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When you say you're broke, how do we know you are really broke? 'Nix the Networks' analysis shows that CPS still has a large, expensive and toxic bureaucracy, just not one you can find at the corner of Madison and Dearborn...

For more than a year, the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union and officials of Chicago Public Schools have had some disagreements, but they have agreed on one thing: Chicago's schools should be getting more money from "Springfield." The basis for that joint effort, which has never been explained in detail to the union's 26,000 members, has been a claim by the Board of Education that without an infusion of roughly $200 million from Illinois schools will has to face "furlough days" or even close early in June. But since the Chicago Teachers Union ended its independent research and analysis of CPS's $5 billion annual Operations Budget (which is in addition to a $1 billion Capital budget), there need to be more questions and more detailed answers to the claims currently coursing through the city's schools.

One window into whether CPS has really reduced its "bureaucracy" comes from an examination of the so-called "Networks" (the current name CPS has for its sub-districts) and the cost of Network staff and Network leaders (currently called "Chiefs of Schools" in the negologisms of the nation's third largest school system).

During the 2015-2016 school year, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) delegates and other school leaders in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Networks 11, 12, and 13 met periodically after CTU House of Delegates (HOD) meetings as well as out in the network communities to gather data for a collective grievance regarding network mandates for: lesson planning, grading, and assessment. Meetings were held with network chiefs as well.

As a school delegate, I participated in this process. As CPS continues to threaten cost-saving measures that continue to put greater burdens upon the already broken backs of schools’ budgets, there continues to be a cry from the membership to “Nix the Networks!” CPS Leadership Conundrum: Since union members walked back into the schools from the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, principals had been informing teachers throughout and ongoing that the excessive levels of nonstop mandates they were continually imposing were coming from the "Networks."

But network chiefs (called "Chiefs of Schools") at the Union grievance hearings meetings at the end of the 2015-2016 school year informed those present that this was absolutely not true.

The upward and continual pressure on CTU leadership from the membership finally resulted in the filing of a multi-network level grievance. The CTU grievance filed against Networks 11, 12 and 13 at the end of the 2015-2016 school year as well as the full response are printed below.

Readers can judge for themselves from a reading of the full text (not that lengthy) the working environments (the students’ learning environments) created within the Chicago Public Schools as described as experienced by CPS local neighborhood public school employees due to the above-stated CPS leadership conundrum. (Hint: Management by abuse and chaos.)

The latest Contract Agreement (of which members do not to this date have copies of the actual final language) appears to have negotiated much-needed changes in the issues raised by the CTU network grievance.

Thus, the question becomes even more relevant: Should CPS “Nix the Networks”?

The grievance was signed by CTU President Karen Lewis on behalf of CTU Members Networks 11, 12, 13, et al. [8186/15-11-073(lmp/pm)]

The grievance resulted in what is apparently a usual response to grievances from the Office of Employee Engagement, this from Thomas A. Krieger: “I must therefore deny the grievance in its entirety.” The Board response was dated May 23, 2016.

However and importantly, the denial contained five “next steps,” which seem to indicate that the network “power” structure was always and basically illusory, as well as question the basic definition of a “mandate.”

1. 1. These Network Chiefs need to communicate clearly with both Principals and teachers within their networks, what the network (and district) mandates are around grading, assessments, and lesson planning.

2. 2. These Network Chiefs also need to communicate clearly to Principals that they expect Principals to engage faculty about these issues and to attempt to accommodate faculty concerns about mandates that are onerous and/or without significant value to improving student outcomes.

3. 3. These Network Chiefs should form network faculty committees to meet as needed or at least quarterly to allow faculty to provide feedback to network chiefs outside of their school environments.

4. 4. These Network Chiefs should encourage the formation of PPCs (anecdotally the PPC name – “problems committee” – may create a barrier because “problems” has a negative connotation) and provide development to principals on how to constructively engage PPCs.

