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Teachers, parents to picket and protest at Chicago's Prescott Elementary School Tuesday, June 9, 4:15 p.m

The Prescott Elementary School teachers and parents will protest Tuesday June 9 at 4:15 p.m. in front of the school (located at 1632 W. Wrightwood on Chicago's north side) against the discriminatory policies of their new and controversial principal Erin Roche. The teachers, parents and students will hold picket signs outside the Chicago elementary school located at 1632 W. Wrightwood before a scheduled Local School Council meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Prescott Elementary School teachers Brenda Chandler (right, at microphone) and Suzanne Dunn (second from right) spoke about the problems at Prescott to the May 27, 2009, meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Both teachers used personal business time for their morning visit to the Chicago Board of Education, which holds its meetings during the day when schools are in session. When the two teachers returned to school on May 28, they were informed by Prescott Principal Erin Roche that he was suspending them without pay for two days each. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The protest is against the policies of the school's new principal, Erin Roche, who was selected by the Local School Council last year and has "turned the school inside out and upside down," according to one teacher familiar with the situation.

The controversial principal started the 2008 – 2009 school year after being ousted at Ravenswood Elementary School for divisive conflicts. At Prescott, he has eliminated the special education programs, fired or put on suspension highly-rated veteran teachers -- and any who speak out against him -- and has resorted to “terrorizing” the staff he inherited, teachers and parents have charged. Three teachers are currently on medical leave due to what teachers call the “psychological terror” he has unleashed, teachers told Substance. He has also suspended PSRPs (teacher assistants and clerks) who have dissatisfied him.

“This man is a maniac, and we aim to let everyone know that no one should have their children in a school under his psychotic leadership,” said Brenda Chandler, a veteran special education teacher.

Teacher Brenda Chandler in her classroom at Prescott Elementary School. Like other veteran teachers who have been harassed by the principal, Chandler has been told that her classroom is not appropriate for the students she teaches. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chandler was placed on suspension without pay the day after she testified against her principal at May 27 Chicago Board of Education meeting. At the time of the Board meeting, Chandler was on a personal business day. A second teacher who spoke at the Board meeting, Suzanne Dunn, was also notified she was being suspended the day after she spoke. Dunn is a member of the Local School Council.

Throughout the 2008-2009 school year, Prescott teachers, teacher assistants, clerks and parents have watched in dismay as their new principal introduced a series of unexplained changes to the school that virtually all of the veteran teachers agreed were detrimental. Among other things, Roche is trying to eliminate special education programs and transform the school into a school that promises what he calls and "elite" education. In the process, he has conducted what teachers call a ruthless purge of veterans who question his policies and practices.

One of the most dramatic examples of Roche's discrimination against special education was his removal of a wheel chair hoist apparatus that had run up the main stairwell for years. Teachers found the machinery removed on Roche's orders, part of the elimination of facilities and programs for non "elite" special education children.

Protesting teachers expect to be joined by parents and students.

One of the things disrupted by Roche's management of the school this school year has been eighth grade graduation, which has disappointed dozens of students and their families.

Members of the Prescott Local School Council at the May LSC meeting, which refused to hear complaints from teachers, parents, and students. Gesturing in the center of the above photograph is principal Erin Roche. To Roche's left in the right side of the photograph is LSC member Jennifer Lister, who chaired the meeting and joined Roche in announcing that they had decided not to hear comments from the public. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Roche and a handful of members of the Local School Council also joined to refuse to listen to public complaints about the management of the school at the LSC's May meeting. Originally claiming that one previous meeting of the LSC had gone on for hours and hours, the LSC had completed its business in less than two hours, but still refused to recognize the presence of seven teachers, a parent, and two students who wished to address the LSC about the problems caused by the policies of the new principal.

Since the Prescott story was first reported last month (May 2009) in the Substance print edition and here at Substancnews.net, a heated exchange has taken place about the school and the management style of the principal. By early June, more than 150 comments, many of them signed but some from anonymous bloggers, had been submitted at substancenews.net.

