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Agreement in Waukegan. A three-year deal.

October 30, 2014


Word came shortly after midnight that a collectively-bargained contract was tentatively agreed to in Waukegan.

Details won’t be released until the members of the Waukegan Teachers Council get to see and vote on it. Standard procedure.

One thing I know is that the teachers union wanted a three-year deal and the board wanted two years.

It’s a three-year.

Congratulations to the folks in Waukegan. The strike was a huge deal.

Those of us in the Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (S.O.R.E.), affiliated with the Illinois Education Association, were glad to offer what support and presence we could to our brothers and sisters in the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Here is the announcement of the deal struck last night:

The following is joint statement from the Board of Education and the Waukegan Teachers’ Council.

 Shortly before midnight tonight, the Board of Education for Waukegan Community Unit School District # 60 and the Waukegan Teachers’ Council reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract.

All schools will remain closed on October 30 and October 31, as both parties review the agreement. Pending a ratification by teachers on Thursday, teachers will return to work on Friday to help prepare schools for re-opening to students on Monday, November 3.

“This tentative agreement represents not only a compromise between the Union and the Board, but an end to what was a long, trying process for all parties involved,” said Waukegan Teachers’ Council President Kathy Schwarz. “We are grateful to the entire Waukegan community that struggled with us through these difficult times. We would also like to thank Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico for their assistance during the conclusion of contract talks. After years of instability, we are hopeful that this agreement will be the first step in giving our students the schools they deserve.”

“It is with great delight that we acknowledge having reached a Tentative Agreement with our teachers that will return our students to their classrooms. These last four weeks have been difficult for everyone involved. Both the Board of Education and I have witnessed first hand a great passion for education from parents, students and community members.

We eagerly look forward to working together as a community for the betterment of our students,” said Waukegan Superintendent Dr. Donaldo R. Batiste, and we thank the many community partners who came forward to offer invaluable support and assistance.  Particular gratitude is extended to Governor Quinn, ISBE Chairman Chico, State Superintendent Koch, and Regional Superintendent Wood,” said Superintendent, Dr. Donaldo R. Batiste.


The court issues an injunction against the Philadelphia Schools Commission.

October 29, 2014

Micah Uetricht sent an email to me this morning here in Mexico City where Anne and I are vacationing.

“Did you see this?” he wrote.

Micah is an editor at In These Times.

I hadn’t seen it. And there’s nothing bad with getting good news from home while on vacation.

The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has issued an injunction against the city’s School Reform Commission (SRC) to temporarily prevent it from altering the health benefits of teachers. This prevents SRC from implementing changes it had proposed on October 6, when it voted to cancel the contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) without public debate or input.

On October 6, the SRC held a public meeting with minimal notice and an agenda only listing “general purposes.” The commission then voted unanimously to cancel its contract with the PFT, electing to use their nuclear option at the end of 21 months of negotiating.

Though the two sides say they were far apart on many issues, the commission’s desire to restructure teachers’ contributions to their health benefits was the principal cause of the cancellation. The mandated changes were to take place beginning December 15, but the court injunction delays their implementation and allows time to sort out whether or not the SRC’s actions are legal. 

PFT President Jerry Jordan responded to the injunction in a statement: “The preliminary injunction granted today … reinforces our view that the School Reform Commission cannot simply decide to stop negotiating, then unilaterally cancel the PFT contract and impose new terms.” 

The PFT filed for the injunction because it sought to prevent the changes to the contract while the debate over the cancellation’s legality was unresolved. On October 17, the PFT filed several actions attempting to halt the cancellation and a motion “challenging the unilateral changes made by the SRC” and “bad faith bargaining challenges” with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

The SRC planned to disassemble the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund—currently administered by the union—and take over the administration of benefits itself. Although the SRC said it would not change salaries or pensions, teachers’ contributions for health benefits could be as much as $200 a month. Under the contract, teachers previously paid nothing for their health benefits.

The School District of Philadelphia has been embattled for years. Years of budget problems brought about the SRC in 2001, which has largely acted to push free market reforms in the city’s school system. The Education Empowerment Act replaced an elected school board with a commission of five members, three appointed by the governor and two by the mayor. Chairman Bill Green, who announced the cancellation October 6, is a lawyer and former options trader without experience in education. .

