Dear CTU members,
Welcome to the 2022–2023 school year. I hope you had a restful summer break and were able to relax and recharge your batteries for the year ahead, now that students have joined us in our school buildings. When I was in the classroom, the first day of school back with my students always filled me with excitement, joy and, let’s be honest, some apprehension, too.
Excitement, because the first weeks of the new school year are filled with so much possibility. Seeing our students’ back-to-school faces for the first time and the excitement they feel as they meet new friends and tackle new challenges is beautiful.
Joy, because we love our students, our profession, our school communities and our city. We want the best for them and are willing to fight to ensure they get all they deserve.
And, apprehension, because, after all, this is CPS, a district controlled — at least for the next three years — by a mayor who talks the talk about equity and justice but rarely walks the walk.Still, our union is starting this school year off in a better place than we did last year. The pandemic, while still with us, is taking fewer lives. The vast majority of our members — and a good number of our students — have been vaccinated. And, I am pleased to report that we have begun to reset our relationship with CPS.
We’ve been in continuous negotiations with the district throughout the summer. We made it clear that we wanted a more collaborative relationship but that collaboration is a two-way street. We told them we needed an honest partner at the table, to work with us to improve the working conditions of our members and the learning conditions of our students.
By the end of the summer, it seemed that message had finally sunk in. We were able to land a tentative agreement that maintains many of the critical safety mitigations you fought and sacrificed for last year and our House of Delegates approved it. Thank you for your service. The entire city owes you a debt of gratitude for your commitment to safety.
As we start a new school year, we also have some new leadership at the CTU. My fellow officers and I, along with our executive board members, were sworn in to office during a moving ceremony at the CTU Hall in August. We took our oath knowing the steep challenges still ahead for our school district and our union. While we can have a more collegial relationship with the district, the nature of a labor management relationship is, by definition, contentious. And there are deep-pocketed, right-wing forces seeking to destroy not just CTU but our entire public education system.
We have resolved to meet these challenges by offering a bold vision for transforming our school district into one that centers equity, humanity and love for our students, their families, our school communities and our city. In a district where 90 percent of our students are Black and Brown, it’s unacceptable to raise class sizes, to leave critical bilingual and sped positions unfilled, to force students into hours-long bus rides to school, or to fail to provide our school communities, traumatized by violence every day, with the same mental health services Highland Park provided for its shooting survivors. The mayor and CPS must do better.
We are committed to fighting for not just the schools our students deserve, but the city we all deserve. I know that’s a tall order, for sure. But, if I’ve learned anything these last few years, it’s to never, ever underestimate the power, resolve and dedication of the more than 25,000 rank-and-file members of the CTU.
Thank you for all you do. I wish you a fantastic school year filled with much excitement and joy, and as little apprehension as possible. We know we’re confronting challenges. And we know that, together, we’ll answer those challenges in unity as we continue to organize for the schools our students deserve.
Stacy Davis Gates