'Fresh Start' being used to destroy tenure... Chicago Teachers Union Official Testifies Against Union Members at Chicago Board Termination Hearing

The Chicago Board of Education — with the help of the Chicago Teachers Union — is proceeding with the State of Illinois administrative process to permanently fire four tenured teachers from Wells High School. One of the star witnesses for management in the case of the “Wells Four” is Marc Wigler, who heads the Chicago Teachers Union’s Fresh Start program at the CTU Quest Center.

Marc Wigler (above, at the April 15 meeting of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates) is a former elementary school teacher now working for the Chicago Teachers Union's QUEST Center at a salary (with benefits) of more than $120,000 per year. Wigler has testified as a witness for the Chicago Board of Education during hearings which could result in the firing of four tenured veteran teachers from Chicago's Wells High School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The “Wells Four” are four tenured teachers who were removed from their positions at Wells High School last June after the controversial Fresh Start program allowed CPS to claim that it had the right to fire even tenured teachers after a period of so-called “mentoring” that utilized the services of teachers who had little or no knowledge of high school teaching in the fields of the tenured teachers facing the problems.

Harriet Walczak (an English Teacher with 33 years) is one of the four tenured teachers removed from their teaching assignments last year. She is now facing the formal Illinois State Board of Education administrative process to be removed as a Chicago public school teacher.

The other three teachers David Kaplan (Math Teacher, 22 years), Alsice Moy (Science Teacher, 24 years), and Anna Maria Farkas (Science Teacher, 8 years, who is also a trained medical surgeon) are scheduled to go before State hearings later this spring.

There are two hearings that have been initiated regarding Harriet Walczak.

One (see below, “Was Fresh Start Legal?”) involves a challenge to the legality of the Fresh Start program itself.

The other is the formal Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) State hearing to hear evidence to support or refute the Chicago Board of Education’s position that Ms. Walczak is an unsatisfactory teacher therefore should be permanently removed as a Chicago public school teacher. The State hearing started March 25, 2009 at the Board of Education’s headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. It was held between from 10:00 am to 4:30 p.m. and is authorized by 105 ILCS 5/24-12 and 34-85 of the Illinois School Code.

The astonishing and unprecedented fact of this hearing is that a union official — Marc Wigler — testified under oath for the Board of Education of the City of Chicago. Sources close to the matter told Substance that Wigler spoke voluntarily and without subpoena.

Marc Wigler, who has been identified as “Fresh Start Program Manager,” is paid a full salary by union dues. According to the CTU Web site ( Wigler is the “Assistant Coordinator, Fresh Start Program” at the Quest Center. According to informed sources, Wigler did not directly testify for terminating Harriet Walczak, but he did not protect her from the Board's position that she was an unsatisfactory teacher. Mr. Wigler did admit under oath that his present position was as a union official not a Board of Education employee.

Mr. Wigler went against his own union member in supporting a process that is illegal and works to terminate a fellow union member. In speaking with union activists and long-time members of the Chicago Teachers Union, specifically for this report, this action is unprecedented: that a paid union official would voluntarily testify to support the termination of another union member.

It should be noted here that Mr. Wigler was contacted on numerous occasions by phone and e-mail to comment on his participation in the termination of Ms. Walczak. Mr. Wigler never responded.

Is Fresh Start Illegal?

A Cook County Circuit Court Chancellery case (2009-CH-12934) brought by Harriet Walczak on March 23, 2009 asking for the whole termination process to be stopped. In court proceedings, Deidra Baumann, attorney for Ms. Walczak, filed for injunctive relief in the form of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Chicago Board of Education to stop the termination process. The central argument is that the Board has no jurisdiction to go forward with this termination. The reason being that the Fresh Start agreement that the Board entered into with the Chicago Teachers Union is actually void.

According to the Ms. Baumann, when the initial Fresh Start program was initiated with “Amendment Six” to the collective bargaining agreement, which clearly states: In the event that the legislation is not enacted by January 1, 2007, this Agreement shall be void in its entirety.