Although Prescott is supposedly a "Literature and Writing School" in alliance with DePaul University, teachers report that books were removed from many classrooms, and reading is being taught without books to certain grades. The school's library has also been shuttered for much of the year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Complaints range from the abuse of veteran teachers to the treatment of the current eighth grade class, which was deprived of a traditional end of the year trip and forced to have their trip to DePaul University, one of two institutions of higher education in partnership with the controversial principal (the other is the Erickson Institute). Teachers have also been critical of the Chicago Teachers Union, which they have told Substance is not doing enough to challenge bullying principals. Chicago Teachers Union field representatives have refused to talk on the record with Substance, with one of them threatening Substance. CTU spokeman Rose Maria Genova has refused to get back to Substance with answer to specific questions about the Prescott situation.

Teachers from other schools are being organized by CORE and other groups to show support for the Prescott teachers at the June 9 protest. Estimates of how many people will participate are not possible at this time.

Demonstration and Protest:

Where: Prescott School, 1632 W. Wrightwood

When: June 9, Tuesday at 4:15 pm.

Contact: Brenda Chandler, tel. 312-968-1819



Comments:

June 8, 2009 at 2:56 AM

By: ANNA ROSADO

PARENT OF A GRADUATE!!

I JUST WANT TO SAY THAT IM GOING TO BE THERE TO PICKET WITH THE TEACHERS AND STUDENTS AND PARENTS.

June 8, 2009 at 7:10 PM

By: Patient One

Just For the Moment

The retaliation is so blatant because Roche, for the moment thinks he is golden. For the moment, none of the Board members will get off their behinds and get out into his school. They have been on notice for five years that Roche is unfit to be a principal. The ruined careers and damaged health of teachers is as much the Board members’ responsibility as it is Roche’s.

While those lacking in basic humanity on the LSC and in Roche’s administration who automatically laugh when they hear of teachers made ill by Roche compose themselves, let’s consider why Roche would feel so much like Teflon. He didn’t succeed at Ravenswood. If his dramatic changes are ordained by God to give children dramatic learning results, why wasn’t he appointed principal for life at Ravenswood? Why hasn’t the academic world found him? Why isn’t he the one that we have been waiting for?

At Prescott, where he has lobbed grenade after grenade after grenade at teachers, the only actual results that he has achieved is that 2 teachers have transferred and he was able to fire 2 PATs. Everyone else is holding their positions open. Has he heard of the concept of bumping? Say good-bye Roche hires.

He must have a patron at City Hall. However, investigations tend to bring out those pesky little details. How’s your supply of Valium, Cosme?

His retaliation against veteran teachers is not even a fair fight because he is such a human zero. It is an unexpected irritation because the Board and the Union failed to provide for moral deviancy and now the teachers have to take the Board and the Union to school about what it means to stand on principle. (Yes, it was tempting to write that as principal.)

The tragedy is that Roche will not hesitate to strike out against a child if he is challenged and embarrassed by an adult. One of only 2 LSC members who ever challenge Roche with QUESTIONS!!!!! coincidentally was informed that her 8th grade son couldn’t graduate today because a Roche sub, in for a teacher out on a Roche-caused medical leave, failed the boy in the subject of written composition.

His graduation is gone. He can never get this day back. It is simply not to be born. We do not live in a third world country where a tyrant like Roche can continue unchecked and everyone cowers behind their shades. If any of you adults who support this tormentor can look in the mirror tonight, you are truly lost.

None of this is going away, Roche. Everything you do makes it worse for you. Everyone knows instantly what you say to every parent and every teacher. All the listeners whether they are teachers, parents, or community members go out and hit their contacts. There is the new employee at the Board who knows one of your victims at Prescott who got on the elevator with Huberman the other day. Too bad for you, Roche. They had a nice little chat. There are the friends of the friends who know Reverend Meeks, Roche. Something’s coming. Never going away, Roche.

June 8, 2009 at 10:41 PM

By: You go Prescott!!

Make a whole lotta noise!

Good luck tomorrow picketers! I hope you get coverage. My child was in special ed at Ravenswood. I would join your protest but I simply cannot be within 100 yards of that man--he gives me the creeps. But I'll be there in spirit.

