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Old guard continues factionalism at Chicago Teachers Pension Fund... Pension Fund re-elects John O'Brill as president, Maria Rodriguez remains as officer

Despite two successive defeats in citywide elections for teacher trustees to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF), the "old guard" at the fund, including the remaining two teacher trustees who had affiliation with the "United Progressive Caucus" of ousted CTU president Marilyn Stewart, used their narrow majority to continue electing officers of the fund at the fund's organizing meeting on November 23, 2010. Two of the six teacher trustees joined with the two Board of Education trustees, two retired teacher trustees, and the principals' representative to defeat a motion to make Jay Rehak, a Whitney Young High School teacher, President of the Fund.

At their organizational meeting on November 23, 2010, the 12 trustees of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (above) voted to re-elect John O'Brill (seated, third from left) once again as President of the Fund. The vote was the closest ever, with five trustees voting for Whitney Young High School teacher Jay Rehak (above, fifth from left) and six for O'Brill. Left to right (above, front row) Lois Ashford (teacher trustee), Maria Rodriguez (teacher trustee), John O'Brill (teacher trustee), Walter Pilditch (retired teacher trustee). Back row, left to right: Alberto Carrero (Board of Education trustee), Chris Kotis (principal trustee), Peggy Davis (Board of Education trustee), Jeff Blackwell (teacher trustee), Jay Rehak (teacher trustee), Jeanne Freed (teacher trustee) and James Ward (retired teacher trustee). Nor pictured was retired teacher trustee Mary Sharon Reilly. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.When the CTPF trustees met on the morning of November 23, four of the six teacher trustees were relatively new. Lois Ashford and Jay Rehak had been elected in October 2009, and Jeff Blackwell and Jeanne Freed in October 2010. All four defeated incumbents who had been supported by Marilyn Stewart and her caucus. The four new teacher trustees were elected with the support of CORE, which won power in the Chicago Teachers Union after a heated election campaign in May and June 2010. A five-way race in May led to no clear winner on May 21. In a two-way runoff on June 11, the CORE slate won decisively.

The voting gave a slim majority for Pension Fund President to incumbent John O'Brill. Voting for O'Brill were teacher trustees John O'Brill and Maria Rodriguez, principal trustee Chris Kotis, Board of Education trustees Alberto Carrero and Peggy Davis, and retired teacher trustee Walter Pilditch. Teacher trustees Lois Ashford, Jeff Blackwell, Jeanne Freed, and Jay Rehak, and retired teacher trustee James Ward, who made the speech below when making the nomination.

Rehak was nominated by James Ward, one of three retiree trustees. In prepared remnarks, Ward praised Rehak as follows:

"Mr. Chairman, it give me great pleasure to place in nomination for president of the board the name of a candidate who is well qualified and fully deserving of the post, Mr. Jay Rehak.

"He and I do not always agree as evidence by our disparate votes on many issues since he joined the Pension Board in 2009. Many is the time he askes a lengthy question and I must ask him, "Is there a question ion your question?" Nevertheless, he shows energy, curiosity and honesty that I welcome on this board.

"In giving him your vote, you can make no mistake. As a high ranking official of the teachers union, he set an enviable record in administration, communications, public relations and members services.

"In addition, I did a little digging and learned that he is, indeed, a man of letters. He is a member of Amnesty International, the ACLU, and Writers Guild of America. He is a published author, whose short plays have been produced around the world. His latest short work, "The End of a Perfect Game" has recently been published by Smith and Kraus, under the title "The Best Short Plays of 2010."

"Like me, Jay lives in Chicago and sent his two children to the Chicago Public Schools.

"Finally, Mr. Rehak displays the proven ability to do the right things and communicate such to his constituents, as shown by his election to the pension board before his party won the union elections. Considering our current crisis of reduced benefits and underfunding, we should foster cooperation between the pension board and service organizations like the CTU, RTAC, and the Principal's Association. Mr. Rehak's presidency would only serve to cement such joint efforts for our members.

Newly elected CTPF president John O'Brill (left) chairs the November 23, 2010 meeting while Joseph Burns (pension fund attorney, right) looks on. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."Other candidates may have as much zeal for our goals, some may have as much experience in the duties of this office; a few may possible have a legitimate claim based on honorableservice ore reputation; but where else can you fiond such a combination of talents as Mr. Rehak?

"On his behalf, I can promise faithful service and the prompt discharge of every presidential duty with our members and beneficiaries uppermost in his mind. I urge your support for him today."

Rehak was defeated by the narrowest majority in recent Fund history, with two of the retiree trustees joining the two management trustees (Board members Alberto Carrero and Peggy Davis) voting to seat O'Brill again.

Also voting for O'Brill were the two remaining UPC teacher trustees — O'Brill himself and teacher rep Maria Rodriguez (who works as a teacher on leave for the CTU as a field rep) — Chris Kotis, who was elected with the support of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (to represent active duty administrators, which includes principals), and Walter Pilditch, elected with the support of RTAC, the Retired Teachers Association of Chicago. Retiree trustee Mary Sharon Reilly, who was a longstanding member of the CTU's United Progressive Caucus, has been ill.