According to Ms. Baumann, State law indicates that 105 ILCS 5/34x85c (Alternative procedures for teacher evaluation, remediation, and removal for cause after remediation) which is the legislation that allows removal of tenured teachers through Fresh Start process was approved on August 8, 2007.

The legislative record clearly shows that Bill SB 1474 to allow for the Fresh Start program to terminate tenured teachers was not even introduced into the Illinois State legislature until February 9, 2007.

This information is public record and can be found on the Illinois General Assembly website under Bill Status of SB1474, Public Act 095-0510, SB 1474, 95th General Assembly, Chicago Teachers-Evaluation.

What this means in layman’s terms, according to the agreement signed by Marilyn Stewart (CTU President, May 30, 2006), Patrick Rocks (General Counsel, BoE, July 17, 2006) and Michael Scott (BoE President, July 25, 2006) is that the Fresh Start agreement is void.

Never submitted in full to House of Delegates

In addition to the removal process being void under the original agreement signed by Marilyn Stewart and Michael Scott there is the legality of the entire agreement.

The simple fact is that the Ms. Stewart entered into an agreement that had a major impact on the union contract without approval of the House of Delegates, the governing body of the CTU or the general union membership. This should be enough to stop these terminations.

Further investigation into the disclosure and approval of the Fresh Start program, uncovered that teachers in the Fresh Start program were not given the full agreement in writing or explained the implications on their tenure status. To this day teachers interviewed for this report, off the record, for fear of reprisals form both the union and Board; do not understand how they could be removed so easily from their teaching assignments after decades of public service and exemplary records of teaching.

Cover-up Continues

The transcripts of the State hearing are not being released even though this hearing is paid for by public funds and involves a public school teacher.

The CTU refuses to comment on the record, on how the Fresh Start program is being used to remove senior members of teaching staffs and in targeted schools.

The Board refuses to disclose why Nichole Jackson, only beginning her second year as principal at Wells High School, who recommended the terminations of the four tenured teachers all over the age of forty, was herself terminated from her position as principal at Wells. Ms. Jackson subsequently filed a discrimination charge against the Board of Education (EEOC Charge No. 21 BA 82365) that was dropped in exchange for Ms. Jackson becoming a second principal in the development of the new Westinghouse High School (Board Report 08-0 827-AR7).

Attorney’s for the Wells Four teachers are demanding to know why Ms. Jackson was terminated from her duties as principal, after she initiated termination proceedings against the tenured teachers.

In a new development in this case, it has been found that Ellen R. Kelly, the mentor for Ms. Walczak’s remediation under the Fresh Start program, is not certified in the area that Ms. Walczak teaches and holds valid Illinois State Educator credentials according to ISBE. Ms. Walczak holds a Type 09 High School teaching certificate highly qualified to teach English and English as a Second Language.

Ms. Kelly on the other hand holds no High School certification at all, only a Type 03; nor does she hold a Type 75 Administrative certification that would allow her to evaluate other teachers. Ms. Kelly does not hold any of the NLCB Highly Qualified endorsements that Ms. Walczak needs to be employed as a teacher at Wells High School.

The fascinating fact of the Board’s and Union position is that Ms. Kelly is a qualified mentor and witness to terminate Ms. Walczak. Ms Walczak is a veteran highly qualified tenured teacher. Ms. Kelly’s teaching credentials, as stated on the ISBE Educator Certification System, are not registered: This certificate is not registered in any region (April 12, 2009, https://sec1. /teachersearch.asp ). Illinois’ law requires all certificates must be registered with a regional superintendent of schools (Section 21-16 of the School Code [105 ILCS 5/21-16]).

An individual shall be required to register all certificates (23 Illinois Administrative Code 25, Section 25.400). In looking into this matter and what happens to teachers or educators who do not hold a valid registered teaching credential, the Board immediately removes the individual from their duties until proper licensure is achieved. �


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