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Brizard admits 'mistakes' on waiver fights to establish 'Longer School Day Pioneer Program' ... Then adds some more contract violations

In an email regarding the recent waiver votes to extend the school day in elementary schools — sent Friday, September 16, after schools closed and the news cycle was ending (4:31:43 PM September 16, 2001) to Chicago Public Schools staff through and internal email system called First Class — CEO Jean-Claude Brizard admitted that "There have been some honest mistakes in the process to date.”

At the time of the Chicago Tribune Forum on September 13 (above), Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was still working with his staff to continue violations of the Chicago Teachers Union contract. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In his email, Brizard confirms that the local school Chicago Teachers Union delegate "controls the process." That is exactly what the Union has been saying now for two weeks since this push to fall lock-step with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's political push to unilaterally extend the school day outside the Collective Bargaining Agreement with Union Busting tactics of coercion, bribery and scare tactics.

Brizard's campaign against the union contract began on September 2, the Friday before students returned to regular track schools. That day, a CPS press release that came out around noon announced that three public elementary schools (STEM; Melody; and Skinner North) had voted to "waive" the contract and extend their school days by 90 minutes. CPS officials also admitted that they were going to pay teachers in each of the schools "bonus" (equal to two percent of annual pay) and that each school could get $150,000. Less than three months after claiming that CPS was broke, Brizard had found the money to pay huge amounts to schools that broke with the union leadership. The discrepancy still hasn't been explained.

Early votes where taken in secret without the Union's knowledge, in some cases at schools that didn't have union delegates, with voting by teachers who were not union members. After two weeks, Brizard had a total of nine elementary schools in what CPS was now calling the "Pioneers." Now Brizard is talking as if he somehow believes that he has a right to grant permission for Delegates to contact the Union. With his statement "Your delegate can contact the CTU at any time to verify eligibility."

In fact the Union has always had the right to work together in concerted activity to protect our bargaining rights under Illinois Labor law. That's the topic of the Unfair Labor Practice complaint filed by the CTU a few days after the rush to waive the contract began (and reported both here at www.substancenews.net and in the print edition of Substance for September 2011).

Second it has always been past practice for school delegates to contact the Union for guidance, paperwork, and a voter eligibility list before any votes are taken at the school. Especially at the beginning of school, with a great deal of turnover, it's difficult to know who is a union member (and therefore eligible to vote). In many cases, Union representatives went out to schools to help facilitate the waiver vote process so that Union members’ rights were protected and that every Union member had a right to vote understanding fully what contract provision they were waiving including the consequences of such votes. During the second full week of school, top CPS officials and some principals were trying to keep union organizers and reps out of the schools, even under threat of arrest. (This hasn't happened in decades, although it was once common before CTU established its contract and enforcement rights).

What is the most shocking part of the Brizard communication is the admission that the Board is in violation of the waiver process.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is unambiguous in that the waiver process is a local procedure to be worked out between the principal and the School Delegate. Brizard continues the autocratic and unilateral push to force schools to take up the longer day mayoral rhetoric with his admission that “We’ve lengthened the ballot for two schools already to help allay your concerns and are perfectly happy to spell out as much details as teachers need to be comfortable in their support.” The fact that the central office has been providing schools with the "ballot" for voting has been known to the union since the first three schools voted, but is now officially admitted in Brizard's September 16 memo.

Read the full email below.

From: "Jean Claude Brizard". Internet 9/16/2011 4:31:43 PM

Dear Teachers and School Staff:

As you know, providing every Chicago Public School student with a longer school day that includes 90 minutes of additional instructional time is a top priority that I share with Mayor Emanuel. Adding 90 minutes of instructional time to students’ days will allow for more reading, math, science and enrichment programs like art, music and physical education, all of which will help boost student achievement at their schools. It will also provide you with more time to plan and collaborate as a group.

Many teachers and principals are fully on board. They have told me of the need for additional time with their students in the classroom and have indicated their willingness to do it this year. So far, nine schools have opted into the Longer School Day Pioneer Program and roughly 2,500 students will benefit from the longer school day this year.

That is great news – and I hear every day from CPS parents who are delighted when their school opts for longer school days. Unfortunately, a great deal of confusion and misinformation surround the program, and it’s time to clear the air of rumors. There are two types of falsehoods swirling about the Pioneer Program: who is allowed to vote on waivers and what exactly are teachers waiving when they vote yes.

