Unprecedented exposé of CPS mendacity... CTU leadership warns members against management deceptions, lists current problems with administration's praxis as Huberman's brief reign ends

In an unprecedented letter to members of the Chicago Teachers Union, CTU President Karen Lewis on November 17, the day of the Board of Education meeting, warned teachers not to cooperate with management in a teacher review that is being used to trick classroom teachers into evaluating their colleagues so that management can refuse to hire those who are displaced. The CTU letter, was originally sent by e-mail to those union members who have signed up to receive e-mail alerts from the union. The notification has also been posted on the CTU website (

On July 23, 2010, CTU President Karen Lewis (above at microphone) began trying to negotiate with CPS officials as the Board of Education continued to make massive cuts in teachers and PSRPs. Lewis was standing in front of the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, where the first attempt at negotiations with Board attorney James Franczek took place. Throughout the summer, CPS got rid of veteran teachers even after the Congress passed the Educator Jobs Bill that was supposed to allow the rehiring of teachers who had been cut because of budget problems. The Educator Jobs Bill brought an additional $104 million to Chicago, but CPS officials refused to rehire the veteran teachers they had laid off in June and July. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The message also lists four other things where CPS is being dishonest with those who work in the city's public schools. Lewis cites what she called "Rogue CAOs" (chief area officers) who are setting quotes for E-3s for teachers, the refusal of the Board to provide the pension fund with accurate information about retiring teachers, and the mess at IMPACT. The warning to CTU members is unprecedented in union history, short of those times when CTU was dealing with management disinformation during a strike. (The last strike was 23 years ago, in 1987).

The text of Karen Lewis's letter follows here:

Chicago Teachers Union E-mail Alert

November 17, 2010

Beware the "Job Fit Questionnaire for Teachers"

Sisters & Brothers:

Beware of a new and suspicious "Job Fit Questionnaire for Teachers" which likely arrived in your email inbox last week. The Chicago Public Schools hopes to lure 750 teachers into helping them develop a screening tool to identify attitudes, behaviors, and 33 "characteristics of teacher success." It smells just like a strategy used by CPS earlier this year which ended up hurting our colleagues.

Last summer, after it illegally terminated hundreds of teachers and other school professionals, CPS gave a cadre of National Board Certified Teachers a task. They were told that a principal had 4,000+ applications to wade through. "Let's provide them with the top 100," was the challenge presented by the CPS Human Capital Department. However, the board did not reveal that this teacher-assisted screening process would be used against hundreds of other outstanding teachers and paraprofessionals. The stamp of "not recommended" was placed in their personnel files and they were treated like new hires. Many principals who were eager to hire these outstanding Chicago Teachers Union brothers and sisters were faced with a roadblock since they were unwilling to override what seemed to be a mandate from the district. To make matters worse, the CPS tried to shield itself from Union criticism by saying "Well, this is what your own members decided."

So, now that we have been "once burned" we are "twice shy" about the school system's latest ill-conceived project: The Job Fit Questionnaire for Teachers. This sounds like another example of CPS taking advantage of teachers' eagerness to help. While the intention of the questionnaire seems reasonable, after last summer's debacle, let's beware of the Board asking for our "voice."

This also is matter of trust. We currently have a significant list of issues with CPS: (1) they don't seem to ever be able to get our regular payroll right; (2) they won't provide the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund with correct payroll information; (3) IMPACT is a nightmare to which we've been held hostage; (4) rogue CAO's have placed a quota on E-3s for tenured teachers; (5) the climate of terror and retaliation in the schools is palpable. The list goes on and on. Now, CPS claims they want teachers to tell them the "characteristics of a good teacher." Yet, we know that being a vocal advocate for students won't be what they want to hear. Challenging arbitrary directives won't make the list either. Certainly, our responses would include that the most important characteristics of a good teacher are willingness to fight for public education, but that won't make the grade in whatever measurement tool the school board creates.

When CPS is ready to honestly collaborate with us — with transparency and accountability over plans such as this — our union will be ready to help and recommend involvement. Until that happens let's not allow another CPS gimmick to harm our sisters and brothers.

In Solidarity, NBCT

Karen Lewis, President Chicago Teachers Union


November 19, 2010 at 6:06 AM

By: kugler


Management is trying to divide the rank-and-file members of our union. We must remember what they did to hundreds of our brothers and sisters this past summer: Termination without benefits and in some cases placed on a permenant Do Not Hire list.