The cancellation has led to support from the community. On October 8, students from two magnet schools staged walkouts in support of their teachers. 

Read the entire article here.

You think the Hinsdale board was crappy to teachers? Look at what they are doing to plow over the support staff.

October 29, 2014


I read you everyday and have greatly relished your posts about both Hinsdale and Waukegan School Districts. I’m with the newly formed Support Staff Bargaining Association and we’re trying desperately to capture some of the vast community support that the locals showed to our teachers. You think the district was crappy to the teachers, you can imagine how they are trying to plow us over! Any help is greatly appreciated.


Hinsdale Patch:

At a recent Hinsdale Board of Education meeting, current Director of Human , Dominick Maniscalco presented the historical staff retention rates to the board. While nearly all of us either know or have heard that during the acrimonious contract negotiations several highly qualified high school teachers fled the district. What most people aren’t aware of is that for the school Support Staff, the retention rate for last year was a miserable 47%…Less than half of those hired for Support Staff positions stay with the district.

That’s a problem. What does that say about management when when half of those hired, quit?

Before the current Board Majority came into office, the support staff didn’t feel the need to organize. Our rights weren’t being trampled on as they currently are. Our step salary increase was “ done away with” our raises were based on a once a year review by a supervisor who seldom observed us working and our personal days and floating holidays are being taken from us because the district no longer allows us to accrue comp time to use on early release days. We don’t even have the option of taking the half a day off without pay, we’ve been told that we have to use a personal day for this time off! IS it any wonder Support Staff are leaving faster than they can hire them! Tell the board to treat the Support Staff with the dignity and respect they deserve! Get updates and current info at or

Community takes over Board of Education meeting in response to board members’ outburst.

October 28, 2014


Waukegan board of ed member Victoria Torres jumps into the audience of parents acting all crazy. Photo: Kenzo Shibata

WAUKEGAN – Tonight’s Waukegan Board of Education meeting ended before any business could be conducted after Board member Victoria Torres jumped off the stage, castigating parents with, “Sit down and shut up!” Board President Anita Hanna immediately adjourned the meeting after students fired back at Torres with chants of “We support our teachers,” voicing their support for their teachers who have been on strike since October 2nd. This was the second Board meeting since the beginning of the strike. Parents, students, and community members showed their alliance with teachers at the October 14th meeting, and tonight’s meeting showed how that support has become stronger in the past two weeks.

The 1800-capacity auditorium at Waukegan High School was a sea of blue – the Union’s color – worn by parents, students, and the community. Tensions flared early in the meeting when President Hanna announced that the time for public comment would be cut in half and other rules changes that weakened the voices of the community. There was much tension in the room directed at the Board due to the absence of Board members at contract negotiations.  The backlash represented the community’s frustration at what they feel is disrespect from the Board of Education.  Tonight’s uprising appeared to be led by students.

“I wish it hadn’t come to this,” said Kathy Schwarz, Waukegan Teachers’ Council President, “but teachers have been waiting since July for this Board to offer us a reasonable and fair contract. I believe that the community fully appreciates how difficult negotiations have been for the teachers since this process began.”

IFT Field Service Director, Michelle Standridge explained “Tonight’s Board meeting was representative of what we have been facing since negotiations began.  The Board members walked off the stage, refusing to listen to the parents, students, community members, and teachers, just as they have refused to engage in conversations with us at the table.  We expect more from elected leaders, and the behavior exhibited by Board Member Torres was abhorrent.  Our teachers and students believe in a climate of respect and professionalism, and Ms. Torres’ actions set a poor example for all. We sincerely hope that the rest of the Board of Education members will call for Ms. Torres’ immediate resignation.”  Standridge is on the Union’s side of the table during negotiations.

Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley took the microphone after the meeting adjourned to tell the crowd, “No elected official should conduct themselves that way…telling people to sit down and shut up. [Board member Torres needs] to be unelected!” The crowd gave him thunderous applause.

