Rahm vs. The Union

August 24, 2011 at 3:03 am 250 comments

Late story in the Trib Tuesday evening (thanks Hawthorne Mom for pointing it out.)  I suspect THIS will be the ongoing topic of conversation for a while, since there won’t be any good admissions discussions for a while…..

The fight about teacher raises and the length of the school day continue and the threat of strikes is bandied about.

I’m gonna say, I understand the concept of pay raises “just for showing up.” The assumption, of course, is that if I am showing up for my corporate job it means I still have a job, which means I am doing a halfway decent job.  I would like to feel I can make that same assumption about tenured/union-protected jobs. Assuming it’s a valid assumption (assuming.  not saying.) then I do think showing up day in and day out merits a cost of living increase that reflects reality over time.  Gas costs more, college costs more, movies cost more.  The inflation cycle continues.  Can’t say I’VE gotten a cost of living increase in the private sector, but I agree with the concept of it.  I guess the question is whether every single teacher in CPS is doing a half-way decent job.  Facing the obstacles of CPS and 28+ kids every day might qualify as a good show of effort.  Then again, the “phoning it in” I’ve witnessed that has provoked fits of anger within me over the years in certain teachers makes me question the whole tenure idea at times.  I certainly think a 2% raise is justifiable depending on the past years’ raise history.  Can someone refresh my memory?

And by the way, where did reporter Noreen find a young teacher willing to say that longer days are part of life? Karen Lewis will probably put a hit out on that teacher! (joking!)


CPS budget to be considered Wednesday as teachers union and mayor fight battles


As the Chicago Board of Education prepares to approve a 2011-12 budget Wednesday, school officials and the teachers union are battling publicly over related issues of withdrawn raises and the mayor’s push for a longer school day.

On Tuesday, after negotiations over the rescinded 4 percent across-the-board teacher raises hit a snag, union delegates met to discuss their next steps. Union leaders had suggested that delegates could vote to terminate the current contract, opening the door for a possible strike, but no action was taken.

Although state law now makes it more difficult for unions to strike, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the likelihood remains “very high” and that teachers “want respect and dignity and there’s only a couple of ways to get that.”

Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools officials announced firm plans to pursue a longer school day in the 2012-13 school year, by which time state law allows them to implement a longer day whether or not the union agrees. CPS will create an advisory committee that will recommend how to implement the longer school day.

Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard upped the ante later in the evening on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight,” saying he would be willing to give elementary school teachers a 2 percent raise this year if it means the district could implement a longer school day this year rather than waiting until next year.

“A lot of this is theatrics on both sides,” said Rodney Estvan, education policy analyst with the disability advocacy group Access Living.

Behind it all is the district’s effort to plug a $712 million deficit. Rescinding the 4 percent raises would save $100 million, officials said earlier.

During negotiations over that point Monday, union officials said they would be willing to accept a 2 percent raise for union members for six months in 2011. They wanted an additional 2 percent increase starting in January. District officials rejected the offer, although Brizard’s comments later seemed to open the door with a new proposal.

The union still has the option of voting to toss out the current contract once delegates talk to rank-and-file members. Or the union could decide to start negotiating the terms of a new contract, which expires in June.

But the union has much to lose if it chooses to reopen the current contract. Education experts say district officials could eliminate teacher raises based on experience and graduation degrees and opt instead for merit pay.

“If they open the contract, the district can move more rapidly and lengthen the school day in January,” said Timothy Knowles, director of the University of Chicago‘s Urban Education Institute.

The budget proposal does not include extra funding for a longer day. It does, however, include a property tax hike that will lead to a 2.4 percent increase on taxpayers’ bills. The budget also calls for a $320 million reduction in programs, restructuring and cuts in the central office and $241 million taken out of reserves to close the deficit.

While many teachers on Tuesday expressed frustration with what they saw as the new administration’s attack on them, some younger teachers figure it is just a sign of the times.

Teacher Jackie Menoni, 27, said she comes to her school early and stays late like so many of her colleagues. While getting compensated for a longer day would be nice, it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, she said.

“People in other professions get a salary and put in extra hours,” she said. “That’s life.”

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Magnet and Selective Enrollment School Admissions Process UNCHANGED for 2012/2013 School Year Live Forum with Brizard and Karen Lewis Sept 13th

250 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Grace  |  August 24, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Nice point about a pay raise to keep one’s head above water, cps obsessed. But remember, the June ISAT scores showed a big, fat 3% jump, part of 10-years of incremental growth. (Chicago News Coop story by R. Vevea.)

    I’d say the teachers were doing a good job, too, during a time when more of our children were forced into poverty and homelessness.

    They may even deserve that raise, Rahm.

  • 2. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 24, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Grace, what is your job at CTU?

  • 3. Grace  |  August 24, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Which reminds me: the property tax hike:

    The Mayor wants to raise about $150 million. But some part of that must go into his TIF fund, completely bypassing CPS. Don’t knkow how much, but that policy seems entirely mistaken.

    What if the Board of Ed instead a three-year moratorium on CPS’s $250 million “annual contribution” to the TIF fund?

    That should be enough to get the budget on an even keel in 3 years, including the $450 million in pension obligations that CPS is ignoring.

    And we won’t need to raise property taxes during the greatest recession since the Depression.

    Why not be nice to the voters who aren’t wealthy. It might even help with polling results.

  • 4. Grace  |  August 24, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Do you think someone at CTU actually pays me?
    But if you can put a good word in for me, by all means.

    If you care about what the budget is doing to SPed kids, read rod estvan’s comments on district 299.

  • 5. cpsobsessed  |  August 24, 2011 at 7:35 am

    That’s a good point, Grace. I’m not saying that “proves” they’re all great, but if CPS uses that as the measure off success, then one could conclude that CPS had a successful year. In the corp world these days, that often means a one-year bonus, rather than a going-forward raise. But it seems like a very valid point for some financial reward.

    (I’m leaving the pension topic out of it for now…)

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 6. Grace  |  August 24, 2011 at 8:49 am

    A former general counsel of the L.A. Unified School District says that the “good teacher, bad teacher” narrative dominates almost every debate on education these days. He fleshes this out on Valerie Strauss’ Washington post blog.

  • 7. Mayfair Dad  |  August 24, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I can’t speak for everybody else, but I am A-OK with qualified teachers earning a professional wage that reflects their education, experience and effectiveness. Many teachers have earned a Master’s degree and their paycheck in a free-market society should reflect this. Longer school day = a larger paycheck.

    I think bad (unmotivated, ineffective, just-going-through-the-motions) teachers should work at Starbucks.

    Among my neighbors and fellow CPS parents, more discontent is generated by the looming pension payments, and the possibility – (probability? – that future tax increases will be used to pay down teacher pension debt instead of in the classroom for the direct benefit of our children. Pension benefits for ALL state and municipal employees needs to be re-worked; current business model is unsustainable.

    Get rid of bad teachers
    Pay good theachers what they deserve
    Stop wasting money rolling out new program du jour and focus on what works
    Testing tells part of the story but not the whole story. Quit incentivizing teachers to teach to the test.

    End of rant.

  • 8. HSObsessed  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Keep in mind that teachers get raises for a variety of things. The 4% that was rescinded as an across-the-board raise does not mean teachers won’t get raises this year. Most of them will. Here’s info from a June 2011 Sun TImes article by Rosalind Rossi:

    “Even without the four percent previously-negotiated raises, 75 percent of all teachers will get automatic raises of between 1 percent and 5 percent for adding another year of experience or for increasing their credentials.

    Based on base salary alone, the minimum CPS starting teachers salary of $50,577 is No. 1 among the nation’s 10 largest cities. Its maximum salary, requiring a master’s degree, of $87,673 is No. 2, behind New York City. Its average salary also is among the top one or two, Human Capital Officer Alicia Winckler told board members.”

  • 9. LR  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I’m really not on board with the longer year at all. I assume they are considering starting before Labor Day? I think starting AFTER Labor Day is one thing CPS does right. I say this as I dropped my son off this morning at his parochial school – on a 90 degree day with no air conditioning! I think it is oppressive, dangerous, and not conducive to education. The Office of Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines suggest offices not be kept above 80 degrees. But, it is ok to send kids to school in 90 degree classrooms? Furthermore, does CPS also plan on investing in air conditioning? I know they have for some of the Track E schools, but I doubt they have the money to do that on a large scale basis. I hope the teachers do not bend on this topic. We will see. In the meantime, I am writing my State Rep because if this is how it is going to be, I want to introduce legislation that schools without air conditioning need to call excessive heat days on any day that exceeds 85 degrees.

  • 10. HSObsessed  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:20 am

    On the teacher pension issue: Are you all aware how much Chicago teachers and taxpayers are being screwed by the state of Illinois’ teacher pension fund? Eric Zorn wrote about it extensively in March, and I put the link below.

    Basically, 14% of all the teachers in Illinois teach at CPS. However, of the enormous sums of money that the state of Illinois pays into the Illinois teachers’ pension fund, only 2% of it is ever given to CPS. Yes, 98% of it goes to replenish suburban and downstate teachers’ pension funds.

    It gets worse. When Eric wrote the March column, there was a proposal to earmark for the city of Chicago a piddly $10.5 million of a $2.4 billion payment headed toward the state teachers’ fund. For those of you who can’t handle all the zeroes, that’s .44% they were going to give to CPS. Less than one percent! 99.56% was going to go to the suburbs and downstate. I don’t have time to follow up to see what happened with that. Anyone know, by any chance? Any good news?


  • 11. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

    They could do a longer school year, easy, without starting earlier or ending later. Look at this year’s calendar – the entire first week of January off? Who needs that. The rest of the world will be back at work right after the New Year. That’s five days right there.

    What about Casimir Pulaski Day? Do we really need Casimir Pulaski Day? And both Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day? Consolidate those, and we have two more days.

    What about report card pickup? An entire day off for a five-minute conference over grades I already looked up online? So that’s two more days.

    So now we just need to find one more. Maybe take one of these many many in-service days. Do teachers really need to have September 23 off? No? All right then. We have two more weeks, and we have a 180-day school year. Competitive by US standards, but a joke by those of the rest of the developed world.

  • 12. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:50 am

    And HSObsessed, the big mistake was letting government employees opt out of Social Security years and years ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time: higher benefits at a lower cost to the taxpayers. But you can’t skip out of payroll taxes; the feds get companies on that all the time. What looked cheaper is now leaving taxpayers on the hook for relatively higher but unfunded benefits and leaving the employees with a lot of uncertainty. It’s not good, not at all.

  • 13. Grace  |  August 24, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Thanks HS Obsessed for that info.

  • 14. Sped Mom  |  August 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

    “If you care about what the budget is doing to SPed kids, read rod estvan’s comments on district 299.”

    Emanuel/Brizard/Board are giving sped kids “the shaft.” So nice that Emanuel can keep his vernacular in tact.

  • 15. Angie  |  August 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Are these CTU demands for real?


    ” CPS shall not do any business with the five banks responsible for the largest number of foreclosures within the City of Chicago until they agree to write down the mortgage principals and interest rates for all homeowners facing foreclosure within the city to market value as a part of an affordable and sustainable loan modification program to prevent foreclosures. The aforementioned banks are Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Deutsche Bank.”

    So now CPS is also expected to help bail out the CTU members who did not do their due diligence before jumping on the housing boom bandwagon?
    You’ve got to be kidding me.

  • 16. Hawthorne mom  |  August 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I can’t speak for anyone else but myself. I fully expect to retire in 25+ years and for the pension money, even the percentage I personally contributed from my paycheck (not the board’s contribution) to be completely gone. I don’t believe for a second that any money will be there for us. There’s been talk about Illinois offering a 401K type option and if that is offered, both my husband and myself are going to take it. Regardless of whether one agrees with the current pension system or not, any thinking person can see this is not sustainable AT ALL. Maybe it should be, maybe it shouldn’t. But I for one am not counting on it being there. I know that my teacher husband and I need to save at least 20%+ of our income to be able to retire without it and without social security.

  • 17. RL Julia  |  August 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Ditto for me and the City of Chicago Hawthorne Mom -plus I expect that the little Social Security I might have been eligible for won’t be there either. If only the City put in for Social Security – or would just let me have my pension money to put into a 401(k), I might actually have a chance at seeing a little of it…

  • 18. cps teacher  |  August 24, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    This entire discussion makes me sad. I think the PR that CPS has put out has so many people “anti-teacher” that it has become hard to tell the difference between “make it better for kids” and “make it bad for teachers.” I have had the opportunity to work at three very different schools during my time at CPS. I can honestly say that a very small percentage of teachers should probably be dumped. So many are hard working and dedicated to the profession. The problems that our city faces do not stem from teachers. Teachers posting on this site could probably tell dozens of stories of waste and mismanagement of funds that parents never hear about. I heard today’s news about offering 2% to elem school teachers and immediately thought: where is the money going to come from?

    They’ve already taken away book money (maybe CPS students should start buying/renting books like suburban kids do) , money for classroom supplies, department budgets and copying facilities. SpEd kids will get the shaft because there just aren’t enough teachers in the building. How is this making things better? And, since I am now just ranting….where is the plan to extend the school day? What will they do with the time? Where is the plan? They need to extend the day, but no one has consulted with the teachers to see what should be done with those 90 minutes. Ugh.

  • 19. magnet mom  |  August 24, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    I guess I’m not sure what is so great about another hour and a half either. It feels more for show not substance at this point. I’m not interested in my kids being warehoused for an extra hour and a half when I could take them out to play or hang out at home before it gets dark later in the season. My kid’s teachers need time to recharge before the next day begins in addition to all the work that must be done before the kids arrive the next morning.
    I also think it’s not very reasonable to ask teachers to work more for less. How about adding an extra hour and a half downtown for no extra pay first.

  • 20. HSObsessed  |  August 24, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I’m hoping that the schools that already have longish days will be exempted from an extra 90 minutes. My child’s school is in session 6.5 hours already (Lincoln) and 8 hours would absolutely be too much. However, I’m fine with an additional two weeks of school! An 11- or 12-week summer vacation is way too long. But then again, there’s the air-conditioning problem mentioned by LR, which I agree is a valid concern. No easy solutions.

  • 21. Dad  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Re: extending the school year
    Just wanted to clarify, the first week of January this year is off because winter break starts 12/26. Two weeks for winter break is pretty standard.
    I totally agree though on some other holidays like pulaski, report card pickup, etc. being excessive. Particularly as a working parent, coordinating childcare coverage on these days gets tiring.
    At the same time, I don’t see a big problem with starting school a week before Labor Day or ending another week into June. If Chicago has among the shortest school years, then other cities that are at least as old as Chicago and at least as hot- I’m thinking of St Louis, DC, NYC, Philly, Atlanta- must have kids starting in late August, and probably have A/C-less classrooms. They’re somehow surviving.

  • 22. Grace  |  August 24, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    cps teacher — if I had to guess, I’d say that much of the 90 minutes will be spent in front of a computer. I saw a former senior executive with the Gates Foundation, Tom Van Ark, on c-span speak at great length (and without specifics) about a computer-based program which supports the Common Core standards.

    NPR recently did a story about an elementary school in southern California where the little kids were on a computer for lessons for 90 minutes a day.

    It would also be interesting to see which firms are involved.

  • 23. Hawthorne mom  |  August 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Grace, I hope you are wrong about that. Parents at Hawthorne (and teachers too!) would riot. So would parents at every single other school in the city who view school as more than just a babysitter.

  • 24. Grace  |  August 25, 2011 at 12:11 am

    I hope so, too. If only you were on the panel, and not only the politically connected who like to play follow the leader.

    Btw, I mispelled — It’s Tom Vander Ark.

  • 25. cps teacher  |  August 25, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Grace, everytime something new is adopted, developed, etc. someone is making a ton of money somewhere, and these days it’s definitely on software and training. There was discussion of using software based learning at the Core Standards conference I went to. Sadly, the same people who were leading this conference for CPS were those that were proponents of the now defunct “Information Delivery System” programs that brought scripted curricula to our schools.

    I don’t think CPS utilitizes the time and money they have now. A low performing school I worked at decided their lowest performing students needed more time in algebra. A double period was created for them. A scripted, software based Algebra curriculum was purchased. What those kids needed was basic math, not some watered down program that had NO real life relevance to them. The extra 45 minutes of day that was added to their math day was wasted time. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent over three years buying the software and hardware, training teachers (both in and out of state) and paying salaries for “coaches” who had NO idea what the program was about but were supposed to help teachers, etc. Guess what? In the end, test scores went down and the program was dumped. More waste.

  • 26. LR  |  August 25, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I wrote a message on the CTU website with my ideas and received an email back from Karen Lewis’ blackberry thanking me for my “brilliant ideas” and saying they will “incorporate them into their demands.” Not sure if it was really her or not, but it was kind of exciting to get an email from Karen Lewis. In a nutshell, told them I’m not on board with a longer year, but if we must have a longer year, please specify that: 1. CPS will automatically call an excessive heat day on any day where the forecast calls for 88 degrees or higher in schools without air conditioning and 2. Children/teachers with health conditions adversely affected by the heat, such as asthma, will be granted excused absences when it is hot or humid.

    By the way, just because other cities don’t make accommodations for their kids and let them sweat it out, that doesn’t make it right. We have an opportunity to affect this, and keep our kids reasonably comfortable, then we should.

    The accommodations I mentioned above would make me feel somewhat better about a longer year. Although, I still am hoping against it. I really notice my kids’ enthusiasm for school and ability to wake up on time waning after Memorial Day. I remember June being a blow off month when I was in school and I don’t think it matters if it is one or two weeks. It seems like once it’s June, it’s just over. The minds shut off. For most of my school career I went to school Labor Day through just after Memorial Day. We had fewer days and I got a top-notch education. Longer does not equal better. And since there will be longer school days, doesn’t that add “days” to the year anyway?

  • 27. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 25, 2011 at 9:27 am

    LR, seriously? Your school year was fewer than 170 school days? I always had 180-day school years, but with far fewer holidays during the year. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask teachers or students to work five days in a row every now and again. I’m looking at November and getting anxiety attacks about how I’m going to manage all the days off.

    There’s an education roundtable on the NYTimes site, and one of the participants made an interesting comment. She said that rich people move to suburbs with high taxes and good schools, or pay for private schools, and encourage their children to go to good colleges. The debate, then, is really about how much education poor children need.

    Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/08/23/spending-too-much-time-and-money-on-education/is-it-a-priority-to-teach-the-poor

    Rich people don’t pay for extended warranties, but they will pay for education.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the day that someone in Winnetka complains that their kids spend too much time in school is the day that I’ll believe our school day and school year are just fine.

  • 28. cps Mom  |  August 25, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I’m wondering if parents wanting shorter school years and school days plan on going to selective enrollment high schools?

    My experience is that it takes a lot of work – study, tutoring, sessions at the kitchen table to get into these top schools. Many pay for prep classes, Kaplan, Kumon, Huntington etc. Wouldn’t it be more effective, cheaper and actually appropriate to extend learning in school?

    My neighbor goes to CICS charter – they started Monday, have a longer day, homework club after school until 6 and have test prep. This is what you will be competing with.

    @18 – I think everyone agrees that it’s a small percentage of teachers that ruin it for all – especially our kids. It makes parents angry to see CTU defend those teachers and group them with the rest of the fine hard working teachers in CPS. With the many changes and lay-offs that have recently happened, they are still impossible to get rid of.

    CPSO – I don’t think the young enthusiastic teacher is speaking out of line at all. I’m sure she has many college friends that cannot find jobs at all. The ones that do are working their butts off – just like the good old days when I graduated during the last recession. Nothing like a recession to teach some real work ethics.

  • 29. cps teacher  |  August 25, 2011 at 9:54 am

    @27 The article you linked did not use the term “rich” . I think many people who move to the suburbs are not rich, but just middle income. Choosing to allocate their money toward education is what they are doing. Unfortunately, the poor do not have this choice.

  • 30. Mayfair Dad  |  August 25, 2011 at 10:32 am

    How would I allocate an extra 90 minutes of school day?

    – block scheduling for core subjects
    – science labs where kids actually do hands-on experiments
    – music
    – art
    – recess
    – a lunch period longer than 15 minutes
    – study hall where teachers are available to assist with homework

    I’ll let you in in a little secret: Chicago has the shortest school day and school year of any major city in the US, and the CTU likes it this way. Parents do not. With each passing year our kids fall further and further behind. No air conditioning? Open a window.

    Anyone who is against a longer school day obviously would have benefitted from a longer school day.

    Go Rahm go!

  • 31. HSObsessed  |  August 25, 2011 at 11:01 am

    So what do people here think is a reasonable or “best” length of a school day? I guess I’d say 6.5-7 hours is the best. So a school that starts at 8:30 would go until 3:00 or 3:30. Beyond that, it’s a REALLY long day for a six-year-old, or even a 12-year-old. I guess I feel like kids learn important lessons daily outside the classroom, on the playground after school, in after-school care programs or sports/activities, at home with the family cooking dinner, or pursuing their own interests like drawing, making models, reading, etc. Of course, that assumes the child is getting any kind of positive experience outside of school; I recognize that. If life after school for a six-year-old means walking home with his older siblings and watching TV for the next six hours, yeah, a longer school day with structure would likely be better.

