The departure of Dr. Janice Jackson as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools sends a clear signal that our city’s educational system is hurting. What would cause Jackson — an African American woman, a product of CPS schooling, a former CPS teacher, a principal and a proven leader — to leave the job she loves?
Ugly Politics. That’s what’s causing good leaders to want out. It is what’s crippling the advancement of our schools.
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Looking at the problem as a whole, it is clear that CPS administrators, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union have dug in their heels and refused to collaborate in earnest. Why is this?
Historically, the teachers union and other stakeholders in the city’s schools, including the Chicago Principal & Administrators Association, have been excluded from the process of making key CPS decisions. True partnership and collaboration is about more than simply consulting others. It is about including all stakeholders in the actually decision-making process.
That’s the main reason the CTU has fought CPS tooth and nail, resorting to civil disobedience, media pressure and other radical tactics to gain greater respect, more political muscle and a seat at the table. But — another question — have these tactics by CTU’s leadership not only built solidarity among union members but also benefited the thousands of CPS students and their families?
Jackson is right that many CPS teachers and CTU members don’t agree with the hard-line positions the teachers’ union is taking, or with the union leaders’ harsh rhetoric. I am one of the many who agree with Jackson that the current confrontational relationship between CTU bosses, the mayor and the CPS brass is not sustainable or effective. Our students depend on all sides to find meaningful solutions to complex educational problems.
Teachers, is it time to support a different type of solidarity? One that is less worried about amassing political clout and media posturing and cares more about finding common-sense solutions that empower our students and their education?
Parents, it’s time to put pressure on both CPS and CTU to collaborate.
Chicago, it’s time to remind the mayor that “turning the page” means more inclusion with the CTU, the Principals Association, local school councils and other stakeholders. Sharing more in the crafting of educational decisions could lead to less gridlock, less ugly politics and the school district’s better ability to hire and retain good people like Dr. Jackson.
Froy Jimenez, CPS civics teacher and CTU member