On Thursday, March 23, some 200 delegates pooled their contractually obligated delegate preps to get a release day in order to attend the CTU’s annual spring delegates training conference.
CTU President Stacy Davis Gates and organizer Tennille Evans welcomed the attendees and set the stage for what would be a day full of workshops, trainings, and dialogue — about building power from the school buildings to the district and charter networks to the highest levels of political power in the city.
“This is a city that uses words like renaissance and transformation to do bad things to people, especially Black people,” said President Davis Gates. “We’re gonna have to teach the city of Chicago how to redefine transformation, how to redefine renaissance.”
The day started with an appearance from Brandon Johnson, as he enters the home stretch in the race to become Chicago’s next mayor and to take the hopes and demands of educators to the fifth floor of City Hall.
After a standing ovation and a group photo with Brandon, CTU member and IFT Director of Professional Issues Dr. Monique Redeaux-Smith moderated a panel featuring three educators — from Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Chicago — about the path of destruction that Paul Vallas left behind in each of those cities (watch and share the panel here). Dr. Redeaux-Smith helped to connect the dots, explaining how Vallas’ firing of veteran educators, privatization of schools, and budgetary mismanagement has repeatedly unfolded in cities and countries where Black and Brown children are the majority.
Vi Curry, a retired educator from Philadelphia and former Philadelphia Federation of Teachers leader, talked about how Vallas left the schools in her district in a state of disrepair, with falling test scores and a budget deficit. Dr. Ashonta Wyatt, a former teacher and principal in New Orleans and leader activist of the Erase the Board coalition, talked about how Vallas descended on her city when people’s houses were still damp from the waters of Hurricane Katrina only to fire thousands of veteran educators and create a chaotic collection of charterized schools. Her story of how Vallas decimated New Orleans schools differed only in the details from what Ms. Curry reported from Philadelphia.
Given Vallas’ repeated failures to deliver on the promises he made, Dr. Wyatt minced no words:
“I don’t know a champion who calls himself a champion with a losing record. He’s not winning anywhere he goes, he’s not a champion of anything. He’s an architect of disaster. And Chicago has to say no. And I’m hoping you win because a win for you is a win for New Orleans. You’re going to wake my city up with the election of Brandon Johnson.”
And lastly, the CTU’s very own Jen Conant, who is the chair of the CTU’s Charter Division, talked about how Vallas supports charter operators, but not the students, educators, families, and communities who actually attend charter schools. That’s because profits for private operators — not students and educators — are at the heart of the Vallas agenda. Our organizing of charter schools is what has stopped charter proliferation in Chicago and helped to improve conditions for both educators and students.
Next, delegates attended a common workshop to discuss the CTU’s strategic plan for the upcoming three years, where they grappled with how mobilizing in school buildings is critical to realizing the full potential of this particular moment as well as the near future for public schools in our city. Winning the mayor’s office is, of course, a high priority, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Everything we do builds on the organizational foundations we forge in our school buildings and communities across the city, and this is what will make our three-pronged strategy of mayoral representation, bargaining strong charter and district contracts, and winning a pro-educator elected school board a reality.
The afternoon breakout sessions directly grew out of this strategy. They focused on specific topics that every school leader needs to build power, such as School Safety Know Your Rights, Teaching Through Trauma, Green Schools, Special Education, and Assertive Grievance Handling.
As the workshops wound down, a group of folks formed a car caravan from the CTU to Union Park to cast early votes in the mayoral race, explaining in a livestream why each of them supports Brandon’s agenda. The last day to vote is April 4, but early voting is open in every ward across the city (locations and details here), and you can make a plan for your own march to the polls after school between now and Election Day.
All in all, the day was inspiring, thought-provoking, and energizing. But don’t despair, if you sign up now, you can attend a second offering of this conference open to all CTU members on Saturday, March 25, beginning at 8 am at the CTU Center, 1901 W. Carroll Ave. Sign up here!
Saturday, March 25
9:00 am – 3:30 PM
CTU Center, 1901 W. Carroll Ave.
- New Delegates Workshop
- Charter Organizing
- Assessment Vote: Pushing Back on the Process
- Assertive Grievance Handling
- School Safety KYR
- Teaching Through Trauma
- Organizing for Healthy, Green, Sustainable Schools
- Navigating a Hostile Work Environment
- PPCs and PPLCs
- Schedule Vote Process
- Class Size
- Special Education
- Supporting Migrant Students
- PSRPs STLS
|Registration/Breakfast||8:00 AM||– 9:00 AM|
|Plenary Session||9:00 AM||– 10:00 AM|
|Common Workshop||10:15 AM||– 11:30 AM|
|Lunch||11:30 AM||– 12:15 PM|
|Choice Workshop||12:15 PM||– 1:30 PM|
|All In for Brandon Canvass||1:30 PM||– 3:30 PM|
Scenes from the conference: