CORE throws down at first virtual Board of Education meeting

In the first ever Chicago Board of Education virtual meeting, CORE members threw down. Check out remarks from Dennis Kosuth, School Nurse; Jackson Potter, High School Teacher; Jesse Sharkey, CTU President; and Katie Osgood, Special Education Teacher... 

Dennis Kosuth .. school nurse 

I’ve been a registered nurse for 13 years, a certified school nurse for the past 4 years, and have been doing my best to continue to provide services despite school being out of session.

This experience has underlined for me how correct the people are who were pushing for more health services and more nurses in our schools. 
School nursing should have a huge public health component to it. Staff were looking to nurses to provide education about Covid-19, and before schools shut down, I was able to do two meetings with staff who had questions about Covid-19 - and wish I had been able to do more interactions with the communities
We know we need more nurses, and nurses at the CTU have been meeting monthly to discuss how to get more nurses into CPS, and I would be happy to share those ideas with any board member who is interested in discussing them further.
This crisis has also exposed the shortcomings we have in regards to health in this country generally
Many families don’t have a primary care provider, and with the shut down of many workplaces, I can only imagine how many are struggling to figure out bills. All this is even before this disease has hit the city in the same way it is hitting New York City, or god forbid, the way Italy is being horribly affected.
I’m confident that there are those who may be wiling to volunteer to provide further assistance to this crisis, and may want to bring their skills to the members of this community.
This has hit me personally, as in addition to my CPS job, I work one eight hour shift a week in a small emergency room on the near South side. The Friday night shift was supposed to be an 8 hour shift and became a 15 hour shift - because we were so short staffed. 
I spoke with my supervisor this morning who just made me aware that I had provided direct care to two patients who have since tested positive, one of whom I remember caring for without wearing a N95 mask, gown, or eye shield. She said the employer will not be providing a test, unless I have symptoms.
On my own, I went and got in line to be tested at one of the sites that the National Guard is running, and fortunately got in just under the wire, as 10 cars behind me was where the line was cut. 
I worry about myself, my wife, a CPS preschool teacher, my 12 year old CPS student, and my in-laws that live upstairs.
I worry about what the future holds for all the people of this city. Some have said it will only affect the old and the sick, that is completely the wrong way to view this - we will all be affected. 
Resources exist in this country, and they need to be tapped.
Whenever children and staff return to schools - we can guarantee that many will have suffered trauma. The trauma of being sick, the trauma of losing a job, of not being able to pay pills, or the worse case scenario - the loss of life.
This is a time for bold action, for making big asks, for not holding back on our demands.


Jackson Potter -- History teacher, Back of The Yards High

Dear Board members, 

Thank you for the courage to rename Columbus day, now bold leadership is needed more than ever. While social isolation is tough, the real crisis will happen later when parents have double mortgage payments and utility bills. For that reason the CTU and our Housing committee asks that you support a bill to lift the ban on rent control in the state legislature… my grandparents are only able to stay in Queens because of rent control, we desperately need it in Illinois. 

No evictions of our students, ever… not just during a covid-19 crisis, evictions will spike in the aftermath of this, we need a lasting solution to the devastating impacts of evictions and foreclosures on students lives … asking CBOE to halt business with financial institutions that will not adopt a no-eviction and no foreclosure of CPS students /families policy. 

Support the CBA for the Obama library … adopt a policy of no school closures or displacements in and around the proposed library. 

Support Rep Ramirez proposal to double homeless prevention funds for the state 

Mortgage and rent freeze --- delay don’t double payments

Lastly, we need a more robust public sector in a time of crisis not a weakened foundation. Deputize under and unemployed parents to become STLS coordinators to ramp up services to our housing insecure students, unionized custodians … the public sector must become a place to expand opportunities not a casualty of calamity. 

Esp our homeless but all students also need free internet and chromebooks, unfortunately this is not the last we are going to see of Covid … we need better means and policies to allow internet communication and videoconferencing with them if school is out again. Also, you should provide cash payments to undocumented families to stay afloat, they trust schools and should be able to access economic support in our buildings. 

On our CTU housing committee and CTU leadership would like to schedule a meeting ASAP, it can be zoom, along with the City Dept of Housing, to pull together a package of enhanced protections for our most vulnerable students. Please let us know when we can do this in the next week.