The Union’s bargaining team will meet with the District administration tomorrow at 10 AM to continue contract talks.

Mark Anderson: Chicago progressives have an embarrassment of riches.

October 28, 2014


Jesus Chuy Garcia is joining Bob Fioretti is taking on Rahm.

Anne and I are in Mexico City and Puebla the next two weeks. I won’t be doing a lot of original writing (or thinking). Even retirees get to go on vacation.

Don’t ask vacation from what?

But I will be posting others’ thoughts.

Like the Ward Room’s always insightful Mark Anderson’s opinion on what it means for us that Chuy Garcia has entered the race for mayor of Chicago along with Bob Fioretti.

If the ultimate goal is to remove Rahm Emanuel from office, then the answer may well be: back both. As of today, neither candidate is likely to be polling above roughly 30 percent, with Garcia still being an actual unknown as a city-wide candidate.
To move from 30 percent to 51 percent is a challenge for any candidate in four months, to say the least. That’s not to say it can’t be done. But while both Garcia and Fioretti may be strong candidates, banking on one or the other to singlehandedly take down Emanuel simply increases the chances the mayor can use his prodigious fundraising to his advantage.
To reduce the field to two candidates, with a third limping along, could easily make the progressive side of the equation seem less viable than two equally strong opposition candidates would in the mind of many voters. And, given the right resources, it’s a lot easier to move a candidate’s support from 30 percent to 40 percent than it is to move it above 50 percent.
For those of you counting at home, that’s 40 percent, 40 percent, and 20 percent. Or, 35, 35 and 25. Or however you want to count it.
But it’s not, say, Emanuel 57 percent, Progressive Candidate A at 35 percent and Progressive Candidate B at under 10 percent.
In fact, from an anti-Rahm standpoint, the real goal could well be a run-off election with two strong, viable progressive candidates.
For progressives, that would certainly be an embarrassment of riches.
Read the entire piece here.

Lee R. Talley. Yep…a roll of the dice. A commentary on Time Magazine.

October 27, 2014


- Lee R. Talley is a retired teacher from Tinley Park.

Let’s start with the premise that nobody wants bad teachers in the classroom.  That’s just common sense.  Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast.  When I was in public elementary and high school in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I had teachers that were excellent to awful.  I had the same experience at the five colleges I attended while getting my undergraduate degree and three graduate degrees.

The Time magazine article, “Taking on Teacher Tenure,” by Haley Sweetland Edwards, doesn’t present a well balance argument on teacher tenure.  (A grade of “C” at best.)  Edwards writes that, “Teacher tenure is a policy that restricts the ability to fire teachers, requiring a “just cause” rationale for firing.”  Wrong!  The only thing that teacher tenure guarantees is “the right to due process.”

Tenure was created to provide teachers with protections.  A long time ago, teachers were subject to rules which impeded on basic rights, being told what time they should be home, which activities they should engage in, who they could associate with, etc.  They were often fired for breaking these ridiculous rules. Teachers came together to gain protections against such rules. They wanted their own rules which ensured they wouldn’t be fired for no reason and to protect college professors from losing academic freedom.  Wealthy industrialists started writing and undermining professors. Tenure was created to ensure professors would be able to write freely.  It angers many people that the reason why tenure was developed is not clear.

As long as I can remember, teachers don’t hire or fire teachers.  Administrators hire, evaluate, and then either retain or dismiss them.  So if you apply Edwards logic, how do you protect teachers from bad administrators?  How do you protect teachers from school board members with personal and/or political agendas?  Do bad administrators and board members exist?  Yes.  How do I know?  I’ve been a classroom teacher, building administrator, and school board member.  Trust me, they all exist…in numbers larger than I like.

Edwards’ piece also creates a bias towards suggesting that teacher tenure is a vast obstacle to student achievement.  Check out the “buzz phrases” used:  “pink-cheeked beneath a trim white beard” — (Santa Claus is making this decision, and Santa would never do anything bad); “what happened next was predictable” – “DEFCON I” — (It’s assumption mixed with opinion, not fact; and please, MAKE THOSE WORDS SCREAM!!!); “Silicon Valley muckety-mucks” — (Aw shucks, I’m just a country bumpkin, a regular guy, just like you); “Jumping off the cliff” — (How could Welch be anything but a hero because only heroes risk their life for others, right?)

