Frustration mounts for parents on second day of strike
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA AND KARA SPAK Staff Reporters September 11, 2012 2:08PM
Kayneshia Wells talks about keeping her children on schedule, outside of the Theodore Herzl Elementary School 3711 W. Douglas. It is a contingency school. Tuesday, Sept 10, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:34PM
Do it for 9-year-old Kaihla, 7-year-old Sha-ron and 11-year-old Terrence, who were at a Children First site at Doolittle Elementary on Tuesday.
Or think of 5-year-old Jaquise, 8-year-old Isaiah and 11-year-old Charles Jr., who attended the Children First program at Herzl Elementary.
That was the message Tuesday from their parents to the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, as they and others struggled to make do with the half-day strike-contingency programs that CPS is operating at 147 sites.
“I am just so angry. This isn’t right what they’re doing to us. How do you go to work when your children have nowhere to go?” said Sha-ron and Terrence’s mother, Aqueelah Dennard, after picking them up from Doolittle.
Dennard, a single parent, works at a beauty salon and goes to school at night.
“I couldn’t go to work yesterday. I had to call off. Every day is a struggle to find someone to keep them. CPS is ridiculous,” she said.
“They need to pay these teachers and give them what they need so that the kids can go back to school. I feel like we give more respect to everybody else, professional athletes, for example, than we do our teachers and these are the people laying a foundation for our children, our future,” she said.
About 42 students showed up for the 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. program Tuesday at Doolittle on the South Side — up from 35 on Monday. CTU members showed up too, arriving about 7 a.m. to picket as parents dropped off children.
They also picketed at Herzl, on the West Side, where student attendance also was up — to 60, from Monday’s 53. Herzl Principal Tamara Davis said she had been prepared to host as many as 500 students daily during the strike.
“We’re staying positive. We aren’t replicating school. We need our teachers to do that,” she said above the din of strikers. “But it is a safe place.”
Jaquise’s mother, Sheree Sparkman, complained of having to call off from her full-time job as a Kohl’s cashier “because I couldn’t keep him in school.” Charles Wilson, father of Isaiah and Charles Jr., a mechanic, also complained of missing work. He said he doesn’t get paid if he does not work.
“I don’t know what to do about getting a baby-sitter. If my mama has to go to the doctor, I have nobody to keep them,” Wilson said. “I have to stay home.”
Citywide, observers said attendance was still low at many Children First sites intended for desperate parents who have no other child-care options. City officials, however, said about 25,800 students Tuesday took part in programming offered through or in partnership with the Children First Plan.
Working parents complain the midday pickup time does not work for them.
And it was clear that frustration was mounting on the second day of the strike.
“I am truly angry,” Chioma Ozuruigbo fumed as she picked up daughter Kaihla.
The insurance broker arranged with her boss to work half days for two weeks.
“I am a single mom, and I do not have the luxury of not having my child in school, over a senseless strike. Teachers deserve to be compensated, but on some of these other issues, I believe the union is being completely unreasonable,” Ozuruigbo said. “Everyone has to be accountable in their jobs. I have to be. You have to be. We can’t keep protecting bad teachers.
“To me, not only are you being disrespectful to the children but you can’t keep a half million kids out of school and not know you’re using kids as pawns,” she said. “It’s sickening. I’m fed up. If this goes any longer than two weeks, I’ll be enrolling her at the nearby Catholic school, St. Thomas.”