5. 5. The Union needs to encourage its delegates and members to form PPCs and provide development for them on constructive engagement of principals and administrators.

Disclosure: As a delegate, I filed a PPC-level grievance on behalf of the union members at my school regarding excessive paperwork (Article 44-21) the year before the CTU city-wide network grievance was filed. As a result of our local grievance, the paperwork amount was lowered. It was still excessive, and the fight was never-ending regarding continual attempts by the administration to add more and more paperwork “mandates,” but the amount was less than other schools were still experiencing. When the Network came out to the school, and we directly asked, everything presented was referred to as “tools” and “supports” as opposed to mandates. The following is the text of the Board response to the grievance, which contains the grievance itself:

Re: CTU/Members Networks 11, 12, 13, et al. 81686/15-11-073(lpm/pm)

Dear Ms. Lewis:

This serves as the Office of Employee Engagement’s response to a grievance filed on behalf of the above-described class of employees. A copy of the grievance is enclosed for your reference. The grievance alleges in relevant part:

The Chicago Teachers Union contends that there is a continuing and recurring violation of the Board-Union Agreement that involves a work situation complaint and a misapplication of and a deviation from past practice and policy. We further contend that there is an ongoing violation of the Agreement including, but not limited to, Articles 2-1, 3, 14, 21 and 44. Networks 11, 12 and 13 Chiefs are giving excessive amounts of duties to school administrators who in turn give it to bargaining unit members through threats and directives which create excessive amounts of paperwork and stress on a daily basis.

Statement of Facts:

The Bargaining Unit Members in these three Networks have received detailed handouts listing the testing requirements for each grade level along with the timeline of completion. The tests and paperwork includes, but is not limited to, Dibels, TRC, Progress Monitoring, Fry Word Assessment and Cumulative assessment, Compass Pre-Test and Post-Test, DLM Assessment, NWEA (BOY, MOY and EOY), NAPE, REACH Performance Task (BOY and EOY) and PARCC, ACCESS Assessments, and any Network “Non-Negotiables”. Each teacher is also required to provide weekly assessments based on classroom instruction which must be turned into the Administration EVERY Wednesday.

This is in addition to teachers having to complete grading of assignments and entering the information onto Gradebook, emailing parents and staff, phone calls to parents, conferencing with students regarding NWEA or COMPASS, unit plans, lesson plans and rubrics and preparing for daily lessons. The members are also responsible for data analysis of test scores and grades, Compass Logs, Growth Calendars, Data Cards, Deep Dives, submitting a re-teaching plan, RIT planning and the organizing of the RIT groups. Teachers are required to prepare and log Fry cumulative assessments weekly and every 5 weeks along with book pledges, honor roll lists and students of the month. In addition to these requirements, Special Educators must conduct and/or participate in IEP meetings, Domain meetings, prepare IEP progress notes and collaborate with staff members working with their Diverse Learners. There are still more examples of work for which the teachers in all three Networks are responsible.

Additionally, a disproportionate number of Special Education Classroom Assistants and Teacher Assistants have been cut from schools in these Networks, increasing the workload and denial of vital services to our most vulnerable students.

The above examples prove the point that these bargaining unit members are being plagued with excessive paperwork on a daily, weekly and monthly basis which is in direct contradiction to the paperwork reduction and limitation mandated in Article 44-21 of the Board-Union Agreement. These additions to the daily, weekly and monthly work which teachers are required to complete undermines the ability of teachers to focus on the daily instruction of the students in the classroom, which is reflective in the REACH evaluation. Also, teachers in these Networks are being asked to complete a litany of mandates including, but not limited to, mandatory bulletin boards and asinine decorations.

The addition of these mandated assessments and paperwork makes the art of teaching much more difficult as teachers are conflicted due to the stress and anxiety and are also often unable to devote enough time to the development of life-long learners.

[Note: At this point the Board interjects.]

Based on all of the foregoing, the grievance is denied in its entirety.