Protect yourself and your union. Report any CPS activity that threatens your professional reputation and job security to the Union. Invoke your Wiengarten Rights to have Union representation at any meeting with an administrator if you believe the meeting will cause an effect on your personal working conditions.

Your Wiengarten Rights are on the back of your Union card that you should carry at all times.

An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

November 20, 2010 at 7:07 PM

By: Robert


Is it true that female teacher at Beaubien Elementary committed suicide on Wed?

Is it true that she was harassed for a long time?

November 21, 2010 at 11:37 AM

By: Disillusioned teacher

undermining teachers

I watched the BOE meeting yesterday on cable. RH spoke at the podium about how teachers should come from the top schools in the country and must be in the top 1/3 of their class in order to be hired by CPS. Thomas Friedman basically said the same thing in his column this morning. Doesn't Wall St. have those people working for them? Don't many members of Congress have Ivy league degrees? Look what a mess those institutions are in and what a mess they have made for hard working Americans! Yes, teachers should be well qualified, write well, speak well and know their subject well. We all know what school you went does not make a difference in the classroom as a rule. This insanity must stop. A united union is the only way to get our message across. Regardless of any issues we have with who is the president of the union we must be united to work for the students needs and get the teachers help!

November 21, 2010 at 5:41 PM

By: New World

It's a Brave

1984 has finally caught up to us. I think I've figured it out: Daley, et al, intend to break the public schools so totally they can say, 'OMG! We have to get these charter schools in here quick to save these terrible schools that we have set up to fail!' OK, they won't admit that last "fail" part. But what gets me is how can it be that John Q. Public accepts anything these mucky-mucks say? It's all such a shell game to grab as much taxpayer money (and you know they aren't paying the taxes us working class pay)for themselves and their "buddies".

What kills me is: we're letting them.

November 21, 2010 at 7:44 PM

By: The Board Pres

was disrespectful to the students from Douglas

at the board meeting Wed. She stated sarcasticly about 'hubris' to this passionate student-if a teacher cut him down like that, she would be written up! As for hubris, she is full of it and only needed to look to her left to the hubris she allowed as CEO.

November 22, 2010 at 6:40 PM

By: Reassigned Teacher

Can't get hired...

I am one of the "fortune" reassigned teachers. I was displaced by a tyrannical, evil principal who has found a way to get rid of almost all the teachers at my former school that he did not hire...14 and counting. The board has known about him as well as the union but still nothing can stop this dangerous man. MY reassigned status is questionable at best. I am rarely put into a classroom but am given countless jobs such as unpacking books, or being the lunchroom monitor. I also for the first time am being thrown into grades where I have no experience and am uncomfortable in...but I am supposed to be thankful that I have a job. I am grateful to have a paycheck. I have never been so demeaned or humiliated as I currently am in my current situation. I have a masters degree but because my principal is "connected" somehow, I am now spending my days being a hallway monitor or honestly doing nothing. If asked, I bet many teachers in any of the buildings I've been in would gladly accept an addition helper in their classrooms. I did when I had my classroom. Since my reassignment started I have also been to the emergency room due to chest pains and not feeling my left hand, which could be the sign of a stroke. I think the board's plan is to demean and aggravate reassigned teachers with the hope that we throw our hands up in the air and say "I don't need this &*#@" and quit. Think of all the money the board would save! I however cannot do that since I need my income. I have also been on several interviews which I thought went well and yet, I am offered no jobs. I bet I have a "do not recommend" on my file even though I have been rated as an EXCELLENT teacher before my evil principal lowered my rating to unsatisfactory and then displaced me in the same day! My career has been ruined.

Teaching is a second career for me, something I love doing and am passionate about...I do not know what I will do next.

I do know I deserve my classroom back and my job as well as my many colleagues who are going through the same thing.

November 23, 2010 at 12:18 PM

By: Delegate for Cadres and Substitute Teachers


I, too, have been handed the unthinkable career choice. I was displaced in 2008 and had many an interview. One in particular was at Nancy B. Jefferson. I did not get the position, but another female, much younger left Steinmetz and secured that spot.

I also applied at Steinmetz and got NADA.

My speciality is SPECIAL EDUCATION, and I am a fully certified LBS 1.

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