The Chicago Board of Education has been trying since 2007 to provide the pension fund with accurate information about newly retired teachers' complete service records. Because of staff turnover at CPS and the change in CPS computer systems, the Board has failed to do so, resulting in litigation that it still pending. Once again on November 23, the pension fund trustees were introduced to another CPS official (Alicia Winckler, "Chief Human Capital Office" above left) when the presentation was made about the attempts to straighten out the four-year-old problem created by CPS. In the rear above is Louis Pyster. In the center is Jerome Goudelock, who has performed in various positions (including "Interim Chief Officer for Human Capital") at CPS since he was brought into the executive ranks under Arne Duncan several years ago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.After the close vote and a lunch break, the trustees resumed their meeting. Following a presentation by Mercer Inc. on the status of the Fund's $9.3 billion portfolio, the trustees heard another report from Chicago Board of Education officials explaining why, after four years, the Board continues to be unable to provide the Fund with accurate information about retirees upon their retirement. The Chicago Board of Education has been trying since 2007 to provide the pension fund with accurate information about newly retired teachers' complete service records. Because of staff turnover at CPS and the change in CPS computer systems, the Board has failed to do so. The results have included delays in calculating the complete pension for newly retired teachers and in litigation, that it still pending. Once again on November 23, the pension fund trustees were introduced to another CPS official (Alicia Winckler, "Chief Human Capital Office") when the presentation was made about the attempts to straighten out the four-year-old problem created by CPS. The churning of officials at CPS since the final year of Arne Duncan's days as "Chief Executive Officer" has been unprecedented, with the Board replacing top officials regularly without explanation, and those officials explaining how it takes time to settle in to the new job.

During the November 23 pension fund meeting, Alicia Winckler, who has been on the job as "Chief Human Capital Officer" at CPS for less than a year, told the trustees that CPS has hired a new group of managers in that department to straighten out the problem with the records, a problem that first began when Duncan was CEO and ordered a new computer system for personnel records in 2007.

One of the Power Point slides shown to the pension trustees (above) by CPS officials shows how far behind schedule CPS is in straightening out the four-year-old problem CPS created when it put into place its new computer systems in 2007, back in the day when Arne Duncan was still CPS CEO and Robert Runcie was in charter of technology. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The person who was in charge of the computer systems at that time (Robert Runcie) has since been promoted to the post of "Chief Administrative Officer."

The fund's investment officials reported that the fund's investments had gained during the most recent quarters, thanks to improvements in the performance of the various stock exchanges which many of the fund's investments reflect. Teacher trustee Jay Rehak noted for the record that the performance of stocks and other investments does not necessarily mean that the economy is improving for the majority of people, especially with an unemployment rate in Illinois exceeding nine percent.

CLARIFICATION: According to Lou Pyster, who was present during the voting. This reporter arrived after the voting and was given the prepared speech by Jim Ward by Mr. Ward. Thanks to Mr. Pyster for posting the following clarification as a 'Comment':

"The elected CTPF officers are: President - John O'Brill; Vice President - Maria Rodriguez; Financial Secretary - Walter Pilditch; Recording Secretary - Mary Sharon Reilly

"They were elected by slate. The motion for the slate was made by Chris Kotis, the principal trustee. The slate received 7 votes — O'Brill, Rodriguez, Pilditch, Reilly (voting by speaker-phone), Kotis, Carrero and Davis. Voting against the slate were Rehak, Ashford and Freed. Blackwell and Ward abstained.

"Rehak was not nominated for President by anyone. Maybe it was the plan, but Ward did not nominate Rehak and therefore did not give any speech in support of him. I was present during the voting and did not see Schmidt at this part of the meeting. He arrived later..."



Comments:

November 24, 2010 at 10:15 AM

By: Walter Pilditch no help to principals too

CTPF Board

Why principals still vote him on CTPF is beyond me. Walter is helpful to himself and not to the membership. he votes against anything modern or needed.

November 24, 2010 at 1:51 PM

By: Albert Korach

Pension Board Officer Elections

As a retired teacher (81)I found the Pension Board Officer elections of great interest I was also a former VP of the fund.I was sorry that the former UPC members of the fund could not all be relegated to obscurity.I,m sure that at the next teacher trustee election this will happen.For the life of me I do not understand why Johm O'Brill, an active teacher still hangs on. I believe he is possibly older tham me.I felt that at some time John would retire, join me in Florida on my bench and help me feed the pigeons. I felt that after years of comming up with questionable vote counts at the House of Delegates meetings he has served long enough. BESIDES!I NEED HELP FEEDING THE PIGEONS.

November 24, 2010 at 6:42 PM

By: Louis Pyster

Pension Fund's Officer Election

The elected CTPF officers:

President - John O'Brill

Vice President - Maria Rodriguez

Financial Secretary - Walter Pilditch

Recording Secretary - Mary Sharon Reilly

They were elected by slate. The motion for the slate was made by Chris Kotis, the principal trustee. The slate received 7 votes - O'Brill, Rodriguez, Pilditch, Reilly (voting by speaker-phone), Kotis, Carrero and Davis. Voting against the slate were Rehak, Ashford and Freed. Blackwell and Ward abstained.

Rehak was not nominated for President by anyone. Maybe it was the plan, but Ward did not nominate Rehak and therefore did not give any speech in support of him.

I was present during the voting and did not see Schmidt at this part of the meeting. He arrived later.

November 26, 2010 at 2:14 PM

By: Chris

To:Louis Pyster

Do you know ,why nobody nominated Rehak?

Do you know why Mr.Pildich,known personally by me(former principal at Curie,great character ,very good reputation)decided to vote against Rehak?

Is it a matter of experience and effectiveness,or ....?

November 30, 2010 at 12:39 AM

By: Louis Pyster

To Chris:

Once the O'Brill slate was approved by 7 votes, there was no chance for Jay Rehak as an individual to be nominated for President. Jay did not have a slate to rival O'Brill's slate. If the Kotis motion had failed, then Ward would have nominated Rehak for President. After receiving the advice of the attorney, Joseph Burns, O'Brill ruled that the Kotis motion should be voted on first, before motions on individual offices.

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