CMSA: Pregnant Charter Teacher Fired For Organizing


Remember how in June we found out that the teachers at CMSA (Chicago Math and Science Academy) charter school had organized?  Well the latest on that front is that the school allegedly fired one of the leaders of the organizing effort.  But that's not all, according to this IFT press release:

"The teacher, Rhonda Hartwell [no, that's not her pictured], was eight months pregnant at the time of her firing and was forced to move up her scheduled delivery to ensure it occurred before her health insurance was cut off.  Meanwhile, attorneys for the charter school claim its teachers are private employees subject to the National Labor Relations Act."

No news yet from the management side, but I'm hoping that there's another explanation for this. 


Charter School
Fires Teacher Active in Union Organizing

Chicago Math and
Science Academy Also Challenges Teachers' Union Rights


Chicago Math and Science Academy (CMSA), a public charter school, fired a
highly regarded pregnant teacher who helped organize a union at the school in
June. The firing occurred as the school also challenged its teachers'
right to form a union.


teacher, Rhonda Hartwell, was eight months pregnant at the time of her firing
and was forced to move up her scheduled delivery to ensure it occurred before
her health insurance was cut off.


one thing for the school to fight the union's legitimacy, but it's
quite another to retaliate against a union organizer who has been rewarded with
performance bonuses and was pregnant. This is about as low as an anti-union administration
can go," said Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice.


had just received a $1,500 performance bonus, and the school had renewed her
contract in April, inviting her to come back to teach this fall. Attorneys for
the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the employer.


attorneys for the charter school claim its teachers are private employees
subject to the National Labor Relations Act. The school has filed a challenge
to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board's jurisdiction over
charter schools.


Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act and the Illinois Charter School Act
both make clear that charters--like all public schools--come
under state jurisdiction. State law also mandates union certification upon a
showing of a simple card-check majority.


chose to unionize by a pretty convincing majority, and the school should
respect that. Instead, it has chosen to deny us our legitimate right, under
state law, to form a union," said Brian Chelmecki, chair of the
school's math department.


of the teaching staff--well over the majority required by law--signed
union authorization cards to be represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charter
Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), an affiliate of the Illinois Federation of
Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. Chicago ACTS also represents
teachers at eight other charter schools in Chicago.


and their supporters--which include local community groups, and religious,
labor and political leaders--have vowed to fight what they say is a total
disregard for the law by school officials.


Janice Schakowsky, whose district includes Rogers Park, where the school is
located, met with CMSA teachers recently. She expressed "deep
concerns" about what she heard, and said she hoped school officials would
"abide by state law and act in a manner consistent with our democratic


said she believes school officials are punishing her for her union activities.
"They are using me as a scapegoat to send a chilling message to the rest
of the teachers," Hartwell said. "We formed a union to give
teachers a voice in making the school better and to create an environment where
teachers would feel secure enough to share ideas and concerns. I am still
hopeful that school officials will eventually do the right thing."


school cited budget reasons for terminating Hartwell, but she and her
colleagues are not buying it. They assert that CMSA is hiring new teachers, and
a few days before the union organized, CMSA offered all teachers a 5 percent
pay raise.


you look at the decisions being made by school leaders, the budget claim just
doesn't add up," Hartwell said.


CEO of Concept Schools:  Sedat Duman

VP of Concept Schools: Salim Ucan

Principal of Chicago Math and Science: Ali Yilmaz

Dean of Academics: Chris Austria


Concept Schools Contact Information:

2250 E. Devon Ave. Suite 215

Des Plaines, IL 60018

P: 847-824-3380

F: 847-824-3382


Chicago Math and Science Academy Contact Information:

7212 N. Clark St

Chicago, IL 60626




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  • Agree, if they want to be truly private, they should do it without public funds.

  • The unions -- and the rights they won -- created the middle class living standard in this country. I dont know what kind of life I would have had -- working in a factory at age 12? -- without labor rights won last century.

    I think this incident also points out how ridiculous our health care system is. I remember reading that, in a bad economy, abortion rates go up due, in part, to the elimination of health care.

  • It's nice that you have such a strong opinion about this, but it's been against the law in this country since at least 1935 to fire someone for union organizing. Or do you think charter schools should be able to break the law?

  • What a good laugh? REad what Milwaukee Teachers Union is doing:

    "Milwaukee teachers Union fight for Viagra drug coverage"

  • Pro Charter...
    I am going to repeat what was posted above "it's been against the law in this country since at least 1935 to fire someone for union organizing." Organizing a union is not sabotaging a company. I suppose you would fire a whistleblower for tattling on a company and think that is okay as well.

