MEDIA WATCH: 'Ailing Chicago Union head...' DID NOT 'Step Down'... Ed Week gets the story wrong (after reporting it right) with a silly (and inaccurate) headline, seconded by Chicago pundit ('') who reports on Chicago from Brooklyn

[Editor's Note: Alexander Russo corrected the error on his blog less than two hours after we published the report below]... When the facts matter most, reporters usually try to get their facts straight. But few reporters can survive a headline writer who doesn't bother to get the facts straight. And so it goes at Education Week, where reporter Stephen Sawchuk got the story about Karen Lewis's temporary leave from the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union -- and then "American Education's Newspaper of Record" blew a well reported story with a headline that was untrue. Only Ed Week (and Chicago Tribune) pundit at District made the same mistake, but that's par for the course there.

A year before the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was warning the Board of Education and the city (via the press) that the policies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel were anti-union and anti-public schools. At the Board of Education's June 15, 2011 meeting (above) Lewis spoke against the Board's "Longer School Day" (without more resources) plans, and made it clear that the union was willing to talk but not to be a doormat. Above, Lewis spoke briefly with reporters after she spoke to the Board on June 15, 2011. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The facts: 1. Karen Lewis is still President of the Chicago Teachers Union, re-elected to a three-year term at the head of the CORE slate by an 80 percent membership vote in May 2013. Lewis and her team (the CORE slate) were first elected in a runoff against former union president Marilyn Stewart (and the "New UPC") in June 2010, after forcing the runoff in a five-way race in May 2010. Karen Lewis and the newly elected officers took office on July 1, 2010 and have been leading the nation's third largest pre-K through 12 teachers union ever since.

2. Because she has a serious illness, Karen Lewis has taken what amounts to a leave from her day-to-day duties as union president. LEWIS DID NOT 'STEP DOWN' DESPITE THE INACCURATE HEADLINES. Those duties have been taken over temporarily by the union's elected vice president, former Senn High School history teacher Jessey Sharkey. As another important fact: Sharkey will continue working from his office at the union's Merchandise Mart headquarters and Lewis's office next door will remain vacant while Lewis recovers from her recent operation.

3. Nobody every said that Lewis had "stepped aside" or "stepped down" (implying that she has resigned her position). Both Education Week's headline writer and the Tribune blog "" did some sloppy work and misled anyone who takes their reporting seriously.

4. The reporter for Ed Week in his story got the facts straight (see below). Apparently the headline writer didn't pay attention to the story itself (a fate that sometimes happens to reporters).

One of the clearest and most concise TV news reports on the story came from NBC News Chicago, which stuck closely to the facts covering the statement made by CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey:

Most Chicago reporters are respecting the privacy of Karen Lewis and her family during her recovery at the hospital. Union leaders have been busy planning for a large school leadership training session on October 18, 2014 (see, at which time many expect that the union's direction in the coming year will be made more clear. The CTU is preparing for contract negotiations with the Board of Education, the first negotiations since those that ended the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. The current CTU contract expires on June 30, 2015.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey (above) told the press that President Karen Lewis has a "serious illness" at a brief CTU press conference on October 9, 2014. Sharkey will be doing the duties of the president of the union while Lewis recovers, the CTU stated.The campaign of Karen Lewis for Mayor of Chicago announced that they were continuing to raise money for Lewis's election campaign and circulate nominating petitions. The petitions can be turned in to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners between November 17 and November 24, 2014. The mayoral election is on February 24, 2015.


Ailing Chicago Union Head Will Step Down

By Stephen Sawchuk on October 9, 2014 6:17 PM

The vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union will temporarily assume charge of the union while its president, Karen Lewis, recovers from a serious illness, the union announced in a short press conference this afternoon. Lewis underwent surgery for an unknown condition yesterday; that operation was successful, Vice President Jesse Sharkey said.

The hard-charging Lewis, a former chemistry teacher, took over the CTU reins in an upset in 2010. She repeatedly challenged the policies of mayor Rahm Emanuel, eventually leading her members on a seven-day strike in 2012. And her CTU caucus has pushed back, if not always successfully, against the policies of its parent union at the American Federation of Teachers' last two biennial conventions.

Lewis was exploring the possibility of challenging Emanuel in the city's upcoming mayoral contest. It's unclear whether that remains a possibility at this point.


Karen Lewis' Condition is "Worrisome": Source

The Chicago Teachers Union president and potential mayoral candidate underwent emergency surgery Wednesday

By Mary Ann Ahern

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10/8/2014: Chicago Teachers Union president admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern reports.

Thursday, Oct 9, 2014 • Updated at 4:09 PM CDT

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis was able to take phone calls before her emergency surgery Wednesday, and a source who is aware of one of those calls described her condition as "serious" and "worrisome."

Friends are concerned, said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

Karen Lewis Undergoes Emergency Surgery

No further health updates have been released since NBC 5 learned Lewis was being operated on for a "new medical issue" discovered after she became light-headed and experienced "stroke-like symptoms" on Sunday.

Lewis was taken by ambulance to Northwestern Hospital Sunday night after attending a campaign event.

Karen Lewis Still Mum on Mayoral Run[CHI] Karen Lewis Still Mum on Mayoral Run

9/2/2014: As Mayor Emanuel kicked off the school year at William Penn Elementary School, questions arise who will be running against him in the upcoming election. NBC 5's Political reporter Mary Ann Ahern reports.

A source insists Lewis did not suffer a stroke, and while it's not clear what kind of emergency surgery she had, NBC 5 was told it was not heart surgery or related to her weight loss surgery.

In March Lewis traveled to Mexico to undergo bariatric surgery, since her health insurance would not pay for the surgery in the United States. Since then, she lost more than 100 pounds.

Karen Lewis 'Not Well' But 'Under Great Medical Care'

The 61-year-old union leader has been holding a listening tour across Chicago as she considers a run for mayor. Those close to her campaign said she already has the necessary signatures to get her name on the ballot.

The Chicago Teachers Union plans to hold a news conference Thursday to provide updates on Lewis' health and hospitalization.

Karen Lewis Lays Groundwork for Possible Mayoral Run[CHI] Karen Lewis Lays Groundwork for Possible Mayoral Run

8/19/2014: Karen Lewis speaks to a crowd at a "Conversations with Karen" event in the 19th Ward.

News breaks at inconvenient times. Download one of the NBCChicago mobile apps and have the news come to you. Watch live streaming newscasts, receive critical push notifications on the go and stay in touch with your city around the clock.



Karen Lewis hands over leadership of Chicago Teachers Union

October 9, 2014

By: Becky Vevea


Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is suffering from an undisclosed “serious illness” and will step aside as head of the organization, the union’s vice president announced Thursday.

But there’s still no word on how that might affect a possible mayoral run against Rahm Emanuel.

At a press conference late Thursday afternoon, Vice President Jesse Sharkey announced that Lewis underwent a successful surgery on Wednesday, but declined to name Lewis’ condition, citing her family’s privacy.

Lewis, 61, has been seriously considering a run for mayor. Sharkey said he will take over Lewis’ duties at the CTU, but wouldn’t get into the possible political impact of Lewis’ health.

“I understand that many people in this room and many people in the city want to know about Karen Lewis’s health status because they care about the mayoral election in this city,” Sharkey told reporters. “That’s a question that I can’t answer.”

Lewis was hospitalized Sunday night after experiencing discomfort, but the union and representatives with her exploratory campaign refused to say why or give any details on the status of her condition.

On Monday, CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in a statement that she was “in good spirits--and still thinking of creative ways to secure the future and city our students and their families deserve.”

On Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for Lewis’ mayoral exploratory committee declined to comment on the details of Lewis’condition, but said the “exploratory process is moving forward.”

Despite contentious relations in the past, Emanuel praised Lewis late Thursday afternoon in an emailed statement, though he steered clear of mentioning politics.

“Karen Lewis is a passionate advocate for her beliefs and has always been willing to speak up for her view of what's best -- not only for the teachers that she represents, but also for issues critical to the future of our city," Emanuel was quoted as saying. "Along with all Chicagoans, we will keep Karen and her family in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope to see her on her feet very soon.”

Lewis has not officially announced whether she plans to challenge Emanuel in February’s city election. But there has been widespread speculation and encouragement from some progressives for her to run.

In recent weeks, the once-fiery critic of Emanuel who led Chicago teachers on their first strike in 25 years has sought to rebrand herself as a consensus-builder, holding several community events around the city dubbed “Conversations with Karen.” Lewis has also started fundraising for a possible campaign, though she has conceded it will be difficult to top Emanuel’s political machine, which has already netted him at least $8.3 million for his re-election bid.

Mayoral candidates have until Nov. 24 to file their nominating papers in order to get on the ballot for the Feb. 24 election. Emanuel already faces several declared challengers, including his vocal critic in the City Council, Ald. Bob Fioretti; Dr. Amara Enyia, an urban development consultant; former Chicago Ald. Robert Shaw; Chicago police officer Frederick Collins; and conservative activist William J. Kelly.

"She is a fighter and I know that she will bounce back, stronger than ever," Fioretti said of Lewis in an emailed statement. "Her voice adds to the debate in Chicago and we all get better results when there is a full and spirited dialogue. But right now, we should all respect Karen’s privacy and give her the space she needs to get better."

WBEZ political reporter Alex Keefe contributed to this story.


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