  • 32. mom2  |  August 25, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Mayfair Dad – Amen. Homework Club/Study Hall, a longer lunch and hands on science experiments would be wonderful and very helpful. Longer day, start one week earlier and less days off during the year and we have a winner. Use some of the money that they currently use to pay for unneeded area officers and put in several air conditioning units around the schools buildings.

  • 33. mom2  |  August 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I like something close to 8:30 – 3:30. That seems reasonable. I do agree that for kids that are provided after school activities, the need is less. But, since CPS does a one size fits all for everything else they do (breakfast in the classroom comes to mind), then we need this for everyone. In fact, I wish some schools in the poorer neighborhoods offered free staffed after school clubs beyond the normal school day. Again, something like that makes so much more sense to spend money on vs. just putting it in take home pay for employees.

  • 34. CityMom7  |  August 25, 2011 at 11:33 am

    30 – Mayfair Dad – Thanks for your thoughts. You are so right. If the longer day time is used wisely, it will be a great benefit to all.

    26 – LR – The kids ability to wake up & be motivated nearing Memorial Day is because CPS has nothing interesting for the kids to do during the last weeks of school. It is such a huge waste of time. I would like to see novel reading, plays, geography lessons, art class, etc. offered at this time so the kids are still excited to be in school and most of all, are learning something, instead of just wasting time. I have always been bothered by the last weeks of school at CPS. They spend so much time teaching to the test, that the last weeks should be a great opportunity to do something else.

  • 35. cpsobsessed  |  August 25, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Omg, that last week of school was a joke!! I agree, even fun learning games or something that’s not regular work, but supports what they’ve learned. Maybe all school districts are like that, but if kids and teachers need a week to wind down, that supports adding a week to the school year.
    Our school does a nice job at building school spirit and community which I love (much of the last week was fun stuff, field day,) but when we start with a short school day-year, the extra time would be nice to add.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 36. Junior  |  August 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    The irony of CTU’s position on the longer day is that many teachers already had a choice for a “better” school day (i.e., open campus) and voted it down at schools across the city. The fact that teachers have opted for closed campus models, denying recess for a majority of kids in CPS, tells me all I need to know about the push for a “better” day. The real question is — a better day for whom?

  • 37. Ravenswood Mom  |  August 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    #7 Mayfair Dad – AMEN.

  • 38. Matt Farmer  |  August 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    In a new piece for “Gapers Block” (link and text set out below), I take a satirical look at this issue.


    My nine-year-old daughter was excited to get up in the morning and go to school last year, thanks in large part to the energy and efforts of her third-grade CPS teacher.

    CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has now decided to harness even more of that teacher’s seemingly boundless energy. In fact, earlier this week he asked her to spend some extra time in the classroom during the 2011-12 school year.

    Why? The reason should be obvious. As Brizard told WTTW’s Phil Ponce on Tuesday night: “We want to celebrate our teachers. . . . We love our teachers.”

    Brizard was even willing to put a price tag on that love.

    He said he’d break out his checkbook and sweeten this particular teacher’s $52,400 salary with a 2% kicker. And all she needs to do is spend an extra 90 minutes in the classroom on each of the school’s 170 instructional days.

    You read that right. Just for her putting in a paltry 255 additional hours (a little over 6 extra weeks for those of you who remember the old 40-hour work week), Brizard will show his love to the tune of $1048. That, my friends, represents a pre-tax hourly wage of nearly $4.11. Not too shabby in the age of 9% unemployment.

    Sure, it’s a bit below the $4.25/hour minimum wage that a lot of fast food workers enjoyed back in 1991, but how many Burger King managers actually “celebrated” and “loved” their employees back then? (Before you answer, let’s remember that President Clinton was not yet in the Oval Office.)

    Yes, the extra 90 minutes a day in the classroom sounds like well-paid fun, but won’t that teacher also shoulder additional preparation time, grading time, and (possibly) commuting time as a result of the longer school day? And isn’t that teacher going to end up shelling out more of her own cash for the supplies that students will use during those extra 255 hours? All good questions, but no one ever said love was easy, folks.

    Just look at what love’s done to “Romeo” Brizard. The guy went out on a limb Tuesday by promising a 2% salary increase, even though he’s flat broke. But make no mistake — he will get the money.

    He told Ponce that he “will order [his team] to find the money” and tell them to “cut bone” if they have to. (Note: The expression “cut bone” has long been rumored to be City Hall slang for “tap into the mayor’s TIF slush fund.”)

    And he is going to do all of this for love.

    Love can move mountains. Love can obviously get the Tribune and the Sun-Times to print CPS press releases on a near-daily basis. And love can certainly dig under the sofa cushions on Clark Street to find an extra $4.11/hour for my daughter’s old teacher.

    And that’s why Chicago taxpayers were so eager to get into an imaginary bidding war with imaginary school districts for Brizard’s services. That’s why we ultimately agreed to pay his $250,000 salary, which is about 9% more than we paid Ron Huberman, who merely “liked” teachers.

    Imagine the void those poor public school teachers back in Rochester must now feel. Even when 95% of them gave their old superintendent a vote of “no-confidence” last February, Brizard continued to love them unconditionally.

    Well, he’s ours now, Rochester. At least for the next year or so.

  • 39. cpsobsessed  |  August 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Ok, THAT is funny! It’s good to hear the “other side” of the story. you are certainly right about the money seeming paltry. And I cannot say I get the whole “love our teachers” shtick. Prove it. Don’t say it. Or respect them. Don’t “love” them. Ew.

    On the other hand… teachers are not paid hourly. It’s salary. And it seems puzzling that teachers in many other cities teach a longer schools day for (I’m assuming?) similar pay. Why would Chicago not be allowed to get up to the national norm for teaching hours? Do we just keep going along with a shorter school day because that’s the way it’s always been?

    Teachers would likely feel like chumps for working longer with virtually no extra compensation. Yet, shouldn’t we feel like chumps for paying teachers the same as other cities and requiring a shorter work day?

    Don’t get me wrong, if I could find a marketing research company that held shorter hours for the same pay, I would be ALL over it.

    Thanks for sharing. That was an entertaining read!

  • 40. cpsobsessed  |  August 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I haven’t posted all the MANY stories in the news about the longer school day. It feels a bit like CPS is doing a media PR blitz about it to get parents geared up so the union can’t say “no.” Just my cynical view……
    Maybe that’s the only way to make it happen.

  • 41. HSObsessed  |  August 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Matt, that’s very clever. But of course you didn’t include calculations about what teachers effectively make per hour, given their short days and long summer vacations. Most teachers are in the classroom 5.75 hours a day for 193 days a year (that includes all those institute days). Your daughter’s teacher making $52,400 per year is currently pulling in $47.21 per hour. In the private sector, a person charging that rate 40 hours a week for 48 weeks a year earns $90,653 annually. Not bad.

    When you add in an extra 255 hours that her boss is now asking her to work, even given the 2% raise along with it, she’s taking a pay cut, to $39 per hour. So of course she’s going to resist it, along with all members of the CTU. But that’s still way more per hour than the equivalent of many in the private sector, let’s say architects, whose effective hourly rate of pay is in the range of $20 to $25.

    I respect teachers and feel their job is important, but I don’t think they’re underpaid. Not by a long shot. If they were, there wouldn’t be scads of applicants for every teaching position out there.

  • 42. Blaine parent  |  August 25, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Completely agree with #30 – Mayfair dad about how to use this extra 90 minutes. Recess and a longer lunch are a must, and wouldn’t the teacher to child ratio be less during that time which would allow allow the teachers some down time during the day? I also love comment #39. I am a huge fan a teachers and was raised by one. My mother works for a Catholic school for far less pay than CPS teachers, longer school days, and a longer school year. Her school’s test scores also reflect the benefit of the extra time the children have in school, they are higher than the CPS average. It was very disappointing to see how many schools have voted down the modified open campus option, I really don’t understand the CTU agrument on this very well. I’ll keep trying to educate myself on their point of view, but I don’t see how a longer school day that includes not just extra instructional time but recess and longer lunch could do anything but benefit our children. In this economy, a 2% raise is more than fair to bring our school day and year up to par with the rest of the nation. Especially given that the current starting salary is already #1 in the nation as pointed out in comment #8.

  • 43. mom2  |  August 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    @39 – You hit the nail on the head. Instead of looking at how much they already have been making for all these years for these hours, which of course makes it seem crazy to “only add 2%”, we should be wondering why we paid them this rate for the shorter hours all this time.

    Again, in case anyone thinks I don’t value, respect or in some cases actually love some of my kid’s teachers, I actually do . We have been very fortunate to have mostly wonderful teachers, with a few very strong exceptions. But, I have seen their salaries (not hourly) and they are pretty darn great when compared to most people I know in the private sector.

  • 44. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    CPS Teacher, please read the first paragraph of that story again:

    “To understand what value our society actually places on education, we can start by asking how Americans with money spend it on their children’s schooling: generally, they either invest in private school education or buy homes in more affluent communities with the best public schools. Their children don’t qualify for financial aid, and yet they go to college, paying full tuition.”

    No, it does not use the word “rich”. It uses the phrase “American with money” and then says “their children don’t qualify for financial aid”. I inferred from this that it means “rich”. I am so terribly sorry for my error.

  • 45. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    And CPS teacher, how long is your children’s suburban school day and school year, and are you pressuring the school board to make them shorter? If not, why not?

  • 46. SEN  |  August 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    If they are a CPS teacher, they do not live in the suburbs. They may choose private school, but that is their business.

  • 47. cpsteacher  |  August 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    My child’s kind. class is only 2 hrs and 35 minutes long. There is no full day kindergarden. The high school day is just short of 6.5 hours, About 10 minutes longer than CPS. There are only 3 more days off for CPS than for my kids this year. Of those three days, 2 are shortened days, where they only go for 2 hours. I don’t understand your question regarding making their day shorter. I do know that I wouldn’t want them to be plunked down in front of a computer for an additional hour a day in the name of “instruction.” I’m not pressuring to make my own work day shorter. As a matter of fact, I cannot believe that CPS has such short elementary school days. But there must be structure and a plan for good use of the time before they just tack on minutes. I gave a quick example of how I have seen CPS utilize more instructional time. It was so badly planned and a waste of time and money. To start creating new schedules and plans for thousands of kids 2 weeks before school starts is crazy. I can’t help but feel that this was just another PR stunt used by CPS. Unless I’m mistaken, this offer was done through the media, not through negotiations. I wonder why we have some of the prof. dev. days that we do. I think if you asked around you would find that teachers would trade half of their prof. development days for days with children. I would much rather be with my children (students) than sitting at another board mandated development.

    I don’t feel any side is being straight forward with parents or the public. I’m just giving my opinion as a teacher who DOES work very hard and DOES love her job but doesn’t quite trust anyone but the students these days.

  • 48. CPSmama  |  August 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    #39- excellent points and #41 thank you for doing those calculations that tell the whole story.

    It is very misleading for teachers and their supporters (satirical and otherwise) to suggest that they are ONLY being offered $4.11 per hour for the extra 90 minutes without including their pay rate for the other 5-6 hours that they work. A raise is not supposed to be a stand alone component- it is IN ADDITION to what is already being earned.

    It is hard view people as “professional” when they insist bickering about how many minutes/hours per day they work and how their salary comes out as an hourly wage. In the private section, salaried professionals don’t griper about how much time they put in each day/week and what that computes to as an hourly wage. The only ones who do that are the hourly non-professionals. For teachers to do that is tacky. And unprofessional.

  • 49. Teacher  |  August 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    As a CPS teacher, let me say it’s unfortunate that most Chicago residents/parents assume that the CTU speaks for all teachers.

    I can say that MANY feel much different. Teachers WANT children to learn as much as possible. NOT ALL teachers oppose a longer school day but it has to be implemented correctly. I have never sat down and figured out my hourly salary, that is NOT why I became a teacher. I became a teacher because I have a LOVE of learning and want to pass that on to children.

    There are SO many things in CPS that need to be changed – class size, materials, supplies, safe and functional buildings, lack of technology, etc. I believe these are some of the causes of frustration of the 90 minute school day discussion that Chicago officials want. There is MORE to think about, so much more to consider.

    I think it comes to a matter of understanding from Rahm, Brizard, parents, and other CPS Board Members that in a VERY diverse system like CPS, one size does NOT fit all! I want the CTU, Rahm, and Brizard to be thoughtful and make meaningful changes that WILL improve the CPS system. I personally believe that does include a longer school day, but HOW it is done, and how it is supported is equally important.

  • 50. Hawthorne mom  |  August 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Interesting that most parents here on this blog want enrichment type lessons to happen in the 90 minutes. We really do have two Chicago’s. One Chicago (at least 90% of the system….schools with less than 80% meeting and less than 30% exceeding) needs an additional 90 minutes of reading and math instruction. The other Chicago needs some additional reading, math and science and arts.

    @46, many CPS teachers have approval to live outside of the city. Those teachers in shortage areas (bilingual, sped, library, counselors, math, science and several more areas….I think I remember there are about a dozen total) get waivers on a yearly basis. Other teachers who started before a certain date (in the 80’s I think) have been grandfathered in and can live outside the city.

  • 51. chicago taxpayer  |  August 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    nuke the union from space. it’s the only way to be sure.

  • 52. cpsmama  |  August 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Teacher -good point about CTU not speaking for all teachers. Unfortunately, that’s the only voice that’s out there in the public domain each day so it’s the one that we all hear. Thanks for sharing your opinion 🙂

    One size doesn’t fit all-that’s very true. As Hawthorne mom points out-this is truly a tale of two cities with very different needs. Those vastly disparate needs simply can’t be addressed with a single solution.

  • 53. cps grad  |  August 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I’m worried about this 90 minute extension of the school day. Currently my neighborhood school goes from 9-2:45. Does this mean we will go from 8:15- 3:30? That is a very long day. I worry they wont incorporate enough break time during the day. Kids need PE every single day and an hour for lunch with recess if they have that long of a day. There is so much research about how physical activity increases learning. There was just a news segment on this last night on (ABC? NBC?) about one of the Naperville high schools doing a new program incorporating this. They had struggling kids do PE 1st period followed by English for 20 minutes– 5 minutes of exercise–20 more minutes of English and then Math for 20 min, 5 minutes of exercise and then 20 more minutes of math. The kids in the program improved by leaps and bounds.

    On a side note, my cousin who lives in Glenview and I asked her about her kids school day. Her sons are in the 2nd and 4th grades and start school at 8:00 am and end at 2:30 pm every day. Wow—they have 1 hour longer in their school day than Chicago schools! Think again. Her kids get 1/2 hour of lunch every day, 1/2 hour of recess every day after lunch, and also get 45 min of Phys. Ed. EVERY DAY. Add, it up. They end up with less academic instruction time than Chicago students.

  • 54. mom2  |  August 25, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    “Wow—they have 1 hour longer in their school day than Chicago schools! Think again. Her kids get 1/2 hour of lunch every day, 1/2 hour of recess every day after lunch, and also get 45 min of Phys. Ed. EVERY DAY.” – I’ll take it!

  • 55. Xian Barrett  |  August 26, 2011 at 6:04 am

    For comparison, here’s the New Trier class schedule:

    Looks to me like an almost identical length of school day to Chicago High Schools. (8:00-2:51)

    Assuming normal teaching load, they actually teach about 25 mins less per day than CPS high school teachers.

    They also have a higher average salary.

    Here’s another study of NY:

    45-49 min classes, 5 classes. Sounds similar to me.

  • 56. Mom of boys  |  August 26, 2011 at 7:20 am

    I would take that, too! My children don’t have any recess in the day, PE only once to twice a week, and 20 minutes for lunch (so they say they either get to socialize a bit with their friends or to eat, but not both). For an elementary school student, that’s not conducive to good health or good concentration abilities.

  • 57. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 26, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Yeah, I’d take it, too. This highly concentrated school day isn’t good for the kids, not at all. I pack my kid’s lunch because if he buys it, the line is so long that he won’t have time to eat it. Growing kids need lunch. Antsy little kids need recess. And if PE stays at once or twice a week, there’s another 45 minutes three or four days a week for enrichment.

    I notice the kids in Glenview aren’t losing another 20 minutes in the morning for breakfast in the classroom, either. That, alone, makes their day functionally longer.

  • 58. Blaine parent  |  August 26, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Agree, would definitely take the longer lunch, PE, and recess as the extention to the school day. Which is essentially the ‘modified open campus’ model that was presented to the schools, with the majority of teachers rejecting this proposal. I agree with CPS teacher that any extension to the school day must be thought out and implemented in the best possible way, but why was the modified open campus so quickly rejected? My understanding was that the teachers did not want to move their lunch to the middle of the day as they would then also be required to supervise the children at lunch and recess. I felt the modified open campus was a great comprimise (I believe it added 45 minutes to the school day, all of which was recess or lunch), and in rejecting that, what else is the board supposed to do but force a longer school day?

  • 59. Xian Barrett  |  August 26, 2011 at 9:14 am

    What if the board placed more funding into responsible adult positions like playground monitors and the like? That’s how my grade school did it–teachers get a lunch like every other worker and the students get their kinestheic learning. We’d have to cut some of the reforminess in the budget, but none of that works anyway…

  • 60. MarketingMom  |  August 26, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I really think that CPS needs to communicate a clear plan of exactly what will be done with the extra 90 minutes. I would appreciate it if it were tacked on to the beginning and end of the day. This would beneifit working parents.

  • 61. Junior  |  August 26, 2011 at 9:57 am


    Here is the segment on exercise…

    There is a huge amount of research showing the cognitive benefits of exercise.

    One thing many people don’t realize is that Illinois state law requires children to have PE EVERY DAY. How many schools are actually doing that? I think the longer day must incorporate more time for physical activity, including recess and PE. That will have a very positive impact on the instructional time that we do have.

  • 62. Kathryn Pierce  |  August 26, 2011 at 9:58 am

    @MarketingMom – hopefully, it would be left to the discretion of the school how to tack on the extra time. We already start at 7:50 which is too early for many of the kids.

  • 63. cps Mom  |  August 26, 2011 at 10:17 am

    We can already look at the effectiveness of schools that do have recess. Our magnet school did have recess and was monitored by support staff. I believe teachers alternated with assistance. Very workable and productive for all. I think its a real disservice that the kids that need it the most do not have recess.

    I believe, as Mayfair Dad suggests, that increased rigger in core subjects math/reading/science/soc studies can be accomplished by block scheduling (especially in the upper grades). They lose time and momentum switching classes every 20 minutes or so (are the periods really that short!).

    The end of the year loss of learning is staggering. In the upper grades, some subjects are closed out a full 3 weeks before school is over in order to get grades in etc.

  • 64. Mayfair Dad  |  August 26, 2011 at 10:21 am

    @ 60 Marketing Mom: do you really want Central Office to dictate a standard one-size-fits-all schedule for all CPS schools, or are these decisions better left with the LSC?

    What can be concluded – from my own personal observations and validated in the posts above – is that the current CPS school day was designed for the convenience of the teachers and not for optimal learning. The short work day is a benefit negotiated by the union for the union members. Period.

    At Disney II, parents grant write and fundraise to pay teachers for an extended school day. Our kids get art, music, computer lab…I could go on but it would sound like I’m bragging. (If I really wanted to brag I would tout our ISAT scores).

    As CPS parents, we should negotiate recess as a benefit for our kids. Raise Your Hand has a toolbox for parents how to do this. Expect the teachers at your school to fight this – shove it down their throats anyway. Play hardball with the union for the sake of your kids. (Why is it the most vocal pro-union teachers are also the teachers least respected by the parents?)

    At the neighborhood school I rescued my own kids from, a young ambitious teacher was followed into the parking lot and spat on – spat on! – by another teacher because she had the audacity to volunteer her time after school to run a journalism club in defiance of an “order” from CTU rabble-rousers not to make the other pro-union teachers look bad.

    Gotta love CTU.

  • 65. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 26, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Yeah. I was really disgusted that our school had field trips, sports day, and other distractions from academics in May, when grades were still being recorded, and then let the teachers show movies in class in June after the grades were turned in but before the official end of school.

    Just because kids aren’t being graded doesn’t mean they can’t learn, and teachers should still be responsible for teaching. And if the teachers aren’t willing to teach after grades are turned in, then the extras like field trips, etc., should take place that last week in June.

    The answer is NOT to cut that last week in June. But make it count, for heaven’s sake.

  • 66. grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Rahm is waging a pr battle with the union here. First he said he was going to have a big surprise soon. Then two days later he announced the longer day in the press and said he would not back down. He didn’t take the decent route of a gentleman and approach CTU first to see what might make sense given the lack of time to plan and the lack of money to hire.

    It’s a great negotiating style for Wall Street and the Beltway. Does he really think a 23-year veteran chemistry teacher is a formidable opponent? Or is he making political hay of her?

    Why put union teachers in a tough spot? They are the ones we entrust to look after our kids every day. Really, without money or planning, he is setting the longer day up to fail our kids big time. Be sure he won’t take any blame for his aggressive, last-minute approach to a longer school day.

    To be fair, Karen Lewis has been quoted as questioning some of the same things parents here are about what the longer day will realistically mean given our budget. That’s perfectly reasonable.

    How much school can we expect the youngest children to handle?
    How will it affect teachers who still have to grade papers, write up lesson plans, continue professional development, and communicate with parents and students as needed?

    Our science teacher has five classes of about 30 students each. So does our social studies teacher. Our Spanish teacher has 8 classes of 30. Do I think that a longer day will improve their teaching? Hell no! It will exhaust them.

    Lewis mentioned the high school students who must work to support their families now that the parents are unemployed. What about them? He could push these families into utter destitution.

    Rahm is looking for a pr fight — it has to have a simple message — which he could win against the union. Madigan is looking again at cutting pensions for current teachers — they have already cut pension for any new teachers.

    The more parents think teachers are greedy and lazy, the better it is for the politicians. They ignored the pension obligations while spending tax dollars freely on private development. Now they are cutting tax rates and providing tax credits for corporations who just don’t want any of their tax dollars to go to public sector pensions.


  • 67. pms  |  August 26, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Our school rejected open campus but with our closed campus we still have recess. So if the open campus would have passed my child would have more time for lunch which he does not finish because he runs out of time (I agree with the parent about packing because standing in line takes away more time from eating) and would have added more time to recess and in our case 20-25 minutes more of instruction time which could have been used for more time on core subjects. The parents had solutions for the teachers reasons for rejecting open campus but in the end it still did not pass – the teachers did offer to give us 15 more minutes in the morning by waiving prep time but really with the mandatory breakfast program we are just where we started at in the beginning of the year.

    I’m not sure how I feel about 90 minutes – I don’t exactly want my kids in school for 7.5 hours but I can see why other demographics might feel differently. I do wish they could just resolve this issue so we can move on.

  • 68. grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 10:26 am

    That’s shared sacrifice the Chicago way.

  • 69. grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    You have to ask Rahm what was wrong with all the CPS and Park District after-school programs that had long been in place? he cut funding for them, it seems. And what is going to happen to Maggie Daley’s Block 37 programs? They were a big success for our kids.

    After school programs offer a nice change of pace from the instructional day. They exposed our kids to the arts and to cultural events. I know a boy who wrote a play in Block 37 that Dartmouth produced his freshman year. That’s the exact opposite of what you can expect from sitting a kid in front of a computer.

    Why not have public discussions regarding the programming for a longer school day BEFORE you announce it? Wot include teachers and parents?

  • 70. grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    All kids need a reasonable lunch and recess.

    At first mine went to a school without recess, where administrators refused to discuss parents’ requests for one. Year after year.

    It was important enough for us to leave that school.

  • 71. cps grad  |  August 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Please don’t get me wrong. I want PE and recess every day for my kids. My worry is that CPS wont do that even if they extend the day. I don’t see them hiring the extra PE teachers necessary. Instead, they will extend the day and fill it with more reading and math in the form of kids sitting in front of a computer. More instruction doesn’t necessarily translate to better outcomes if kids don’t get a mental break to rest and process.

  • 72. mom2  |  August 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    @Grace, Your points don’t resonate with me. “Our science teacher has five classes of about 30 students each. So does our social studies teacher. Our Spanish teacher has 8 classes of 30. Do I think that a longer day will improve their teaching? Hell no! It will exhaust them.” – A longer school day doesn’t mean necessarily any more papers to grade. In fact it could reduce stress with trying to accomplish too much in too little time.

    What CTU should be doing is saying that CPS should use the money they may have for a longer school day to make the class sizes a bit smaller rather than asking for more money for teachers. They work against parents every time they focus just on teachers instead of on something that would benefit teachers AND students. If the class size was smaller, those teachers would have less work and more productive students even with a longer day.

    Everyone is comparing CPS with the successful suburban systems. Their school day is longer (even for the younger kids you think can’t handle it for some reason) and I haven’t seen anything that shows their teachers are paid significantly more money for the additional time. But, they may have smaller class sizes, air conditioning, etc. You want support from parents? Focus on that. Not on money/pensions that only benefit teachers. Not on the way Rahm is doing his job.

  • 73. mom2  |  August 26, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Also, I do agree that what is done with the extra time is very important. But, as I have said many times before, a one size fits all approach doesn’t work in CPS. So, I don’t want them to come up with a plan for what to do with the extra time before hand. I want each school to determine the best use of that time for their students. The needs are so greatly different. It makes no sense to force all schools to use the time in the same way.

  • 74. Mayfair Dad  |  August 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Grace:

    Let me summarize those non-existent public discussions for you:

    Most parents want recess for their children.

    The CTU is against recess if it means a longer work day.

    Most parents want a longer lunch period so their children aren’t inhaling their tunafish sandwich in fifteen minutes at 10:30 a.m.

    The CTU is against longer lunch periods if it means a longer work day.

    Most parents want a well-rounded curriculum that includes art instruction for their children.

    The CTU is against art instruction if it means a longer work day.

    Most parents want a well-rounded curriculum that includes music instruction for their children.

    The CTU is against music instruction if it means a longer work day.

    Most parents want a well-rounded curriculum that includes physical education for their children.

    The CTU is against physical education if it means a longer work day.

    Most parents would like to see bad teachers leave the profession.

    The CTU defends bad teachers.

    The inmates have taken over the asylum at CTU (CORE, i.e. the lunatic fringe.) They showed their true colors when they turned down the 2% offered to them by Brizard in exchange for a much-needed extension of the school day. CTU is not for the children, they are for themselves. I can not – will not – defend them.

  • 75. Hawthorne mom  |  August 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I wish the CTU would and could bargain regarding class size. It is not allowed. For some reason, city teachers are forbidden to bargain on that issue.

  • 76. cps Mom  |  August 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    “How much school can we expect the youngest children to handle?”

    Are you serious? Younger children with their growing brains are in the most formidable years. Our best schools start molding children as early as Pre-K. I have seen pre-K kids taking classes at Kumon and Score/Kaplan, after school programs both free and paid for. It’s amazing how you can turn many child on to learning.

    I agree that there needs to be “hands on” time, especially with the now 1 in 10 kids with ADHD. I also agree with Mayfair Dad that LSC’s (parents working with teachers) would be the logical forum to assign the use of time vs. the “one size fits all” approach.

    Consider the enrichment that extra time could provide as opposed to the fear of plopping kids in front of a computer.

    Mayfair Dad – your school is lucky to have such involved parents like yourself willing to take on the system to the benefit of your kids.

  • 77. mom2  |  August 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Hawthorne Mom – that is an odd rule. I don’t understand unions. I guess my point is that they should try to bargain on things that improve the quality of their day, not the quantity of time or money. In the long run, they will be happier and they will get the support of parents because it would directly benefit their children.

  • 78. HSObsessed  |  August 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Do not pass over reading this wide-ranging opinion piece by James Warren on the Chicago News Coop site. He calls Rahm “The Missile” who “devours news cycles”, discusses the path to the longer school day, touches on the breakfast program, and more. He questions the wisdom of LSCs and calls for their abolishment. He opines on the LSCs of Ravenswood elementary and Lake View High School’s choices of principals in the past few years.


  • 79. cps Mom  |  August 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    @72 mom 2 – maybe we could use the 2% that was turned down by CTU to make some changes.

    @74 well put – good summary

  • 80. cpsobsessed  |  August 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I received an indignant email a couple nights ago from someone (a teacher) who took issue with the following statement I made in the body of this post.
    “I guess the question is whether every single teacher in CPS is doing a half-way decent job. Facing the obstacles of CPS and 28+ kids every day might qualify as a good show of effort.”

    To clarify, what I *meant* was that I acknowledge that being a CPS teacher is difficult and I believe a fair case could be made to give all teachers a cost of living raise “just for showing up.” That statement was meant to be IN FAVOR of teachers, but I suppose came across as insulting. Perhaps I implied that many are doing *just* a halfway decent job? I didn’t mean that. I meant that being a teacher in a CPS school takes some fortitude and is deserving of a basic annual raise.

    Having thought about it more since then, I would also extend that statement to most city workers. Teachers, firefighters, cops, garbage collectors (damn, it was a cold winter and hot summer.) Maybe bus drivers. Not postal workers. Probably mail carriers. Many people have it tough. Only teachers get the summer off, so maybe it’s all a wash and I have just backed myself into a hole of insult again.

    One other question raised in the email was “I challenge you to find any industry in which EVERY SINGLE employee does a half-way decent job.” Well, pretty much every industry I’ve worked in. The people who don’t do a halfway decent job get fired, as they have no tenure or union protection. Granted, some people are better than others. But in the corporate world, you had better show some enthusiasm and motivation year after year or they won’t keep you around. Perhaps there are other industries that aren’t as demanding? If so, please share.

    I know I can come across as slightly anti-union or teacher at time (and obviously that means slacker teacher, not all teachers.) During my LSC tenure I experienced some moments of raging frustration when facing one specific unmotivated teacher who claimed to speak for the rest of the teaching staff (and given her repeated election to the LSC, I assume she had some support.) Despite the rest of the fantastic teachers my son has had during 3 years in CPS, I cannot shake the dismay I felt as a parent and LSC member hearing the nonchalant/blatant effort to minimize the expectations of the teaching staff. If I displayed the same attitude in my current job, I’d be gone in a month. I still can’t get my head around it, to be honest. I think it wasn’t as much the point she was making, but the fact that she had no shame, no hesitation to say right to my face “teachers don’t want to have to do any extra work or stay late or doing anything extra since we work hard all day: as though it would make perfect sense to me. (Yes, an ugly exchange of words ensued and I still applaud the principal for her diplomacy skills.)

    Anyhow, long story. I know I need a slap in the face sometimes to help me shake that negative experience from my brain. Please feel free to call me out on anything *here on the blog* as a private email to me only helps change one mind. The point of the blog is to share opinions, so feel free to do so….

  • 81. grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Young kids can only go so long, be pushed so far, before they get tired. Some turn off. Some act out. Some meltdown. That’s why educators should be following developmentally appropriate standards when they put their programs together.

  • 82. grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    May Fair Dad, my erstwhile friend, I’m going to send an email to the CTU and verify your assertions. I promise to print any reply I get.

  • 83. grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    mom2 — CTU would like smaller classrooms. State law keeps them from negotiating this for the obvious reason that it means hiring more teachers.

  • 84. anonymous  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Since we are discussing a longer lunch period I did want to point out that that arrangement would depend on the school. Bell (which has a school day from 8:12am-2:40pm) has a very short lunch period, about 15-20 minutes. But, I would imagine that is partially because the cafeteria is really small and they have 950+ students that they have to feed in small, short shifts. If lunch were any longer they’d have K eating lunch at 9am (right after finishing breakfast in the classroom! ) and the 8th grade finishing lunch at 2pm. They do, however, have recess and one of the longest school days in the system. So, whatever is decdided I hope (I’m an optimist) that schools get some leeway as to how the time would be used.

  • 85. Grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    mom2 — to clarify — when a school with a longer day has a morning break, lunch, recess and PE, then the kids can certainly handle the longer time at school because they are not just stuck at a desk hour after hour. As I said, mine went to one of those schools.

    That is what I mean by a developmentally appropriate program for the younger kids.

    Some CPS schools like Bell, and Edison seem to agree with Glenview, Hinsdale and other suburbs in this regard.

  • 86. Junior  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    FYI, Catalyst compares CPS raises to those in other major cities:


    I believe CTU has received 4% cost-of-living increases for several years in a row, in addition to step increases. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • 87. Grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Rod Estvan, Access Living, goes over the CPS budget each year, line by line. Right off he noticed something; he can’t find ANY dollars in the budget for a longer school day.

    That’s why he was quoted in the Sun Times saying something to the effect that he thinks this is political posturing vis a vis the CTU.

    There’s no money in the budget for another 90 minutes each day for anything. It would disrupt all kinds of programs and bussing etc.
    That’s why Karen Lewis couldn’t take this seriously and didn’t want to sit on his panel. She sees it as a waste of time. How is the CTU to blame here. How did the CTU have anything to do with this budget?

  • 88. Mayfair Dad  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    @ 80 cpo – I can totally relate, my friend.

    Serving on the LSC for my neighborhood school, even after I pulled my kids out for gifted/magnet schools, was the most frustrating and rewarding thing I have ever done. In four years we hired two principals. To be perfectly candid, I was a more effective LSC member after my kids left because I could leave my emotions out of the equation although the old guard of tenure-protected teachers called me a traitor to my face. I suppose I was expecting “thank you for volunteering your time.” Whatever.

    I have been privileged to meet many talented, hard-working, inspirational CPS teachers during my children’s journey through CPS. Adam Loredo at Ogden is a spectacular teacher. Maria Schnaufer at Disney II is a spectacular teacher. I could go on and on.

    But do you know what I discovered is the single greatest impediment to improvement at your local neighborhood school? Teachers.

    You all know the ones I’m talking about. The ones gossiping on the playground. The ones sneaking a smoke behind the annex. The ones who vote against recess. The ones who torpedo a principal’s career because they refuse to toe the line and do the extra work required of them. The ones who are just going-through-the-motions. And they get away with this because they are protected by the union. Despite what Karen Lewis and the rest of the CORE yahoos would have you believe, it is next to freaking impossible to get rid of bad teachers.

    The Adam Loredos and Maria Schnaufers of the world deserve more money than the profession will ever pay them. Sadly society values tight ends more than teachers. I am eternally grateful my children have experienced teachers of this calibre.

  • 89. mom2  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    @Grace – so we agree that a longer day isn’t bad for kids. What could be bad is if the school chose to make the longer day nothing but more sitting at a desk. Your post was certainly implying that a longer day isn’t better for kids.

  • 90. mom2  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Grace, If the CTU isn’t to blame and CTU knows that there isn’t any money in the budget for a longer day, then call their bluff. Say they are all in favor of it and let’s see what happens.

  • 91. Grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I’ve faced problems too, MF-D and CPS-O. One time it involved a school bus. We can save it for another day.

    My point about an elementary science teacher having 150 students is pretty obvious, I thought. I just don’t see how much more we can expect of the good teachers.

  • 92. HSmomNow  |  August 26, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    88 – Completely agree with you. I was involved in LSC for many years. Besides the bureaucratic Board of Ed nonsense, you are right, there are some teachers collecting paychecks and leaving with the kids at 2:30 pm. They won’t do anything if it isn’t on the clock. They should NOT be teachers.

  • 93. Grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    mom 2 —

    Without any money for any programs and absolutely no time for planning before school starts, the longer school day has a 90% chance of failing. Who will get the blame? Not Rahm, not Brizard.

    If your V.P. Marketing came to you asking you to launch a new product, but gave you had no budget, no parameters and a two-week deadline, wouldn’t you think that you were being set up to fail?

  • 94. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 26, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Given that there has been discussion of a longer school day for years now, could it be that maybe its CTU that wants the plan to fail? That if CTU was concerned about the plan succeeding, it could have gotten in front of the issue and worked on a plan for success? Instead of blocking something that parents and taxpayers clearly want?

    It seems to me that that would be a better tactic than trying to argue that city children are just too delicate to handle a school day as long as those in the suburbs. Hey, if a kid in Kenilworth can handle going to school 180 days a year, I think a kid in Englewood can, too.

  • 95. mom2  |  August 26, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    @ Grace – Teachers and principals will determine how to make the longer day a benefit and successful. It doesn’t have to fail. That part doesn’t have to cost money unless you expect to be able to give the students to someone else during that time. I’m sure there is plenty that could be done during that time that doesn’t require extra supplies and special programs. What does cost money would be things like electricity or possibly additional money due to busing changes. If CTU agrees to the longer day, and knows that there is no money to run those things that CPS must fund, then it won’t be CTU’s fault when it isn’t implemented or they don’t have the money to pay for it. It will be a CPS administration failure and they will get the blame. As long as CTU won’t do this without being paid 29% more, they will get all the blame. That’s for sure.

    Do you know our VP of Marketing? Sounds familiar.

  • 96. DeepSouth  |  August 26, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    As they say, show me the money. Let’s get this city talking about that. Otherwise, we’re fiddling while the ship sinks.

    @87. “Rod Estvan, Access Living, goes over the CPS budget each year, line by line. Right off he noticed something; he can’t find ANY dollars in the budget for a longer school day.

    “That’s why he was quoted in the Sun Times saying something to the effect that he thinks this is political posturing vis a vis the CTU.

    “There’s no money in the budget for another 90 minutes each day for anything. It would disrupt all kinds of programs and bussing etc.
    That’s why Karen Lewis couldn’t take this seriously and didn’t want to sit on his panel. She sees it as a waste of time. How is the CTU to blame here. How did the CTU have anything to do with this budget?”

  • 97. cps teacher  |  August 26, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Many extracurricular h.s. programs meet before or after the regular school day. If the day is extended, and teachers have new responsibilities, where does the time come from for the extras? Something that is not being said here is that many teachers already are putting in extra hours without being paid. I sponsor a club with about 50 or so students. We meet 2 mornings a week and 1 Saturday a month. This is unpaid. I have tutoring hours before school the other three mornings and one day after school. Also unpaid. I simply could not add another 90 minutes to my working day and give my students anything more. I still have papers to grade, assessments to prepare and day to day activities to plan.

  • 98. mom2  |  August 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    @97 – I think the real issue is the time in elementary schools. High Schools are already a longer day and much closer to the length of day at suburban schools. But, for elementary/middle school, somehow those crazy teachers in the suburbs are able to do all that they have to do and have a longer school day (like most of the country for that matter). Why can’t you? What is different about your situation than theirs?

    Also, why do you keep talking about things you do that are “unpaid”? Teachers are salaried employees and with that, you work until the job is done and done well. The actual school day hours are not your only responsibility and you aren’t just paid for the school day hours. If you stop looking at it like that and more like private sector salaried employees, you will understand. (My pay check may say that I worked X hours at an hourly rate of X, but because it is a yearly salary, I know that those X hours and hourly rate are meaningless. I put in way more hours than it says on the check because I want to do a good job and the job wouldn’t be done well if I only worked from 9-5. Almost everyone I know is like that.

  • 99. Hawthorne mom  |  August 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    @96, thank you for the work you do with students.
    I think some people feel that teachers, as salaried employees are required to offer clubs and sports coaching and private tutoring as part of their job description. I think what you are saying, 96, is that you are already giving your all, putting in time past the “clock” to make sure the job is done well. And now it seems like you will have to do all you are already doing plus an extra 90 minutes a day. (which is never just another 90 minutes a day!)
    I see it this way. I am a teacher returning to CPS after time home to raise my kids. I used to offer all kinds of extras, like you do. While I fully embrace that teaching is not a 8-4 job and that really, to do just the basics well, for me at least, I need to put in 60 hours. A lot of workers do it and I am willing to do it too. (every hour of “face time” with kids is at least, if one cares about their work, another 1-2 hours prepping, researching, evaluating, etc…) Next school year when the city mandates the extra 90 minutes (which I am in support of btw), I will be forced to stop doing any extra tutoring or sponsoring of clubs or the like. And make no mistake, getting results from my students is my salaried job expectation. But clubs, sports, tutoring….those are nice extras. Like everyone else on this board, I am not superwoman (as much as I’d like to be!). I have a family, a life, and I need/want to have some fun too! This is just reality for me.
    Parents care about extracurriculars and the ones who can afford it will simply have to pay for those programs that teachers have been providing on top of their other work. Of course, the kids who need it most, will miss out, but at least they’ll be spending more time in class!
    I also think that most folks don’t realize what suburban teaching is like in many cases. Here is what is different. I used to teach in a north shore school district. Our days were about the length of the proposed lengthened CPS day. We worked for about the same pay as CPS (except for teachers who’d been there 20+ years and they made 25K a year more). The difference was this: in CPS, staff gets 3-4 preps a week (in most schools) and a 20 minute lunch. In my suburban school, we got a 50 minute duty free lunch every day and at least five 50 minute prep periods per week, sometimes more. As well, we had a drastically smaller work load with class sizes between 20-24. And if teachers taught a class, coached a sport, etc… they were eligible for “lane” movement, which meant more pay (wait, why did I leave??? Oh, right, I like working with underserved communities)
    I don’t say this to be like “oh poor, poor cps teachers”. I say it to point out that you can’t really compare suburbs to cities. Suburbs have way, way, way more money to spend on all those things. Perhaps there are cities where teachers work 7.5 hour days with the short breaks CPS teachers get. If so, I’d be interested in learning about those schools.
    Btw, I do have to wonder…..I notice that many of the comments on this board and other school themed boards come during the work day. I can post because I don’t return to work for another week. Is everyone else here either on vacation too,a stay at home parent, or just posting during their lunch? Or could it be that some of those posting here about teachers working more are actually spending some of their work time on non-work related internet activity? I wonder how your bosses would feel about that? 🙂

  • 100. cpsteacher  |  August 26, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Hawthorne Mom- Thanks for your post. I wish I could have expressed it half as well as you did.

