Sections:

Article

Prescott protests grow as principal, some LSC members, hide from growing anger at purges of veteran teachers, union busting

More than 50 teachers, parents, and children from Chicago's Prescott Elementary School and their supporters from across Chicago picketed the school at 1632 W. Wrightwood in Chicago between 4:00 p.m. and after 6:30 p.m. on June 9, 2009, in protest against the policies of the school's controversial principal, Erin Roche, and his supporters on the school's local school council.

Carrying signs reading "Stop Teacher Bashing Now!" and (left) "Arrogant FNG Principals -- not veteran teachers -- are the real mess with CPS" and other slogans, pickets march outside Chicago's Prescott Elementary School on the afternoon of June 9, 2009. The pickets, who included teachers, parents, and children from Prescott, and dozens from other schools, arrived to attend the scheduled meeting of the Prescott Local School Council. The LSC meeting was cancelled at the last minute by Prescott Principal Erin Roche and one of his supporters on the LSC, without even consulting all of the LSC members. Roche also locked the school's parking lot before the arrival of the protesters, an unprecedented event. He remained in the building with a handful of supporters until sprinting to his car (which he now parks on a side street away from the school) at about 6:30 p.m. No explanation was given for the cancellation of the LSC meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Many of the pickets had also planned to attend a scheduled 5:30 p.m. meeting of the LSC, but Roche and other LSC members cancelled the meeting without consulting all of the members of the LSC at the last minute. The cancellation was the first time the Prescott LSC did not meet at its usual scheduled time (the second Tuesday of the month) since a portion of the LSC voted to hire Roche as principal of the small north side school one year ago.

Year of harassment of veteran staff, elimination of programs and people

Prescott teacher Suzanne Dunn (above right) marches with a student on June 9, 2009, at Chicago's Prescott Elementary School. Dunn, who was recently elected as a teacher representative on the Prescott Local School Council, also serves as Prescott Chicago Teachers Union delegate. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The picket line outside Prescott was the culmination of a school year during which time the principal, who was new to the school, selectively persecuted veteran teachers, eliminated programs, brought in controversial and unproven curricular fads, closed the school library, drove three veteran teachers to take sick leave, and even had a special wheel chair hoist for disabled children removed from the school so that the school would not be able to accommodate children with the most severe disabilities.

Substance reporters have asked CPS officials in the labor relations and special education offices to discuss reports which Substance is confirming. Neither office has returned e-mails and calls for comment.

As veteran staff members began to question Roche's version of what Prescott should be, he retaliated against as many of them as possible, issuing unsatisfactory notices and suspensions without pay at a rate never seen in the city's largest high schools, let alone at one of the city's tiniest elementary schools. Roche also proclaimed that a number of external curricular mandates -- one from the Erickson Institute and another from DePaul University -- were going to drive Prescott into that "elite" status, in essence by teacher proofing the classrooms with the perfect curriculum. When teachers objected (for example, according to Roche the Erickson Institute's program does away with books as part of the "reading" unit for lower grades), Roche hounded them.

Since the beginning of what veteran staff and many parents have called the "purges," Roche has received unquestioning support from CPS officials, although some of his claims (for example, that he was ordered to eliminate special education programs) remain to be verified by central office sources.

Prescott support grows from across Chicago

By 4:30 p.m., one hour before the Local School Council meeting was to begin, Substance reporters counted more than 50 people in the picket lines that stretched down Wrightwood Ave. and along Ashland Ave. adjacent to the school. Teachers, parents, and students from other schools across Chicago joined the event as they said in solidarity with the people of Prescott. Many came from schools that have faced similar problems this school year.

Some of the teachers from CORE who walked the line with their brothers and sisters from Prescott on June 9, 2009. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The supporters from outside Prescott were organized by two caucuses within the Chicago Teachers Union, although the union's President (Marilyn Stewart) and her faction did not appear for the event.

The larger group of Prescott supporters were organized by CORE (the Caucus Of Rank and file Educators). CORE, which began one year ago, has expanded protests against school closings and other attacks on public schools and has been growing faster than any previous group within the union. Teachers from CORE came from several high schools (including Chicago Vocational, Gage Park, Hope, Hancock, Julian, Little Village, Robeson, and Senn) and a number of elementary schools (including Holmes and Revenswood). Roche was ousted as principal at Ravenswood a year ago after similar controversies divided the school for a longer period than Prescott has been facing these issue.