[Note: At this point the Union grievance continues.]

The Chicago Teachers Union requests that the Board take immediate action to direct the chiefs of Networks 11, 12 and 13 to Cease and Desist excessive testing and “non-negotiables”. We further request that the administrations of schools in the Network be instructed not to place additional assessments and/or record-keeping requirements on their staff for the duration of the 2015-16 school year. We further request that no bargaining unit member suffer retaliation due to the filing of this grievance and any and all actions which will make the grievant(s) whole, including compensation for any extra work performed. The Chicago Teachers Union also requests that the Board work with the CTU to schedule a Network wide PPC meeting between delegates in the three different Networks and delegates in those Networks.

[Note: The Board response follows.]

The instant grievance alleges violations of Articles 2-1, 3, 14, 21 and 44. No facts or documentation are alleged in support of any violation of the current Board-Union Agreement other than Article 44-21. However, even though the instant grievance is couched as an Article 44-21 grievance (limitations on paperwork), the grievance itself and the information gathered at the Network meetings, discussed more fully below, make clear the real complaint is disagreement about the scope and amount of work required for teachers.

Based upon a request by the Union, the Office of Employee Engagement coordinated meetings with each of the Networks to begin a dialogue about the amount of work teachers are required to do. Teachers from the network’s schools shared information in support of the instant grievance at a series of meetings. The Network 13 meeting was held May 2, 2016; the Network 12 meeting was held May 3, 2016; the Network 11 meeting was held May 9, 2016. The respective Chief of Schools was present at each meeting as were members of their staffs. Teachers shared concerns around 3 main topics: assessments, lesson/unit plans, and grading. Network Chiefs shared information about Federal/State mandated testing; District-mandated testing; Network mandates; decisions left to principal discretion.

During the meetings, a number of things became clear:

• • Teachers are confused about what networks are and are not mandating, e.g. what assessments are required and what assessments school administrators may elect for their schools; grading policies, particularly minimum grade entry, and lesson planning/unit planning mandates.

• • Teachers feel that grading policies imposed by the network may be arbitrary and/or fail to take teacher context into account (e.g., how can a librarian or PE teacher enter multiple grades a week for students they may only see once a week).

• • Teachers feel that some lesson planning requirements with multi-page and multiple entries are onerous.

• • Teachers feel that too much instructional time is being taken up by mandated assessments.

• • At many schools represented, there is no PPC in place to address these problems with local school principals, fueling a sense that teachers concerns are not being heard or addressed.

• • At some schools with PPCs, PPC representatives and principals are not effectively addressing their respective concerns.

I do not believe that there is contract violation from the evidence before me. I must therefore deny the grievance in its entirety.

However, as Mr. Moriarty, the Board’s Chief Labor relations Officer noted, there are operational and communication issues among networks, principals, and teachers that need to be and can be addressed. All Network Chiefs agreed to begin the process of addressing them. Mr. Moriarty agreed to assist in getting them addressed. Specifically, as summarized by the Mr. Moriarty, the following should be next steps:

1. 1. These Network Chiefs need to communicate clearly with both Principals and teachers within their networks, what the network (and district) mandates are around grading, assessments, and lesson planning.

2. 2. These Network Chiefs also need to communicate clearly to Principals that they expect Principals to engage faculty about these issues and to attempt to accommodate faculty concerns about mandates that are onerous and/or without significant value to improving student outcomes. 3. 3. These Network Chiefs should form network faculty committees to meet as needed or at least quarterly to allow faculty to provide feedback to network chiefs outside of their school environments.

4. 4. These Network Chief should encourage the formation of PPCs (anecdotally the PPC name – “problems committee” – may create a barrier because “problems” has a negative connotation) and provide development to principals on how to constructively engage PPCs.

5. 5. The Union needs to encourage its delegates and members to form PPCs and provide development for them on constructive engagement of principals and administrators.

