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Substance interview with Therese Boyle, Members First caucus candidate for Chicago Teachers Union president

Substance posed questions to the candidates running for CTU president, challenger Therese Boyle from Members First and incumbant Jesse Sharkey of the CORE caucus. Boyle's responses follow; Sharkey has not yet replied.

What is your CPS background?

In 1983, I completed my student teaching at McKay elementary under the school's delegate and walked my first picket line as a student teacher. I worked as a day-to-day substitute and cadre prior to getting a full-time position at Barton elementary in 1986. I taught for eight years working in primary through middle school grades. For the past 28 years, I have served our students and families as a school psychologist. My work as a citywide clinician has allowed me the opportunity to work in approximately 100 CPS buildings which has given me a unique perspective into the concerns and working conditions of our members. CPS is in my blood; my family members have served as educators in CPS dating back to 1900. My mother retired from Shoop elementary; while my sister, brother, daughter, and niece are all current CPS educators.

What do you like most about public education in Chicago?

I love the humanity in our schools; the students, families, and staff. Public education in Chicago is made possible by the talented and passionate teachers, clinicians and PSRPs who come to work every day to make a difference in the lives of students. CTU members work hard to educate Chicago's students despite limited resources, poverty, trauma, and overcrowded classrooms.

What are your three biggest concerns ahead for the Chicago Teachers Union?

1. Contract Negotiations: Members First believes our schools will be able to attract and maintain highly qualified school staff by negotiating the best salary and benefits schedule possible. Competitive salaries are essential in light of the critical teacher shortage across Illinois. We need to make sure Chicago Public School PSRPs, clinicians, and teachers earn salaries that are in line with the cost of living in the Chicagoland area. We need to provide attractive benefits and appealing working conditions.

2. Financial Stability: CTU has overspent and mismanaged its resources and this impacts our ability to serve our membership.

3. Membership Engagement: CTU must to engage its membership by proving its value to the membership. We must communicate and demonstrate the benefits of CTU membership to the teachers, clinicians and PSRPs. CTU needs to actually listen and respond to members.

Do you have a specific plan to address the financials of Chicago Teachers Union? Immediately and long term.

Members First plans to immediately conduct a forensic audit of all of the union's accounts and assets related to the CTU, the CTU PACs, and the CTU Foundation. I want to have a clear understanding of how our reserve account went from $8.8 million in 2015 to zero in 2019. I want to have a clear accounting for the movement of money between our PAC accounts and donations to candidates over the past five years. I want to have a clear understanding of the $1 million loan to the PAC and its repayment. I want to understand why we went $5 million over budget to remodel our third floor office space and I want to see the terms of the $5 million loan. I want to see how much was gained from the sale of Fewkes Tower and the liquidation of associated assets; then I want an accounting for how these assets have been spent down over the past five years. Members First pledges to provide transparency for all money coming into and leaving our union accounts. We pledge to live within our means and pay our bills on time.

How do you plan and bringing back membership into the Chicago Teachers Union? Do you ever see us going back up to 30,000 members?

The Nov. 1, 2010, CTU Membership Report showed CTU with 25,829 active members. Fast forward to the April 1, 2019 CTU Membership Report with 24,690 active members. In the past nine years, we have lost approximately 1,000 members. This loss would be closer to 2,000 members if we did not add 1,000 charter members.

What is your idea to keep staff safe from violence and false accusations in the schools?

Creating a positive, safe work environment creates a positive, safe learning environment. Teachers are reporting a rise in problematic and aggressive behaviors by students. Teachers are concerned about the lack of policies and procedures to address significant student behaviors and teachers are reporting an adverse impact on student learning and educator morale. Teachers report being unsure about what the law is and what their rights are when confronted with problematic student behaviors. Members First proposes a CTU workshop designed to inform teachers of their rights, how to file recommended reports and to strategize solutions for keeping students and educators safe. Members are reporting increased instances of being bullied by administration, parents and students. Members First proposes strong enforceable contractual language to protect members from bullying. CTU must inform PSRPs, Clinicians and Teachers how to protect themselves against unfounded allegations and to be clear about their responsibilities as mandated reporters.

Do you think the Union is better off now since the last contract? List specifics…

I walked picket lines during the strikes of 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 2012 to earn better salary, benefits and working conditions. The last two contracts have resulted in givebacks and losses. I do not feel better off today in terms of my bank account or my working conditions. 1. The last contract with its raises of 0%, 0%, 2%, and 2.5% was insulting. Increased health insurance costs ate into our minimal COLA increases.

2. To add injury to insult, members were forced to swallow seven furlough days. 3. The COLA is no longer applied to step increases which represents another financial kick in the pants. 4. We are working a longer school day and longer school year for no true increase in compensation. 5. The inability to accumulate and bank our sick days has wreaked havoc in our schools and upon our membership.

6. Working conditions remain poor with oversized classes, dirty schools, unfair evaluations, and unreasonable workloads.

Do you have or had children in CPS schools? If so how do feel as a parent about the education we are providing your children.

I am Catholic. My children attended Catholic schools. I attended Catholic schools as did my mother and grandmother before me. It was important to me to give my children a faith-based education where they would learn a spiritual view of the world along with general education coursework.

What do you think is something you can personally improve on as a leader in our schools?

I have served in a leadership role for our members by taking on the role of delegate and through my CTU Committee work. I have served in a leadership role by organizing Members First to run a slate in the May 17, 2019, CTU election. I am excited about the team of leaders that have committed to work with me to lead our union. The role of union leader will be new to me, but I am ready, willing and able!

How about talking about a leadership quality you see in the other candidate?

I observe Jesse to be personable and respectful towards members during interactions at the HOD. He is approachable. I believe he is a strong unionist.

How would you support the other once the election is over?

If I am elected to lead the CTU on May 17, I am confident Jesse would support me and the membership by doing all in his power to facilitate a smooth transition. If Jesse is elected on May 17, I will support him and the membership by my continued work on CTU committees.

Tell us one story that has inspired you while working in the Chicago schools?

During one of my early years of teaching, I had a very special class of sixth grade students. We all clicked with each other and the learning in that class was phenomenal. Several of those students are my CPS colleagues today. Very inspiring.

Last please share anything you feel comfortable with about your family and living in Chicago.

I have been married to my husband, Dennis, for 35 years. Dennis is a proud member of IBEW Local 134. My daughter, Claire, is a CPS teacher and my daughter, Grace, is a graduate student at Chicago State University. I was born, raised, and currently live on the Southside of Chicago.



Comments:

May 13, 2019 at 10:59 AM

By: Jo-Anne Cairo

Members First

Thank You John for the interview with Therese. Therese knows financial numbers, every time she presented numbers and questions at a HOD meeting she'd be cutoff. There're too many CTU members who are totally unaware of the financial

situation at the CTU, and every time it was presented and asked about the Core true would go into action and cut them off.

At the CTU retiree luncheon on May 9, Jessie,Stacy, George M.

repeated what they have accomplished, they never talk about the loses, I still am upset about the 2011-2012 raise that was given to the CTU members and were told we will get it back in our contract 2012, all we have received our a lot of ZEROS.

May 20, 2019 at 11:48 PM

By: john whitfield

Decline in membership / charter Schools / CPS bullying

The candidate did not mention how the advent of Charter Schools has contributed to the decline in CTU membership, and how charter schools usurp public school funds. But the candidate did mention her private school background. She does mention her bank account, which seems to be a 'members first' priority, the focus on money that is. Did mention administration bullying. Strong, enforceable contract language is a good proposal, but in the meantime should propose how to deal with administrative bullying. The current leadership has at times 'thrown the book' at bullies.

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