A large group of supporters came from the Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU), which has announced that it will be slating candidates to replace CTU President Marilyn Stewart in the union election scheduled to take place in May 2010. One of those from CSDU was former CTU Vice President Ted Dallas, who was ousted from the union by Marilyn Stewart's hand-picked executive board last winter following what most union members called a "kangaroo court." Dallas, a 30 year veteran unionist and teacher, has been substitute teaching at Orr High School since Stewart dumped him and has been stripped of his union membership.

Among those supporting the Prescott teachers against the vendetta of Principal Erin Roche were Jack Moran (left, who teaches at Beaubien Elementary School) and former CTU Vice President Ted Dallas (right) who was ousted by CTU President Marilyn Stewart after what most consider a kangaroo court hearing. Moran and Dallas stood in front of Dalla's car, which still sports the license plate "CTU VP" despite Stewart's vendetta against him. Moran is CSDU candidate for vice president of the union in the election to be held in May 2010. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Joining Dallas from CSDU were teachers and PSRPs from a number of schools, including Wells High School and Carpenter and Beaubien elementary schools. Three of the five CSDU candidates for union office were at the picket: Vice Presidential candidate Jack Moran (who teaches at Beaubien Elementary), Recording Secretary candidate Lisa Dimberg (who teaches at Carpenter Elementary) and Treasurer candidate Jose 'Jay' Jiminez (who works at Wells High School). CSDU candidate for President, CTU Treasurer Linda Porter, was not able to attend the picket, according to Dallas, because she had previously scheduled a medical appointment. According to Dallas, she sent her support to the Prescott teachers.

Teachers finding their voices

Throughout the 2008-2009 school year, Principal Roche has been pursuing several policies that have struck more and more veteran teachers as oddball and counter-productive. Shortly after his selection, the leaders of the Local School Council joined him in declaring that the goal of Prescott was to become a so-called "elite" elementary school. Supposedly, "elite" was defined as meaning a school with very high standardized test scores where all graduating students got into Walter Payton or Northside College Prep high schools (the city's whitest and wealthiest selective enrollment college prep high schools).

Prescott teacher Kathy Jacobs (above left) explains to students the reason for the picket on June 9, 2009. Jacobs, a Golden Apple teacher and 36-year-veteran, has been declared "unsatisfactory" by principal Erin Roche. Despite Roche's claims that she is not competent, Jacobs's students do well in all areas, including the standardized tests that Roche adores. According to school data, 80 percent of the students in Jacobs's class "exceeded expectations" on the ISAT (the Illinois standardized achievement tests for elementary school children). Teachers reported that the three children who "failed" the ISAT were chastized severely by Roche himself. Usually it is the teachers who break the news to children that they have not done as well as some others on standardized tests, and the reasons for "low" performance can vary from crises at home to special needs. As Erin Roche moves to transform Prescott into what he calls an "elite" school, students who score low on standardized tests are chastized by their principal. Substance photo by Garth Liebhaber.Anything less than perfection was supposedly an example of failure, the result of teachers not having what are called "high expectations" for their students.

The demand for "elite" status based on "high expectations" combined with a purge of teachers who pointed out the flaws or downright silliness in that argument (and the "Northside or Payton" objectives).

A LONGER REPORT ON THE PRESCOTT SCHOOL SITUATION WILL APPEAR LATER TODAY (JUNE 10, 2009). This interim report will be updated until the complete updates from SubstanceNews reporters are available.



Comments:

June 10, 2009 at 11:01 AM

By: Chloe

To: George Schmidt

Were there any supporters of Roche's there? Does anyone know who they are besides the LSC girls and the newly hired Rochets? Will the LSC meeting be rescheduled? Is it legal to cancel the LSC meeting like that? When will the board take action? Why haven't they taken action? Where is Ron Huberman in all this? Do you think the folks in Springfield (ISBE)would put up with any of this for a second? Answers to any or all are appreciated. Thanks George and Jim for making such a great effort.

June 10, 2009 at 11:55 AM

By: An observer

Thank you George!

I know Roche and all I can say is thank you George for keeping this story alive. It needs to be heard.