  • 101. mom2  |  August 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Hawthorne Mom – thank you so much for posting more specifics about how things are done in the suburbs. It is exactly that kind of detail that is needed in this type of discussion. You said, “The difference was this: in CPS, staff gets 3-4 preps a week (in most schools) and a 20 minute lunch. In my suburban school, we got a 50 minute duty free lunch every day and at least five 50 minute prep periods per week, sometimes more. As well, we had a drastically smaller work load with class sizes between 20-24. ” This is what I was trying to say – that if CTU would (or I guess in the case of class size – could) bargain for 50 minute lunch and 5 50 minute prep periods per week instead of just saying that they want more money, they would get more support.

    Parents just want to try to imitate those suburban schools that they may see as getting better results or better in other ways. They see those kids going to school for a longer day and they hear about how CPS has the shortest day and length of year. They think, why should CPS teachers get paid the same and work so much less and how can they demand more money for doing “the same thing” as those teachers in the suburbs? That’s all parents see.

  • 102. cps grad  |  August 26, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I’m all for a longer school day, but 90 minutes is just too long. To be in line with most suburban schools school should be extended approx. 60 minutes. I think a day that starts at 8:30 and ends at 3:15 is reasonable. If I were in charge, I would use that time as follows: 30 minutes for additional lunch and recess, 30 minutes for PE every day. We don’t need any extra time for the academics. If kids got more time to run around and expend nervous energy, they would could focus better and learn more in the classroom.

    My neighborhood school goes from 9-2:45. I really wanted our school to vote for the “open campus” traditional day for this school year because all the extra time was for recess and lunch. If CPS lengthens the day and then uses that time for more busy work or test prep I will either move out of the city or send my kids to private school. I’m not going to put my kids through a 7 ½ hour day where they don’t get sufficient breaks. I could live with the shorter day because at least I can make sure they get enough play time before and after school.

    I really wish I could be a fly on the wall down at the BOE. It would be great to see what happens during a day long seminar/institute type day. I would clock how often the downtown administrators take a coffee break, lunch break, bathroom break during the day. How much do you want to bet they get more breaks during their day than the average CPS kindergartner?

  • 103. Alcott Parent  |  August 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I’m just curious as to the average number of prep periods per week at most of the northside schools. I’m pretty sure at our school, teachers get 8-9 a week. I’m not sure how long each period is, but I’m guessing not 50 minutes. I know the requirement is 4, but is that requirement also a minutes based one? For example, maybe our 8-9 add up to four 50 minute periods or maybe our school is just an exception.

  • 104. Grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    94 — One last time, never said the kids were too delicate for a longer day. Said it has to be developmentally appropriate. Visit an elementary school in a decent suburb and look around.

    Rahm enjoyed springing the extra 90 minutes on us at the end of summer vacation I’ve got a big surprise coming, he said.

    How should the CTU have gotten in front of this issue then? Read tea leaves?

  • 105. Grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    94 — check the raise your hand web site. you’ll find they said months back that CTU supports a midday lunch and recess. CPS could have begun to discuss details then.

    H-mom, you’ve made many good points, and I liked the one about how those of us who aren’t working as teachers find time to blog here. 😉

    mom2 — you are so right. That’s all parents understand when the issues are framed as teachers v. Rahm. I read less and less of the Tribune and district 299 and much more of Chicago News Coop and Catalyst. The education issues are complicated. I learn a lot here, too.

    And I wanted to add I saw a woman at Target yesterday buying $237 in school supplies, including uniforms, for her classroom.
    Some nice ladies asked her if she was getting reimbursed, and she said no. They went on to add, and now he wants you to work more hours for no pay, too?

  • 106. Hawthorne mom  |  August 26, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Hawthorne teachers, I believe, get 6 preps a week. However, this is very unusual in the system as a whole. I *think* it is because the PTA funds a few teaching positions they would not ordinarily have. Maybe another H parent can comment. (and I also think they have required collaboration time during some of those preps) The really few (maybe a dozen or two?) good northside school families have to understand that their schools (my kids’ school included) are like living at Disneyland when compared to the other 500 or so schools in the system as a whole.
    I am starting at a school next week that, if I understood my principal correctly gets three preps per week for sure, and if we get enough students, there is a chance at a 4th because then they can hire a music teacher with enough numbers. (I think 351 is the magic number?) My last school had 4 a week (though, due to high teacher absenteeism–which I have no patience for–and because subs were unwilling to come to our difficult student body, preps were regularly cancelled at the last minute, leaving us with only 3 a week, if we were lucky)
    I’d love it if you could check and see if Alcott teachers (and then also kids) get 8-9 preps a week and how long they are. If they do, that’s the equivalent of only having instruction from 9-1 with time lost in the middle for lunch. I am not sure how it would be possible to cover the curriculum, even if one was only teaching math and reading/lang. arts, in that amount of time. A good teacher knows she needs at least 3+ hours for reading/writing/lang. arts alone.

  • 107. Grace  |  August 26, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Check out a great blog, second city cop.
    He’s figured that Rahm just wants to break the teacher’s contract. I’m copying that entry below.

    Here’s an Idea
    We have the brightest readers in the universe. Check out this suggestion (we’re summarizing it here). After that $33 million cannabis bust the other day, how about paying the teachers’ raises in the equivalent weight of weed? The teachers could sell it for the extra money or smoke it to forget the giant hosing they’re getting at the hands of Tiny Dancer 9.5.

    Did anyone catch this in the story about the CPS property tax hikes?
    …CPS Chief Executive Jean-Claude Brizard floated a plan late Tuesday that would return a 2 percent pay raise to elementary school teachers in January if they agreed to work an additional 90 minutes each school day and an extra two weeks.
    Divide and conquer – that’s been Rahm’s trademark since before arriving in Chicago. “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” But remember, he’s pro-union. Keep repeating that as he sticks it in and breaks it off.

    Does anyone else get the feeling Rahm is trying to force a strike vote by the teachers so he can precipitate a “no confidence” vote and then break them?
    Labels: from the comments


  • 108. Hawthorne mom  |  August 27, 2011 at 12:09 am

    I actually think there will be no strike. I’ve gone back and forth on this one, but here is what I believe will happen. The 2% deal was rejected and so this year is a done deal. Come next fall, 20-25% of our teachers will take retirement to avoid all the changes coming down the pipes. Not kidding. Those are the numbers I have been hearing. That means at least 20-25% of the system will be newbies. (can you imagine the mess down at the staffing office this summer????holy mess of epic proportions!)
    Newbies are overwhelmed with teaching the first few years. So between being overwhelmed and not having time to think about anything else, and being so grateful for a job after having graduated 1-3 years ago with literally zero interviews, they won’t strike. Then you have 75% left. NO WAY will all of the rest of us vote to strike.

    Plus, I really view Emmanuel as the kind of leader who, if teachers did strike, would fire each and every last one of us and replace us all in a heartbeat, just like Reagan did with the air traffic controllers years ago. (Plus Rhoade Island schools are a recent example of the whole “take what we are giving you or take a walk” approach) And given the enormous number of laid off teachers and unemployed new grads, he could really do it (with the exception of sped, bilingual, math, science, library and a few others….positions I can only assume he’d fill with non-certified subs).

  • 109. Grace  |  August 27, 2011 at 12:47 am

    I have to agree, H-mom. Obama/Duncan/Rahm will soon have done more to ruin unions than anyone since Reagan.

  • 110. Grace  |  August 27, 2011 at 12:48 am


    Catalyst does a great job on the budget vote.

  • 111. LR  |  August 27, 2011 at 1:51 am

    Ok, I know I’m going back a bit, but have to comment to…

    #28: Can’t speak for other people, but I want a shorter year and hope my kids will go to college. My daughter is in Bell’s Options program and son goes to a Catholic school that we love, so hopefully they’ve got a decent shot. I’m a firm believer that much of my kids’ learning experience doesn’t begin and end when they walk in and out of the doors. It also doesn’t begin in the Fall and end in the Spring. I realize not all parents see it that way, but I do. On the other hand, I’m not going to put up a huge fight if they extend the year. I just want appropriate accommodations made. And Mayfair Dad, I normally agree with you, but opening a window on a 90 degree day just makes it 90 degrees inside.

    #27 and #53: I’m sure I had fewer school days growing up and I grew up in Glenview. I went through the public school system there and can verify that we had gym every single day (my gym teachers were drill sergeants!) and plenty of time for lunch and recess, even back in the 80’s when Glenview still had the Naval Air Station and was far more middle class.

    #84 also commented about Bell’s day. Yes, it is 8:12 to 2:40. And I agree that schools need some flexibility on how to use the time. At Bell, there are lots of extracurricular classes (Chinese, Civics, Computer, Art, Music, PE, Library). But, what is right for one school may not be right for another. And sometimes I wish CPS would look at Chicago more like a bunch of suburbs, or areas, and make decisions in a more “local” way. I would say that has been one of my biggest frustrations with being part of CPS so far.

  • 112. Alcott Parent  |  August 27, 2011 at 7:44 am

    HM – I’m actually thinking our prep periods probably changed this year. Last year, our fundraising added extra time to Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m guessing without that extra hour of instruction a week, that’s two prep periods gone. Yes, we are very lucky to have funded a lot. I definitely realize we are the exception. This year because we lost so much at budget time, almost our whole fundraising budget is going to fund teaching positions.

  • 113. cps grad  |  August 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

    A lot of what goes on in CPS schools is up to the principal and it isn’t always the way it is supposed to be. I have a friend who teaches in CPS and although she gets along personally with her principal, she says that he does whatever he wants and which makes it harder for the classroom teachers.

    1st of all, her principal didn’t follow the protocol for the vote for open campus model. I asked her if her school voted for open campus, and she said that the principal chose the teachers who would vote no. I asked her why the principal chose the teachers since the manual clearly states that the representatives on the comittee were supposed be chosen by the classroom teachers and my friend wasn’t even aware of that. They never had a vote and ultimatly her school is still closed campus.

    2nd of all my friend often gets her one of her 3 weekly preps canceled. She says that about once every week or two the principal gets on the PA system and justs annouces in the middle of the day that “gym is cancelled” or something of the like. This was a real problem for my friend who was trying to breastfeed her baby. She never got enough time to pump during the day.

  • 114. cps Mom  |  August 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Looking past the suburbs and on a national level, kids in LA public schools started 2 weeks ago. That’s a full 3 weeks longer than CPS at the start.

    Why do we cling to this sub-par agenda established as an after thought to serve low income families that cannot afford private school. Things have changed. Cutting back hours in school doesn’t even serve low income families anymore.

    Why do we agonize over how the time will be spent? My guess is that if you told the principal at our school to address 90 extra minutes in the day it would take 1 meeting of the minds about 3 days to establish a go plan. In fact, the teachers and administrators were always complaining that there was not enough time in the day to do everything they wanted to do.

    If anyone read the article in @78, the additional 90 minutes makes us average. Do we ever want to try to be great?

    BTW, H-Mom I do blog on my own time. Being in a construction related business we are S-L-O-W so plenty of time. I just want to educate my child to succeed in life. Skip the plans to become an architect and go into something that pays better and gives you time off to enjoy life or take on extra consulting jobs – like teaching.

    As far as I’m concerned – open the window, turn on the fan, have a cooling center. Do whatever it takes to get the fullest amount of education that you can.

    Congratulations to all of you that have fixed things at your own schools. I don’t fault Rahm one bit for going private.

  • 115. cps grad  |  August 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Honestly, I really don’t trust statistics that are barely mentioned in a news article. I looked up some statitiscs from the U.S. Department of education and this is what I found. I believe this information includes high schools. Extending the day 90 minutes would bring us well above the national average.


  • 116. cps grad  |  August 27, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    If we extend 60 minutes we will be at average.

  • 117. cps Mom  |  August 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    So extend by 60 minutes then – do something. Although nothing wrong with being above average is there?

    If it’s not CTU or disgruntled teachers preventing this from happening then what is?

  • 118. Hawthorne mom  |  August 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Does everyone reading this blog understand that next school year, 2012-13, the state has full power to do whatever it wants with the school year and day? They could make school go all year, through July, if they wanted. SB7 transferred the right to the state to do this. A longer school day and year WILL happen next year. The CTU can still bargain over pay, but they cannot bargain over the length of day or year starting in 2012. And since it takes 75% of the membership to vote for a strike, which will never happen, the longer school day could theoretically happen with a reduction in pay if legislators wanted it to. While I understand some parents want it to happen NOW, it will happen next year. Parents and the BOE can decide what is important to them then. Teachers can decide whether or not to stay in the profession. Everybody has a choice.

  • 119. grace  |  August 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you cps grad for settling the issue of the longer day. (Also, another poster said earlier that while the school day is longer in Glenview, it includes a full lunch, recess and dally PE. So it actually has less instructional time than the average CPS elementary school, cps mom.)

    H-Mom for clarifying the contract issue;. the longer day is coming next year.

    So why would Rahm push it now, just two short weeks before schools starts? With no funding, no time to plan, yadda… Pushing it in the media, but no heads up for the union?

    B/c if CTU agrees to a longer school day right NOW that would break the current contract right NOW. And everything would be up for grabs. He would demand everything right now.

    It’s not about the kids. It’s not about the teachers. It’s about Rahm.

  • 120. cps grad  |  August 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    @117– I’m all for the longer day (but not more than 7 hours), and only if it provides kids with breaks and recreation that will improve their focus and learning. I just worry how CPS will use those extra minutes. I don’t trust that they will gives kids a developmentally appropriate day. I really don’t think that they will use that time for music, art, PE, recess and a decent lunch hour because all of these will cost extra money that the BOE doesn’t have. To have PE every day, the BOE will have to hire more PE teachers, and the same goes for music and art. In order to have longer lunch and recess they will have to hire aides or additional personnel for supervision. What I see them doing is have the regular classroom teacher do more “test prep” with the kids to improve the ISAT scores.

  • 121. Mayfair Dad  |  August 27, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Grace:

    Just for fun, I googled “CTU’s Plan to Improve Student Outcomes for the Children of Chicago.” Nothing came up.

    But I did find this:


    CTU’s strategy statement to the union rank and file, explaining the rationale of declining the 2% raise for an extended school day as a bargaining position to fight for re-instatement of the 4% raise plus other concessions from CPS.

    No mention of recess or longer lunch periods at midday but I’ll keep looking.

  • 122. CPSmommy  |  August 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    CPSmom regarding LA schools. Some schools in LA start in August and many start after Labor Day, just like CPS. All on the website.

  • 123. grace  |  August 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    MFD, wouldn’t you agree that it’s Rahm, Brizard and the Central Office who create the academic programs and budgets for our students? Not CTU. But okay, point taken. CTU wants the 4% Daley promised 3 years ago. Doesn’t seem likely.

    And CTU doesn’t want to take 2% for another 90 minutes that is not funded or planned b/c if they agree to that, CPS can rip up the current contract and the CTU will have no safeguards.

    That might be how Obama negotiates, but … ; )

    MFD, if you think teachers are lazy and greedy, if you think a few bad apples spoil all 30,000, then that’s what you think. If you think unions hide a multitude of sins, then that’s what you think. And you might be mostly right.

    What I think is this is mostly about the big guys who support our politicians getting a big piece of the pie once the contract is ripped up, teachers are fired and Rahm pushes through 100 new charters lickety split.

    Local law firms, accounting firms, real estate management firms here in Chicago, and with the coming of nationwide Common Core standards, the likes of Milken’s Knowledge Universe and Murdoch’s Education Division run by Joel Klein.

    Hey, no one’s perfect in this. But Murdoch has said it is a $500 billion market and people are lining up.

  • 124. RL Julia  |  August 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Didn’t think the 90 extra minutes was for this year- thought it was for the 2012-13 school year. Generally write in while eating my lunch.

    I’d like to think that the extra 90 minutes would be used for gym and to un-compress the school day a bit -giving the teachers prep periods and etc… I went to one school where the school day was 8:20-4:30 – we had a lot of gym (it was a private school). Gotta say that at the public schools I went to in Connecticut, I never got gym everyday – even way back when.

  • 125. Mayfair Dad  |  August 27, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    @123 Grace:

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. These are my words:

    The Chicago Teachers Union exists only for the benefit for their dues-paying members. Time and time again, they have demonstrated a cavalier disregard for the needs of our children in pursuit of their own financial agenda.

    The Chicago Teachers Union has no interest in driving meaningful education reform, they are only interested in obtaining the largest possible paycheck and benefits package for the shortest possible workday on behalf of their members. A paycheck and benefits package paid for with our tax dollars.

    Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. And unions do what unions do.

  • 126. WorkerB  |  August 27, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Unions are people, honey. The people in the bargaining unit are teachers. Teachers spend their professional time meaningfully educating. I, for one, don’t agree with MD’s POV.

  • 127. Hawthorne mom  |  August 27, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    I guess the CTU was too busy trying to get retrofitted windows in my old building to work on meaningful reform. They were dealing with the documented case of three years worth of 100 degree temps in our school due to sealed shut windows and non-functional AC. The BOE threatened to fire me for complaining. Literally. To my face. I remember thinking at the time, “I hope my career isn’t ruined because of this.” Our students’ parents did not complain. So the union both protected my right to file a legitimate grievance on behalf of myself, my colleagues and our students. And after three years, we finally won, sort of. They would not fix the AC. But they did put in new windows so that the bottom half would open, and instead of 100 degree rooms, we had only 90 degree rooms for most of the morning. So some learning was able to happen.

    Yes, unions exist to protect and serve the financial goals of members. And they protect their members when they advocate for children. I do think the union should be advocating for the longer day because if the longer day is done well, it probably will help. And I personally might not be happy about the pay freeze and I might personally find the longer work day to be hard, yet I know it makes sense. (though, my guess is the union is simply holding on for one more year until they no longer have a say in the matter) Still we can say unions exist only to serve members, but that isn’t the whole truth. I KNOW I would have been fired if I had not been a union member. We can try and villify this group, but I think most adults understand that no single group or person is all good or all bad or only self serving. That is simply too black and white of a perspective.

    Meaningful education reform is partly on teachers and partly on unions. Yes. And it is also on parents, legislators, tax payers, communities, etc…. I think this discussion needs to be extended beyond simply the CTU’s responsibility or teachers’ responsibility. We’ve talked teachers’ responsibility now to death. Let’s talk about the other stake holders some too. Or is this a board that is not interested in talking about the entire picture? Do people feel like they are only interested in someone else changing, but not themselves?

  • 128. cps Mom  |  August 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    @122 – yes, high schools start early/mid August, the schools have longer days .

    @127 You have a very active board here. People involved in LSC’s and volunteer work, people privy to the inner workings. Block scheduling voted down by the teachers at some schools. Recess voted down (this horrifies me, didn’t even know that schools had no recess). Now another year before the school calendar and hours are up to par. Individual school policies are unaffected unless a major parent uprising is involved or a principal’s contract is up for renewal. Good teachers removed in spite of parental support.

    How is it that parents individually or as a group can step in? This is a real question, I’d like to know.

  • 129. grace  |  August 28, 2011 at 6:50 am

    MFD —
    I did summarize a bit; lazy and greedy was my shorthand for “cavalier disregard for the needs of our children in the pursuit of their financial agenda.” You’re the better wordsmith! Apologies.

    Not sure if you notice that when CTU’s Lewis asks for a smarter school day she is talking about adding recess, PE, and the arts to it? That seems to me she is advocating for a curriculum that is child appropriate and not political grandstanding. That she also wants reasonable compensation isn’t an outrageous part of negotiating this major change.

    You might reply to H-mom. I think she gives a useful example of how the CTU supports teachers who advocate for students. Not an isolated incident, I assure you.

    It would be assuming a lot to think that the union has anywhere near the power the mayor, the BOE or the Central Office have, all firmly backed by the DOE’s Arne Duncan. Or that they are to blame for, well, everything, except for those ISATS which rose 3% last year — a big jump. A jump that doesn’t fit the mayor’s narrative — it’s a crisis, the schools are failing, here I come to save the day.

    I don’t think most folks go in to teaching for the money; 50% leave in five years in traditional CPS schools. At charters, about 76% leave in five years b/c the longer day and non-union workplace wear them out that much faster.

    So, I respectfully disagree with your POV, and realize that we may not have much left to discuss in this line of conversation.

    128 — For parents who want to make a positive difference at their schools, I would suggest contacting Valencia Rias of Designs for Change and Julie Woesthof of PURE. Call up Valencia and explain your concerns, she has a wealth of experience and deep understanding of regulations and bureaucracies. She can point you in the right direction. She’s a wonderful human being. She has no agenda other than improving kids’ education. She can tell you where and how you and a few like-minded parents at your school can start. If you care about the national issues, then check out Parents Across America. And read Dane Ravitch’s book, The Death and LIfe of the Great American School System.

  • 130. grace  |  August 28, 2011 at 6:53 am

    Diane, not Dane Ravitch! If she is speaking in town, take the time to go see her.