Regarding who is eligible to vote on a waiver, that’s simple: anyone who is part of the CTU bargaining unit. That means teachers, school clerks, school assistants, teachers’ assistants, instructor assistants and other teaching assistants with a variety of titles. In each vote, your Union delegate controls the process. Your delegate can contact the CTU at any time to verify eligibility. Your union delegate also certifies the vote upon completion. There have been some honest mistakes in the process to date – but all of them have happened under the watchful eyes of your delegates.

There are rumors on both sides about threats and intimidation. I urge anyone who feels that discussions about the merits of the longer day have crossed the line into hostility — or if you are contacted in an inappropriate time or place — to please report the incident immediately to your principal, the CTU and CPS.

The other major area of misinformation concerns the waiver itself. Teachers have expressed concern about what they are waiving when they vote yes for a longer day. Here are the facts: The waiver adopts a new school day in which teachers (not PSRPs) are scheduled to be on-site for 40 additional minutes, but have 45 minutes of lunch and 70 minutes of preparation time per day. The standard longer school day schedule that most schools are using for teachers is 7:50 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The standard longer school day schedule for students is 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and enables students to have a 45-minute lunch/recess period and 390 minutes of instruction.

The waiver provides teachers with a lump sum payment for that time instead of other additional compensation. That’s all it does. The waiver vote does NOT mean that teachers will not be eligible for afterschool pay if they work in afterschool programs that begin after the 3:30 p.m. dismissal time. It does NOT waive compensation (such as NBCT stipends or other stipends) other than for the additional 40 minutes of on-site time. It does NOT affect the pay or work schedules of PSRPs and it does NOT affect your membership in the union, your membership in the CTU collective bargaining unit or your collective bargaining rights. But you don’t have to take our word on this.

CPS is willing to spell out, in as much detail as teachers need, exactly which rights will NOT be waived in each vote. We’ve lengthened the ballot for two schools already to help allay your concerns and are perfectly happy to spell out as much details as teachers need to be comfortable in their support.

Adding 90 minutes of instructional time to students’ days is important. But it’s also important that we discuss this issue honestly and respectfully.

Sincerely,

Jean-Claude Brizard

Chief Executive Officer



Comments:

September 20, 2011 at 7:23 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Overtime pay and the wavier

I found these statements to be very interesting. "The waiver vote does NOT mean that teachers will not be eligible for afterschool pay if they work in afterschool programs that begin after the 3:30 p.m. dismissal time. It does NOT waive compensation (such as NBCT stipends or other stipends) other than for the additional 40 minutes of on-site time."

The phrasing is interesting stating that the vote does not mean teachers will not be eligible for after school pay, why not simply state teachers will get extended school day payment required by the contract?

Rod Estvan

September 20, 2011 at 11:21 AM

By: Rod Estvan

CPS statement on overtime pay on CPS website

CPS now has posted this statement on its website: "The waiver, in no way, takes away your right to overtime pay for hours put in after the new dismissal time." Again the phrasing is odd. Why not simply say the provisions of the contract relating to extended day payments or overtime remains applicable to teachers in schools that wave the contractual time frame?

Rod Estvan

September 20, 2011 at 11:55 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Brizard's lies and Rahm's crazier lies

Rod's question brings all of us to the fundamental hypocrisy of the entire Emanuel/Brizard edifice.

As Karen Lewis says, "We need a No Lie Zone" (similar to the "No Fly Zone"). Chicago was warned the Brizard had lied his way out of a job in Rochester by doing the exact same things he's now doing in Chicago. Doubletalk, smiling all the way, and about faces at just about every turn.

The lies began with Brizard's first Board of Education meeting, on June 15, when Brizard's new "team" (without even a Chief Financial Officer, who had just resigned rather than lie) told the world that there was another fiscal "crisis" in CPS finances, another huge "deficit," and that as a result CPS would be forced to break a contract that CPS had signed with the unions representing its eight unions four year earlier.

The lies were truly breathtaking. The claim that the "deficit" was the highest ever could be debunked by the newest novice reporter. Last year, CPS under Ron Huberman wound up going all in on the "deficit" like, taking his false claim of "$900 million" all the way to $1 billion (by the time he wrote his intro to the CAFR (FY 2010; FY 2011, which will show how great the lies were won't be available until December 2011...).

But, heck, we're in a fantasy zone, with Hollywood Rahm pushing his scripts all the way. With Chicago's corporate press either muzzled (or self muzzled), Rahm and his sidekick, "J.C.", can say just about anything he wants. No fact checking here.

Why not try some truth? Trouble is, they're incapable of it.