June 10, 2009 at 12:37 PM

By: An observer

Thank you George!

I know Roche and all I can say is thank you George for keeping this story alive. It needs to be heard.

June 10, 2009 at 1:57 PM

By: Inquiring Minds want to know

Another seasoned teacher? What is going on?

Anyone wondering what is going on with the physical education position at Prescott? In today's e-bulletin it is posted that a half time position for is available. Has anyone questioned this? Is the current tenure teacher leaving? Or are they hiring two P.E. teachers?

Could someone elaborate and provide information?

June 10, 2009 at 2:23 PM

By: wow

watch it

The staff should be on their gaurd. God knows how mental Roche will go if he finds out that he'll get kicked out of another school...

Can you imagine?

Hopefully Taco Bell or Wendy's is taking applications... He'll probably try and boss people around the frosty machine, too...

June 10, 2009 at 6:23 PM

By: Gale Suwe

Keep up the fight!

I would like to apologize on behalf of some parents at Gunsaulus Academy for our failure to show at your protest yesterday. I had planned to gather a group of parents to come and support you in a show of solidarity, but we had a meeting with our own principal last night.

Some of you have my contact information from the BOE meeting in May, so I hope you will contact me if there is another event like this. I wish you the best of luck in your fight to regain your school.

June 10, 2009 at 7:17 PM

By: Linda Wallace

PE Teacher

I was formally displaced/reassigned today. That means that I will not be back next year. I found out last night by seeing a .5 PE position posted on the e-Bulletin. I suspected all year that if Mr. Roche wanted to get rid of me that he would do this - change Art to a 1.0 position (full time) and PE to .5 (half)-unfortunately, I was right. He has every right to do this and it is his decision. I was extremely disappointed that Mr. Roche was not able to tell me this in person and that he waited until the last days of school. It was not a great way to find out. That being said, if anyone would like to continue this issue, please e-mail at wallbme@aol.com.

I'd like to thank all the staff, faculty and parents at Prescott for their support this year. I will miss all the students that I have grown to know through my years at Prescott. Watching younger students experience the pure joy of movement to developing specific skills as they matured was my reward as a teacher. And I was rewarded every single day. No one can knock that out of me.

Little did I realize that by supporting him through the principal selection process, I would be digging my own grave. I was naive - a lesson to be learned.

June 10, 2009 at 7:18 PM

By: Linda Wallace

PE Teacher

I was formally displaced/reassigned today. That means that I will not be back next year. I found out last night by seeing a .5 PE position posted on the e-Bulletin. I suspected all year that if Mr. Roche wanted to get rid of me that he would do this - change Art to a 1.0 position (full time) and PE to .5 (half)-unfortunately, I was right. He has every right to do this and it is his decision. I was extremely disappointed that Mr. Roche was not able to tell me this in person and that he waited until the last days of school. It was not a great way to find out. That being said, if anyone would like to continue this issue, please e-mail at wallbme@aol.com.

I'd like to thank all the staff, faculty and parents at Prescott for their support this year. I will miss all the students that I have grown to know through my years at Prescott. Watching younger students experience the pure joy of movement to developing specific skills as they matured was my reward as a teacher. And I was rewarded every single day. No one can knock that out of me.

Little did I realize that by supporting him through the principal selection process, I would be digging my own grave. I was naive - a lesson to be learned.

June 10, 2009 at 9:55 PM

By: Esther

Hey Cosme! Come Get Your Boy!

Are you still hiding behind Flavia's skirts, Cosme? What are the mothers at the swing set saying about Prescott now? Are things still so fine? Is anything grievable, yet?

He fired the gym teacher, Cosme. Is there any other school in the country that is going toward 1/2 time PE?

What a jerk. He's your jerk and he's on your back. Get used to him.

June 10, 2009 at 10:00 PM

By: SS

Keep On Supporting Roche, LSC Fools

Wait till the kids hear that Roche fired Miss Wallace.

Oh yes, this the school that the neighborhood has needed.

Don't worry Miss Wallace, he's as good as gone.

Just like Lister didn't like Mrs. Simpson, you're judging your opponents from your warped view of the world.

