It seems every day presents us with new changes and challenges to our normal routine. So, it’s important to remember that, despite living through an active pandemic, our Contract is in still in full effect. Every school in the district has felt the impact of the COVID-19 virus. Every family has been touched by it in some way. With more uncertainty in our futures than ever, many of our members are experiencing anxiety levels beyond what we normally face as educators.
Our Union faces threats from those that wish to use this crisis as justification to drastically cut the wins gained this past November. An active Professional Problems Committee (or a Professional Solutions Committee—as they’re called in charter schools) is the most essential and effective tool the Union has to protect our Contract and the rights of our members and schools communities.
An active PPC (or PSC):
- Regularly solicits members’ concerns, identifying patterns and shared issues;
- Voices these concerns in regularly held meetings;
- Disseminates the principal’s responses to CTU members, identifying where resolution has occurred and where unresolved issues need further action; and
- Brainstorms further actions needed on key issues.
Your PPC may not immediately know the solution to every problem. It can hold a principal accountable, though, for finding solutions that effectively respond to the needs of our members.
In a crisis, seemingly small issues may cause a disproportionate amount of stress. Responding to a concern—even when it seems minor or irrelevant, and without passing judgement—may just be what a member needs to feel safe. Both CPS and ISBE have directed principals to work with our members in the spirit of grace, flexibility and empathy.
When enforcing a contract, it’s important to sweat the small stuff. No doubt, your school has received requests to work beyond the four hours required during remote learning. Those requests imply that if our members just work harder, they can compensate for the pandemic. The longer schools remain closed, the more we can expect administrators to make these requests and with greater frequency. Well-established PPCs will be able to address and dismiss these requests with ease.
Normally, the CTU recommends that PPCs meet at least once per month or when necessary. However, for as long as remote learning is in place, the Board has directed principals to participate in PPCs as frequently as twice per month. We don’t anticipate this being a problem. However, if your principal refuses to meet with your PPC, please contact your CTU field representative.
Ready the PPC to Face Any Challenge
To make sure your PPC is ready to process and resolve any future challenge that arises, the CTU recommends the following guidelines.
Keep Your PPC Fully Staffed
PPCs should include the delegate, four additional CTU members (from a wide range of teaching assignments and job titles, including PSRPs) and the principal. So, if you have current vacancies, the delegate should ask for volunteers and inform the principal of additional appointments.
Get Help to Keep Up with Members
Stay in regular contact with your members, but share the responsibility. We still don’t know when in-building instruction will resume. Therefore, delegates should establish a system that isn’t overwhelming for communicating with staff and receiving concerns. Due to the strikes last fall, every school should have a Contract Action Team to ensure this happens. Having the CAT check in regularly with every member should be the goal. If a CAT identifies a concern for the PPC, the CAT member should bring this to the attention of the delegate for inclusion in the next Agenda. See page 13 of the PPC-PPLC Tool Kit for a sample intake form.
Hold Virtual Union Meetings
A few tips and resources:
- Use a non-CPS provided platform like Zoom or Free Conference Call.
- Conduct Union meetings outside of the four hours of remote learning.
- This will be especially important to share updates on end-of-year protocols such as schedule vote, testing votes, etc. and even to preview next year’s Grading Guidelines.
- See below for more tips on running your meeting.
Establish Union Office Hours
Use these Office Hours to talk to members and handle concerns. This can be helpful to regulate when you do Union work during the week and when members should contact you for assistance.
Delegates should ask principals to honor the delegate prep once per month.
Provide Timely Minutes
Be sure to communicate PPC meeting minutes to staff soon after meetings are held (Tool Kit Page 10) and sample Minutes (Page 15).
Upcoming Issues for PPCs
Some of the key issues all PPCs will need to address in the coming weeks will include:
- School Schedule (CTU Guidance Page) (Articles 4-2, 5-2, and 6-2)*
- Flex PD Votes (CTU Guidance Page) and Determination of Professional Development Activities (Articles 4-10, 5-10, and 6-7)*
- Assessment Votes (CTU Guidance Page) (Article 44-32)*
- Teacher Program Preference (Article 40-1, 40-2, 40-3)
- Duties of Counselors during remote learning (20-2.6)
- Duties of Special Education Faculty during remote learning (21-11)
- Texts and Supplies (Article 7)
All votes for the 2020-2021 school year (Schedule, Flex PD, and Assessment) are dependent on schools reopening. At the time of the production of this document, CPS had not yet released instructions for these votes. Votes should not occur on these issues until these instructions are released to all schools.
Tips for Union and PPC Meetings
Below are some tips for planning & facilitating PPC meetings and Union meetings with staff.
- Reach out to meeting participants beforehand to make sure they feel comfortable with the basics of the technology
- Give people on your team different roles: Have one person (probably the delegate) chair the meeting, another person should be in charge of tech issues (e.g. admitting participants, muting/unmuting), another person should monitor the chat area, and so on. This both ensures the meeting goes smoothly in all ways and that you engage your team in teamwork.
- Prepare with your PPC members to ensure you’re on the same page about your goal outcomes + purpose for the meeting including your suggested solutions to the issues
- Assign different agenda points to different PPC members; have PPC members involved in presenting issues and possible solutions
- Use Union meetings or office hours with your coworkers to get input to inform your PPC meeting agenda
- Encourage participation with video where it makes sense: it can make a difference to actually see each other. You can ask people to find a wall as a background where they can be comfortable, and if people are feeling self-conscious in any way, encourage them to wear a hat or a hoodie—anything they need to feel more at ease.
Sample PPC / PSC Agenda
Click any link to download the file. Look for the file in your browser’s designated Downloads folder, if it doesn’t open automatically.
- PPC Remote “POP” Agenda (POP—Purpose, Objectives, Process—is a great way to structure a meeting)
- Sample PPC Agenda includes evidence, contract articles and other helpful items
Sample Union Meeting Agenda
Click the link to download the file. Look for the file in your browser’s designated Downloads folder, if it doesn’t open automatically.