Because you’re extremely wealthy you’re right.  Yes, rich people have all the answers…otherwise they wouldn’t be rich, right?  We live in Merry Ol’ England where the nobility of the rich upper-class society know what’s best for the other 98% percent.  If you examine their proposed solutions you’ll see they’re mostly “cookie-cutter” solutions, one size fits all, which those in education know doesn’t work.  Billionaires and business types live by the mantra of trying to apply a specific methodology that will maximize profits.

Edwards also trots out the same old tired names — Infinera’s David Welch (invested in NewSchools Venture Fund and founded StudentsMatter), Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Netflix’s Reed Hastings,  and Walmart’s Waltons.  Ask yourself, how many jobs were lost and how much of the middle class has disappeared over the years because these so-called geniuses were using foreign workers, paying them very little.  They shipped American jobs shipped overseas so they could make billions rather than being good corporate citizens.  The bottom line is that all these reform efforts are all about how private sector businesses and Wall Street equity firms can get their hands on more government money.

Edwards also invokes the names of “education experts” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Fomer Washington D.C. Chancellor of schools Michelle Rhee, and former CNN anchor turned education activist Campbell Brown.  Duncan failed in Chicago and Rhee failed in D.C., both getting out of town before the walls came tumbling down.  (Rhee now runs StudentsFirst, a nonprofit — meaning the budget only has to show a zero balance at the end of the year.)  Brown didn’t get her contract renewed at CNN and is married to Republican operative Dan Senor (who was one of the geniuses who took us into Iraq looking for WMDs), both big players in the conservative charter school privitization movement.

Edwards also states “countless stories of schools and districts being unable to fire bad teachers.”  Okay, give me statistics.  How many bad teachers have been fired?  How many teachers have been denied tenure?  We all want excellent teachers in the classroom, especially those in the profession.  Nothing is worse than being a educator and seeing a co-worker who isn’t doing the job.  Unfortunately it’s a roll of the dice in knowing if someone is going to be a good -average – or bad teacher until they actually teach.  But as politicians and private industry titans keep hammering educators, I’d like to know what they’re going to do when the upcoming teacher shortage hits?  You think they’re going to find enough of the best and the brighest to fill all these vacate positions?  You want to guess why that’s not going to happen?

In the Vergara v. California case  Judge Rolf M. Treu’s state that tenure law “violates the state constitution” and the students rights to “basic eqaulitiy of education opportunity.”  So if this is true, then it should  be the same when it comes to school financing (books, supplies, equipment, etc.), including charter and private schools?

Welch’s argument is even weaker — “If children are being harmed by these laws, then something, somewhere, is being done that’s illegal.”  One could use this same argument as the basis for suppression and inequality in all laws.  Unless he’d like to live in a Socialist society?  Of course, we could apply his logic to members of Congress.  He has a good one, I have a bad one.  That’s not right.  Of course, it’s a rigged system geared towards incumbents and money.  “Oh, okay…nevermind!”

Edwards also cites the three-year study by Harvard “education expert” Thomas Kane, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports the Charter School theory of doing away with tenure improves student achievement.  Unfortunately, a recent study by the University of Minnesota Law School directly refutes that, concluding that charter schools are no better than public schools.

During my last year in education I asked a coordinator from a school reform model, “Can your company guarantee results?”  He replied, “No, we can’t.”  I countered, “Does that mean that your company will refund our money based of the percentage of students who don’t meet grade level standards?”  With a shocked look on his face, “Oh no, we would never do that!”  Yep, it’s a roll of the dice.

So, after all these geniuses get done “fixing education,” who is going to be left holding the bag, left to clean up the mess?  Geez, I wonder.  Here’s the one solution I know to be true:  Until you fix what’s wrong outside of schools you’ll never fix what’s wrong inside of schools.

Rahm and Sun-Times editor Jim Kirk.

October 27, 2014

RAHM and kirk


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