Substance Second City Benefit... Largest turnout in 30 years... Most major caucuses within CTU show support for Substance newspaper and

Reflecting a new activism and militancy among Chicago's public school teachers (and others, including some administrators) in the face of the continued attacks on public education by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and his hand-picked Board of Education and senior administrative staff, a happy crowd came together on the eve of the Veterans Day school holiday to celebrate with Substance at the newspaper's annual Second City fundraiser and night of laughter and fun.

Substance Editor George Schmidt welcomes the large crowd to the "30th Annual" Substance Second City benefit on November 10, 2009. Schmidt told the crowd that it was thanks to the work of many of the veteran Substance staff from as far back as the Substance founding 35 years ago that Substance could enjoy the Second City performance year after year, and thanks to the new staff, some of whom hadn't even been born when Substance began going to Second City, that Substance could look forward to many more years of to notch reporting and the annual levity at Second City. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.The 30th annual Substance benefit at Second City drew what many veterans saw as the largest turnout in Substance's 35 year history, as a growing number of veteran teachers and their friends filled the world-famous Second City Comedy Theater in Chicago for a night of laughter on November 10, 2009.

For the first time during the 21st Century, the Substance Second City house was packed to the back walls in all of the main sections of the 320-seat theater, the Second City Main Stage. More than 300 people had purchased tickets during the two-month run-up to the event and most of those came to fill the 320-seat comedy theater. While most of those who came were Chicago public schools teachers and their families, a number of other Substance supporters also joined the happy crowd. A large number of retired teachers and principals were also part of the event.

The fast-moving show kept the crowd laughing throughout the night. Even without much political or school satire, the crowd enjoyed the quick scenes, at times wondering how the next one could be funnier than the one that preceded it. Unlike the 2008 show, which was dominated (some would say overshadowed) by the Presidential Campaign and the election of President Barack Obama, the 2009 show that Substance received was more diversified, with an emphasis on current social, economic, and relationship issues.

Enjoying the show, retired principal (South Shore School of Leadership) James Patrick and his wife Marva shared the laughter at Second City and promised to continue working to improve Chicago's schools and defend Chicago teacher pensions in the years ahead. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.The crowd was as diverse as the people working in Chicago's schools. It included retired administrators like South Shore High School's (School of Leadership) James Patrick and teachers who were still in their pre-tenure days, like Substance reporter John Kugler and dozens of others.

Many of the founding members of Substance were at the Second City benefit, including Terry Czernik, who edited Substance in the early 1980s, Terry and Jim Daniels, who have been with the newspaper since the beginning, and Leo Gorenstein and his wife Sue Carrell, who edited Substance during the late 1980s through the mid-1990s.Others from the earliest days of Substance were: John Gloor and his wife Carol; Cindy Zucker and her family; and others.

As a big election year looms for the Chicago Teachers Union, most of the various caucuses within the union came together at Second City. A large number of members of the steering committee of CORE (Caucus Of Rank and file Educators) were at Second City, including co-chairman Jackson Potter, Communications Secretary Kenzo Shibata, Recording Secretary Jenn Johnson, and dozens of members of the CORE rank-and-file. Both of the two successfuly CORE candidates for Chicago Teachers Penson Fund (CTPF) trustees, Jay Rehak and Lois Ashford, were enjoying the show with family and friends.

Former CTU President Deborah Lynch and her husband, retired engineer Bill Byrne, were surrounded by friends from the PACT caucus. Former CTU vice president Ted Dallas was there with friends from the Caucus for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU), including most of the CSDU candidates for union office in next year's election: Lisa Dimberg, Jack Moran, and Linda Porter. There were also a couple of teachers from the still secretive School Employees Alliance (SEA) caucus, who have only recently begun to advertise their presence publicly.

Carpenter Elementary School teacher Lisa Dimberg (left) and Chicago Teachers Union Treasurer Linda Porter (right) were among those at Second City. Currently, Dimberg and Porter are organizing in opposition to Marilyn Stewart and the United Progressive Caucus in anticipation of the May 2010 CTU elections. Porter has been slated for President by the Caucus for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU) and Dimberg is running for Recording Secretary. Substance photo by Sharon M. Schmidt. The only two caucuses which were not represented at Second City were CTU President Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus (UPC), and a small group calling itself the "Independent Caucus", which says it will run former candidate Marcia Williams for President again in the May 2010 election.

Retired Lakeview High School (and Gallery 37) art teacher and CTU delegates Miriam Socoloff (left) enjoyed the Second City event with her husband of decades, Michael Presser (right). Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Although the annual Substance Second City benefit is held in Chicago and precludes that attendance and participation of most of Substance's national subscribers, more than two dozen supporters from around the nation made significant donations to Substance during the 90-day fundraising period usually covered by the Second City event. In general, Substance has announced the Second City benefit in the September print edition and tracked donations and ticket sales for the 90 days between September 1 and November 30 (because donations and even ticket sales sometimes come in as late as two weeks after the event). Former Substance staff members living far away from Chicago, such as retired Chicago teachers Geri Winkels and Larry J. MacDonald, contributed generously to the event, even though they were unable to make it all the way from North Carolina, where they now live. Other donations came from supporters as far away as New England, New York, Washington (both D.C. and state), and California and Arizona.

In addition to the non-attendance of the members of Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus, one of the more puzzling facts of the Second City season in 2009 was the lack of attendance or support from the majority of the parent and community based groups that have been building Chicago GEM (the Grassroots Education Movement). Except for CORE, which consists primarily of Chicago teachers and retired teachers (along with a handful of associate members who are neither), none of the major groups in GEM were at Second City on November 9, nor did they provide any support for the event. Two large mailings went out to Substance subscribers and others, one in September and one in October, and dozens of people (and a few organizations) used the opportunity to show their support for Substance and to celebrate the annual Second City event.

Substance staff estimated the final crowd when the show began at approximately 290 people. A preliminary accounting showed that a total of 303 tickets had been sold by the night of the show. Additionally, those who couldn't attend gave more than $2,000 in gifts to the Substance "Survival Fund." When the books are closed on November 30, Substance will have made more than $3,000 profit on the annual event. A complete report on the success of the event and a final tally will be made at the monthly staff meeting of Substance on November 21, 2009, at the Substance office.

The Second City event has taken place since the 1970s, when Substance began as a newsletter published by "Substitutes United for Better Schools" (S.U.B.S.), which was founded in August 1975. At the time, in the wake of the Vietnam War, teaching jobs had dried up in Chicago, so that many qualified teachers were working for years as substitutes. The substitute teachers began organizing in 1975 and published the first newspaper edition of Substance in June 1976 in tabloid format. Substance, which is now published by Substance, Inc., has been publishing regularly (usually, ten times per year, monthly during the school year) since then. 

Final edited version of this article posted at November 12, 2009, 5:00 p.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


November 14, 2009 at 6:10 AM




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