From the moment they decided in June that they could get away with flouting the fifth year of the unions' contracts, they have been on a massive disinformation campaign. Rahm could only get the "public" (for a time) to look away from the massive lies his new "team" was telling about CPS finances if he had some kind of screaming issue.

Voila! The "Longer School Day." From June on, Rahm was dispatching a brigade of corporate incompetents, semi-competents, and (local) hacks into the Chicago school system while playing massive budget games Basically, the lies that supported the claim of a "fiscal emergency" were in public view from the beginning, as the new "team" (barely there for a month) began cooking the books by overestimating expenses and underestimating revenues for the 2011 - 2012 school year. Tim Cawley, who had never run anything larger than a "turnaround" PR operation (at AUSL, where corporate subsidies make the finances unchallenging) suddenly became the unchallenged authority on all things fiscal, and Cawley's Power Points became the TRUTH on finances.

But of course none of it could hold up to scrutiny. So naturally the latest iteration of the Seven Dwarfs (the seven members of the school board appointed by the mayor) simply nodded and voted "OK." At least half of them knew better, which makes their criminal activity in relation to Chicago's school children all the more ugly. Every claim about the budget and the "deficit" was a lie, just as the previous years' claims had been proven to be a lie (Huberman's "billion dollars deficit" had turned into a half billion dollar surplus like magic; CPS never had to touch that $800 million line of credit it supposedly desperately needs in June 2010 -- at a cost of $1 million in pinstripe patronage).

Enter our Hollywood Rookie Mayor and Chicago's craven corporate media.

Treat reality like an election campaign.

Treat the unions (especially the Chicago Teachers Union) like an election enemy.

Create one of those Karl Rove/Rahm Emanuel "wedge issues" -- and scream scream scream.

Anyone who takes seriously the developmental differences among children from ages three or four (our youngest pre-schoolers) to age thirteen knows in a second that a one-size fits all "Longer School Day" (backed by the most dubious research since Rahm got rich with scams like Magnetar during his "relationship banking" days) is ridiculous.

Only Hollywood Hype, a Hollywood huckster, and a cast like those assembled under Brizard could even think to try and bring it off, let alone keep smiling and repeating the lines that it's all for the "good of the children" (and now, also, for the "teachers" — something Rahm added to his divide-and-conquer nonsense).

Wherever they are going to do the current iteration of the "Longer School Day", it's going to be, as Karen Lewis memorably puts it, a "hot buttery mess."

The corruption of the teachers and the principals at the "Pioneer" schools has to be remembered. With absolutely no thought about what might be good for their children, they jumped on the Rahm train wreck. The most notable quote I've heard so far, from the principal of STEM (which notably, as I reported, used kids as young as kindergarten for an overhyped media publicity stunt) is that STEM would become the mayor's "pet school" if the teachers (many of whom are central office refugees with little recent classroom experience and about the same care for kids) voted "Yes" on the waiver.

Sorry, but in our book here, these people are not "brothers and sisters" and memorializing them for the future will be necessary.

They voted, mindlessly, to ignore the needs of their children, brush aside any serious concerns that might be raised by parents, and suck up to the new Big Dog at City Hall. There are thousands of historical analogies to what they did and who they become. Thirty pieces of silver, anyone?

September 20, 2011 at 1:03 PM

By: Chuck Feeney

Truth

WELL SAID GEORGE !! I LOVE KAREN, BUT DID NOT LIKE THAT COMMENT LAST WEEK AT THE MEETING !! THEY ARE NOT OUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS !!

September 21, 2011 at 7:58 AM

By: Bob Busch

The Race Card

The letter looked a lot like an induction notice. It informed me that since I was white and if I wanted to become an assigned teacher, I had to take the assignment to Neal F. Simeon Vocational High School. Being a South Sider I was delighted with the School, but I didn’t like the race bit.

That was 1970 and all the new white teachers went to a black school, while all the black teachers went white. The race games had begun. Then in 1977 or 78 the board ripped established teachers out of their schools and involuntarily transferred them on the basis of their race. All transfer’s were frozen and race normed to boot. All that changed in 1995. When the mayor took over the schools, everything became clout-based. Race ceased to become a factor in assignment or transfer. From then on the principal became the selection committee.

Is it any wonder that some schools have done what the principal wanted? That is the person who decides employment in a school — not the CTU or even an abstract concept like the CPS. Teachers fearful of their jobs are still our brothers and sisters. They are the pioneers being seduced by the sirens of the rock. Their ships will be the first to crash and burn.

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