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Board of Education tried to uphold principal's theft of services from teachers... Chicago's Juarez High School teachers win back pay for extra-curricular work after administration tried to claim it had been 'voluntary'

In a grievance decision just handed down by Arbitrator Peter Meyers (Case # 12-04-062(jk), the arbitrator agreed that teachers at Chicago's Benito Juarez Academy (a public high school) did not volunteer their time when working afterschool extra-curricular activities and clubs. The teachers will be receiving thousands of dollars for work they did that the school's controversial principal tried to claim had been "voluntary."

Controversial Benito Juarez High School Principal Juan Ocon (above right) hosted a media event with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (above left) despite proof that Ocon had not only been trying to cheat teachers out of extra-curricular pay (by claiming it was "voluntary"), but demands from staff members that the Inspector General of Chicago Public Schools investigate charters that the school's administration has been doctoring grades and attendance to improve the "bottom line" at Juarez. Juarez High School Delegate Manny Bermudez filed this grievance on behalf of all staff back in April 2012 under the provisions of the CTU contract, after a few teachers approached him about not being paid for working extra-curricular activities and clubs. When Bermudez investigated the facts of the case under the procedures in the union contract, he started to see that this was a school-wide issue and that individual teachers had been told that they were "volunteering" their time.

To make the case even more complicated many teachers were reluctant to sign on to the grievance because of fear of retaliation from Principal Juan Ocon. Taking matters into his own hands, Bermudez collected as much information as he could and worked with his Field Representative (this reporer) to get enough evidence to present as a school-wide grievance.

In a much surprised twist to this case, when the grievance was first heard at the local school level Principal Ocon agreed to pay anyone that had a claim -- but for some reason reneged on this agreement. When the grievance was appealed to the Board, the Union along with delegate Bermudez provided evidence clearly showing a school-wide attempt to defraud teachers out of their pay. Yet the Board, in its decision on the appeal, stated there is insufficient information to make a determination as how much pay, if any, of which each of the above-named employees are entitled. This grievance is denied in its entirety.

The Board's administrators almost always find a reason to uphold local school principals, even in the most egregious cases. Under the union contract, the union has the power to appeal to an arbitrator. That was done in the Juarez case.

Arbitrator Meyers in his decision was clear The Board violated the parties agreement when it failed to compensate, at the non-instructional rate of pay, certain teachers at Benito Juarez Academy who worked extra-curricular activities during the 2011-2012 school year.

The decision not only shows once again the willingness of Board administrators to violate the union contract, but a blatant attempt to defraud members out of their compensation for work performed. The moral of this story is to work with your school delegate; to resolve your issues and not get ripped off.

[Any Juarez teacher that believes they are owed compensation as the result of this arbitration ruling should contact the school Delegate Manny Bermudez or Field Representative John Kugler, as soon as possible.]



Comments:

February 5, 2014 at 11:03 PM

By: Rus Bass Ehler

Juarez Article

This is not journalism...I mean, you spelled reporter wrong and misused a semi-colon (as of 9:40pm on 2/5/14).

Also, this is biased and silly using words like 'controversial principal', theft, and fraud.

Manny Bermudez seems to have all our interests at heart ("filed on behalf of all teachers") however his opinion doesn't resonate with the overwhelming majority of the school, which is more likely the reason no one "signed on"; it's not retaliation.

You need to do more research before you publish something for a publication that states it 'defends the public schools" when this serves to divide a school from its leader. He is still part of our public school, so technically, you should show both sides of the story .

February 7, 2014 at 5:26 AM

By: Margaret Unger

Juarez's Principal Ocon.

I've been teaching at Juarez for 35 years now. Principal Ocon is not controversial. He is the one of the best principals this school has ever had. There is no doctoring of grades and attendance to improve the "bottom line" at Juarez. He brought in a pilot program that demands a lot of all staff and students. Its taken time to work out its kinks and improve it. It is a work in progress. Around 5 - 7 teachers are not happy with the adjusting and finding their way with the new system. Those are the ones who find Principal Ocon controversial.

I second everything Russ Ehler says, especially that "Manny Bermudez seems to have all our interests at heart ("filed on behalf of all teachers") however his opinion doesn't resonate with the overwhelming majority of the school, which is more likely the reason no one "signed on"; it's not retaliation." Manny does have our backs, however you create a false picture to sell your story. Just stick to the facts, not invention.

February 7, 2014 at 2:12 PM

By: Jose Valdez

Union delegate Bermudez needs to step down

I have been working at Juarez H.S for the last twenty years have worked under six different principals and I've seen the best and worse of all of them, I don't know if there is such a thing as a perfect principal but I can tell you this I have never seen a worse union delegate as Bermudez, him and his small group of teachers that dont like the principal are trying their best to try and find anything possible to get rid of the principal they even acused me of stealing money from the school to try and get to him, and up to now he is still trying to get me fired, this is the guy that is supposed to be protecting my rights as a union member and he has the audasity to ask the union members to be united. My question to you Mr. Bermudez, As a Union paying member where do I stand if I need union reprentation (thank god in twenty years I never need it) better yet how can any union member at our school trust you to represent them when you have openly tryed to get one of their union brother fired.