I encourage the union field representatives and the Network Chiefs to work with Mr. Moriarty to implement the next steps.

Sincerely,

Thomas A. Krieger

cc: Lisa Pattara-McGrane; Gregg Cox; Megan Hougard; LaTanya McDade; Karen Saffold

Reporter’s Notes: Lisa Pattara-McGrane and Gregg Cox are CTU field representatives. Megan Hougard, LaTanya McDade and Karen Saffold are the Network 11, 12 and 13 Chiefs. Since the grievance filing, LaTanya McDade’s position was changed from Chief of Network 12 to Chief Officer of Teaching and Learning.



Comments:

March 29, 2017 at 9:01 AM

By: Jean Schwab

Interesting

Just listening to teachers describe everything they are required to do was overwhelming to me.

April 4, 2017 at 8:51 PM

By: Susan Zupan

Network at my school following report on grievance

I am just plain TIRED of the "little things" that vitually always seem to coincidently happen to teachers and others out in the schools, those things that appear to threaten employees with: "This is what will happen to YOU when you report anything in any way regarding CPS." This is an insidiously pervasive part of what is the everyday, top-down, demoralizing management style of Rahm Emanuel's mayorally-run schools. I know that other work environments are just as bad - so much depends on the one(s) in charge.

Everyone in the local schools knows what I mean by this, and most especially the activists. Those outside the schools need to hear more about this. Our working conditions are the students' learning conditions. (Gee, remember that from the 2012 strike?)

I am going to try to report on ANYTHING that I perceive to be of this nature that happens at least to me after I have demonstrated activism on any level, such as sharing the above CTU grievance against Networks 11, 12 and 13.

Thusly, I will here report that over this last weekend, shortly after the above was posted, I coincidently received an email from the new principal of Taylor School, Dawn Hill, informing me that as a teacher I would be meeting with Paula Holubik, Instructional Support Leader (ISL) from Network 13 on Monday, April 4, 2017. This was to take place during my teacher-directed prep time.

Nothing like entering on a Monday to have your prep time threatened. The only thing worse would be to find out that your REACH pre-conference will take place that same week in two days without any prior notice. There goes YOUR week.

And thusly, though I digress, I have further described daily working conditions of the students' learning conditions in teachers' classrooms throughout CPS.

Note: Paula Holubik has been out to our school in past years and is a very supportive individual. She speaks of "tools" not "mandates," and she shares lots of them. I mention this because I do not wish for anyone to not know the usual (in this case positive) circumstances of her coming out to Taylor School. And I presume she did not send herself out to Taylor School.

However, I would like to note that having worked in CPS for "more than 20 minutes," I have NEVER received an administrative email specifically scheduling me to meet with anyone from the Network.

Network 13 had not been out to Taylor School in a while, actually, but I heard that there was a visit last week from Katrena Washington, for math, and then this one, reading, this week. I could be mistaken that there have been more, but this is to the best of my knowledge from my vantage point.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending. What sounded like a directive from the principal was rescinded -- after I responded that teacher-directed time was just that, teacher-directed time - and I would comply but file a grievance if my time was directed in this manner by the principal. I also mentioned that I needed the time to enter grades for upcoming report cards, especially since we were now being given a furlough day by the Board on Friday, April 7.

NOTE: Because of the Board/Rahm furlough days re professional development, the union has virtually negotiated-away the principal-directed prep time in which "support personnel" from the Networks might be scheduled to come out to the schools to, of course, in line with the above grievance, share "tools" not mandates.

Question: If there is now virtually zero professional development time for the Networks to lend "supports" to schools or classrooms, what is their actual value to CPS? More importantly, what is the value then of the expense to the taxpayers?

Perhaps this was just a coincidence. But I am reporting it anyway. Coincidence or not, the tonedeafness going on in CPS at all management levels is why we are clamoring for an elected school board. We desperately hope for and need a new responsiveness.

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