CPS and network chief first attempted to circumvent the CTU/Board of Education contract and unilaterally end the popular career pathway for students.
CHICAGO, March 28, 2019—The Prosser Career Academy Auto Body shop, a fully enrolled Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, is under threat of closure, according to Chicago Teachers Union members at the school. Prosser teachers and staff report that the decision to close the shop was made by Chicago Public Schools Network 15 Chief Randel Josserand and school principal Mark Schall, who did so at first unilaterally and without consulting students, parents, community members, school staff or the Prosser Local School Council (LSC). Such action would have been in direct violation of Article 18-18 of the CTU/Chicago Board of Education Agreement.
When the plan to unscrupulously close the shop was revealed by vigilant CTU delegates and members at the school, the administration reversed course and attempted to follow protocol. Ultimately, the decision to close was made despite Schall stating publicly at LSC meetings and in other meetings with staff (see timeline below) that no CTE shops would be closed and that he was in full support of the program.
“CPS and the administration at Prosser haven’t provided a reason for closing this shop, nor provided any data to support their choice,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Not only did this decision take place behind closed doors, LSC members, school delegates and the CTE department have been consistently lied to over the past several months.”
For the last two years, Prosser’s Auto Body program has been led by instructor Keshaun Thompson, with students obtaining certification and job placement in the field for the first time in years. Such results are evidence that CTE programs increase student engagement in high school, which improves post-secondary success—something that the district claims is a concern. Research shows that students in CTE have higher graduation and college entrance rates than regular non-college track students, and many CTE students obtain jobs after high school to pay for college.
There is inherent hypocrisy in the district expressing desire to best prepare students for life after high school, yet eliminating a popular CTE program that would provide either long-term employment or work while attending college.
“It’s my understanding from members that the network chief has been pushing to close Auto Body for years because he believes it is not a viable pathway, and the principal is going along with the plan,” Sharkey said. “And I trust my members completely, so since this is the case, the decision for closing such a beloved program must lie solely at the feet of principal Schall and Randel Josserand.”
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Late October/Early November 2018
Architectural plans for a $12 million CTE renovation are released to select individuals, but not the Local School Council. There is no designated space for a separate Auto Body shop in the plan. CTU delegate Kassandra Tsitsopoulos takes note of this and begins to ask for updates for next LSC meeting.
“We are very excited about the $12 million renovation, but the Prosser community wants to be involved,” Tsitsopoulos said. “From the start, meetings have been happening behind the scenes without our input, and there is no reason to close a viable shop program without community involvement, without data, without being considered in our Continuous Improvement Work Plan and without Local School Council approval.”
Auto Body instructor Keshaun Thompson is made aware that his shop may be closing—not by administration, but by others who viewed the CTE architectural plans.
Principal Schall informs some staff that Auto Body and Auto Tech will be taught in the same classroom next year, and that would alleviate the need to close the Auto Body shop.
Principal Schall claims he “misspoke” and should have communicated that, “…it is not our intent to offer Auto Body next year in a separate classroom.” The LSC is informed about Article 18-18 of the CTU/Board of Education Agreement which states that the formal steps to closing a shop includes “consultation with the LSC.” In response, the LSC votes unanimously on a motion to not closing any shops, and Schall is a “yes” vote.
CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson is notified, as well as the CTU/CPS CTE Committee. Thompson files a grievance under Article 18-18 about CTE program closings. The CPS Law Department notifies the CTU that the Office of College and Career Success has formally received a request from the school to close the Auto Body program.