And a Happy New Year to All!

Once upon a time it was January in the city of Chicago, located in the sorry, scandal-ridden, politically constipated cheapskate state of Ill-A-Noise. It was almost the official beginning of round six for the membersheep of the CTEwe: they were rapidly approaching the end of the fifth month of the ten-month school year, which would culminate in grades and earned credits for the students, and a multitude of problems for the teachers and administrators, who continued to wage war against the new attendance system known as IMPAAACT, which had been installed by the clueless and equally thoughtless Big Baaad Bored of Education.

“Whaaat?”, Arne Duncan was reputed to have said. “It cost a fortune and it still doesn’t work. It didn’t work very well elsewhere, either. It’s perfect for us. If we don’t honor our traditions, what DO we have? Remember this: People Soft is perfect.”

Indeed, thought the membersheep of the CTEwe, who had struggled mightily to manage the mess baaack in September, when it was abruptly inflicted upon everyone, with a rudimentary training session forced upon them in the summer, when some of them were on a — gasp — vacation, or something equally frivolous, like college courses to update their skills, but emphatically without anything remotely resembling a baa-baa baackup plan.

“Baaackup? Baaackup?” Arne was reputed to have said. “We don’t need no stinkin’ baackup. IMPAAACT cost a fortune and that’s that. It came highly recommended. What could be more perfect for those teachers and that ewenion?”

“Maybe,” he added as an apparent afterthought, “a lot of those old croaks will finally retire, so we can hire lots of young perky teachers right out of college, who won’t cost nearly as much. If People Soft can’t do it, nothing can.”

And so, once upon a time, it became increasingly evident that, although the CTEwe had pretended to create a new Agreement, and the Bored had pretended to honor it, it really was the same old story, a fight for love and glory. . .Or, to be more precise, a fight for accurate salaries and sick days. For class rosters and student schedules. For most of the things the membersheep had once taken for granted, but now saw eroding before their very own big brown eyes.

Every time a payday rolled around, the membersheep warily (and wearily) looked over their stubs, checking to see what magical numbers would appear.

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Ewenice, who really was still Toonice for her own good. “I have minus 257 sick days. What does that mean?”

“I think it means that you have to work another 257 days before you can take a day off,” said Scott Skeptic, journalism teacher-in-exile, as he meandered in for his weekly visit. While he missed interacting with the students, he was glad not to be involved with the People Soft mess.

“You’re not serious, are you?” asked Ewenice, desperately seeking a bit of encouragement. “Surely you jest,” she added hopefully.

“Did someone call me?” asked Shirley Ewejest, the project developer for IMPAAACT, who had just walked in to the so-called faculty lounge. “I thought I heard someone mention my name. Is there a problem?”

Eyes rolled and surreptitious smirks appeared.

“Well,” said Millicent Militant, “since you asked so nicely, and since you seem to be a nice enough person, YES. There ARE problems.”

Shirley seemed genuinely shocked. “Like what?” she asked.

“Let’s see,” said Millicent, as she hastily scribbled some notes for herself. “First of all, we still have students wandering around the building with no class schedules.”

“That’s impossible, “ stated Shirley. “They were supposed to be finished with the class schedules by the middle of December.”

“Middle of December!! That was just as baaaad!!” said Millicent, who was becoming increasingly frustrated with the endless permutations of inefficiency inspired by IMPAAACT.

“Unless, of course, they are students who coincidentally might have the same last names as other students, in which case it is taking a bit longer to sort them all out,” Shirley added with a cheerful smile.

“Do you mean to say that a student named Smith or Jones or Anderson or Miller or Gomez or Nguyen or any one of several fairly common last names here in the good old USA is still being lumped with every other student with the same fairly common last name?” asked Scott, incredulous at this little tidbit of information.

“Well, yes,” said Shirley. “Also Perez, Rodriguez, Kowalski, Harris, Walsh —”

“What happened to the ID numbers that were assigned to the students? We used those for a long time, and they were very convenient. They were all different, weren’t they?” asked Ewenice.

There was a long, anxiety producing pause. “Well, yes, but—”

“But what?” demanded Millicent, who was rapidly losing patience.

“I know,” said Scott. “You dumped all those student ID numbers, didn’t you?”

“Well, we were told that they were no longer needed, so, yes, I guess we did. But I’m sure we’ll have it all sorted out any day now.”

“Right,” groused Millicent. They rest of them grumbled in agreement.

“What? Is there something else I should know about?” asked Shirley in a tone that implied total disbelief.

“Potential retirees,” said Millicent.

“What about them?”

“Like everyone else who is nearing the magic age and/or years of service, and could begin planning for retirement, hundreds of teachers have been calling the Pension Bored to find out what to do. But they all get the same answer.”