We are tired of your BS and we need for you to step DOWN let someone else with better judment and with out a personal vendetta against the principal and staff come in and do this job the way it is supposed be done.

February 7, 2014 at 5:38 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Workers who stab unions in the back are from Boss School

Atlanta. Philadelphia, Columbus. Washington, D.C. At this point, because of the "data driven" frenzy begun by the Bush administration (No Child Left Behind) and escalated against teachers and public schools by the Obama administration (Race To The Top), the number of cheating scandals involving large numbers of administrators (and sadly, teachers) in major cities has been growing, month after month, year after year. Usually, as we've proved here at Substance dozens of times, a little investigative work, even in a city with as much corruption as Chicago, leads to the facts -- and often the truth.

And so as I edit many stories here, follow others, and try to fathom why the CPS Inspector General has such a long record of teacher bashing and slavish servitude to the current regime, these cities and their scandals echo in my head. The arc of justice and all that...

But these comments about Benito Juarez High School are a unprecedented puzzlement...

When we ran the article about the Juarez contract victory, I expected to hear about, or even read, thanks from members at the school. After all, they were going to be paid for work they did after a principal tried to rip them off. Unions begin on the principal that workers get paid for their work. In Boss School, the other side is gospel: Rip off as many for as much as you can. (And by the way there are always workers who are, for a time at least, brainwashed by Boss School thinking).

Which brings us to current events here at substancenews.net.

It's been nearly 40 years since I first became a school delegates (Tilden High School), and during those years I've seen and heard a lot. But never have I heard union members complaining about a delegate who just won a grievance victory for a large number of teachers at the schools. As a result, I have to admit I don't trust the complaints raised by the previous three comments, and suspect that, as has happened here before, there are other motives at work. Usually when a delegate wins a major grievance for a large numbers of our union brothers and sisters, the results is at least a quiet "Thank you" (from those who don't want to be caught by the principal being nice to the union) and respectful silence (from the people who are the principal's toadies -- which exist by the way in every school I ever worked at, even when my mandate as delegate was between 80 percent and 90 percent on every major issue).

Good delegates enforce the contract. That's what this story is about. But I'm truly puzzled by those teachers who are complaining about something that is not being reported here, while not thanking their union delegate for what has been reported.

So what do I smell?

I'll wait a week and see what other reports we get here. A year from now all the schools will be electing (or re-electing) delegates, as will all the functional groups in the CTU. Delegates who have done their jobs, as proved by winning contract grievances for their members, shouldn't be asked to resign. They should be thanked. I can't wait for the rest of this story to unfold.

February 7, 2014 at 11:05 PM

By: Jabbar Eggleston

Congratulations is in order for Delegate Bermudez

As a former teacher at Juarez high school for three years,I can vouch that while things look great on the surface everything is not what it seems. This is an unfortunate truth for not just Juarez but for many schools throughout the CPS system. I applaud and congratulate delegate Bermudez for having the courage to choose the least popular road of standing up for justice even if it means scrutiny from his colleagues, and a billion dollar system. In my opinion you all should be greatful for a case that was won on the behalf of ALL Juarez teachers. I agree whole heartedly with the comments of George Schmidt. While he is an outsider looking in, I must say his lense and focus on the facts is spot-on. What you smell Mr Schmidt is the truth. It is unfortunate that the testimony of some can be purchased, but such has been true since the beginning of time. I am not naive enough to think that all of a sudden false testimony would suddenly cease to exist. This article isn't about bashing Bermudez it's about a case that was won for all teachers at Juarez. Those who fix their lips to bash and throw daggers at a man who has worked to win you a victory should be ashamed. I have worked with Bermudez and know him to be one of the most ethical men within that entire building let alone the CBO system. I can speak to the character of Delegate Bermudez and it is glowing. Unless things have dramatically changed at Juarez since my three year absence, and may I add I doubt things have, I would have to respectfully disagree with the previous commenter's and say that I believe Bermudez does speak for the majority of teachers at Juarez. He most certainly would have spoken for me, and Im sure he speaks for many others which is why "he" was elected delegate. After all he was elected, so obviously many people share a belief that he is an upstanding individual and was fit for the job that many cowards at Juarez would not accept due to their fears and allegiances. Of course I do not expect those who did not support him to be in his corner all of a sudden either. Bermudez you are an upstanding man, keep fighting for the rights of others. For those of you who are not happy with this win, you can gladly forward the money to Bermudez because you don't deserve it anyway, after all you have your rewards already vipers.