BTW--Prescott parents, get in touch with Designs for Change. They worked with Ravenswood's LSC last year. They know all about Erin Roche. Make your voices heard and make 'em listen to you.

June 9, 2009 at 9:02 PM

By: parent

parent

We should be thanking Roche for asking teachers to actually do their jobs and do them well. The special education program closures were not his decisions and are only being used as an excuse to place blame. Roche cares deeply about real learning and there are plenty of parents at Prescott who can see that. We know that the picketing teachers are only angry that Roche is actually asking them to do their jobs and teach our children well. No picket signs can cover up true dedication to strong education.

June 9, 2009 at 10:30 PM

By: Chloe

To: Parent

I am confused. I don't understand why a whole staff would fight so fiercely to not do their job and teach our children poorly. Where are the "plenty of parents" in support of Roche? I haven't seen or heard from them....just Jen Lister and perhaps Veronica Vides who have proven over the years to teachers, other parents, and the administration to be completely out of touch with reality. Surely there is a GED class starting somewhere in the city.

June 10, 2009 at 1:21 AM

By: Never fear the truth! Teachers Speak up for your rights!

TO Parent , ARE YOU ON PLUTO?

To the parent who made that far out response about teachers not doing their work--WHERE ARE YOU GETTING YOUR misleading INFORMATION?

Apparently, it appears as if someone somewhere is providing you misleading information. Why would anyone thank Roche! For What?

Your comment is so far out there, it appears as if you are observing from Pluto! Come on, get a life, remove your blinders, and look at what is happening at Prescott!

This year the following have occurred:

1. Many Middle School Students are unhappy, they feel like they are in a prison;

2. Teacher's forced to leave, go on medical, or a considered poor quality and these are devoted, highly qualified, some with 2 masters degree (Yes, Camp Roche, some of us are smart);

3. The school is highly divided between the 3 or 4 Rochette's vs the rest of the Prescott Community; and

4. No visible teamwork;

5. Lack of current managerial strategies to get staff to jump on board (Teachers were told in September if they didn't agree with his philosophy, he would help them find another job) !

Yes, so you are stating we should thank him for this? It appears as if the school is in shambles. Thus are you implying that we should thank Camp Roche for ruining the moral, family setting, and a learning environment?

Where do you see a beautiful welcoming environment that is conducive to learning! Oh i forgot, one exception-- he did do some good we got a beautiful mural near the garbage area.

Lastly, we can't give him credit for the Pre-K program either! That, btw was started by the Martinez/Castillo regime!

Please next time Camp Roche, research your findings before you state we should applaud Camp Roche. How many more children will he sadden this year or next. I heard that the graduation this year was great! (I am kidding)!

Maybe Camp Roche, you should interview the 8th grade students who recently graduated and ask them how they feel?

June 10, 2009 at 3:07 AM

By: ANNA ROSADO

TO PARENT

MY DAUGHTER GRADUATED FROM PRESCOTT ON TUESDAY JUNE 8,2009 AND SHE DIDNT GET A LUNCHEON, AUTOGRAPH BOOKS WERE LOST THEY DIDNT GET THEIR RIBBONS, GRADUATION TRIP WAS A WALKING TRIP TO DEPAUL UNIVERSITY, WOW HOW FUN!! CAP AND GOWN ONLY WERE$28 AND I PAID $60 TO COVER EVERYTHING AND SHE ONLY GOT HER CAP AND GOWN BUT NO REFUND FOR HER LOST ITEMS... IS THAT THEE KIND OF SCHOOL YOU WANT YOUR CHILD TO GRADUATE FROM??? AND THEN THEY GRRADUATED AT LAKESIDE BANK DOWN THE STREET. I DONT THINK THATS THE KIND OF PERSON THAT SHOULD BE A PRINCIPAL!!!!

June 10, 2009 at 5:21 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Credibility of anonymous slanderers who parrot teacher bashing talking points

"...We should be thanking Roche for asking teachers to actually do their jobs and do them well. The special education program closures were not his decisions and are only being used as an excuse to place blame..." ("parent" yesterday).