    As for the Milwaukee teachers union, if you had read the article you would have learned that ED is a condition that also causes anxiety and depression, and a host of other physical and psychological conditions. If vaginal cream, anti-bacterial medicine and estrogen replacement medication for female sexual dysfunction are covered then why not ED medication for men?
    I thought it was strange that they are fighting for specific medication for health coverage and not teachers' jobs. While it made the news this morning, this fight has been going on for a while and the lawsuit was files last month.

  • To 1:52 PM.--In that case, don't you think Charter Schools should give back the public education taxes they receive?

  • Your argument reminds me of the Germans' defense against the Holocaust. "I didn't question. I was just following orders".

  • Did Glenn Beck gain access to this site? If you want freedom from labor laws, go teach in Rwanda, Vietnam, or Georgia. Then get back to me if you can hack it. Oh, I'm sorry, you won't be able to because internet access is nonexistant or restricted. Good luck dodging old land mines too.

  • Hey anti-socialist,

    When you turn on the faucet thats socialism. When you drive on a paved road, thats socialism. When you get your mail, thats socialism. Oh, by the way, the internet, who developed it, uh oh, could it be, was it the goverment? Absolutely, more socialism. Its a shame Limbuagh addicts lurk in these sites. Did I mention radio, another government regulated industry that is owned by the public. Oops socialism strikes again.

  • In reply to FrontRow:

    ...libraries, fire departments, public schools... My favorite example is the national and state parks. Can you imagine the mansions that would be overlooking Yellowstone or DeSoto if our governments did not claim these properties for everyone? Let's compare the public sector to the private in regards to leisure activities: I could go to a Disney or another Orlando "park" and pay hundreds of dollars for unsustainable and non-authentic leisure time. Or I could pay the 50 cent toll to visit the beautiful beach at Ft. DeSoto state park. Of course, the need to maintain a lifestyle that includes such energy-soaking private institutions as Disney has resulted in a catastrophic oil spill that may destroy the public beaches.

  • You need to study the economic depression during the 1890's when free markets ruled.

  • "This teacher was not fired for being pregnant. But she should be fired for working directly against her employer's wishes and needs. If the charter school wanted union workers they would have hired union workers." Many companies consider pregnancy to be acting against the best wishes of the company. I could easily replace the word union with pregnant in your last sentence and it would still be logical from a free-market perspective: If the charter school wanted pregnant workers they would have hired pregnant workers.
    When I worked for a private FOR PROFIT college in Florida, my immediate supervisor told me that it was in the best interest of the company if I got an abortion. She implied I would be fired otherwise. I didnt abort or get fired, but I was demoted to receptionist -- they called me in during my UNPAID maternity leave to inform me. Another woman with the company wanted to file a class action, as she was overlooked for a well-deserved promotion, possibly because she was black. We both just left the company -- yes, it was a "company," not a "school" in practice. BTW, such colleges are the predecessors of today's charters.

  • After having been an attorney for a decade, I can tell you that had I stepped into a classroom without any educational certification, it would have been disastrous. I am an expert in Rhetoric, Law, and Psychology but that did not mean I could teach those subjects effectively. Managing a classroom and learning to present the material in a developmentally appropriate way is of paramount importance. I can tell you it took me at least 5 years to be a good teacher, and I'm still learning. I took my students from an average of 14.7 ACT English to a 17.2 ACT English over the past three years in a neighborhood school. There's no way I could have helped to achieve this without being certified to teach English and having a solid foundation in educational philosophy. I can also say that those gains will evaporate if my class sizes go to 35 because I cannot grade and give qualitative feedback to 175 students.

  • Well, I'll second the anecdotal evidence of others here; of my 15 or so TFA co-workers over the last few years all but one were truly horrendous. They all left the profession, thank goodness, after 2 years. One success out of fifteen, or one non-miserable failure, even anecdotally, is pretty poor.

    Regarding doctors, I agree it takes years of training. But it's really not as complicated as you seem to think. It is a massive amount of information memorization. But complicated? No. Competitive? Yes. Well paid? Yes. Respected as a profession? Yes. Intensive med school? Yes. But sorry, med school and basic practice is just not that complicated. If one can simply memorize one can do very well in medical school and as a general practitioner. For the record, I retired as a doctor to become a teacher. I think teaching is far more complicated. Of course, maybe you think my past practice was "paraprofessional" because I was a pediatrician and not a brain surgeon. Working with kids! How pedestrian!

    If you consider social workers and teachers to be paraprofessional I shudder to think of how you feel about skilled laborers, artisans, small business operators, etc. I suppose in your world they are "sub-professional".

    We agree that good teachers are good people. But we definitely disagree about the professionalism, skills, knowledge, and training required to be an outstanding educator.

  • thanks for flagging this, wow, but i think i'm going to leave it up. it's intense and perhaps callous but something along those lines did happen and we as a society are notoriously indifferent to the fates of poor minority children. the poster isn't endorsing what happened, but decrying it.

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