“Which is?”

“They have a recording now. It says ‘Our new software is not functioning. We did not retain any previous information. Please call baack at a later date.’ And then, if we push the required button to set up an appointment, all we get is hysterical laughter. I’m confused.”

Nancy Naive, darling of the ruling CTEwe group, the Pee-Yu caucus, decided to join the discussion in her typically helpful way.

“You’d probably be better off if you tended to your teaching and stopped daydreaming about when you can quit,” she scolded. “I’m sure that the pension bored will straighten things out in good time. We don’t see any other major problems along the way,” she added.

“Really,” said Millicent. “How about the grades we have to enter in a few weeks? Many of us have incomplete attendance records, and many of our students have only been in the proper classes for the last few weeks.”

“You know,” Nancy began, “I knew this would be a problem for those of you who are still stuck in the past, with your silly old record books and class attendance lists and grade sheets. You really need to move into the new century. It’s time.”

“Huh?”said Scott, who had been sitting quietly. “Time for what?”

“I don’t know what Nancy means,” began Millicent, “but I think it’s time for our beloved leadersheep to start addressing some of the issues that are important to us, the dues-paying members.”

“Right,” added Clara Clark, the clerk, who had somehow inherited the odious task of placing the CTEwe newspaper, the CUD, in all of the teacher mailboxes every month. “I really hate that newspaper,” she began. “It is very hard to fold, and it falls all over

place and it’s just too big . But, what I really hate is how useless it is.”

“What do you mean?” snapped Nancy nastily.

“Yeah,” added Les Izmore. “I am tired of looking at murky photos of so-called new teachers allegedly listening to the paaarty line. Most of them look like they are dozing.”

“And I am tired of the self-aggrandizing officers telling me how important they are.”

“And I am sick of them blaming the previous administration for everything that’s wrong, while never acknowledging that they are partly to blame, too.”

“So?” said Nancy. “Sore losers will be sore losers,” she muttered.

Sore losers or not, it was evident that there were lots more field drips, even though most of the membersheep were still out there on their own as their paychecks shrank to nothing and their sick days disappeared.

So, once upon a time, the membersheep of the CTEwe began to really wonder what, if anything, their ewenion was doing for them. Since many of the new field drips were simply loyal party members who had served time as sergeants-at-arms, where they intimidated membersheep at the microphones—

“What? There were questions from the floor? When was that?” asked Ewenice in an uncharacteristically sarcastic manner. “1871? Before the Great Fire?”

But seriously. Many of the new overpaid field drips were novices at negotiating, and even if they did try to help, it was a difficult task at best. They hadn’t yet cultivated any counterparts at the Bored, and they didn’t have the proper connections. So what had started in September continued, with little relief for the membersheep, who were so confused by now that they didn’t know what their salary was.

Oh, right. Those cute little contract books had yet to be distributed, which was of great benefit to the Bored. It was another source of confusion, especially to the membersheep who vaguely remembered voting on a new contraact way baack when.

“I’m so confused,” they said. All of the time, as it turns out. And they were, with good reason.

But, once upon a time, there was something even more confusing, particularly for the CTEwe membersheep who toiled in the high schools.

“Look at this issue of CUD,” said Ewenice, who was clearly upset by the headline running across the top of the front page.

“What?” said Les Izmore. “I hardly ever read that—just what I can scan in the time it takes for me to toss it into the paper recycling receptacle.”

“Oh,” said Millicent, sadly. “This is depressing.”

“OK, guys,” said Scott Skeptic. “Let’s just take a minute to analyze this.”

And so they did. “Chicago’s unionized high schools gain national recognition”, it said, going on to state that “fifteen traditional, unionized high schools in the Chicago Public Schools system have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report magazine as among the best in the nation.”

And on and on it went.

“This really isn’t fair,” observed Ewenice. “Of course those are all the top schools. They get all the really bright kids and the special programs.”

“Thereby leaving the rest of us with the rest of them.”

“Meaning our jobs are more difficult, but no less important,” Scott pointed out.

“But why does it mention ‘traditional unionized’ high schools?,” asked Millicent. “All of us are unionized, but those schools are definitely not traditional.”

“Are they trying to imply that the CTEwe makes those schools ‘the best’?”

“Well, maybe it’s the fault of the CTEwe that all the CPS high schools aren’t tops.”

Ewenice had a little twinkle in her eye. “I heard they got to keep their record books and rosters and everything,” she said. “No IMPAAACT for them, because they are special. Well, maybe that’s WHY.”

Everyone pondered. “Makes sense,” they agreed. “Oh, I see.”

“O.I.C.” 


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 1 =