Important breaking news for rank and file members on high school Wednesday prep time, our battle to hold CPS to their word to accommodate nursing mothers and parent educators with childcare issues, and a strong win for our safety committees…

Ericson Safety Committee win

Shout-outs to the safety committee at Ericson Elementary in Garfield Park, which escalated their complaint about unsafe working conditions in the building in the wake of widespread building repairs that have created serious safety issues, from poor air quality to warning signs about possible asbestos exposure. Ericson staff brought the issue to CTU President Jesse Sharkey and CTU field rep Kathy Murray, who are our leads on our District-wide safety committee — and Jesse and Kathy immediately flagged this at Wednesday’s CPS/CTU District Safety Committee meeting.

“Escalating to the District level got us the safety review we need,” said Ericson CTU delegate Susan Cottrell. “By the end of day Wednesday, our principal had notified educators that we would work remotely Thursday and Friday while district staff conduct an immediate safety inspection and air quality test.”

Our safety committees have the ability to get swift action on critical school safety needs, including those not directly related to COVID. Learn more about how to organize your safety committee at this link.

CTU files grievance for nursing educators in accommodations fight

Four of our rank and file members participated in a powerful early morning press conference today to talk about how impossible CPS is making life for working parents, including nursing mothers — who were promised accommodations that CPS is now refusing to provide. CPS flat-out lied to reporters today, saying they’d never agreed to accommodate nursing mothers. So we shared their April 5 email clearly showing they’re breaking their word. And we’ve filed a grievance on behalf of nursing mothers who want to teach remotely, as we continue our wider struggle around accommodations at the bargaining table.

This fight is far from over, so stay tuned.

High school Wednesday schedule scenarios to add two hours of prep time

We wrote last week about a model schedule guidance document that CPS sent to high school principals about how to incorporate the two hours of additional prep time mandated for teachers in the high school MOA into Wednesday schedules. Those schedules were not negotiated, but instead were developed and disseminated by CPS. We know that adding the time has presented logistical and technical challenges based on individual school needs. While we obviously want and are seeing schools add the additional prep time to schedules, we believe the minutes in two of the scenarios CPS provided are in error.

In Scenario 1, no time is lost from regular prep periods and lunch as the 120 minutes for additional prep time is taken from the 5 teaching periods. We know this scenario is less preferable to many schools, however, because the prep time is not provided in a substantial block and is dispersed throughout the day.

The crux of the problem: Scenarios 2 and 3 shorten all class periods — including members’ lunch periods. Our contract requires that lunch periods cannot be shortened unless the school day is shortened by the same number of minutes. These models can be corrected by shortening the school day at schools where this model is employed. Regular 50 minute periods should be shortened by 24 minutes, resulting in 26 minutes of synchronous instruction and 21 asynchronous (during the blocks of prep).

In more detail: At a glance, Scenario 2 in the traditional model is shortened by 20 minutes. In a 50 minute class, 30 minutes of class time is synchronous. Teachers are required to teach 5 classes per day *20 minutes = 100 minutes of additional prep time. This issue could be resolved by 26 minutes of synchronous class time instead of 30 minutes.

In addition, the contract language in Article 6-1 states “if the regular lunch period is shortened to less than fifty minutes, the teacher’s school day shall be shortened an equal number of minutes.” Therefore, the school day should be shortened by 24 minutes as well.

Our recommendations: We fully understand high school schedules are complex and we want to ensure the implementation meets the HS MOA, our contract, and the ISBE requirements which we can all recognize is hard to do in this complex situation. We have repeatedly asked CPS to clarify how they came up with the recommended minutes in the provided scenarios this past week, and CPS has seemingly refused to address and answer our inquiries, which leaves us with no other conclusion to draw, that CPS does not intend to remedy the minutes.

We recommend that schools using Scenario 2 or 3 (and we have heard from several schools) bring this discrepancy to your school’s PPC or Safety Committee to attempt to find agreement on a resolution that gets teachers back the additional time.

If no resolution can be landed there, we recommend that you work with your CTU Field Rep to file a grievance to document this lost time and attempt to receive remedy.

The language we are recommending for such a grievance is: Additionally, the CTU will continue to pursue remedy globally via the District-wide Safety Committee and strategic bargaining channels with CPS. As we know though from experience, it is critical that we enforce our contract and agreement in our schools, and filing a grievance means we are not letting CPS off the hook.