June 10, 2009 at 10:23 PM

By: a. soukoulis

Educator

When principals are placed in a school they should be on probation for two years. After that hire them if competent. The fish stinks from the head - old Greek saying. Good principals have schools that work.

June 10, 2009 at 11:24 PM

By: Concerned Citizen

Been there, done that!

As someone who worked for Erin Roche during his "nightmarish" 4 year tenure at Ravenswood school, I hope Prescott will get rid of him before his contract is up for the sake of the children and the school. If CPS won't help stop his antics maybe someone should contact the Illinois State Board of Education. I have never understood why these horrific principals are allowed to continue working!!!

June 11, 2009 at 12:28 AM

By: ANNA ROSADO

SO UNREAL!

I TRANSFERED 2 OF MY KIDS OUT OF PRESCOTT, BUT I WILL KEEP FIGHTING WITH THE TEACHERS AND OTHER PARENTS TO GET ROCHE OUT. IM SO MAD FOR WHAT ROCHE DID TO MISS. WALLACE, NOT COOL!!! YOU WILL BE VERY MISSED BY THE KIDS!!! BUT IM WONT LEAVE THE TEACHERS SIDE UNTIL ROCHE IS GONE FOR GOOD!!! MY KIDS LOVED GOING TO SCHOOL UNTIL HE CAME ALONG AND THAT WAS HOW HE WANTED IT TO BE , TO MAKE HE KIDS FEEL LIKE THEY IN PRISON!! THIS HAS GOT TO STOP, SO TO THE TEACHERS PLEASE KEEP ME INFORMED OF UPCOMMING EVENT BECAUSE I WANT TO BE THERE TOO!!!!

June 11, 2009 at 6:49 PM

By: PJ

Brave New World

Roche and Blahuta and Porter were peeking out the window as they hid in the building while the picketers were marching on Tuesday. I thought that his mission from God was clear: right the wrong at Prescott. Why didn't he come out to let the community see that he has nothing to fear?

He already had squad cars all over the place. His mouthpiece was with him. His lackey was with him. I don't think the paper signs were threatening unless they gave him a paper cut.

Where is his big mouth when he's challenged? He could have asked all the principals of the supporting Union teachers to suspend them without pay. Oh wait. There were men outside. He only suspends women.

June 11, 2009 at 7:25 PM

By: Rog

Over Soon

Roche is making sooo many mistakes! He has said so many inappropriate and actionable things this week, in front of witnesses, it gives the teachers a nice comedy break from his bizarre notion of what constitutes being a principal. He and his AP and his poor New Leaders for New Schools’ principal-in-training must be staying up nights generating ream after ream of paperwork to punish the teachers who just won’t leave. They are racing around getting wilder and wilder with their plans for reducing the kids to spreadsheets. There will be no teaching next year. The teachers will spend all their time building up showcase portfolios about the kids’ weaknesses and demonstration portfolios about what the plans are to solve the weaknesses and assessment portfolios about how the kids did on the 600 tests that Roche thinks passes for teaching. (He wouldn’t know a warm “community” moment with kids unless he had a humanity intervention.) They have thought of everything. Wait a minute. Where are the children in this process? Oh? They don’t matter? Only their statistics do? Never mind.

