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CPS teachers who lost jobs in controversial program file lawsuit

Updated: January 28, 2013 3:54PM



Several African-American teachers who lost their jobs under Chicago Public Schools’ controversial turnaround program are suing the Board of Education, alleging the turnarounds, carried out in South and West Side schools, discriminate against African-American teachers and staff.

Donald L. Garrett Jr., Robert Green and Vivionell Brown Jr. blame CPS for a steady decline in black teachers from about 40 percent in 2000 to just under 30 percent in 2010. Since most black teachers are employed in South and West Side schools, “turning around” schools in those neighborhoods by firing all the staff and bringing in an entirely new team discriminates against African Americans, they allege in their lawsuit. All three men lost their jobs when their schools were turned around for weak academic performance; all three say they had satisfactory or better evaluations.

Garrett, Green and Brown, in conjunction with the Chicago Teachers Union, filed the class action lawsuit against the Board of Education and Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett Wednesday on behalf of all African-American teachers who lost their jobs in June 2012 to 10 school turnarounds. CTU attorney Robin Potter said they’re seeking to get their jobs back, lost pay, damages, an independent monitor to oversee the turnaround process in the future, and a moratorium on turnarounds until a monitor’s in place.

Green taught at Chicago Vocational High School; Brown taught at Woodson Elementary School. Garrett taught special education at Tilden High School; he was hired at Marshall High School in November.

“They weren’t the poorest performing schools, they weren’t the only schools on probation ­ — they were somewhat improving,” Potter said. “There are no published rules as to what schools are going to be subject to turnarounds.

“We’re now at a crossroads in Chicago where between school closings and the turnaround,” she continued, “the racial impact of the policies and practices of this board of education have devastated the African American teaching force in that community.”

Though African American teachers make up about 28 percent of CPS tenured teachers, they constitute 51 percent of the tenured teachers fired in the turnarounds authorized in February 2012, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.

“Less than half of all tenured teachers are re-hired after a school is subjected to turnaround, and the teaching populations of schools subjected to turnarounds are historically younger and more white,” it continues. North and Northwest side schools, which have fewer black students, have not been turned around, it says.

Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said in an email, “We have not seen the lawsuit and cannot provide comment until we have reviewed the allegations.”



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