I've been hearing this nonsense for more than 15 years. It's right wing talking points, the kind you hear repeated over and over and over on things like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. Here, we've got a "parent" blathering it (anonymously, of course).

Eventually in several cases, I tracked it back to its teacher bashing, union busting, right-wing sources. My favorite were from two "teachers", one at a Chicago charter school (Chicago International Northtown, which is cited by the Gates Foundation as a model for urban "high school reform"). They guy repeated that story about lazy union teachers trampling kids to get to their cars when the final bell rang. That same one also circulated in op ed pieces courtesy of a guy who subbed a couple of days, but refused to say where. At a press event (called by Arne Duncan back in the day before his lies went national), I asked the guy what public school he had taught at where he saw those running teachers hitting the parking lot and trampling those hapless children before charter schools came along to show what caring teachers were all about.

Duh.

Well, I didn't actually ever teach at a public school, but "I heard..."

The quotes are almost always identical:

"Teachers" (never named) were not...

"doing their job" (never specified)...

until some savior (always a strong CEO type leader with "vision" and "new ideas" or a privatizing charter group that spends thousands of dollars on marketing)...

came on the scene to "shake things up" (and, by the way, we need "change" but "change is hard and some resist")...

This stuff has been the excuse for most of the nonsense that has bedevilled schools (and collapsed the global economy) for the past 20 years or so. The scripts have worn out in most places, but still appear from time to time here in education.

Now to current events, this news service:

This particular piece of right wing, teacher bashing, union busting boilerplate could have been dropped, in one second, into any blog between New York City and Los Angeles. Those exact and precise words are like a paint-by-numbers exercise for the corporate "school reform" crowd that begins with a couple of assumptions, one of which is an attack on equitable, multi-racial, democratic public schools. The elitism in the whole thing is sometimes breathtaking. The delusions implicit in the idea that public schools should create "elites" also needs to be debated...

In public

By people with enough courage to stand for what they believe in in their own names.

Which is what was evident yesterday from beginning to end.

A public meeting was cancelled because of what? Fear of the public.

A public official was hiding (and then sprinted away) because of why? Public scrutiny.

Now to the blog part, "parent."

As you know, the traditions of blogging have encouraged this kind of anonymous slandering of teachers, unions, etc.

However, on a news website like this, those of us who moderate the site are sorely tempted, when we see someone recycling the lies that got us into the current mess (anonymously and without specifics), to take advantage of our abilities here and decide that the e-mail address of every blogger be published.

I'm not going to do that.

But every time I read the same sick, sorry, and silly lines that I read ten years ago from some hack from the American Enterprise Institute, Education Trust, or Heritage Foundation (to cite just a couple), permit a bit of anger.

Until you are willing to (a) speak in your own name and (b) identify which individuals in the real world you are concerned about (these ubiquitous "bad teachers" that Erin Roche is dragonslaying for you and your peers), your credibility is non-existent -- or lower than zero even.

This, by the way, has been typical of tinpot tyrants.

It was Erin Roche who threatened teachers, parents and students, not those picketing in public yesterday and denied the right to attened a previously scheduled public meeting of their Local School Council. It was Erin Roche and his supporters who have created these conditions for teachers, other staff, parents, and the kids. Those are specifics, and everyone is speaking and reporting in real time using real names.

Except "parents" and others who recycle decades-old union busting, teacher bashing talking points that were worn out when some of those of you still posting them were in diapers. And, to finish that metaphor, as far as democracy goes, you're still in diapers if you think "accountability" is only going to head in one direction -- against teachers, unions, and those of us who work for democratic public schools and against elitist nonsense.

June 10, 2009 at 12:38 PM

By: looking into the crystal ball

There are other ways

Certainly there are examples in this very district of principals who have made impressive improvements to school performance and culture by actually ENGAGING AND INSPIRING staff, parents and students. Anyone knows that a great, or even good, leader gets everyone to join the game. True change comes not through force, but through willing participation. This is where Roche fails miserably and he knows it. He's unable to lead in this way. Hence the machete treatment--it's the only thing he's capable of. Why do people like "parent" think for a minute this barbaric approach works? Clearly folks, IT ISN'T WORKING. And it's time to stop supporting this type of behavior.

