Bright and early this morning before negotiations began, I spoke with Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chicago Public Schools Chief Education Advisor. She has been sitting at the negotiation table for four weeks now and I'm a grateful she took time to speak with me.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett is an experienced educator, supervisor, administrator, researcher of public urban education and a parent. She has been at negotiations table in Detroit, Cleveland and New York.
She made it clear there are two outstanding issues at the table: teacher evaluation and the layoff recall.
"This is not about class size and money," Byrd-Bennett stated.
After over 90 hours of meeting on teacher evaluations, her goal, as is everyones, is to have the best teachers in front of our students everyday. She explained they are required by law to implement teacher evaluation plans that have been developed with a committee. "We are not willing to lower calibration of teacher quality."
Byrd-Bennett continued, "Although we feel very strongly about the teacher eval process, we have made a compromise for one year and are willing to return to the table next year to see what was good and bad and tweak what didn’t work. I have had conversations with the Mayor and we all want the very best for our children. We cannot lower the standard."
As for the other issue Byrd-Bennett explained, "Layoff recall is simplistic and we are holding principals responsible for academic focus. The Union would like any teacher to fall into a vat that principals would hire from. Therefore they couldn't hire a talented art teacher or economics teacher. This is not a benefit to the students."
Again she explained that they have compromised, " The principal will require a number of interviews from the vat, and if not hired they must state why. This way we can make sure decisions are not based on race, gender etc."
Other issues we discussed that we agreed are important, but not enough for our kids to be away from school.
- Standardized Tests
- Air Conditioning
-Additional Social Workers and Nurses
Byrd-Bennett made clear they are willing to make a plan, work together and look for resources on all three accounts.
Last week I spoke with the teachers, today I spoke with the administration and unanimously we all agree our kids should be in school. We are teaching our kids the worst lesson. Our kids hear the name-calling, the teachers and administration need to set a professional example.
I asked Byrd-Bennett when our kids would be back in school, " We are going to be at the table advocating for our children and for our professionals until an agreement is made."