There is good news to report from the front lines of the war to protect teachers’ self-directed prep time. Article 27-5 of the CTU contract states:

Rescheduling of Preparation Periods Due to Class Coverage. The BOARD agrees, in principle, that teachers, during their duty-free professional preparation periods, shall not be requested to take the class of an absent teacher. Whenever a teacher’s duty-free professional preparation period is canceled, the principal shall schedule a make-up duty-free professional preparation period for that teacher by the end of the next academic quarter following, or by the last day of teacher attendance that school year, whichever occurs first, to the extent practicableEffective with the 2017-2018 school year and thereafter, if cancelled self-directed preparation periods are not made up in accordance with this Article, they shall be considered lost. The BOARD shall pay the teacher for the lost preparation period at his/her regular hourly rate no later than the start of the next school year.

The 2017-2018 school year was the first year the new pay out for missed preps provision was in play. Members have filed grievances over missing preps and principals’ refusal or inability to pay out the “lost time.” Principals are required to make up missed preps, but until the current contract, lost prep time would largely go unpaid.

The grievance process was not necessary, however, in the case of Stowe Elementary School. Like many schools in Chicago Public Schools, Stowe suffers from a lack of substitutes which regularly results in teachers covering classes. This means prep time is lost at an exorbitant rate, despite efforts by the school to schedule make up preps.

Due to the excellent work of Stowe’s CTU delegate, Lawrence Wright, and his Professional Problems Committee (PPC), all Stowe teachers with missed preps from the end of the 2017-2018 school year will be paid out, as the contract stipulates. This totals nearly $22,000 in lost time. This was the result of a PPC member regularly bringing up the issue of missed prep periods with the school principal in PPC meetings; organizing their colleagues to take good records of their missed preps and report them accurately to the administration; and consulting with Union staff as necessary.

This powerful win and inspiring work of the Stowe PPC is an example of the power in our contract and the power we have to enforce our rights at the ground level. Solidarity!

Leah Raffanti is a CTU field representative.

This article appears in the September 2018 issue of the Chicago Union Teacher.