CTU president says teachers contract talks take ‘turn for the better’
BY ROSALIND ROSSI and TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporters September 6, 2012 11:48AM
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:31PM
The head of the Chicago Teachers Union said Friday that negotiations with the district have taken a “turn for the better.”
During an appearance on WLS-TV on Friday, CTU President Karen Lewis said she’s been more heartened by recent talks with officials at Chicago Public Schools.
The teachers union has called for a strike Monday if there’s no agreement on a contract. It would be the first teachers strike in a quarter century in Chicago, which has more than 400,000 public school students.
Lewis says negotiations are continuing over issues such as working conditions and pay.
On Thursday, some 35,000 Chicago residents packed the phone lines to join a “teletownhall” about what to do with kidsin case of a strike.
Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard told the phone-in audience he expected to provide a half-day of food and shelter to about 150,000 of the system’s more than 400,000 public school children if teachers walk off the job.
But Brizard emphasized, “none of us are looking to replace our teachers. We are providing breakfast, lunch and some activities for kids.”
“We want to assure you we are meeting every day to reach a fair agreement because no one will be hurt more than the 400,000 children who just began a new school year.’’
Earlier Thursday, CPS officials released the names of 144 school sites that will be open on a limited basis for students in case of a strike — from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. weekdays.
The sites also will provide breakfast, lunch, “a safe environment” and “positive activities” for students, according to a CPS statement.
Although the system will not turn away any CPS children, CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler emphasized that the contingency sites are intended as a “safety net” for children whose parents have “exhausted all other means to find a safe environment” for their kids.
Parents who need to use the schools are encouraged to sign up their children beforehand at www.cps.edu/childrenfirst or call 311 if parents don’t have Internet access.
Eventually, all missed days will have to be made up, even for those children who attend contingency sites, Brizard said in response to several parent questions.
Also on Thursday, Chicago pastors announced 59 church doors will be open as safe havens for children in the event of a CPS strike.
The pastors said CPS has not reached out with details of a contingency plan but will provide some Safe Haven funds to some of the churches if a strike occurs. The rest of the funds will come from Catholic Charities ministries and donations.
Parents can register their kids for the church safe-haven program by calling a hotline at 773-553-2500.
Contributing: Associated Press