Sad for the Prescott staff, they never got a chance to join the aforementioned game. Clearly Roche isn't interested in collaboration or healthy professional dialogue. By telling staff as part of his introduction that he would help them find another job if they didn't agree with his philosophy, HE LOST THEM AT HELLO. And his (few) supporters want to blame teachers for not being able to work with someone like that?!? He is the worst kind of bully. The sooner the board realizes this the better. He will NEVER be able to lead any school successfully. The joke is he wants to create an "elite" school. That's a pretty lofty goal for someone with zero leadership skills.

Hey "New Leaders for New Schools"--time to take a look at your curriculum . . .

June 10, 2009 at 6:18 PM

By: Confused

Roche Supporters---Even Roche Can't Understand Your Argument

OK, Roche supporter. Why can’t Roche succeed? He must be the unluckiest man in the world, to get two schools filled with teachers who don’t want to do their jobs.

Let’s examine what has occurred. In 2004 he was hired by Ravenswood School. Did he fire all the teachers that were there and hire his own groupies? If so, why did they turn against him? Why didn’t his faculty rise up to support him in 2008?

If he kept the faculty he inherited, he had 4 years to convince them of his genius. What went wrong? Why did he get fired from Ravenswood?

If he has all the magic that will allow children to succeed academically, why won’t anyone let him work? Why does he keep losing his job? Maybe he should have been picketing with the faculty outside of Prescott, because, clearly, he’s the problem.

June 10, 2009 at 6:24 PM

By: LSC Members Have to Answer

The Whole Thing Smells

Why did one of the women LSC members want Roche, a failed administrator, as principal of Prescott so desperately that she threw a tantrum until everyone gave her her way? WHAT PROMISES WERE MADE?

Why, if she cared so much about the children of Prescott would she have even considered Roche as a choice, even though he was second choice? WHAT PROMISES WERE MADE?

Why didn’t Cosme do his job and warn the Prescott LSC about Roche’s failed tenure at Ravenswood? WHAT PROMISES WERE MADE?

June 10, 2009 at 6:31 PM

By: Get Them All Out

AP Needs to Go With Him

Prescott couldn't afford an AP last Spring, but along comes Roche with all his protectors and now there is an AP who sits in her office all day typing up his reams of punishment PD work for the teaches.

Her latest contribution to your child's education: helping Roche realize his secret desire to become an interior decorator.

Parents please help your child's teacher make the decision as to what 2-4 colors his/her classroom can contain next year. Please bring up paint sample books to the main office.

New Leaders for New Schools--that's the way to train principals!

June 10, 2009 at 9:03 PM

By: So Angry!!!!

You Do The Math!!

I actually had to write this down because I couldn't keep it straight in my head! Here are the statistics for the 2008-2009 school year at Prescott!

On medical leave(caused by stress) 3 teachers

Fired or displaced this year 4 teachers

Left Prescott mid year (to get away from Roche) 2 teachers

Sent to a new grade they are not endorsed to teach in or as the contract quotes "the most highly qualified teachers in the building to teach that discipline (nclb)" so he can fire them next year 2 teachers

Trying to fire now, claimed as an unsatisfactory teacher (after 36 years of experience) 1 teacher

That is 11 teachers in total, which means the only teachers he did not find lacking in their ability were the three teachers he brought with him!

In all honesty, now that this has been spelled out for all you Roche supporters, you think this has been easy for any of the teachers to do their jobs with all this chaos? Is it so impossible for you to have any feelings what so ever for people, just even at a human level? You don't know what it was like, because you are cowardly just like Roche and Blahuta and you don't want to know!! Or you simply don't care. What does that say about you?

I would much rather my children have passionate, emotional, brave teachers that stand up for what they believe in, than the remaining androids/ yes-men he has in Pre-k, kindergarten and second grade and now in sixth grade too!