June 12, 2009 at 2:02 PM

By: I'm White and I Too Once Thought Like You

Just Passing Through

Mr. Roche clearly has ambitions. His stints in the Peace Corp and New Leaders for New Schools are merely what Roche sees as the requisite credibility needed to get these principal positions, which are merely stepping stones to say the least. Many at Ravenswood believed his work in Central America was somehow indicative of his empathy toward folks from all walks and backgrounds. However, Roche has to put some big numbers on the board soon to retain his Great (White) Reformer persona. In the absence of the required data that he so desires, that being the improved scores on standardized tests, he needs to stir up a lot of dust to generate buzz, maybe fire a few teachers along the way and in the meantime poise the school to get those grades up, and fast. Remember, the Ravenswood debacle has set Roche's master plan back by a few years. His dream for an ELITE neighborhood school is his first step toward his move to Europe, dare we say it, to get the nod from his old friend and ally Arnie Duncan to take a post in D.C. The way to do this is obviously to whiten the school. This is done by courting favor with the white parents. Some LSC members are actually sought out by Roche as potentially valuable allies - and how flattering it is to be asked. The white kids (according to the Holy Book of Duncan era stats and sadly, many other studies) score better on standardized tests so these are the families to attract to the school. And let's face it - whites attract whites. Then the inevitable "Friends of....." groups will form, riding the euphoric buzz of "hey white stay-at-home-formerly-working-professional-moms! our local school is changing, Mr. Roche is going to kick some butt and make our school really great for us so-called liberal-but-really-fearful-of brown-people, white people" Last year at Ravenswood, Roche rarely if ever engaged with the hispanic groups, his bi-lingualism a mere bluff at appearing inclusive and empathetic. He is downright afraid of the African American parents, or totally indifferent as they don't really support his vision of an Elite, high scoring, Prep school. Last year at Ravenswood, there was a continuous fighting problem in the upper grades which was repeatedly made known to him, the police were called, etc. But Roche was afraid of these students/parents. His response to problems such as these was to tell the parents to "call downtown." Yes, CEO's don't want to soil their hands walking through the shipping department, dealing with the unclean. (and a sidenote to this: CEOs run corporations with HR departments which help facilitate communications between boss and employee. No such mechanism is in place in the school system, so Roche gets a pass on his bullying tactics with teachers) So this whole running the school like a company thing - is really only a way to label ruthless and clearly polarizing behavior. And let's face it...the shareholders in this great new Corporation/school model are white! If you are white, and feel you are passionate about reforming Prescott school, ask yourself if this reform is, on some level, synonymous with whitening. Ask yourself if what you are looking for is just a cheaper version of an elite private school. And don't misunderstand me; I am not siding with the "whiny and lazy" teachers who happen to cross his path - I cannot speak to that issue as I do not know any teachers at Prescott. I do know how Roche deals with dissentors, whether they be teacher or parent or, and God forbid, White Parents. You think chaos and mayhem are a sign of progress? What happened to bridge building? If you side with Roche he will definitely appear to you as the victimized and greatly misunderstood CPS mesiah, a benevolent axeman, willing to make the "tough choices" to transform your neighborhood school for you, the urban whites. But just know this now, as you will certainly know this later; Roche has an agenda. He needs quick results to redeem himself in the eyes of not only the New Leaders program but everyone else that is tuning in. Roche is just passing through, trying to make a name for himself quickly so that he can move up in the "corporation" and move beyond the seemingly petty discussions of kindergarden graduation ceremonies and after school programs. Roche was a teacher for a time (ask him about it!) but you'll never hear about that! Then he got what he needed to be a principal, even got National Board Certified to offset his low ratings, got Autonomous Management Performance School (AMPS) status, furthering his "I'm above it all" stance. What difference does it make if special ed. (see low scoring and costly) kids are bussed off to other schools, who cares if the African American families don't feel like their kids are safe (let em leave! he hopes they do!) who cares if funds go unaccounted for or misappropriated or ISAT test scores don't get turned in on time (if they are lower than expected, and will not bring the desired hero status to Roche) and who cares if he ruffles a few feathers in the process as long as the greater good is served. Such as it is with Daley, Duncan and Richard Nixon. Believe me when I say that it is not your child's success that is at stake or the quality of education at Prescott School. This is about Mr Roche's vision and if you are the right color and support him he may find that you come in handy. The final question is; do you want your child being educated in a warzone, a place so devoid of morale that everyone suffers. Ah, but this would be in keeping with the Corporate model now wouldn't it! Good luck Prescott School.

June 12, 2009 at 3:13 PM

By: Nada

Bias Lives

OK gang, get your seats ready for the next show. This is going to be good. Last year when the president of the LSC found out that one of her kids was going to be in a split grade, she HOWLED all year. She dogged the former principal at every LSC meeting and camped out in his office or the assistant principal’s office. Her backup singer was Lister and according to them, the former principal needed to be drawn and quartered and the pieces thrown out of the building.

Next year another of her kids is going to be in a split grade. Hooray, she will now lead the attack on Roche. Roche will be running faster than he ran to his car on Tuesday. She will never stop complaining until Roche resigns in self-defense. Our work is done.

Unless…promises were made. Cosme, Roche, New Leaders for New Schools, Vides, Lister, Camelot.

June 15, 2009 at 5:00 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!!

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at substancenews.net. We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 2 =