Jesse Sharkey, President of the CTU Remarks to Chicago Board of Education 3-25-20
Thank all our educators, parents, students an everyone who makes public schools go—it’s a
trying time.
The schools that yesterday provided learning, support and solace are still going support you
tomorrow. Know that the members of the CTU--teachers, clinicians and Paraprofessionals--are
committed to that.
I know CPS administration has been working non-stop to respond to this crisis. I know because
I’ve been on the phone with your leadership… at all hours, 7 days a week. It hasn’t been
perfect—there’s been a surprise or two. But I appreciate not only your work, but also your
willingness to work together.
We intend to support our students now and after this pandemic has subsided
We must confront equity needs head on for our school communities and our city, as CPS
grapples with the consequences of the coronavirus. Our school communities must have the
right to recover, and CPS’ proposed $75 million in COVID-19-related expenditures must speak
to those needs and the broad equity demands we won for students and families in our contract.
CTU has put together a package of legislation called the “Right to Recovery” that is being
advanced by local and state legislators. We ask that CPS and the Board join us in urging state
legislators and ISBE to advance these goals not just in Chicago but across the state for every
public school student.
Our demands include issues that are not directly related to CPS but are critical to students and
their families:
 Immediate housing for all students in temporary living situations—homeless
students—and CPS/BOE support for the 'Right to Recovery' coronavirus package
being advanced by local and state legislators.
 Health care supports for all students
 And Pushing companies to fast track the manufacture and provision of computer
devices for every student in every school.

Closer to home, our students’ linchpin issues—the desperate need for school nurses, trauma
supports, smaller class sizes, the expansion of supports for special education students and
homeless students, and more—will only intensify in the wake of fallout from the pandemic.
 As we segue out of remote learning back into our school communities, work
together to provide the infrastructure for more supports for students—including
new funding for those supports.

 Staff up for nurses in every school community now, rather than staffing up
incrementally under the terms of the five-year contract;
 Expand the number of professionals in school communities who provide
social/emotional support;
 Expand support for special education students;
 Work with the CTU to afford rank and file members the opportunity to volunteer to
support needs within school communities and within the larger city.
We want everyone to know that students and the public can count on members of the
CTU—public school teachers, clinicians, and paraprofessionals—to help, and that together
we will overcome this crisis.

Katie Osgood -- Special Education Teacher

Hello. My name is Katie Osgood and I am a special education teacher at Suder Montessori School.

First of all, I want to thank Dr Jackson, Chief McDade, the Board, and CPS for helping to make the right call in the midst of these difficult times to not only close schools, but also to implement important measures like canceling the NWEA and REACH tests, freezing the SQRP, and seeking waivers which the US Dept of Ed has now granted to skip all federal and state mandated tests this school year.
This crisis has laid bare the reality of our flawed system. A system that was set to punish schools for attendance in the middle of a global pandemic when we needed sick kids and staff to stay home.
This is also a system which punishes the schools which serve the highest needs students, labeling them with a scarlet Level 2 or 3 rating. These are schools which serve the highest numbers of students with disabilities, students with trauma, students of color, students in poverty, students in temporary living situations, and recent immigrants.
And those are the schools which bear the brunt of obsessive test prep, micromanaging, bully administrators, the squeezing out of activities like history, art, and project-based learning, obscene attendance incentives, and even the pushing out low scoring students such as students with IEPs.
We were already plagued with scandal before this COVID-19 crisis hit. The recent IG report showed “irregularities” in testing for the NWEA, essentially invalidating the test. This result is inevitable. This system creates massive perverse incentives to do everything possible to game the system. This is not about individuals failing, but a system set up to fail.
Those of us in schools know the truth. The NWEA is an especially bad test. I’ve seen kids have mental health breakdowns in the middle of testing, pulling out eyelashes, banging heads on the desk, needing to be ambulanced to psychiatric facilities due the insane pressure of this one test!
Now is the time to dump the NWEA as a high-stakes measure. Allow educators to use it as a tool, if desired, but not tied to school ratings, teacher evaluation, selective enrollment, or student retention.
And let’s abolish, not just freeze, the SQRP school rating system. Let me say it again, Abolish the SQRP! Permanently. This is an equity issue. This is an ethical issue. And now is the perfect time to change.
Thank you.

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