  • 131. Hawthorne mom  |  August 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

    How can parents, communities, legislators, etc…step in and help?
    These are great questions and ones that need to be addressed alongside of the ones about unions, teachers, etc…
    My take:
    Most parents in CPS are not involved. Yes, I am aware that parents on this board are likely to be on their LSC, PTA, volunteering, donating, and all the other things that actually help teachers teach. Parents on this board are likely to be helping their kids with homework and reading to/with them. Thank you to all the parents who do that!
    But reality is, most of the city is not like that. I have been wracking my brain to try and figure out, “how can I get my kindergarten students’ families to make sure each child is practicing their reading for 10-15 minutes a night?” I am at a new school in a better area than I was before, but my experience in the past is that most parents don’t do much of anything at home at all with their kids. Most kids come to Kindergarten not knowing the difference between numbers and letter. I was lying in bed last night thinking, well, I can call everyone at home, I can see if home visits work, maybe there is grant $$ out there to pay parents to read to their kids??? Does anyone on this board have ideas that might encourage non-involved parents to read to their kids? I’d welcome those and use them!

    As a teacher not in a “good” school with a PTA or a fundraising machine, how can I convince parents to come in and help me in the classroom? I need people to sit with a small group at a center, while I work with another small reading group.
    In a more general sense, I’d love to see parents as a whole making absolutely sure their kids are reading several hours a week over the summers and starting in on the next year’s math concepts. (I can tell you, I made my own kids complete the curriculum for next year’s math over the summer…..they are only in 1st and 2nd grade and I have SE HS’s on the brain)
    Communities…..hey Staples, Office Max, Walmart…yes, you, big companies (and all the smaller ones too!) Please, come and help a girl out! I paid $10 the other day for sticky notes for my classroom. So when I am reading a Big Book, I can cover up a word with a sticky, and ask kids to think about “what word would make sense? Okay, let’s look at the first letter….what makes sense now?” as a reading strategy. I’ll never get that $10 back. While $10 is nothing, believe me, I spend hundreds of “just $10” all year…..and so do many teachers. Companies in communities need to help provide these items. I cannot keep personally donating $2500 a year to my classroom. Most parents in the city actually, literally cannot afford pencils. Parents in wealthy communities, like my kids’ school, it wouldn’t kill you to contact a teacher in a less fortunate area and ask how you could help…..a ream of paper, a stack of file folders…..nothing major.
    I’ll save the legislators for another post.
    Again, I am glad parents on this board are involved with their schools. LIke most organizations, too, I am sure it is the same 10% of people who do all the work all the time! Thank you for that. Would you consider, when you write letters to the mayor and the legislators asking for recess time…..will you consider asking them to also make sure to include funding so teachers get a duty free break too and that monies are specifically designated for coverage? Would you consider writing them, asking to make sure a long range plan is in place to retrofit all CPS buildings with working AC as we extend the school year?
    I am sure I will have other ideas.

  • 132. Working mom  |  August 28, 2011 at 8:24 am

    @hawthorn mom: sorry, my question is off topic but since you are an experienced teacher (others pls chime in) I would appreciate any information on the advantages/disadvantages of a newly hired teacher, fresh out of school, teaching for the 1st time a class of 30 1st graders? The only experience this said teacher has is completing a “student teaching” requirement at one of the high ranking CPS classical schools. I think that’s similar to an externship under the direction of a teacher preceptor? If so, how long is this externship? My concern is can an inexperienced, but smart and highly enthusiastic teacher handle a class full of fidgety 1st graders? Excuse my terminology (I.e, externship). I’m still sorta new to this CPS culture.

  • 133. Mayfair Dad  |  August 28, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Hello Grace & others:

    Yes, let’s call a cease fire for now as we represent two opposing viewpoints with little chance of meeting in the middle. You represent your position very well.

    The risk in supporting Rahm’s hardball approach with the CTU is being perceived as anti-teacher. Nothing is further from the case, and I point to my earlier posts as evidence.

    When posting about teachers in the future, I will focus my thoughts on the great teachers I know and not dwell on my LSC skirmishes with a vocal pro-union cadre of malcontents.

    I always appreciate Hawthorne Mom’s input from the front lines. Knowing there are teachers out there like HMom restores a small measure of my faith in the Chicago Public School system.

    Great schools need great teachers.

  • 134. grace  |  August 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

    H-mom, if it will work for you, I’d be glad to volunteer in your classroom. One thing I did in the past that was fun was to dress up as George Washington, white wig and all, and give a talk about ‘my’ life and times. Answered questions and we all sang “Yankee Doodle Dandee” at the end. Went over great.

    One time we built a “cave” out of a refrigerator box and decorated it with cave art by blowing up photos of the Lascaux paintings. The kids had flashlights and crawled inside. Went over big.

    Another time we put together a large Cezanne mural. Can you find this shape, can you describe this shape, what did we make, look here is the original by a famous artist!

    Do you think these kinds of activities might encourage an interest in reading?

  • 135. Hawthorne mom  |  August 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    @132, Grace, would you really do that? Wow. Thank you. Let’s talk. How about this, I’ll email cpsobsessed and see if she’d be willing to pass on my info to you? If not, I can ask get a gmail account set up just for this purpose. Give me a day or so and we can get in touch.
    @132, first year teachers get anywhere from 8-14 weeks of student teaching, depending on which state they were trained in. Of that, 2-4 weeks are spent where the student teacher teaches the entire day. It isn’t hardly enough, but it is something. (if it was up to me, I’d make student teaching last a year and a half)
    First year teachers can be really terrific! They bring energy and love and new ideas. This is what I would say: that new teacher is going to need every single ounce of support and help you have to offer her. Whatever you can do, do it. In my opinion, it does take a few years to become skilled at teaching. I’ve been doing it 15+ years now and I am still learning. But everyone has to start somewhere. So, offer to volunteer in the room, offer to cut things out at home, offer to purchase supplies….or it none of those are possible (and they aren’t for everyone) just make sure your own child is really respectful and hard working and remember to smile at that teacher and to thank her once in a while. My first year was wonderful….and awful…..I didn’t sleep well or eat well and I didn’t have too many friends because I worked all the time. I often thought about quitting. It took until my third year to finally feel confident. I was grateful for the many parents who were nice to me.

    And MD, thanks for what you said. When I read the education blogs and while I know the anger at the system is not personal, it ends up feeling personal, as strange as that sounds. The other thing that is odd is some of the same criticisms people make of the system, teachers, unions and the like, I have made myself. I don’t completely understand the dysfunction that seems to override the hard work most people are doing. It is frustrating. I wonder if there could be some way for parents and teachers and other stakeholders to band together to meet common goals. Is that what PURE and Raise Your Hand does? If so, does anyone have experience with them and please tell us about it!

  • 136. WorkerB  |  August 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    MD: Or, maybe focus your research and creativity more on the quality of top administrators and principals, who are in a position to directly influence a school and enable, as servant-leaders, teachers to do as good a job as possible. That could be fruitful. FWIW.

  • 137. Working mom  |  August 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    @Hawthorne: Thank you for providing insight on “1st teaching job.” I will provide support to this new teacher in every way possible. I love to volunteer my time and am fortunate enough and very willing to donate additional supplies whenever necessary. I feel better about this now….

  • 138. Grace  |  August 29, 2011 at 8:18 am

    H-mom, it will be fun, looking forward to it.
    WorkerB, you’re right enough there. But do you have an example of how that has ever worked in the past?
    Working mom, is the new teacher in the Teach for American program? Does she have a mentor teacher at her new school?

  • 139. Grace  |  August 29, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Parents Across America is a good group getting started in Chicago.
    Raise Your Hand Il is a very good group.
    PURE, Julie Woesthof
    Designs for Change, Valencia Rias

  • 140. Angie  |  August 29, 2011 at 10:27 am


    There are some excellent points in this article.

  • 141. cps Mom  |  August 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Angie @140 – your article captures the feelings of many parents and reflects the thoughtfulness of many teachers. Worth a read to all, thanks for that.

    @119 – Grace I’m assuming from your inference that you believe that adding 90 minutes will not increase instructional time – can’t see that happening personally. You also mention that teachers are not into into it for the money and charter teachers leave because of the lack of union support. I’m sure teachers, like other professions, have a variety of reasons for choosing to do what they do. I have a teacher friend with other credentials as well as principal accreditation who chooses to teach at the neighborhood elementary school because he wants to be able to spend time with his own kids. His wife also teaches and their family does a lot of traveling to places like South America and China. He is really good at what he does and appreciates his pay along with the time off.

    Most teachers here seem to be with CPS – not sure if you are affiliated with the union Grace. I would like to hear from charter teachers themselves if they feel disadvantaged to not be part of CTU.

    @136 – as you mentioned, “unions are teachers”. Passing the buck to administrators only accomplishes a lot of finger pointing – been there. Teachers are the front line dealing with students and parents. Just as you would never go above someone’s head in the workplace unless it were completely necessary. There are many issues totally within control of teachers and parents expect the teachers (not the higher ups) to be the best advocate for their children.

    As Angie’s article suggests, the unions and the parents need to focus on and support good teachers – like Hawthorne Mom and others that are selflessly involved in their profession, not calculating $ per hour.

  • 142. Hawthorne mom  |  August 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I sometimes read the d299 blog, even though sometimes I dislike many of the really crazy comments. One poster who goes by “retired principal” said that Rahm Emmanuel told principals at the principal meeting on Friday that as of January 2012, all elementary schools will be going to the 90 minute longer day. I’ve heard various things on how this can or can not be done according to contract, but I don’t think Rahm would say it if it wasn’t going to happen. Just a heads up….don’t sign your kids up for park district classes (or other tuition based classes) that start at 3:30 for the winter
    session….wouldn’t want anyone to lose the fee on that.
    I am a little concerned about my own kids and how early or late they’ll be on the bus now. They get on at 7:15 as it is. I guess it will work out, but it does worry me a little from the timing perspective of the bus.

  • 143. Mayfair Dad  |  August 29, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    John Kass article today:


    For the record, John Kass and Mayfair Dad are not the same person. I am much handsomer.

  • 144. cpsobsessed  |  August 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    @143: Heh, I’m sure you are, MFDad. lol.
    That was a nice, simple read and very simply stated.
    I did think “hmmm” for a second seeing that the union objects to a 2% increase for 29% more time. That DOES seem like a bit of a disconnect. Despite the good intentions of it. Their job is to fight for fair conditions for teachers. I hope both groups are using time-honored negotiation techniques and can meet something in the middle.

  • 145. CPSmama  |  August 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    @142-hawthorne mom:

    How strange to add 90 minutes mid- year. As a parent of an SEHS student, I am glad to know the extra 90 minutes is not being added at the HS level (at least not this year). They already have fairly long days and w/ after school activities, it didn’t seem to make any sense.

    I do think all CPS students could benefit from fewer PD days.

  • 146. CPSmama  |  August 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    @143- no need to clarify. Kass’s kids are clearly of the suburban variety! (I take his CPS comments w/ a grain of salt as he is NOT with us in the trenches)

    @144- cpsobsessed- the CTU WANTS the issue to be phrased as “2% raise for 29% more work.” because it has shock value. But that really isn’t the issue. The point of the longer day is to fix something that has been broken for too long. I view it as a new job requirement for which no additional pay is required. The 2% is more of an incentive to go along with it. But CTU say no and now it looks like CPS is going force the longer day in Jan w/ no raise. Great work, CTU.

  • 147. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I agree 100% with Kass.

    Here’s what bothers me about teachers: they want to be respected like professionals but paid like teamsters. The Department of Labor has clear distinctions between hourly and salaried employees, the big one being that salaried employees are exempt from receiving overtime. For most of us with professional jobs, if our bosses ask us to put in extra time, we do it. We may do it to keep our jobs, to get a promotion, or because the work is an interesting opportunity, We don’t go back and say, “hey, you can’t ask me to work another 10% without giving me a raise, that’s not in my job description, that’s slavery!”

    Several years ago, I was giving my boss a hard time – I thought as a joke – because we lost the New Year’s Day holiday because it fell on a Sunday. Yes, we received one fewer day off that year than usual. In my review that year, he brought it up to document what he thought was my bad attitude. So, yeah, people in the private sector aren’t agitating to get a day off for Casimir Pulaski Day, and they aren’t throwing hissy fits when the boss asks them to skip lunch for a special project or to work on a Saturday to because of a client meeting.

    Finally, I thought most of the extra time was going to lunch and recess, yes? And that under the current contract, teachers were paid for lunch, only their lunch came at the end of the day rather than in the middle, yes? So it’s not all that much extra work. And you know what? CPS salaries are already comparable to or better than the salaries of all the teachers all over the country who work longer hours.

    We’re in the midst of a very long recession, and people have been asked to do more with less for a very long time. Can you go to all the parents in your schools, the ones who are working long hours because their colleagues have been fired, the ones who are unemployed, the ones who are working part time because they can’t get a full-time job – can you go to all those parents and say that making time for lunch and recess is the equivalent of slavery?

  • 148. Anonymous  |  August 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I am very torn on this issue. As a full-time employee, I see way too many people be “used” by my employer. They are asked, “What are your plans for the weekend?” when that really means, “You’re working this weekend.” Our hours are 9 – 6. And that means that we usually stay until 7, but on the off chance we have no work to do, there is a boss who comes around the office at about 5:30 to literally check who’s still there.

    I think it’s okay to want to protect your salary and work schedule. I used to work 9-5 with lunch OFF in the very same industry. It now means I work five hours more a week for less pay.

    I am not in a unionized business, but I know that without unions, we wouldn’t even get the weekends. Unions were the ones who have us 40 hour work weeks. Corporations without unions (like mine) took them away!

    Unions gave us child labor laws, safer working environments, and so much more.

    Yes, there is corruption. But don’t you think it’s corrupt that a “family-focused” company like mine thinks it’s A-OK to have everyone working 45-hour weeks for 40 hours of pay?

    I’m thankful that some unions still remain strong … for the rest of us! I wish I had a union to tell my boss to f-off when he asks me to work yet ANOTHER weekend, because I love my kids and want to be home on days like today when work is light … but I’ll be sitting here until 6 pm for no reason at all.

    Thank you, unions. Oh, and thank you, teachers! I stand behind you all the way. Just because I may feel envious that nobody supports my desire to work a shorter week or have more vacation time or anything else, doesn’t mean I can begrudge you for having that support in your union.

  • 149. cps Mom  |  August 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    @148 – Are you aware that legally in the state of Illinois you must have 1 UNPAID hour of lunch and must take it even if you opt to eat at your desk or work through lunch. Your employer has every right to 9-6 work day and it counts as 8 hours. It’s a common mistake for people to view lunch as work hours for no pay.

  • 150. cps Mom  |  August 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    good time to do some blogging!

  • 151. Mommy  |  August 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    If you’ve ever been involved with union-management relations, you know what there is NO CLEAR distinction between wage/salary and bargaining unit members and non-bargaining unit members. It’s quite complex and an on-going struggle to define.

  • 152. Working mom  |  August 29, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    @ 138 Grace: good questions. I was hesitant to ask if the new teacher is with “Teach for America.” Partly because I was processing my initial shock from learning this is the 1st teaching job for this young and highly energetic individual. I’ll have to inquire about Mentors. It’s important for new teachers to have them. I will provide as much support as possible too!

  • 153. magnet mom  |  August 29, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Many professionals have unions. Doctors in parts of Chicago’s public health system have unions which by the way protect their right to treat their patients for more than ten minutes at a time. That took plenty of bargaining.
    The teacher we have do plenty of unpaid work each day in the evenings, mornings, research on weekends, long afternoons, correcting work and designing assessment. Answering parent email.Blah Blah I won’t talk about it anymore after this comment either.
    Just an aside to H-mom check out the NCLB parent organization funds at your school. If you have a moderate number of low income parents there will be funds strictly set aside for parent education and development. It can be used to host workshops on doing homework or reading together. Some schools don’t spend these funds on parents but they should be spent developing parent’s abilities to help students grow their achievement in all areas. If a school’s school lunch numbers are high and the student population is also large there can be upwards of two thousand dollars in these funds as they are allocated per student. It’s important that the money is spent on parents somewhere.

  • 154. magnet mom  |  August 29, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    sorry that’s” teachers we have..”

  • 155. Hawthorne mom  |  August 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Magnet mom, thanks, I had no idea! I will talk with my principal about seeing what money we have through NCLB and if it could be used for parent workshops. 🙂
    Does anyone have any ideas for where to look for grant money for a set of leveled readers? I would love to have the first four boxes of leveled readers (fountas and pinnell) that scholastic sells. They cost about $150ish total. I can’t do donors choose because I am not a full time teacher. (unless a ton of kids register the first week, then they’ll add an afternoon kindergarten) Is there anywhere else that might do small grants for schools? I will do my own research too, but sometimes parents have insight that I don’t. Thanks!

  • 156. grace  |  August 30, 2011 at 7:31 am

    H-mom, why not go and ask the alderman in the school’s ward? I’m sure you will impress them. When we put in a butterfly garden, we asked and they helped with lots of tools and pick up.

    141 — I say right out what I think, an endearing part of my personality, no? There’s hardly ever a need to make inference.

    So no, I don’t think another 90 minutes will mean no additional instruction. I have been going on about developmentally appropriate school days, which of course include learning.

    But not I hope more teaching to the test whether on or off a computer. Not more time stuck at a desk. Not a further narrowing of the curriculum because we have so many tests for who knows what reason.

    But some people like that kind of curriculum, I guess.

    I think Junior asked first but I can say it again. No, I’m not paid by CTU or by any union. No self interest here. Just an honest difference of opinion.

    I worked my way through college as a cashier in a grocery store. It was a union job. I got minimum wage. I lived at home. Then I got a better union job. I could share an apartment and finish college. It took me 6 years. I was the first one in my extended family to go to college. I worked hard and became the first women v.p. in the US of a major multinational.

    So I like unions. They were once the main way working class folks moved up.

  • 157. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 30, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Here are some statistics on union membership from the Department of Labor: (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm)

    In 2010, 11.9 percent of workers were in a union. This breaks down to 36.2 percent of people in the public sector and 6.9 percent of people in the private sector. Workers in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate, 37.1 percent. Within in the private sector, the highest unionization rate was in transportation and utilities, 21.8 percent. The private sector industries and occupations with the lowest unionization rates were agriculture (1.6 percent), financial services (2.0 percent), and sales (3.2 percent).

    This may explain why voters in the private sector are not especially sympathetic to the argument that having lunch in the middle of the day instead of at the end of the day is tantamount to slavery.

  • 158. grace  |  August 30, 2011 at 7:47 am

    MFD, John Kass isn’t that bad looking! And he’s funny. But remember when he supported George W.? He can be interesting on Chicago politics. He still doesn’t know much about education.

    (If you guys want a boring dissection of his argument, I can give it to you. But it’ll cost you!)

    CBS just reported that 50% of women believe that Obama doesn’t deserve a second term.

    What do you think?
    And do you think Rahm and other Dems will also be affected?

  • 159. grace  |  August 30, 2011 at 8:40 am

    157 — Makes a lot of sense. Along those lines is Robert Reich. Google his “The Truth about the Economy. (Really entertaining and just 2 mins. long.)

    My summary of Reich:
    “Our economy has doubled since 1980, but most wages have barely increased when adjusted for inflation. The wealth has moved to the top, and they have the money to influence the tax code. The richest 400 Americans pay 17% in taxes.

    Without the ability to borrow, the middle class can’t sustain the recovery. They are scared. They fight amongst each other for crumbs. Class sizes increase. Private sector employees are pitted against public sector, native born against immigrant.”

    My editorializing:
    We are fighting for crumbs in education. We allow politicians through their PACs like Stand for Children to put the focus on bad teachers and bad unions as the whole reason poor kids don’t do well on tests or aren’t ready for college.

    It has been a really amazingly effective narrative when we KNOW from tons of univerity-level research as far back as Moynihan’s efforts in the 1960s how poverty and crime hurt kids and communities.

    The narrative splits teachers from the support of parents and that makes it easier for Rahm to bust the CTU.

    If the CTU agrees to the longer school day, they rip up their contract and SB7 takes effect immediately, giving Rahm great powers to fire teachers en masse.

    Rod Estvan of Access Living said it first.

    Think about it; the longer school day isn’t funded. Imagine the difficulty rescheduling at the last minute all the busing, CPD programs, or Maggie Daley’s excellent project Block 37.

    There is no way Rahm could realistically push through a longer day in two weeks. He just wants to bust CTU. He knows they can’t agree to that and it will give Rahm the opportunity to paint them as unreasonable, greedy and lazy. He splits CTU and teachers from the support of parents, many of whom are under- or un-employed and desperate for childcare.

    This is EXACTLY what Jonah Edelman of the PAC Stand for Children said Rahm was going to do next on the Aspen Ideas Festival video.

    [In case you missed it, Edelman helped Rahm’s push through SB7, which goes into effect with the expiration of the union contract in June 2012. The union will no longer have collective bargaining rights, no tenure, principals can hire anyone w.o.regard to teaching degree or credentials. Rahm can do want he likes then. But he is in a hurry now.

    Edelman described it in the video from the Aspen Ideas Festival, where he describes how he hired 11 lobbyists to push through SB7. You can google it if you don’t believe me.]

    Now in CPS, ISATS are up 3%. That’s real broad-based progress.
    And Illinois ACT are only 0.2 below the national average. But Illinois makes all juniors take the test, 46 other states only have the juniors who plan on going to college take the test. That makes the national average higher — but only by 0.2!

