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What I did as a CPS teacher

Chicago Public School student NataliSegal joins picket line outside  Marshall High School Wednesday.  |   Scott Olson~Getty

Chicago Public School student Natalia Segal joins the picket line outside Marshall High School on Wednesday. | Scott Olson~Getty Images

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Updated: October 15, 2012 9:25AM

I worked for eight years with the Chicago Public Schools, and while I am beginning my first year of teaching with a district outside of Illinois, I thought it important to point out some of the reasons why these teachers are on strike, and why I chose to leave this difficult, dysfunctional district.

Things I did while a teacher with the Chicago Public Schools:

1. Bought 90 percent of students school supplies every year. With my own money. Every year.

2. Bought a projector with my own money.

3. Bought a document camera with my own money.

4. Bought a copy machine with my own money because the teachers at my school were not allowed to use the one in the office.

5. Went weeks without getting paid due to mistakes made by the board. Multiple times.

6. Dodged bullets. Literally. More than once.

7. Packed my belongings in plastic bins the minute I walked in the door of my class due to a bed bug infestation that was ignored by the administration.

8. Saw an attempted murder on the school’s security camera.

9. Had two cell phones, one iPod and an iPod dock stolen from my locked room.

10. Was “given the option” to purchase my own classroom key after a substitute walked off with mine. I was told the school could not afford to purchase one for me.

11. Taught a class with 41 seventh-grade students in it due to a teaching assistant principal’s decision to not teach that year.

12. Spent hours on the phone during peak times when CPS mistakenly dropped my newborn from my insurance plan.

13. Bought supplies and awards with my own money for an entire middle school’s science fair because the company who supplied awards refused to work with CPS due to unpaid bills.

14. Broke up a fight between two pregnant seventh graders.

15. Raised test scores every year. The Chicago Teacher’s Union fights not only for pay increases, but for fair working conditions and fair learning conditions. The teachers have made great gains in achievement over the past few years. Imagine what they could do if the above issues were a thing of the past.

Jen Knoblock, Edgerton, Kan.

Here’s how to end the strike

My suggestion to end the strike is for the city to build a life-size statue of Karen Lewis installed in front of CTU headquarters. That might let her ego lighten up a bit.

Robert Wagnon, Lincoln Park

Why teachers are passionate

Walking the picket line outside of the Board of Education this week, I have seen how passionate the men and women of the Chicago Teachers Union are about their cause. They’re passionate about this strike because they’re passionate about their job as teachers and paraprofessionals.

For Chicago’s public school teachers, their work is more than an occupation — it’s a calling. It’s a vocation; a labor of love. They care deeply and passionately about our schools, the quality of education they provide and the future of the children they teach.

Any teacher on strike this week will say that he or she would rather be in the classroom doing what they love: teaching children. But unfortunately, they haven’t received the support, the resources or the respect from Chicago Public School leaders that they deserve. That is why this week teachers have been forced to take dramatic action to stand up for what is best for their students and Chicago’s public schools.

The lesson to be learned from this strike is that there is no bigger advocate for our public schools than our teachers. Chicago Public Schools should actively seek out their expertise, tap into their knowledge and experience in the classroom, and engage teachers in collaboration as full-fledged partners. This should be the standard procedure during times of labor peace as well as conflict. Labor and management can solve more challenges when they work together than when they fight.

Chicagoans stand with our teachers because they respect them and the work they do every day in our communities to support our children. It’s time the Board of Education and CPS followed suit. The only way Chicago can address the challenges in our schools is in full partnership with our teachers, parents and community.

Jorge Ramirez, president,

Chicago Federation of Labor

Unexpected consequences

Rahm Emanuel and now David Vitale have said repeatedly that this teachers strike is a strike of choice. And it is. Rahm chose to foster a bill which would make it extremely difficult for teachers to try and negotiate a new contract on a level playing field. He chose to unilaterally try to change an existing contract by imposing a longer school day and year during the 2011-2012 school years. Emanuel chose to rescind the 4 percent raise contractually owed teachers for that same school year. When teachers balked at these actions the mayor chose to engage a possible illegal labor practice by circumventing the union and trying to make deals with individual teachers/schools to accept the longer school day. From the beginning of his administration he has chosen to bully, insult and denigrate the teachers who are trying to do a job in what are often difficult and trying circumstances. Hopefully the mayor will come to realize that choices sometimes have unexpected and undesired consequences.

Daniel Pupo, Bellwood

Breaking system even further

While allowing a principal to hire his or her own staff is good in theory, please remember that when principals can hire and fire at will, they will often fire or RIF staff simply because they didn’t hire them — not because they haven’t performed effectively. Tenure protects teachers from this unsavory practice. It almost seems like leadership is hoping to spread the patronage hiring that happens in city politics to education.

And for those who feel that it’s not fair that teachers should be protected from firing in a way that other people are not protected from firings by managers and CEOs, the next question has to be: Should we change a system by breaking it further? Do we want to lower everyone to the same bad standards or find a way to raise everyone to the same high ones?

Lori Sadowski, Brookfield

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