During the pandemic, with lives on the line, it’s important for our PSRPs to step back rather than step up.

Our clerks and technology coordinators were on the front lines of our fight for a safe reopening beginning in August. Back then, CPS dangerously forced them to return to school buildings that an independent arbitrator eventually ruled were unsafe. That fight set the stage for our eventual safety agreement with CPS.

Now, our PRSPs are needed again to help enforce that agreement.

Eyes and Ears

Clerks and other staff are the frontline workers in our schools. They are the eyes and ears of the building. They know the staff and families. They know when children come to school sick and they know when an ill student needs to be sent home. This intimate knowledge of our buildings is exactly why our PSRPs need to join their safety committees from the start — their voice is needed more than ever.

Any agreement with CPS isn’t worth the paper it’s written on unless we stand up and actively enforce it. The safety committees are the way we will hold CPS accountable. It’s how we’ll organize our buildings, build solidarity and work together to ensure our members, our students and their families are protected, as best they can be, in school during the pandemic.

Filling the gaps

When something goes wrong, PSRPs are often the first person in the building a principal reaches out to. No sub for the classroom? Find a teacher’s aide to fill in. No one to monitor lunch or recess? Send the clerk down. And, out of dedication to their students and their school — and maybe even to their principal — PSRPs often step in to fill those staffing gaps.

We fought hard to win our safety agreement. Members sacrificed, working outside in the cold, risking discipline and pay. The safety agreement we won protects PSRPs from taking on extra work, like staffing the care room or taking temperatures, during in-person pandemic school. Our agreement with CPS gives you the right to say, “No,” when your principal taps you for extra duties. And, “No means no.”

You aren’t just protecting yourself when you exercise that right, but you are protecting your school community. CPS will never provide our schools with the staffing and resources they need and that have been promised if  PSRPs continue to play the dutiful helper role — always willing to chip in when needed. Saying “no” to inappropriate assignments today can help ensure your school has the proper staffing you need tomorrow.

CPS needs to solve staffing issues

We’ve been receiving reports of serious staffing issues in schools, but it is up to CPS to solve those problems. PSRPs have their own, full-time job responsibilities and, at evaluation time, they are rated on how well they perform those duties, not on how helpful and willing they are to pitch in.

It can be hard to say “No.” If your principal hassles you because you’re sticking firm for the resources your school needs, reach out for help. You can talk to your school delegate or reach out to your CTU field rep or organizer for backup. Find your school’s CTU staff support at www.ctulocal1.org/reps.

I was a school clerk. My mother and daughter are school clerks. I understand the devotion our PSRPs have to their school communities. We want our schools to succeed. We want our students — our babies — protected and cared for. We are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that happens.

But during this pandemic, lives are on the line. We need to hold CPS accountable for its promises. So, now it’s important to step back rather than step up.

Christel Williams-Hayes is CTU Recording Secretary and a PSRP for Life.