    And there hasn’t been a CPS strike in 22 years.

    So why Does Rahm want to bust CTU?

    Because the city has spent and spent but not met its legislated obligations to contribute to public sector pensions. It has a $19 billion pension obligation. (The $600 million city budget deficit is small potatoes.)

    And the wealthy among us don’t want their tax dollars to pay for pensions. They just don’t. And they have the clout with our politicians to get their way. We only have votes.

    Not to extrapolate too much, but I was chatting with a smart, successful trader at a BBQ recently. He firmly believes that our schools are failing b/c of lousy teachers.

    He’s a great numbers guy. So when I told him that the ISATs were up 3% this year, his eyes popped. He knows how hard that kind of increase is. And he had never been told that piece of information.

    Still it doesn’t mean he wants to pay more taxes. That’s where politicians telling us the truth and doing the right thing come in. But they won’t as long as campaign finance stays as it is.

  • 160. Blaine Parent  |  August 30, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Grace @159 – Your posts are great and have helped me to see some of the other side of this issue, I appreciate how many different perspectives are represented here. I certainly see the need to be an involved parent at my school, and strive to to so. One argument that you make that I don’t understand, however, is the idea that the longer school day is being sprung on the CTU and there is no way to implement within 2 weeks. What bothers me as a parent is that the longer school day has been presented and turned down through Raise your Hand, and also that Rahm campaigned on this platform. The idea that the longer school day proposal is a surprise is lost on me. I feel backed into a corner since my school turned down the modified open campus plan which entailed an extension of lunch and recess only, no increased instructional time. Now I feel I have no choice but to back Rahm’s plan because I firmly believe we need a longer school day and year in CPS. I would be happy with just an increase in lunch and more recess time, but that was rejected by our teachers for reasons I don’t understand. My frustration stems from the fact that it is well know the school day will be increased, however, the CTU has not come up with their own proposal for how to implement this increase other then requiring a raise.

  • 161. Anonymous  |  August 30, 2011 at 9:34 am

    CPS Mom — I’m not sure of your facts. I don’t believe that the state mandates more than a half hour break — and I think that’s for hotel or restaurant or something (my friend is a union organizer for hotel and restaurant industry). But, in any case, we bill by the hour. And we used to only have to bill 35 hours a week and they LET us have lunch. They paid for it. Now, we work 45 hours a week and are paid for 40. So, my statement stands. Whether or not we are “forced” by the state to take a lunch, which we never do, anyway, we are still NOT getting paid for 5 hours of time in the office. I think being in the office constitutes working. At least I see it that way as it’s time away from my kids — commuting home by 6:30 or 7 instead of 5:30. Big difference to me. And that is the point I’m making.

    Okay. Better get back to work! Thanks for the discussion!!

  • 162. cps Mom  |  August 30, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Feel free to check out the Illinois labor laws on line. An 8 hour day is 9-6 for salaried employees.

  • 163. grace  |  August 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Great point, Blaine! All kids need a decent lunch and recess.
    It’s a shame it was voted down at your school.

    The administration doesn’t want to give a reason?
    Playground is in good repair?
    Scheduling of lunches?
    If you have a reason, you can craft a solution. Imho, the dialogue needs to begin again. Maybe 5 to 10 parents can get together to talk this week? Meet at a coffee shop or the park?

    [Maybe — if it looks as though it will take time — start a Blaine Recess blog to communicate easily and to post notice of meetings and progress?]

    A bunch of you should go to the principal before school begins and politely re-open the conversation. Present your concerns at the first LSC meeting. Hand out flyers when parents drop off kids.

    There isn’t any reason why the issue can’t be voted upon again, and Rahm’s push for a longer day might have been a wake-up call.

    I’ve rarely seen a teacher go against the administration, so I would guess the principal wasn’t for recess. But the longer day will happen at the most in one year. The principal and teachers stand to lose a lot of parent support — which they will need once their contract ends — if they don’t work with Blaine parents on recess — now.

    Also, you might run for LSC if you have time.

    I would not give up on recess, and I wish you the best. Keep us posted. If you set up a blog, give us the address.

  • 164. Blaine Parent  |  August 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Grace – thank you for your suggestions! I am considering a LSC run…
    Blaine is currently in the process of selecting a new principal, and we have an interim principal in the meantime (he is wonderful). I don’t know how much I can push the recess issue now as the LSC is overwhelmed with the selection process and this is the primary topic of all meetings. All of your other suggestions are wonderful! Maybe I’ll schedule some time with the interim principal a few weeks into school to find out exactly why the modified open campus was rejected. Thanks for the ideas, I will definitely post if we start a website to gain more support for the modified open campus plan.

  • 165. Mayfair Dad  |  August 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

    @ 160

    CPS releases recess guidelines
    May 23, 2011
    Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Tribune reporter

    Parents’ efforts to bring back recess took a big leap forward Monday.

    Chicago Public Schools released a guideline laying out what schools need to do to carve out time in the school day for a 20-minute recess break. The guideline states that prior to the end of the school year, schools will need to form review committees made up of three parents on the Local School Council, three teachers, one union delegate and a principal.

    The committee members will look into changing the schedule to allow for recess and ultimately vote on that change. CPS’ recess guideline also includes the required forms, parent letters and other documents.

    “We’re thrilled that we’re going to finally stop depriving children of physical activity and the social time they deserve to be more productive members of society,” said Patricia O’Keefe, steering committee member of Raise Your Hand, which held a workshop for parents interested in adding recess last month. About 150 parents from 35 schools showed up.

    Most schools began cutting recess more than three decades ago when CPS shortened lunch periods by 20 minutes, required lunch to be supervised and made teachers take their own lunches at the end of the day. For most schools, adding recess will mean teachers will return to taking their lunch during the day, instead of after school, and the school day will be extended by 45 minutes for students.

    That change does not increase teacher pay because the teachers’ lunch break is simply moved from the end of the day to the middle, but Chicago Teachers Union officials are insisting that a vote by a review committee is not sufficient. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said that a change in the school schedule will require a majority of the school’s union members to approve it in addition to the vote by the recess review committee.

    Lewis said she’s happy that CPS is bringing back recess to schools but warned that CPS needs to ensure that teachers have a voice. The review committee can have a majority vote against keeping the current non-recess schedule or be deadlocked on the vote for recess to be reinstituted, according to CPS’ guidelines.

    “We really want to make sure our members are not intimidated into doing this,” Lewis said.

    CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the schools system’s reading of the union contract does not require a separate vote by union members at a school.

    Schools that have begun the process of advocating for recess may be able to implement the change in schedule as early as the coming school year. CPS expects though that most schools will use next year as a transitional period to build support and add recess in the 2012-13 school year.

    Mayfair Dad translation: No recess for your children at Blaine? Thank the CTU.

  • 166. Angie  |  August 30, 2011 at 10:37 am

    @159. grace: “And the wealthy among us don’t want their tax dollars to pay for pensions. They just don’t. And they have the clout with our politicians to get their way. We only have votes. ”

    I am far from wealthy, and I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for the inflated public sector union pensions, either.

    In fact, I have a problem when the public sector unions strong-arm themselves more pay, shorter work days, better benefits and retirement packages that the public that pays for all that with their tax dollars. I have especially big problem when the children are used as a bargaining chip in that strong-arming, the way CTU does.

    IMO, the unions are bleeding this city dry, and it’s about time Rahm or someone else busted them for good. It’s the 21st century, for crying out loud, so it’s not like we are going to revert to the indentured servitude without paying some guy overtime to change the light bulbs at McCormick Center.

    And as far as 50% women not happy with Obama, where does that statistic come from, exactly? And what makes you think that a Republican president will be any better for your beloved unions?

  • 167. Alcott comment  |  August 30, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Alcott Elementary in Lincoln Park has everything a school needs to make a decent recess/lunch period happen. Facilities, parental support, etc.

    The LSC railroaded a vote through, completely ignoring parental input, denying the request for “open campus.”

    Like Mayfair Dad’s translation: Thanks CTU. Thanks for my kids having to slop down lunch in five minutes. You’re welcome that you all can get home to your own kids by 2:00 every day after leaving our kids there to rot at 1:45 every day.

    Ranks a rot, CTU.

  • 168. Mayfair Dad  |  August 30, 2011 at 10:41 am

    @ 166 Angie.

    Wow. I think I love you.

  • 169. Veteran Teacher  |  August 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    When it comes to the perception of the “greedy” teacher, I want to point out that the Chicago Teachers Union is really only allowed by law to negotiate over salary and benefits. So, when you hear teachers discuss whether or not a 1% raise is a reasonable sum for a 29% increase in on-site work hours, that’s because compensation is one of the few things CPS is actually required to negotiate with the Union.

    Unlike in suburban school districts CPS is not required, for example, to negotiate over class sizes. And they won’t. They impose the class sizes they wish. That’s why my class sizes are in the mid-40s.

    Unlike in suburban school districts CPS is not required to negotiate over the length of the school day and the school year. And they won’t. They will impose what they wish. Next year we will definitely see 90 minutes more per day, plus two weeks added to the year. Despite Mr. Brizard’s comments to the media it would be naive to think that CPS has any intention of actually working *with* teachers on designing that longer school day. Please, forgive my cynicism. And I support a longer school day, provided teachers *and* students are treated properly in its implementation.

    Chicago teachers, and their Union, do want what is best for students. They also want what is best for employees. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

  • 170. WorkerB  |  August 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks for the good info, Grace. I appreciate it.

  • 171. Veteran Teacher  |  August 30, 2011 at 7:43 pm


    Does the Alcott principal support recess? Does the LSC support it? I’m confused.

  • 172. Anonymous  |  August 30, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Mom2 (#72),

    CPS will not negotiate over class size (or air conditioning for that matter). They are not required to do so. However, every other Illinois school district is required to negotiate over class size.

  • 173. Chicago Gawker-  |  August 30, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Are principals allowed to be /are members of CTU? They are technically ‘management’, which is normally excluded from union membership. I’d like to see more discussion/ outing, tales from the front about principals who prevent motivated, competent teachers from performing and doing the right thing. With all the teacher bashing that is so fashionable, I have a sneaking suspicion that there is an untold story about principals.

  • 174. Ruko  |  August 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Principals are not members of the CTU. Neither are Assistant Principals.

    I have yet to see an outstanding school with a poor principal. (And I do not base that assessment on test scores.) Teachers in our building are routinely told by our administrators to LEAVE and go home, even if we are working with students. Bad principals, especially those that ignore the wishes of the community, are a huge problem in CPS. A colleague’s principal refuses to consider recess. She doesn’t want to distract students from their rote memorization and test prep time. And yes, these are neighborhood schools.

  • 175. G. McGuire  |  August 30, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    I have worked for CPS for well over 20 years. The first school I worked at orignally had an 8:30 for teachers and 9:00 for students. There was a morning and afternoon 10 minute recess. Teachers had recess “duty” one day a week. Students went home for lunch at 12:00 and returned at 1:00 for the afternoon session. Some students had waivers to eat at school (in the basement supervised by the assistant principal who took her lunch at 1:00) Teachers had a duty free lunch period from 12:00 to 12:45. The school day ended at 3:15 for both teachers and students. This schedule changed because of two factors. The first factor was the number of parents requesting that their child stay at school for lunch began to dramatically increase. The death knell of this schedule came when the Federally funded lunch program took effect. Believe me, we teachers were not happy about this. The mid-day lunch break gave us time to regroup, plan, and even eat a lunch! We fought it, but CPS wanted that Federal money. Next thing you know, we are starting at 8:30 and getting out at 2:30 with a 20 minute break, while the students ate lunch. Our 45 minute lunch was now at the end of the day. So, I can assume that we will be going back to that type of schedule again. I will be happy to get a break in the middle of the day. I will also be happy to see my students have some time to run around and burn off that excess energy. However, having been shafted inumerable times by CPS, I want to see how they plan to provide coverage for the students while I get my lunch break. If recess is the students sitting at their desks with a teacher aid, they can keep it. I want to see some type of plan,

    I want to also state that I wholeheartedly agree with a longer school day. There is not enough time in the day to be effective and do the kind of lessons that are do more than scratch the surface. Let’s see a viable plan with some compensation and you will be surprised how many teachers would be on board.

  • 176. WorkerB  |  August 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    @ 175. G. McGuire

    Thank you for your insight. Having the history always helps. Your description of CPS elementary schedule of 20 years ago is what I had as a kid. But, I also had a stay-at-home mom during those years (for lunches at home).

    Also, your approach to changes in the school day is what I’ve been hearing from teachers. That’s not how Emanuel and the media are spinning the story however, imho. Not sure how/why teachers and their union are being so demonized.

  • 177. grace  |  August 31, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Below is from teacher Fred Klonsky’s blog about the phony 2% raise for a longer school day, and about what all the cuts will mean to the schools. Special needs schools will be hurt more than the rest. (Btw, Sarah Karp of Catalyst, Ben Joravsky or the Reader and Rebecca Vevea of Chicago News Coop REALLY know CPS.)

    “Rahm plays the press like Stradavarius, and schools, teachers and students pay the price.

    Over the summer I was asked to be a panelist on Chicago Newsroom. It’s an interesting show on cable access. That guarantees it a small audience, although anyone can watch the video of each show on youtube. Ken Davis, a former press guy for Mayor Daley, is a gregarious host. …

    This past week, the panelists featured Emanuel appointed CPS board member Rod Sierra, Sarah Karp from Catalyst and Nora Ferrell of the Community Media Workshop. …

    Sarah Karp begins to talk about the impact of budget cuts on schools. She estimates that each school in Chicago will lose an average of half a million dollars, that the two city-wide Special Needs schools will be hit particularly hard, that class sizes will increase slightly. All in addition to cuts in after school programs, security and other services Everyone agreed that there would be “pain” at the school and classroom level even Board member Sierra.

    Then the issue of the longer school day came up.

    Nobody addressed the issue of why the Mayor would cut so deeply at the school level causing so much pain and then turn around and argue for a longer school day. And then it became clear that this whole longer school day is just Emanuel gaming the teachers union and the public.

    Karp blew the whistle on the Mayor. It was all a set-up to embarrass the teachers union. Karp explained how the news of the two percent offer to elementary teachers that allegedly slipped out during JC Brizard’s appearance on public television’s Chicago Tonight was phony as a three dollar bill.

    The media and been told ahead of time to watch Chicago Tonight, Karp admitted.

    Rather than go to the union using fair bargaining practices, Rahmbo and Brizard went public and played the media like a fine violin.
    “Brilliant,” the panel all agreed.
    Turned my stomach.”

  • 178. grace  |  August 31, 2011 at 9:39 am


    It’s the unions bleeding the city, our political leaders haven’t overspent? (It’s cute, but how much did that chrome kidney bean cost?)

    Btw, who will you call in an emergency?

    A “greedy” police officer or firefighter?

    MFD — you are so fickle!

  • 179. Grace  |  August 31, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Hi Blaine, I hope I’ve encouraged you. The kids will be so much happier.

    Right now, when the LSC is considering principal candidates is the best time to pursue full lunch/recess, imho.

    I can see how the interim principal doesn’t want to upset anybody’s apple cart right now, especially if that person is a candidate. But this is the time for parents to get together and express their expectations going forward on important issues.

    Your LSC could set up a subcommittee to help them with the principal search. The subcommittee doesn’t get to vote, but they can review all documents and reach out to parents with a survey to determine the important issues. For more info on this last bit, contact Valencia Rias, Designs for Change. [MFD, if you met her, I’m afraid you’d fall in love all over again. ; ) ]

  • 180. cps Mom  |  August 31, 2011 at 10:04 am

    @175 – Ah yes the days when kids actually walked home for lunch. So CPS grabbing for money ended that scenario. I always thought it was the gangs, pedophiles, auto traffic and other dangers. Boy am I naive. Not to mention that a large % of kids live no where near their school these days.

    Several schools already have recess and have no problem with scheduling. Our school had recess when we entered and throughout the 9 years of elementary school so I am having a difficult time understanding the difficulties.

    Your statement about a “viable plan with compensation” is exactly what is turning parents off and against CTU.

  • 181. CPSmama  |  August 31, 2011 at 10:36 am

    CTU is beginning to remind me of the democrats in Washington- stop whining about how bad the other side is and effing do something! (using my Rahm vocab for this one)

  • 182. Grace  |  August 31, 2011 at 10:46 am

    How bad is the other side?

    Well, Duncan is making it perfectly legal for CPS and other cities to permanently cut spending for Special Ed kids. That makes the mayor’s new budget legal. Maybe the sped students were bleeding the city dry, too.


    For the details.

  • 184. Grace  |  August 31, 2011 at 11:01 am

    CPS principals were just given a presentation by Brizard. It’s posted on district 299. As usual, Rod Estvan’s analysis of it is the best you can get in this city.


    183 — Perhaps you think that no human organization should have problems? Our stressed out armed services, our hospitals, our grid-locked US. Congress?

    You really have made your point — you believe public sector workers are greedy and worse and their unions need to be busted.

    Might be time to change topic?

    I, for one, would like this forum to be a place where all voices are welcome, including and especially the voices of teachers. We can learn more that way.

  • 185. cps Mom  |  August 31, 2011 at 11:12 am

    @184 – there you go – putting words into other peoples mouths again. Not worth the discussion.

  • 186. Mayfair Dad  |  August 31, 2011 at 11:29 am

    @ 164 Blaine parent. I agree with Grace (gasp!) – a great time to bring up the recess and longer school day discussion is during the principal selection process. I recommend the excellent Principal Selection workshop hosted by Valencia Rias at Designs for Change. DFC will come to your school and work with your LSC.

    Two approaches to consider:

    1. Our LSC Principal Selection committee crafted an addendum to the standard CPS principal contract. Your LSC has the option of doing the same.

    2. Strongly urge your LSC to hold a “Town Hall Meeting” for parents to see and hear the principal finalists. This is the time for you to ask each candidate about recess, longer school day and anything else important to the Blaine community.

    Put it on the table early and often. Be the squeaky wheel at every LSC meeting. Get other parents to squeak with you. Good luck.

  • 187. Junior  |  August 31, 2011 at 11:44 am

    @156 grace

    No, I did not ask you if you were paid by CTU. Must have been someone else. Putting words in people’s mouth’s again? Please try to be more careful with your attributions.

    But it is interesting that CTU defenders are using a twist on Romney’s “corporations are people” and saying that “unions are people”. I actually think this analogy is more apt than they would care to admit. I wonder, do some union members realize how closely some of their actions resemble the corporate greed that they so frequently criticize? Unions are machines that single-mindedly seek their members self-interests in much the same way that corporations singlemindedly seek profits.

    When workers are disempowered and in a position to be exploited, unions are a positive force. But, when their power becomes disproportionately large, the scales tip to the negative. Same might be said for corporations. Maybe CTU is not “too big to fail” yet, but certainly it is large enough that over the years politicians had incentive to give them what they wanted in exchange for support/votes. Now, as that dynamic (multiplied multifold across other government sectors) has catapulted our state to fiscal crisis, the voting dynamic has turned decidedly against the unions. While there is a danger, such as in Wisconsin, that the state will overreach and use the situation too push ideological extremism, frankly, I don’t see that in Illinois. Wisconsin teachers were out in front putting concessions on the table as part of what was recognized as shared sacrifice that we all must endure in our current economy. I have yet to see any shared sacrifice put on the table from the CTU, which is especially surprising given how advantageous a contract they have had for some time.

    (For comparison of school day lenghths and teacher pay across some urban districts, see:
    http://www.chicagonow.com/district-299-chicago-public-schools-blog/2011/08/the-year-ahead-according-to-cps/ )

    What we have seen is corporate-type double-speak where the union says they are for recess and a better school day, while the rank-and-file vote down Open Campus without much discussion at schol after school. (Almost like Exxon-Mobile commercials telling us what good environmental stewards they are.)

    If corporations are people and unions are people, well, I guess people sometimes behave well and sometimes quite badly. The whole union/anti-union discussion is too broad-brushed to be useful. We need to talk about specific issues and actions. I, for one, am calling out teachers for their part in eliminating recess at schools across Chicago. That’s why I support CPS’ imposing a longer school day in a top-down fashion. That is simply what’s best for the kids.

    Where else in the country do teachers’ contracts give teachers such power to decide between (1) leaving early for the day or (2) giving kids recess? I mean, I’m not surprised that teachers have voted that way — it’s a natural choice. But, how did the CTU get so powerful that they negotiated a contract that gave teachers the choice instead of just making that decision in the kids’ best interests?

  • 188. Junior  |  August 31, 2011 at 11:52 am

    @186 MD

    Good ideas. We were thinking about going the principal evaluation route for pushing recess as well. How can I contact you for some information on your approach? Maybe I can set up an email address for communication on this.

  • 189. Blaine parent  |  August 31, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Thanks you Grace and MFD! I am realtively new to CPS with young children, one in pre-k. I have tried to attend the LSC meetings to learn more about the system, but I must say, I find these meetings to be a bit closed off and inflamatory. The LSC members often remind the parents who attend the meetings that it is ‘their’ meeting and questions can only be asked if you sign up. This is a bit intimidating to us newbies trying to learn the system. I value that the LSC members are donating their time and efforts to such an important job, but I wish I felt they embraced the parent attendence a bit more and encouraged participation and questions. I’ve learned more from this website than from my own LSC, thank youo for the tips and insight! I’ll continue to attend, and try to schedule a meeting with our interim principal to discuss my concerns. Perhaps I’ll even run for the LSC at some time…

  • 190. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    You know you guys make me anxious when you fight, right? I think it’s a good thing I only have one child.

    Just wanted to throw in a few words about the recess/LSC stuff.

    First, I am thrilled that my son’s school has added open campus for this coming school year. The school day is now 45 minutes longer which includes extra lunch, recess AND…. drumroll please…. an extra 20 minutes a day of instructional time. I am as thrilled about it as I am when my company announced a casual dress code year ago.

    There was a small group of parents (one is part of RYH) who help shephard the plan through (and I believe the LSC supported it.) My understanding is that there was a lot of thoughtful discussion about how to make it work, as the logistic are not that easy (given that the teachers don’t cover the extra lunch/recess time since that is their downtime.) It takes extra people and organization to make it happen and I don’t even know the details yet. I get the sense that the principal supported it in theory, but had to really work through the nitty gritty to figure it all out. It wasn’t an easy “yes” for those reasons.

    Regarding the LSC input, I’m sure Mayfair Dad and I and other could go on and on about the challenges of the LSC meetings. I think my main advice is that it is hard to make a change as a lone voice. The LSC hears a ton of parents during the year having a lone voice about a range of topics ranging from very narrow to very broad. Certain topics (especially principal eval and hiring, when done right) take a ton of mental energy. So to get an issue to the top of their mind takes a showing that many parents support an issue. You have to be there as a group at every meeting and keep bringing it up nicely but firmly.

    Running for the LSC as a lone voice is also an uphill battle. It takes several people (ideally a majority) with the same goals to make a difference. It certainly can’t HURT to run, but one option is to get several parents to run together as the Recess parents and spread the word that you guys need to be voted in together. A “ticket”, some people would call it. At my LSC training I heard many stories of a lone person getting on the LSC to try to impact a school. If nobody else shares your views, it’s just a waste of time, frankly. You learn a lot the first term though, so it can be good to get in there, learn the way things work, then rally some supporters. Of course by then, you’re child will be in 4th grade! But progress typically takes time in CPS….

  • 191. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    The discussion of union busting is a distraction. Parents want good education for their children. Taxpayers want value for the money that they pay. In general, though, taxpayers and parents believe that teachers are not delivering value and are, in fact, obstructing education by the union’s intransigence on wages and hours.

    Maybe unions did bring some people into the middle class, but given the falling union influence in our country, I’d rather bet on giving kids an education than on giving them a union card if they are do to well in life and compete in a global economy. Yes, there was a day when a kid could get a job in the Ford plant and do as well as someone who went to college, but that day is long gone.

    If that makes me a teacher-basher and and a union-buster, then so be it. (By the way, I’m the one who asked if Grace worked for CTU.)

    And, Blaine Parent, I suspect the culture at Blaine will change a lot with the new principal. I, too, am a Blaine parent. I give Mrs. V. a lot of credit for turning the school around, but the only parents she liked to deal with were parents bearing checks.

  • 192. Teller  |  August 31, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I am glad for you CPSObsessed. I’ve worked in schools with that 45 minute lunch and prefer it. The issue in other schools, always seems to be money for staffing and facilities, because all students still generally have to eat at shool. I don’t think some here realize that about 1/3 of CPS schools have the schedule you desribe

  • 193. cps grad  |  August 31, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I read through the entire “CPS Principal Kick off Event” that was posted on the District 299 blog. Nice to know that the principals got 2 breaks and a 30 minute lunch… I just can’t figure out why they don’t think a 5 year old deserves the same.

  • 194. RL Julia  |  August 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I can’t believe that the LSC would deign to say that it is “their” meeting – its not, it is a public meeting and there should be time allotted on the (publicly posted) agenda for such. That being said, most parents visit the LSC at my school when they want to complain about a specific incident about their specific child – this is largely an inappropriate venue for such a discussion. Additionally, I’ve seen many LSC members on my LSC over the years that ran with the agenda of improving their individual child’s experience. That’s not really the LSC’s concern either – we are responsible for ALL children’s experience – not just yours and hence decisions etc… must reflect that broader view. Successful LSC candidates and member need to make data based decisions (not antidotal) that improve the educational and/or social experience for many children – not just yours – then you’ll win an election handily. Who doesn’t want longer recess?

  • 195. Grace  |  August 31, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    From Mike Klonsky’s blog:

    Yesterday I spent some time on the phone with the good folks over at the University of Chicago’s Lab School. … It’s school year is actually a week shorter than CPS’ and Lab kids and families enjoy longer vacations and spring and winter breaks.

    Not only that, Lab dismisses kids an hour early two days a week so that teachers have time to meet, plan and collaborate.

    Not only that, but the Lab school day is packed with arts, music and phys ed, rather than Rahm’s favorite subject — test prep. Not only that, but Lab teachers have an hour for lunch. Wow!

    By the way, all these policies and schedules are hatched out in negotiations between administration and the union representing the teachers at Lab, rather than on a politician’s whim.

    BTW, those negotiations aren’t carried out in the press, Rahm.

  • 196. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Grace, a few questions for you:

    Is the number of school *days* the same at Lab as at CPS? In other words, do they students also get off for Casimir Pulaski Day? Do they get a full week in the month of November?

    I see the Lab teachers get two hours off a week for meeting, planning, collaboration, etc. How is this different from CPS Teacher Institute Days? Isn’t that the same as professional development? Do the parents get 5-minute conferences twice a year, or do they receive more interaction with Lab teachers?

    Do students at Lab have a longer day, or a shorter day? Yes, the teachers get an hour for lunch – but does their day end at 1:45?

    Do Lab students take math, science, and reading? Are those subjects synonymous with “test prep”?

    Is a Lab education effective with poor children who do not have college-educated parents who can afford extensive enrichment?

    How much money do Lab teachers make? What kind of pensions and benefits do they have? What kind of job security do they have?

    I suspect that if you looked deeper, you would find that Lab teachers make less money, put in more hours, and are held to higher standards than CPS teachers.

  • 197. Hawthorne mom  |  August 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I asked today about the 90 minutes. Rahm is stating he wants it in January. The union is saying that would be a breach of contract due to the fact that the only thing the city was allowed to opt out of was the raise (since they declared a fiscal emergency). Right or wrong, whatever side you take, the contract is a legal document. I won’t get into the morality of it.
    So, all in all, it appears as if anything could happen. Who knows! I am going to go make name tags for all my files now and for the kids’ cubbies and do some lesson planning. Enjoy discussing!
    (oh and I learned something interesting today too! Did you know that kids only have to get 20% of the questions correct on the ISAT to “meet” standards? What a joke. That decision was terrible. Who decided to lower that bar that far? Just one more reason not to even glance at “meets” when choosing a school)

  • 198. Junior  |  August 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    @197 HM
    What is your source for the information about the ISATs? That seems preposterous. If there are five multiple-choice answers, then one can easily “meet” standards with random guessing.

    @195 Grace
    Nothing wrong with taking the argument to the public. Seems like anytime CPS does things out of public view they get slammed for lack of transparency. I think he feels that a public airing can only help him. If the facts are on his side, then it is a smart move. Seems to be paying off so far, I’d say. On this issue, it seems to me that the teachers have been the ones who have wanted to keep the public’s attention away from this issue. I wonder why.

  • 199. Mayfair Dad  |  August 31, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    @ 190 cpsobsessed:

    I used to spend my summers with Long Island Cousin. Every day – usually around 3:00 p.m. when we were tired, hungry, bored, sunburned and sick of each other – we would have a smackdown fight. By dinnertime we were talking to each other and by bedtime we were best friends again which was helpful since we shared a bed.

    Sort of like me and Grace. Not the bed part.

    And wasn’t that totally random story so…Gracelike?

  • 200. cpsobsessed  |  August 31, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I need to start a post Hall of Fame…..that was a great one, MFD. I’m am laughing out loud, for real.

    Ok, you kids all get a popsicle after dinner tonight.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 201. Hawthorne mom  |  August 31, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Junior, I should have included my source. A CPS principal who sat through the principal’s meeting on Friday where they discussed “rigor” at great length. She specifically told us CPS is no longer looking at “meets” like they used to. At least until the common core standards are implemented with a much, much, much harder test with much higher standards, CPS as a whole is going to be looking at exceeds.

  • 202. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  August 31, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    That was something the Lake View principal said – that “meets” is not enough for doing high-school level work. And that is just so damn sad. So many kids in Chicago are getting completely screwed.

  • 203. Angie  |  August 31, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    @178. grace: “It’s the unions bleeding the city, our political leaders haven’t overspent? (It’s cute, but how much did that chrome kidney bean cost?)

    Btw, who will you call in an emergency?

    A “greedy” police officer or firefighter? ”

    Of course the previous political leaders have overspent, and made some stupid financial decisions. But that was before Rahm’s time, so I’m not going to blame him for it. We’ll see what the future brings.

    And are you saying that without the unions no one would want to be a cop or a firefighter? Does that mean that all of them are in it just for the paychecks and pensions? Somehow, I don’t think so. Although, with some firefighters getting caught padding their mileage, or filing lawsuits because they could not pass the promotion tests, one has to wonder…

  • 204. Sped Mom  |  August 31, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Just to get off union & Emanuel…did anyone read the new Atlantic story aboutmiddle-class parenting?

  • 205. grace  |  September 1, 2011 at 9:46 am

    When we were young and bored, my office mates played a game called “Better Wed or Dead?”

    One of us would shout out the name of a man we worked with and we’d all vote if we’d rather be married to him or die.

    so fun!

  • 206. Junior  |  September 1, 2011 at 9:57 am

    @201 HM

    I have no doubt that the bars for achieving “meets standards” have been dramatically lowered to make it appear that progress is being made. But, I’m skeptical about the assertion that it takes only 20% correct to achieve “meets”.

    All this time and money spent on tests and we can’t even know what the results mean. Seems like instead of accountability, NCLB has brought new and improved ways to skirt accountability.

  • 207. cps Mom  |  September 1, 2011 at 10:30 am

    @187 and 191 Junior and CPSD – well put, thanks for putting forth the issues critical to parents of CPS kids.

    We were fortunate to attend one of the schools that developed their own plan incorporating recess and other programs that promoted healthy learning. I wholly support your call to reinstate recess along with the longer day that would be very advantageous for our kids.

    @190 CPSO – I think what your school has done on it’s own accord is fabulous. This supports my experience that the teachers/principals in general are very caring and take pride in the type of programming that the schools offer.

  • 208. Hawthorne mom  |  September 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    On channel 5 tonight, it was reported that 19 suburban schools decided to close due to the extreme heat. I feel so sorry for kids in schools with no AC. I honestly think for CPS that it will take a kid dying for them to realize heat days are just as needed as snow days. I know that I would absolutely not be sending my son with asthma go to school on a day like today. I’d take an unexcused absence to keep him safe if needed. Most people without asthma cannot understand how hard it is to breathe in this kind of heat and humidity. And when classrooms are at least ten degrees hotter than outside temps, I would not risk his life because of the careless of people making decision to keep school doors open in this heat….especially when those folks are sitting in nice AC.

  • 209. Hawthorne mom  |  September 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Mean to write “carelessness” and “the decision”.

  • 210. Grace  |  September 2, 2011 at 9:10 am

    H-mom has a great point about the heat in these old brick school buildings. A friend who worked for the mayor during the 1995 killer heat wave said that the sun heats the bricks up just like a oven making it hotter inside than outside. And day after day of high heat means the bricks don’t cool off during the night.

  • 211. Grace  |  September 2, 2011 at 9:11 am

    From DePaul professor Mike Klonsky’s blog. New Trier has the same school year as Chicago. So why are outcomes better?

    “It’s not that they have discovered some new great way to teach their students in Winnetka. The curriculum is fairly traditional and there’s nothing genetic or anything in the drinking water that makes their kids smarter. Their school year is the same as Chicago’s.

    Rather their super-high test scores (better than Finland’s) and college-going rate can best be attributed to the wealth of resources available to families and students. New Trier’s teachers are highly regarded and paid well, nearly twice as much as other state high school teachers. A recent community survey said the recruitment and retention of top teachers is a “top priority.” “

  • 212. Grace  |  September 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Today data showed that no jobs were created in August. Public sector workers continue to be fired. No president has ever been re-elected when the jobless rate hit 9%. Wonder how the mayor’s work in Chicago will affect the President.

    From second city cop:

  • 213. Grace  |  September 2, 2011 at 10:59 am

    FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 02, 2011
    Rahm’s Hatchet Man

    At least we know exactly what they’re after in negotiations next year:

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel could wring $300 million from the combined $1.8 billion budgets of Chicago’s Police and Fire Departments, in part by dramatically altering union contracts that expire June 30, an influential alderman said Thursday.

    “There’s no more sacred cows when the taxpayers are hurting like they are,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), former chairman of the City Council’s Police and Fire Committee.

    Beale has already infuriated the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) by targeting the $1,800-a-year uniform allowance officers receive as well as duty-availability pay, a $2,800-a-year lump sum that essentially compensates officers for being on call at any time.

    Now, he’s going even further.

    Is anyone going to point out that we’ve already done more than our share for the city? We settled for lower contract raises for years, taking “uniform allowances and duty availability pay” instead of the far more expensive raises, which would have been pensionable (meaning the city’s pension contributions would have risen dramatically.) We saved them millions during lean times, now we’re being tasked with saving even more even though we lived up to our part of the negotiated agreement.

    Beale also wants to change to a commissary system:
    Instead of doling out annual uniform checks, Beale wants to switch to a voucher system to save as much as $50 million a year. Officers who need shirts, pants and jackets would get reimbursed. Those who don’t would get nothing.
    Is this covering everything? What about new hires? What about the connected uniform stores? Are they going to stand for being put out of business? We own a bunch of uniforms so we have a fresh one most days – are we going to have the same number available to us?

    And then we get down to the brass tacks – screwing the people who actually pay taxes:
    Instead of having the same number of police officers assigned to every watch and district, Beale is talking about putting officers when and where the crime is. That would allow Emanuel to eliminate 1,400 police vacancies and shrink the police force through attrition.

    “I know it’s an unpopular thing to say. … But if you put the officers where they’re needed vs. where they’re wanted, you could see a reduction,” he said.

    “It has to be a conscious effort to make the unpopular decision to say, ‘We’re gonna move officers around to where they’re most needed — not where they’re most wanted.’ If we’re gonna make the entire city safe, we can do it with less officers.”

    And guess where the crime will migrate to? The places with no police? Bingo! Then what will these brainiacs do?

    Arm yourselves citizens. You are about to become the most unusual social experiment in history.
    Labels: department issues


  • 214. Mommy  |  September 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Re: CPD & CPS & $ – How do you feel about this slight of hand?

    Here’s something the reporters aren’t highlighting, but Rod Esvan has:

    By: Rod Estvan
    The cuts at CPS and the cuts at CPD

    I would add only one aspect to George’s report. The number I have been reading on cuts to the Police Department has been $190 million. The CPS was ordered to pay CPD a serious pile of money in order for the cut to be this low. The one great truth in all of this is that Mayor Daley totally fiscally trashed this city while the city council went along with it.

    There was no discussion in the FY12 CPS budget of additional payments being made by CPS to the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The original intergovernmental agreement between CPS and the CPD and then Mayor Daley was to pay $32.8 million for police services in schools for a period time from 2009 through 2012, on July 27, 2011 CPS agreed to increase this budget to $102.8 million (see Board Report 11-0727-PR18).

    The CPS even agreed to make back payments to the CPD reported to be $46 million. CPS went from paying about 8 million a year to the CPD to $25.5 million with one vote. This decision added to the CPS’s fiscal problems and did not have to be made because the agreement CPS made with the CPD under the Daley administration did not provide for this cost escalation.

    I think it is now very clear why this was done. It reduced the cut to the CPD and helped to hold off a city property tax increase. But it effectively transfered that debt to the CPS which was paid for in full by teachers not getting their contracted pay increases which were worth over $100 million.

    Rod Estvan

  • 215. mom2  |  September 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    @211 Grace – are you saying that if we paid high school teachers more, then they would teach better? Or are you saying that cps has bad high school teachers? I’m sure you really didn’t mean to imply either of these things. We all know new trier does better because all the parents care about education and they instill that in their kids and they make that a top priority. That’s it.

  • 216. cps grad  |  September 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    @Grace and Hawthorne mom: It isn’t only the brick that is a problem. These buildings were never intended to be used during the hottest days of summer, but alterations made to the buildings after they were built have made things even worse. For example, many of the old school buildings were built with very high ceilings. After many years CPS installed drop ceilings for cost cutting measures to save on heating in the winter months. While lowering the ceiling height makes it easier to keep the buildings warm in the winter, heat is trapped in the summer making the rooms very hot.

  • 217. Empehi  |  September 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Morgan Park is considered a better-than-most neighborhood high school, but look at this:


    Ariana Taylor thought she was ready for college after taking Advanced Placement physics and English at her Chicago public high school and graduating with a 3.2 GPA.

    Instead, at Illinois State University, she was overwhelmed by her course load and the demands of college. Her GPA freshman year dropped to 2.7 — and that was significantly better than other graduates from Morgan Park High School, who averaged a 1.75 at Illinois State.

    “It was really a big culture shock,” said Taylor, 20, now a junior who has started a mentorship program for incoming freshmen. “I had no idea what it would be like.”

    A Tribune analysis of data available to Illinois citizens for the first time raises fundamental questions about how well the state’s public high schools are preparing their students for college. The data show these students struggle to get a B average as freshmen at the state’s universities and community colleges, even after leaving top-performing high schools with good grades. In fact, public school graduates at 10 of the state’s 11 four-year universities averaged less than a 3.0 GPA their freshman year. (more at link)

  • 218. cps grad  |  September 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    @215- I didn’t get either of your interpretations from Grace’s comments about New Trier. Since New Trier pays high salaries it can attract a large number of applicants, and consequently, New Trier can pick and choose teachers more selectively. The New Trier administration also has a long history of treating its teachers as professionals and experts in their fields. Teachers are a part of nearly every committee that looks at grading policies, curriculum decisions, school wide initiatives and policies. All of these factors ultimately help with recruitment and retention of teachers. This is not to say that CPS has bad teachers. Actually there are quite a few teachers at New Trier who formally taught in CPS. It is a shame that CPS was unable to keep them.

    Here are some of the problems I see that CPS has with recruitment retaining teachers—
    1) Although the starting salaries at CPS are competitive with suburban districts, the top salaries in CPS are much lower than in many suburban districts.

    2) CPS hires teachers much later than suburban districts. Many suburban districts have a rough idea of many teachers they need by mid-January. I know of a few districts that start to interview candidates before they even know that they have openings, and all this hiring happens the school year prior to a teacher’s start year. Except in the case of unexpected vacancies, my district is usually done hiring in sometime April. In contrast CPS waits to see how many kids show up for the first day of school and then figures out how many teachers they need to hire. It is not uncommon for CPS to start calling candidates in August. I have worked with several promising young teachers who have commented early in the school year that they “applied to CPS last December and never heard anything, ” but they “just got a call in August about an opening.” CPS dropped the ball on getting those great young teachers.

    3) In CPS the principals hire teachers, but in many suburban districts the current faculty helps with hiring. At many districts the interview process doesn’t start with the principal, but with the department head and fellow teachers.

    4) Many suburban districts have highly developed mentorship programs. New hires are assigned mentors who observe, help, and guide a new teacher through the difficult first few years of teaching. They give their teachers adequate planning time so that mentors and mentees have time to collaborate and will give time for mentors to observe their mentees in the classroom.

    5) Often when CPS hires new teachers they don’t “assign” that teacher in the first few years. Although the teacher is the only one planning and teaching a particular class from day 1, on CPS records they have “full –time sub” status. This works a lot like “temp” workers in the private sector who don’t get full benefits even though they are working “full time” at a company. Since a teacher is working as a “full time sub” those years don’t count for tenure. A teacher can be in a school for 3 – 4 years before getting “assigned” and then once they get “assigned” they have to work another 4 years before getting tenure. Without job security, a teacher is more likely to look for a job in the suburbs where they are assigned their first year and gain tenure more quickly.

  • 219. mom2  |  September 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Sorry. I was just surprised that Grace’s comments implied that the reason why New Trier students do better is because they have better teachers (because they have better salaries and can pick and choose the best teachers) when nearly every other post from her is all about how teachers are not the problem with CPS.

    Do you really believe that the main reason why students do better at New Trier is because they have better teachers (with more mentoring, more money, etc.)? So much of a student’s success lies with the attitude of the parents, the community and their upbringing.

    Some other comments on this blog surprise me. Poverty and skin color alone would never make someone less successful at school. Change the community and the parents and most teachers could do so much more with the students.