I will transfer my kids out of Prescott! Walking in there is like walking into a morgue.

I was on the picket line yesterday and it seemed to me that the only new parents taking their kids in to sign up for Pre-k were white...this doesn't concern the LSC?

Now who's being racist?

June 10, 2009 at 9:06 PM

By: So Angry!!!!

You Do The Math!!

See, I was so angry I coudn't even do the math...it is 12 teachers!!

June 10, 2009 at 9:08 PM

By: So Angry!!!!

You Do The Math!!

I actually had to write this down because I couldn't keep it straight in my head! Here are the statistics for the 2008-2009 school year at Prescott!

On medical leave(caused by stress) 3 teachers

Fired or displaced this year 4 teachers

Left Prescott mid year (to get away from Roche) 2 teachers

Sent to a new grade they are not endorsed to teach in or as the contract quotes "the most highly qualified teachers in the building to teach that discipline (nclb)" so he can fire them next year 2 teachers

Trying to fire now, claimed as an unsatisfactory teacher (after 36 years of experience) 1 teacher

That is 11 teachers in total, which means the only teachers he did not find lacking in their ability were the three teachers he brought with him!

In all honesty, now that this has been spelled out for all you Roche supporters, you think this has been easy for any of the teachers to do their jobs with all this chaos? Is it so impossible for you to have any feelings what so ever for people, just even at a human level? You don't know what it was like, because you are cowardly just like Roche and Blahuta and you don't want to know!! Or you simply don't care. What does that say about you?

I would much rather my children have passionate, emotional, brave teachers that stand up for what they believe in, than the remaining androids/ yes-men he has in Pre-k, kindergarten and second grade and now in sixth grade too!

I will transfer my kids out of Prescott! Walking in there is like walking into a morgue.

I was on the picket line yesterday and it seemed to me that the only new parents taking their kids in to sign up for Pre-k were white...this doesn't concern the LSC?

Now who's being racist?

June 10, 2009 at 9:24 PM

By: So Angry!!!!

Still can't do the math!!

It's 14 teachers, I forgot the two closed special education programs!!!

How is it possible that all of these 14 teachers were so horrible at exactly the same time? How can they all need to improve their practice?

The answer...it's NOT POSSIBLE!!!

The truth is the new administration had no intention of getting to know any of these teachers, including their strengths and weaknesses.

It's so much easier to mess with people when you have no emotional investment made in them. It's easier to fire them and displace them when you don't care about them because you have never gotten to know them or invest in them! And, you surely didn't help any of them! You can't even be honest with them. How do these people sleep at night?

Is this really the kind of people you want your children being educate by?

Careless, heartless, emotionless racists?

June 10, 2009 at 9:43 PM

By: He's Not Having Good Nights

He's Dangerous Because He Has No Moral Substance

Either Roche or Blahuta or Lister or a couple of the buy-ins are writing the lame support messages for him. Where are the parents who can point to even one thing Roche's "Educational Philosophy" has given their kids?

Roche has no original thoughts about education. He desperately needs Erikson Institute because they provide his material for him. The wooden dummy has been lost in transit, however, just like the autograph books. The only reason he keeps questioning teachers when he has grade level meetings, that is when he's not threatening to sue them for using their first amendment rights, is because he can't carry on a conversation.

What does that look like?

There are a couple of LSC mothers who think that they have purchased an insurance policy against school problems for their children. How'd that work out on Tuesday for one of those kids who spent the day in another room?

The gym teacher killed herself trying to work with this unfit principal. Sociopaths are unable to function normally, so he didn't think twice about firing her.

It will be a miracle if the art teacher sees a month of a full time position. Something will come up like it did with Mrs. Simpson.

Rave on Roche. You're on the way out. Mayor Daley even throws his family under the bus when they embarrass him.

June 15, 2009 at 5:01 PM

By: To Prescott

?

Someone please tell me how I can see these teachers records for myself?

As a new parent coming to Prescott I want/need to know what type of teachers are working there?!

I'm sure their has been reports filed against them from parents? Co-workers? students?

Please someone help me!!

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