuge used to eliminate teachers, but let's not pretend that we had an idyllic year at MAS last year or at any time before the current big bad principal arrived.

August 31, 2010 at 2:33 PM

By: Kee-Kee


So truee!!!I\'ve seen it too many times where the chosen ones lack empathy for the ones being attacked. Some of these teachers have worked/taught side by side with the teachers under attack, but continue to remain loyal to the abuser, the principal. I don\'t understand how u can work with a group of people for years and not be concerned with their well being. These teachers, puppets just go along to get along. \"I\'m not the target, so i don\'t care.\" This creates hosility and division in the workplace. Is this an environment conducive to learning? Nepotism, favoritism, it still adds up the same.

September 23, 2010 at 12:35 PM

By: Just caught up

Standardized Test Scores? Really?

I hardly think that looking at the standardized test scores as a comparison between the four schools on this campus is effective. Clearly, to gain access into the system, students need to achieve highly on these tests... but there are MOST students who graduated from SOJO at least that went to 4 year institutions. Is that not access? Finally schools have stopped taking these tests seriously and realized the gravity of the situation: these tests are detrimental to education.

If one looks at the quality of teachers, the morale of each school, the actions, words, and codes of its students-- I think it's clear that a school like World Language is definitely failing its students. If shaming and demeaning your students is how you gain higher test scores, than I, as an educator, want no part of it.

September 23, 2010 at 12:36 PM

By: Just caught up

Standardized Test Scores? Really?

I hardly think that looking at the standardized test scores as a comparison between the four schools on this campus is effective. Clearly, to gain access into the system, students need to achieve highly on these tests... but there are MOST students who graduated from SOJO at least that went to 4 year institutions. Is that not access? Finally schools have stopped taking these tests seriously and realized the gravity of the situation: these tests are detrimental to education.

If one looks at the quality of teachers, the morale of each school, the actions, words, and codes of its students-- I think it's clear that a school like World Language is definitely failing its students. If shaming and demeaning your students is how you gain higher test scores, than I, as an educator, want no part of it.

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