  • 220. anonymous  |  September 2, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Did anyone just see the article that three CPS schools decided to vote on the longer day — in defiance of the union? Skinner North, Genevieve Melodie, and STEM Magnet. I didn’t know STEM was a union school, actually. Thought it was a charter.

    P.S. Mom2, I agree. I took it to mean the same thing and agree with you entirely. Income and level of parental education are the two most important factors. I’d like to see how New Trier students compare against the AVERAGE (not those of us on this board) CPS student.

  • 221. mom2  |  September 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I heard about the three schools on the news. I wonder what exactly went on there. Very interesting.

  • 222. cps Mom  |  September 2, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    220 – Listening to Brizards interview in a separate post, they already have schools with plans for the 90 minutes. They are appealing to individual schools to adapt policy and pioneer the longer day. Great work.

    He also mentioned that HS’s are different because of after school sports and other classes offered before/after school. They are not necessarily looking to change the HS day. So comparing length of day at a good school vs. lower performing high schools is a moot point. The only comparison that comes close to NT in Chicago demographically is Northside Prep historically able to outperform N.T because of their admissions structure.

    If you look at the things Northside Prep does right – look to block scheduling. I would like to see the college prep aspect of CPS HS’s better schedule classes and offer more and varying levels within their course structure.

  • 223. Sped Mom  |  September 2, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    It seems a major incentive was $150,000 extra for the teachers to spend as they wish in the classroom & variations on that. re: longer day/year.

  • 224. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 4:22 am

    218 — thanks a lot for the info on how CPS teachers are treated compared with how suburban teachers are treated.

    My years working in corporations proved a very basic fact — the way a company treats its employees is the same way they treat their customers. Employees are the conduit to the customer, and they can only provide what they are given.

    Some organizations treat their employees poorly but still expect to get great results. They never do. Sunbeam once had a boss famous for his slash-and-burn approach. He killed the company. Sam Zell is another one. The mayor looks to be in the same mold.

  • 225. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 4:30 am

    214 thanks for your info on the sleight of hand. Rod Estvan looks at the budget like no one else.

    So the Board of Ed voted to pay an overdue and suddenly higher bill to CPD.
    Then raised our property taxes, much of which will go to TIF funds and not to CPS

    CPS is being used as the city’s piggy bank. That’s why the mayor — who cares a lot about credit cards — won’t have a forensic audit of CPS’s $6 billion budget..

  • 226. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 4:45 am

    From the Second City Cop blog — his take on the 3 schools who went for the mayor’s offer. Comments, when everyone wakes up and starts posting, are also usually worth a look. It’s our version of the Wire.

    Saturday, September 03, 2011

    Divide and Conquer
    And the Teachers begin to cave, some for as little as $800:

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel is getting his wish — partially — regarding longer school days for Chicago Public Schools, and how it happened has some in the Chicago Teachers Union crying foul.

    Two CPS schools next week, Genevieve Melody Elementary School and Skinner North Classical School, will add 90 minutes to their day. A third, STEM Magnet Academy, will extend its day by 90 minutes beginning in January.

    Teachers at Melody and Skinner will be given a pay hike, a “lump sum of two percent equal to average teachers salary,” explained CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. That amounts to $1,275, she said.

    Additionally, the two schools will be given $150,000 each to make it happen, either by hiring aides or additional teachers.

    When STEM Magnet Academy extends its day in the new year, it will receive $75,000. Teachers there will receive lump sum payouts of $800.

    Now watch Rahm and Brizard exploit this across the system. And remember when Rahm tries to do the same thing to us. We’ve already seen officers willing to sell out contract protections for units and blue jeans. Shortsightedness will kill us all.

    Labels: we got nothing

    posted by SCC at 12:04 AM 0 comments

  • 227. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 5:15 am

    From today’s NY Times regarding John “No, that won’t work for me, Mr. President” Boehner.

    Think our mayor’s anti-working man and woman approach will hurt the President?

    “Robert Reich has some advice for the president, who might be looking to counter the “weakness” charges that have been flying all week. For inspiration Reich looks back to long before the term “post-partisan” was even conceived:

    The winner of the 2012 presidential election will be the person who comes off as the toughest fighter for average Americans.

    Earth to Obama: Remember Harry (Give ‘em Hell) Truman.

    Here’s Truman’s acceptance speech at the Philadelphia convention that nominated him prior to the 1948 election:

    Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make those Republicans like it… We will do that because they are wrong and we are right… [T]he people know the Democratic Party is the people’s party, and the Republican Party is the party of special interests and it always has been and always will be… The Republican Party… favors the privileged few and not the common, every-day man. Ever since its inception that Party has been under the control of special privilege, and they concretely proved it in the 80th Congress. They proved it by the things they did to the people and not for them. They proved it by the things they failed to do.

    Give em hell, Barack.

    Point taken. Let’s just make sure we’re all done by kickoff.”

  • 228. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 5:30 am

    And to end on a nice note … an op-ed from NYTimes

    In Honor of Teachers
    Published: September 2, 2011

    Since it’s back-to-school season across the country, I wanted to celebrate a group that is often maligned: teachers. Like so many others, it was a teacher who changed the direction of my life, and to whom I’m forever indebted.

    [ Read All Comments (58) » ]

    A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll released this week found that 76 percent of Americans believed that high-achieving high school students should later be recruited to become teachers, and 67 percent of respondents said that they would like to have a child of their own take up teaching in the public schools as a career.

    But how do we expect to entice the best and brightest to become teachers when we keep tearing the profession down? We take the people who so desperately want to make a difference that they enter a field where they know that they’ll be overworked and underpaid, and we scapegoat them as the cause of a societywide failure.

    A March report by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that one of the differences between the United States and countries with high-performing school systems was: “The teaching profession in the U.S. does not have the same high status as it once did, nor does it compare with the status teachers enjoy in the world’s best-performing economies.”

    The rest of the story is at the NY Times.

  • 229. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 5:32 am


    The link.

  • 230. Finally a good message from teachers to students!  |  September 3, 2011 at 10:13 am

    To the three schools who are proactive to help our kids – great job!

    – Genevieve Melody Elementary School
    – Skinner North Classical School
    – STEM Magnet Academy

    Love you!

  • 231. junior  |  September 3, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Is this still a thread about Rahm v. CTU?

    Here’s the link to the story about the schools that opted for the longer day:


    Nice job, teachers. Your dedication is appreciated!

  • 232. cps grad  |  September 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Doesn’t anyone else think that 8:00am to 3:30pm too long a day for the youngest kids? It’s not like they are going to get PE everyday either like the suburban schools. Most public and private schools in the area (not CPS) have days more like 8:30-3:15.

    I’m all for a longer day, but I really think 90 minutes is too much. I would be much happier if they extended the day 60 minutes. Kids in CPS is going to need a lot of Vitamin D supplements, because they are never going to see any sunlight with that schedule.

  • 233. LongWeekender  |  September 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Isn’t everything framed as Emanuel v. CTU (a.k.a. “Bad Teachers”)? (this is a joke)

  • 234. LongWeekender  |  September 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    I love Second City Cop. It reveals so much about Chicago. And every Chicagoan should watch the entire run of The Wire. Get schooled. 😉

  • 235. cps grad  |  September 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Just out of curiosity, I looked up the Sun-times top 100 schools list. I visited the websites of each of the top 20 non-CPS elementary schools in the Chicago area to get an idea of how long their school day is.

    Braeside, Highland Park 8:40-3:17
    Highlands, Naperville 8:15-2:30
    Ravinia, Highland Park 8:40-3:17
    Grove Avenue, Barrington 9:00-3:40
    Hough Street, Barrington, 9:00-3:40
    Walker, Hinsdale 8:40-3:05
    Brook Forest, Oak Brook — I couldn’t find the schedule
    Willowbrook, Glenview 8:45-3:20
    Bell-Graham, St. Charles: 8:40-3:00
    The Lane, Hinsdale 8:40-3:05
    Sunset Ridge, Northfield 8:35-3:25 (upper grades 8:18-3:30)
    Longfellow, Wheaton 9:15-3:30
    Elm, Burr Ridge, 8:40-3:05
    Willard, Evanston 9:05-3:35
    Campanelli, Schaumburg 8:40-3:00
    Lincoln, River Forest –I couldn’t find the schedule
    Whittier, Wheaton 9:15-3:30
    Prospect, Clarendon Hills 8:40-3:05
    North Barrington, Barrington 9:00-3:40
    Pleasant Hill, Palatine 8:50-3:20

  • 236. mom2  |  September 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    They are all longer than cps

  • 237. Mayfair Dad  |  September 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    @ 227 Grace:

    Robert Reich is an intelligent man and I enjoy a Harry Truman quote as much as the next guy, but I take umbrage with your characterization of Mayor Emanuel as being “anti working man and woman.”

    I am a working man and I salute the Mayor in his efforts to reign in the public employee unions. I applaud his hardball approach, as do many of the other 93% of working Americans who do not belong to a public employee union.

    I wish other public officials showed as much backbone as the Mayor. Sadly the Governor is bought and paid for by the unions and therefore useless.

    Happy Labor Day to all.

  • 238. Hawthorne mom  |  September 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    I think CPS grad’s point was that not one of those schools have as long of a school day as is being proposed. They are about 45 minutes longer than the current day and about 45 minutes shorter than the proposed day, give or take a few minutes.

  • 239. cps grad  |  September 3, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    @mom2— Obviously they are longer….but not 90 minutes longer. When I heard that they wanted to lengthen the school day by 90 minutes I almost fell off my chair. OVERKILL. A reasonable amount would have been to lengthen the day by 45-60 minutes. The little kids are going to be totally worn about after a 7 1/2 hour day– especially since CPS probably wont add in an appropriate amount of recess and PE time.

  • 240. A Parent  |  September 3, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    As a parent of a young kindergartener, 90 minutes is a deal breaker for me, something I would have like to have known about before deciding to send her to a cps. I was happy about full day kindergarten, something many suburbs DO NOT offer, but come on, it is over kill… I don’t need day care for my kid and am fully capable of enriching her life without the “help” of cps. My child’s school is one of many that I’ve heard of that put open campus to a vote and also one of many where the teachers/LSC agreed to a longer day. That extra time is in line with suburban schools hours mentioned previously.

    On another note, I’m saddened by the attitudes about teachers on this blog, by who I would assume are involved parents. Successful schools depend on a partnership between community, parents and teachers. Teachers don’t become teachers to get rich, they deserve alot more respect for what they do. While there are a few bad apples…they don’t represent the profession as a whole like the media and our politicians would have us believe.

  • 241. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    cps grad, thanks for the research; 90 minutes is OVERKILL. Rahm didn’t really listen to Raise your Hand parents.

    MFD, of course, the Governor does Madigan’s bidding, not the unions, not by a long shot. Emmanuel is a happy union buster; the Edeman video proves this in great detail. It’s free, take a look. I viewed the hour-plus version, but there is a 15-minute version floating around.

    A Parent, I am also saddened by the negative attitude of too many posters toward teachers. I want to hear the voices of teachers. They have the experience. They know the system. They know the children. I can learn from them.

    I’m not interested in bashing teachers. The Gates Foundation has already paid out $3.5 billion in the past 3 years to get that stupid message out.

    As Reich said, when the middle class is left out of the economic recovery and faces difficult cuts in services, they often fight each other out of fear one group might have just a bit more than another.

    Instead we should band together to demand the right change. Another 90 minutes is not the right change. 45 to 60 minutes is. It brings us in line with suburban schools.


  • 242. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    From teacher Fred Klonsky’s blog — I just felt like re-posting this whole thing, not just a link.

    What a Pain: Married to a Public School Teacher

    by Andre R. W. Schmeichel

    I wanted to write briefly about how hard it is to be married to a public school teacher. Particularly in recent months, with all the protests and bitter battles over benefits and state salaries, I thought I’d chime in and really let you see how much of a pain in the ass it is to have a teacher as a wife.

    It’s hard to do my taxes at the end of the year and realize just how much of our income was spent on school supplies and specific tools for student needs that the district couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. It’s equally hard to keep my mouth shut about it because I know she will defend those expenses to her last breath.

    It’s hard to watch her leave every morning at 6:30am and know that if I’m lucky I’ll see her at 7pm that night. Once in a while she’s out by 4pm, but usually I don’t see her until after dark, and there are times – frequently – that I get that call from school saying ‘go ahead and eat, I won’t be back until after 10.’

    It’s hard to hear her talk about ‘summer vacation’ when I know she’ll spend the first month of it taking care of foreign exchange students or chaperoning twenty students on a trip or breaking down her classroom to accommodate the administration. The last month is similarly spent, spending hours preparing, and working on curriculum, knowing at best she’ll get only a few full weeks of real vacation time where she can recover.

    It’s difficult to know that she works an overload every single year because the schools have been badly overcrowded and understaffed for as long as she’s been there, but the prospect of spending more money on school facilities is seen as a waste of tax dollars. So she makes do, working off a cart for years and often in common spaces to save money.

    It was painful watching her get excited about finally getting a basement windowless classroom – a former men’s locker room down to the urinals – and spending hours decorating it and covering the toilets because she didn’t see any of that: All she saw was that she could finally realize her dream of providing the educational environment to the kids she’s wanted to for half a decade.

    It’s hard to watch these things and know that we’re talking about rural Wisconsin, not a poor inner city, then hearing politicians rant about excessive funding of public schools.

    It’s hard to watch her fight to keep up on unfunded state and federal mandates, growing community expectations, and the balance of demands from numerous ‘bosses’ all with the expectation that she’ll do it for less and less. To have dreams of ways to open minds always spoken to the drum beat of slamming doors.

    It’s hard to see the heart wrenching emotion hit her in waves over dinner and on weekends because she gets attached to the futures of her students and sometimes sheds tears of joy when they succeed and different kind when they fail. To know that the fact that she’s making connections with these kids and opening their worlds blinds her to the crushing odds stacked against public education today.

    It’s painful then to watch some people pile on unfunded expectations, vote against actual funding, and then call for the option to pull their kids from public schools when they don’t get the programs they didn’t vote to pay for, all the while demonizing my wife and her peers for failing to teach.

    It hurts to watch her answer such people by standing up for the quality of her job and the future of her profession, insisting on professional grade compensation and working conditions only to be met with accusations of not caring for the kids enough.

    It’s also hard to hear people talk about union greed and teacher selfishness when my wife’s union, like many, have been working with the district and trying hard to find ways to achieve a positive relationship. Where the community, the board, and the union, while not always friendly, have been supportive, constructive, and mostly together, banding together behind the teachers when Scott Walker’s plan unfolded – the union agreeing not to protest at the expense of the kids, and the board agreeing to support teacher’s efforts to protest once the day was over.

    It was hard to watch my wife open her paycheck on the second day of her ninth year of school, and see that her take home salary had been reduced to what it was when she started teaching along with a shift in benefits to a lower level of medical coverage than she had then.

    It is hardest for me to be married to a teacher because if you have the privilege of knowing one like my wife, you know that it will be hard to ever live up to the fierce dedication, commitment, and love that keeps them going. That despite the salary cuts and the hate, the misrepresentation of their work and the impossibility of the demands, they will push on.

    What I know is that I am married to a woman who loves what she does and her students so much that that she would gladly break herself for them. This breaks my heart: Not because of how much it hurts her to keep trying, but from the sheer pride I feel to stand with her every step of the way.

  • 243. Grace  |  September 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Op-Ed Columnist
    In Honor of Teachers
    Published: September 2, 2011

    Since it’s back-to-school season across the country, I wanted to celebrate a group that is often maligned: teachers. Like so many others, it was a teacher who changed the direction of my life, and to whom I’m forever indebted.

    Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

    Read All Comments (400) »

    A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll released this week found that 76 percent of Americans believed that high-achieving high school students should later be recruited to become teachers, and 67 percent of respondents said that they would like to have a child of their own take up teaching in the public schools as a career.

    But how do we expect to entice the best and brightest to become teachers when we keep tearing the profession down? We take the people who so desperately want to make a difference that they enter a field where they know that they’ll be overworked and underpaid, and we scapegoat them as the cause of a society-wide failure.

    A March report by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that one of the differences between the United States and countries with high-performing school systems was: “The teaching profession in the U.S. does not have the same high status as it once did, nor does it compare with the status teachers enjoy in the world’s best-performing economies.”

    The report highlights two examples of this diminished status:

    • “According to a 2005 National Education Association report, nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years teaching; they cite poor working conditions and low pay as the chief reason.”

    • “High school teachers in the U.S. work longer hours (approximately 50 hours, according to the N.E.A.), and yet the U.S. devotes a far lower proportion than the average O.E.C.D. country does to teacher salaries.”

    Take Wisconsin, for instance, where a new law stripped teachers of collective bargaining rights and forced them to pay more for benefits. According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, “about twice as many public schoolteachers decided to hang it up in the first half of this year as in each of the past two full years.”

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t seek to reform our education system. We should, and we must. Nor am I saying that all teachers are great teachers. They aren’t. But let’s be honest: No profession is full of peak performers. At least this one is infused with nobility.

    And we as parents, and as a society at large, must also acknowledge our shortcomings and the enormous hurdles that teachers must often clear to reach a child. Teachers may be the biggest in-school factor, but there are many out-of-school factors that weigh heavily on performance, like growing child poverty, hunger, homelessness, home and neighborhood instability, adult role-modeling and parental pressure and expectations.

    The first teacher to clear those hurdles in my life was Mrs. Thomas.

    From the first through third grades, I went to school in a neighboring town because it was the school where my mother got her first teaching job. I was not a great student. I was slipping in and out of depression from a tumultuous family life that included the recent divorce of my parents. I began to grow invisible. My teachers didn’t seem to see me nor I them. (To this day, I can’t remember any of their names.)

    My work began to suffer so much that I was temporarily placed in the “slow” class. No one even talked to me about it. They just sent a note. I didn’t believe that I was slow, but I began to live down to their expectations.

    When I entered the fourth grade, my mother got a teaching job in our hometown and I came back to my hometown school. I was placed in Mrs. Thomas’s class.

    There I was, a little nothing of a boy, lost and slumped, flickering in and out of being.

    She was a pint-sized firecracker of a woman, with short curly hair, big round glasses set wider than her face, and a thin slit of a mouth that she kept well-lined with red lipstick.

    On the first day of class, she gave us a math quiz. Maybe it was the nervousness of being the “new kid,” but I quickly jotted down the answers and turned in the test — first.

    “Whoa! That was quick. Blow, we’re going to call you Speedy Gonzales.” She said it with a broad approving smile, and the kind of eyes that warmed you on the inside.

    She put her arm around me and pulled me close while she graded my paper with the other hand. I got a couple wrong, but most of them right.

    I couldn’t remember a teacher ever smiling with approval, or putting their hand around me, or praising my performance in any way.

    It was the first time that I felt a teacher cared about me, saw me or believed in me. It lit a fire in me. I never got a bad grade again. I figured that Mrs. Thomas would always be able to see me if I always shined. I always wanted to make her as proud of me as she seemed to be that day. And, she always was.

    In high school, the district sent a man to test our I.Q.’s. Turns out that not only was I not slow, but mine and another boy’s I.Q. were high enough that they created a gifted-and-talented class just for the two of us with our own teacher who came to our school once a week. I went on to graduate as the valedictorian of my class.

    And all of that was because of Mrs. Thomas, the firecracker of a teacher who first saw me and smiled with the smile that warmed me on the inside.

    So to all of the Mrs. Thomases out there, all the teachers struggling to reach lost children like I was once, I just want to say thank you. You deserve our admiration, not our contempt.

  • 244. SkinnerNorthParent  |  September 4, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Skinner North principal had already extended the school day by 45 minutes for this academic year. The 45 minutes included daily recess, extended lunch period, and longer specials periods. Personally, I’m hoping that the addition of another 45 minutes to the school day means less homework as the homework load has been pretty heavy at Skinner North and the principal framed the amount of homework as extension of the school day. For me, it would be well worth it if my child spends more time at school but has more free time after school. Also most charter schools in Chicago have 7+ hours school days.

  • 245. cps Mom  |  September 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Since this tread is about Rahm vs the Union. Speaking about how great the suburban high school teachers are because they are better paid and mentored???? New Trier teachers are not part of a union. The humongous real estate taxes may play a major factor, no?

    We have some pretty fantastic teachers here in the city.

  • 246. cps grad  |  September 5, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    New Trier teachers are a part of the IEA and NEA

  • 247. Bridget Duggan  |  January 17, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    @SkinnerNorthParent RE Less Homework. Absolutely there better be less homework. My 2nd grader actually complained to me today after hearing about school being longer next year. Practically in tears, he said they’ll never have time to do anything after school. I’d say we were definitely making up, at home, for some of the time they could have been learning in the classroom. It will be interesting to see how this part of the equation plays out, teacher by teacher, principal by principal…

  • 248. Oatmeal diet  |  January 23, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Oatmeal diet…

    […]Rahm vs. The Union « CPS Obsessed[…]…

  • 249. Lacey29  |  March 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Hey Guys – I thought you’d like to check out this site. She’s got vegan/raw recipes – very informative healthy eating site:

  • […] Rahm vs. The Union | CPS Obsessed […]

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