Teachers, supporters march at Mount Greenwood schools, ward office
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org September 10, 2012 9:50AM
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Updated: October 12, 2012 6:09AM
While striking public school teachers picketed the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, students milled about the campus wondering about their future.
Lael Hamilton, 16, a junior from Chicago’s Ashburn community and a safety on the football team, worried that an extended strike would cut into next year’s summer break, stall the football season and hurt his grades.
“They’re basically going to take half of our summer away,” Hamilton said. “I’m losing my education as well. I’m trying to go to college and get a scholarship. I’m trying to change my life by going to college.”
“What is the mayor doing to us? I’m with the teachers right now. They’re not getting paid.”
Hamilton was one of more than 350,000 Chicago students who were out of school Monday after the 30,000 teachers and educational personnel in the Chicago Public Schools went on strike for the first time in 25 years.
More than 100 teachers dressed up in red and hit the pavement early in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood and Beverly communities, gathering outside their local public schools as early as 6:30 a.m. The 17 teachers who marched back and forth at Keller Regional Gifted Center, 3020 W. 108th St., carried picket signs and a bullhorn and let their plight be known with a chant.
“What do we want? A contract,” they chanted. “When do we want it? Yesterday.”
Linda Sue Collins, a librarian, said that the strike has “everyone on edge.”
“Of course we’re concerned about the students,” said Collins, who lives in the West Pullman neighborhood. “It’s a shame it has to come to this.”
The teachers were not alone in their cause.
Michael Bliss showed up to picket with his wife, who teaches at the school. He said he was missing his classes at North Park University to attend the strike.
Bliss said he wasn’t a union guy, but he supports the struggle of organized labor against big business.
“That’s the worst,” Bliss said. “When poor people fight each other over scraps of nothing.”
In the police- and fire-union-heavy 19th Ward, several cars, vans, city garbage trucks and buses drove by and honked their horns in support with the union at Keller Regional Gifted Center and at the Ag school, 3857 W. 111th St.
Chicago firefighter Steve Marciano joined the protest. His three children go to Cassell Elementary School.
“I believe unions should support each other because we’re next,” Marciano said. “We stick together. It’s about fairness.”
Mike Doyle, a history teacher at the Ag School, said 52 teachers were protesting there. Red ribbons had been tied around all of the school trees lining 111th Street.
“Nobody wants to be out here,” Doyle said. “The way we see it, it’s not about us. It’s about the students.”
Ag School Assistant Principal Brendan O’Laughlin declined to comment on the rally or his school, which remained open to students as a last option for parents. Hamilton said he poked his head in the school and saw no one there.
Later in the day, the crowd of union teachers descended on the 19th Ward office, chanting “Shame on Rahm, shame on Rahm,” referring to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Ald. Matt O’Shea wasn’t there, but state Sen. Ed Maloney (D-Chicago) showed up 20 minutes into the demonstration. Maloney, a card-carrying member of the Illinois Federation of Teachers who still pays union dues, said he understood the teachers’ concerns. He invited four union members into his office for a chat.
“I think the mayor and the union need to focus on the students so it can be settled soon, so it can get back to normal,” Maloney said.