February 8, 2014 at 4:56 PM

By: Yolanda Munoz

Thank You Delegate Bermudez

I am happy that Manny Bermudez is a Union delegate at Juarez and NO he should not step down. If anything, Manny, is a smart and good hearted individual who cares about the teachers, the students and the school. Manny is doing the job the way it is supposed to be done and he is not getting extra pay for this. The job of Union delegate is clearly not the most popular one especially if you have read the contract and are prepared to fight when you see that it has been violated. Thank God he is prepared to fight for the teachers at Juarez. I can honestly say not a lot of people can do this job as efficiently as Manny. THANK YOU Manny for fighting for us, I appreciate all the hard work you are doing.

February 8, 2014 at 7:55 PM

By: Marcos Trejo

Keep up the good job Manny!

Thank you so much Manny for all the hard work you have done since you were elected the schools delegate. I am no longer a teacher at Juarez, but I was able to witness how hard you study the contract day after day. Manny is a man that stands for everything that is right for the school; he cares about the teachers, the students and everyone else who works in the building. This victory means that he did his job as a delegate and he followed everything on the book. Otherwise, how else was he able to obtain this victory for the teachers? Dont give up Manny! You are not alone. You have people inside and outside the school that supports you. I find it hard to believe that people that were investigated by CBS Chicago for committing a fraud at the school have the audacity to talk bad about Manny. Keep fighting for the right things Manny!

February 9, 2014 at 1:08 PM

By: Nessa Bridges

Another win for teachers!

As a former Juarez teacher, I cannot say that I am surprised. I worked for three years and was cut 10 days before my tenure. Despite all my positive evaluations, my "vision and mission" did not fit that of the principals. I'm sure it had nothing to do with obtaining tenure in 10 days. The move was what I needed, I have done so many amazing things since leaving Juarez and I am not surprised all of Ocon's skeletons have not come out of the closet. Inappropriate relationships with female teachers? Smelling like alcohol at high school dances? Running an illegal shop out of the automotive department? Telling a female staff member he wouldn't hire her because she wasn't a Latino male? If that was the vision and mission of the school, I am GLAD that I didn't fit it. I still have many friends who work here, and all is not what it seems. So yes- I can see why people wouldn't sign the form for fear of retaliation. I will leave karma to handle the rest, because my career in education was much better after Juarez.

February 10, 2014 at 10:13 AM

By: Jose valdez

Bermudez thanks for fighting hard to get me fired

I read the comments about Bermudez fighting hard for money owed to us I guess I'm just collateral damage because he could care less if my job was protected And as far as the CBS investigation There was no investigation there where allegations the reporters wanted ratings and they got it at what ever cost and the same people that are supposed to protect my job are the ones making these accusations But guess what I'm still working here and will continue to work here until I retire because I have done nothing wrong Mr Bermudez you can keep my all my arbitration money because there is none coming to me I was never asked to work for free

February 12, 2014 at 10:13 AM

By: Jabbar Eggleston

Congratulations is in order for Delegate Bermudez

As a former teacher at Juarez high school for three years,I can vouch that while things look great on the surface everything is not what it seems. This is an unfortunate truth for not just Juarez but for many schools throughout the CPS system. I applaud and congratulate delegate Bermudez for having the courage to choose the least popular road of standing up for justice even if it means scrutiny from his colleagues, and a billion dollar system. In my opinion you all should be greatful for a case that was won on the behalf of ALL Juarez teachers. I agree whole heartedly with the comments of George Schmidt. While he is an outsider looking in, I must say his lense and focus on the facts is spot-on. What you smell Mr Schmidt is the truth. It is unfortunate that the testimony of some can be purchased, but such has been true since the beginning of time. I am not naive enough to think that all of a sudden false testimony would suddenly cease to exist. This article isn't about bashing Bermudez it's about a case that was won for all teachers at Juarez. Those who fix their lips to bash and throw daggers at a man who has worked to win you a victory should be ashamed. I have worked with Bermudez and know him to be one of the most ethical men within that entire building let alone the CBO system. I can speak to the character of Delegate Bermudez and it is glowing. Unless things have dramatically changed at Juarez since my three year absence, and may I add I doubt things have, I would have to respectfully disagree with the previous commenter's and say that I believe Bermudez does speak for the majority of teachers at Juarez. He most certainly would have spoken for me, and Im sure he speaks for many others which is why "he" was elected delegate. After all he was elected, so obviously many people share a belief that he is an upstanding individual and was fit for the job that many cowards at Juarez would not accept due to their fears and allegiances. Of course I do not expect those who did not support him to be in his corner all of a sudden either. Bermudez you are an upstanding man, keep fighting for the rights of others. For those of you who are not happy with this win, you can gladly forward the money to Bermudez because you don't deserve it anyway, after all you have your rewards already vipers.

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