Nash teachers 'thrown under the bus' in CTU contract waiver vote as principal calls in school bus driver to vote illegally

Were the teachers at Nash Elementary School who voted to waive their current contract with the Board of Education to extend their school day by 90 minutes, and an extra two weeks, thrown under the bus? That’s the question 5th grade teacher and school delegate Shelley Nation has asked that further throws into doubt the legitimacy of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s battle with the Chicago Teachers Union for his version of the "Longer School Day."

The mayor claims the teachers at 13 schools — through the goodness of their hearts — want to teach longer days at below minimum wage, to heck with their contract rights.

“Several of the teachers saw the bus driver vote,” Nation told Substancenews. “We then got a phone call from Ms. Woods the bus driver and asked her, did you vote, and she said yes. The vote should have been 14–14. The principal said she would call CPS and let them decide on it, and she informed the CTU.”

The Board of Education quickly told the school the vote was legal because the delegate had signed off on it, and now the teachers work each day from 7:50 a.m. – 3:30 pm.

Nash Principal Tresa Dunbar suddenly caught a mysterious case of amnesia when she told the Chicago Tribune that “she does not know anything about allegations regarding a bus driver taking a vote.”

It’s infuriated many of the teachers, including a few who voted in favor of a longer day, to know their principal had blatantly lied, Nation said. “The teachers got upset to know that we are proceeding with something dishonest and unfair,” Nation said.

The CTU has filed an affidavit with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board about the illegal bus driver vote to go along with its complaint highlighting improper votes at the first three schools that approved the longer day – STEM Magnet, Skinner North and Melody. The complaint says the teachers were bribed, tricked and coerced into signing away their contract rights.

These allegations are clearly proven in the case of Nash Elementary School on the city’s West Side.

It all started in the beginning of the year when the principal of Nash school kept talking about the budget and that things were not going well, Nation said. The principal said she needs to know her staff will fully support her.

“Then she said we might lose two positions, and she tells me that she would put me back into a special education class with 20 kids and no aid, which is not even legal,” Nation said.

The teachers were told in a subsequent meeting that a vote would take place to extend the school day, and if the teachers voted in favor of it, the school would receive $150,000 to save the positions. However, the teachers weren’t told the money was a one-shot deal, meaning those positions would not be funded the next year.

Nation said she voiced her concerns about taking a waiver vote for a longer school day when there were still many questions about what a longer day would include and what rights they would be giving up in their contract.

Those who argued in favor of a longer day said it was a done deal anyway since the state passed Senate Bill 7 this year that mandates a longer school day in Chicago, she said.

Nation said the 48-hour notice was not followed before the teachers would have to vote on the time change.

At first the principal did not want the CTU field rep John Kugler to speak to the staff, but after a call to downtown, she allowed Nation and Kugler five minutes to speak and the principal five minutes to speak to the teachers before the vote, Nation said.

The principal reiterated her points about needing the money, and the union rep said the teachers would be waiving their contract rights that guaranteed fair compensation agreed to between the Board of Education and the teachers union.

“Then (the vote) was just chaos,” Nation said. “People were just taking ballots. The principal said she’d run everything. She created the ballot (which should have been done in conjunction with the school delegate). The principal had called an all-staff meeting, which included the bus drivers, janitors, cooks and clerks.”

The question was should staff other than teachers be able to vote (an interesting question since these employees would also be forced to work a longer day). The CTU told Nation no.

The vote was 15-14, in favor of a longer day, with the bus driver casting the final vote, Nation said.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll told the Tribune that it was a union representative — not district officials — who allowed the bus driver to cast a ballot and then certified that the vote was accurate. She said union members can contact the CTU at any time to determine whether a particular staff member is eligible to vote.

Nation said she didn’t know for sure that the bus driver had voted, and that is why she signed off on the vote. This gave the cover to the Board of Education to verify the results of the longer day vote.

“The CPS is saying the vote was legal because I signed off on it,” Nation said. “We found out later (the bus driver shouldn’t have voted), so I reissued a second vote with a spoiled ballot.”

“The (teachers) are not upset about the longer hours,” Nation said. “They’re not upset about the money. They’re upset about being forced to give up their hard-earned union rights.”

So how does the new restructured day look like at Nash?

The teachers get an extra 15 minutes for each prep period, a 45 minute lunch (before it was 20 minutes), and 20 more minutes for the core subjects.

“They gave us our schedule two days before we had to start,” Nation said. “And the principal said I could have my fifth grade class back. She said you go ahead and enjoy them.”


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