Rush for new calendar causing confusion as CTU members are asked to sign away their rights... Principals asking teachers, PSRPs, to give up vacation rights because of calendar glitch
In a turn of events that looks to escalate ill will from the recent Chicago Teachers Union strike, principals are being told to push teachers to give up their rights to benefit days because of the calendar made up by the CPS administration in a quickie manner following the end of the recent CTU strike. According to several sources in the schools and at CPS, schools administrators have been instructed to interrogate and have union members sign a document that effectively waives teacher and other worker rights. In the hastily reorganized school calendar, CPS staff were given notice that the fall "Intersession" (for Track E schools) would be cut from two weeks to one week. Intersession is a unpaid time off from school during the month of October due to the early school year start of Track E schools (roughly the equivalent of the summer for regular — "Track R" — teachers).
The school district needs to make up the seven days Chicago teachers were on strike, but the manner in which CPS changed the official calendar is becoming more and more controversial.
CPS officials decided to unilaterally change the calendar to reduce the two weeks of October break to one week — without even 30-day notice to employees. Neither parents nor teachers (via the CTU) were really consulted about the changes.
The previous calendar was approved over a year ago and many teachers and parents have made plans far in advance to use the October days off. This particular change only affects the 240 schools on "Track E." The remaining schools are on "Track R" (which means "regular" school year). The entire problem will be resolved at year's end when CPS returns to a unified calendar, ending the six-year experiment with "Track E" that began under the administration of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Parents have also complained about the abrupt change. The Sun-Times did story on the subject back on September 21, 2012 where parents complained that CPS was unilaterally changing the calendar without any consideration to the community. “...there’s no mention of involving parents,” Jonathan Goldman, local school council chair at Drummond Montessori said. “Parents are far more impacted than any other stakeholder.”
What now has come to light though anonymous tips to Substance is the fact the CPS administrators have been directed to interrogate CTU members and have them sign a document "certifying" their need to take vacation time during the now canceled first week of Intersession. In the document, principals are told to have staff "present supporting documentation that they absolutely can not change plans without suffering an unreasonable financial penalty ($50 is not an unreasonable financial penalty.)"
There is another section of the directive that explicitly states union members are not to be allowed to take sick days to facilitate plans. Rather, the CPS administration the right the use benefit days at their own discretion. In fact CPS clearly states the presumptive denial of benefits: Employees who are absent that week because of travel plans may NOT use sick days for those plans. Employees may only use sick days consistent with our policies(i.e., for their own personal; illness or to care to an ill dependent)."
Despite the confusion in the leadership of Chicago Public Schools that was obvious during the negotiations (different administrators and officials at the bargaining table at different times made it difficult for CTU negotiators — and even some CPS negotiators — to keep things straight in the complex work), few anticipated that the predicted problems would surface so quickly. Sources at CPS have told Substance that the development of the controversial new calendar was pushed through not by "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard (who is more and more noted to be on his way out) but by Jennifer Cheatham, the "Chief Instruction Officer." There was no reason for the calendar to be rushed through without more input from the CTU and from organized parents, since the days can be made up throughout the school year and did not have to be made up within a couple of weeks after school resumed. Cheatham, like most of the top level administrators currently at CPS, came to Chicago from outside and has no classroom teaching or principal experience in Chicago.
In a large number of schools, the confusion and anger are hampering the ability of principals and teachers to move the school year forward now that the first strike in a quarter century is over and the CTU members have a contract.
Some teachers are noting that only a week ago there was a "love fest" after the strike was settled and a new era of cooperation was supposed to be heralded in. Seems now we have learned that the strike was only one battle in a protracted war against a union busting administration and led by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.