Strike dominated education news in Hyde Park in 2012

By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

The focus of much of the last year in education was the teachers strike, but Hyde Park saw a lot of change in leadership on the education front in 2012.

Chicago Teachers Union strike

Teachers, parents, students and education activists filled the streets of Hyde Park several times this year in protest of policies changes and other actions taken by Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s push for more Charter Schools, his board of education appointees and the mandate that all schools adopt a longer school day lead to protest that swelled up into a strike lead by Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

In early March Teachers for Social Justice began hosting education forums in Hyde Park to inform the community about some areas of the teachers contract that were in negotiation including Teacher compensation, class size and job security.

On Aug. 30 Lewis, a Hyde Park native and current Bronzeville resident, announced that CTU delegates voted to go on strike on Sept. 10.

CTU and CPS had been in contract negotiations since November. The two reached an interim agreement in early August, which included CTU agreeing to the longer school day and CPS agreeing to re-hire displaced teachers for the longer school hours so the Track E year-round schools could start on time.

Teachers picketed in front of schools and marched to the Hyde Park home of CPS board President David Vitale and on 53rd Street in front of the construction site of the Smart Hotel, a subsidiary of the Hyatt, due to the board appointment of Hyatt Hotel mogul Penny Pritzker.

The strike went on for about seven days and the union refused to send teachers back into the classroom until every detail in the contract was agreed to. Fearing that the strike would go on too long and affect their children’s educations, parents, while in support of teachers getting their rights, began to speak out about wanting their children back in school.

Once the contracts were signed and the strike was over Lewis predicted that the next battle would be school closings.

Elected School Board referendum

Before the school closing battles began a group of education advocacy groups from across the city formed a coalition to petition for an elected school board for the Chicago school district.

Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE), which includes Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), Teachers for Social Justice, Action Now, Raise Your Hand Coalition and Parents 4 Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union received enough support to have a non-binding referendum asking voters if Chicago Public Schools should have an elected school board on election ballots in 327 precincts across the city. The referendum was also on the ballots in several precincts in the 3rd, 4th and 5th wards.

The coalition said it pursued the measure because the current mayor–appointed school board had been unresponsive to community concerns. Chicago is the only school district in the state that does not have an elected school board.

After the election, the final tally amounted to 65,763 people voting yes and 10,174 voting no. Now that there is documented support, aldermen and other elected officials have taken several steps to see if an elected school board would be feasible for the school district.

School Utilization Outcome

Shortly after the CTU strike Barbara Byrd-Bennett replaced Jean Claude Brizard as the CPS CEO. As her first official course of action she went to Springfield to seek an extension on a bill that required CPS to disclose a list of schools it planned to close by Dec. 1 each school year. The deadline coincides with the application deadline for parents to enroll their children in school. The bill also requires CPS to come up with a five-year school improvement plan.

CPS proposed that if it were allowed to delay presenting a list on Dec. 1 it would seek community input on which schools to close and after this year’s school closings it would agree to a five-year moratorium on school closings.

During its veto session in December the House voted 84-28 in favor of the amendment and the next day the Senate voted 57-0 in favor of the amendment.

Byrd-Bennet appointed a nine-member independent council to seek input from parents and residents in communities across the city, collect data and make sure the school closing process is transparent.

The school board now has until March 31 to come up with a list of school closings.

Principal comings and goings

The Kenwood Academy High School local school council (LSC) chose Gregory L. Jones as the school’s new principal in March. Jones replaced former principal Elizabeth Kirby, who resigned in January to become the chief of schools for the Southwest High School network.

Before coming to Kenwood, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., Jones was the assistant principal at Westinghouse College Prep High School, 3223 W. Franklin Blvd., where he had been since 2008. He has been an educator since 1997. He began at Dunbar High School, 3000 S. King Dr., as the girl’s basketball and volleyball coach. He became the accounting, computer technology, world studies teacher and education to careers coordinator until 2007 when he became assistant principal at Marconi Elementary Community Academy, 230 N. Kolmar Ave.

The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools also chose three new principals for its primary, middle and high schools in March.

Scott Fech replaced Matt Horvath as the school’s new high school principal. Horvath, who was principal at Lab for 5 years, is now the head of The Overlake School, a 5-12 grade school in Redmond, Wash.

Carol Swainson replaced Amani Reed as the new middle school principal. Reed, who was principal at Lab for six years, is now the head of The School at Columbia University, which is a nursery to eighth grade school affiliated with the New York-based university.

Susan Devetski is the school’s new primary school principal in anticipation of the school’s new early childhood program.

The new administrators began at the Lab Schools, 1352 E. 59th St., on July 1.

The Nursery School at K.A.M. Isaiah Israel hosted an ice cream social in August to introduce parents to its new director Sarah Cort. Outgoing director Fran Gordon recruited Cort for the position.

Before coming to K.A.M., 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd., Cort received her Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education (ECE) from Indiana University. After graduation she completed a year serving as an English teacher through a religious-based non-profit and worked at a women’s shelter in Israel.

Gordon will remain lead teacher at K.A.M.

The Reavis Elementary School local school council selected Gail King as its new principal in January. King replaced previous principal Michael Johnson, whose contract was not renewed by the LSC.

Before coming to Reavis, 834 E. 50th St., King was the assistant principal at Von Humboldt Elementary School, 2620 W. Hirsch St., for 2 years. She completed her one-year principal residency at John Hay Community Elementary School, 1018 N. Laramie Ave., and taught at Lafayette Elementary School, 2714 W. Augusta Blvd. for 2 years.

King began on July 1.

Progress Reports

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) released its first 2012 School Progress Reports to parents on report card pick up day in December. The reports are tailored to each school and measure the progress level of schools in areas such as student growth, student performance, graduation rate and school culture and climate. CPS also gives the schools an overall rating based on its the performance policy.

To see how schools in Hyde Park performed this year visit our website hpherald.com and click on the progress report icons.

d.phillips@hpherald.com