McPherson Community Rallies Around Teachers Displaced As Result of Longer School Day

By Patty Wetli | Wednesday, June 13, 2012

McPherson teacher Amanda Dunakin (l) and LSC chair Michael Carlson. Credit: Patty Wetli

The longer school day isn’t being implemented district-wide within CPS until the 2012-13 school year, but it’s already creating shock waves at McPherson Elementary, 4728 N. Wolcott Ave., where a number of highly-regarded teachers are losing their jobs due to changing instructional requirements.

The official term is “displaced,” which is almost as clever as the euphemism “involuntary separation,” but the result is the same: a number of teachers won’t be returning to McPherson next year. Parents, students and remaining faculty members crowded the school’s auditorium at Tuesday’s marathon LSC meeting to express their opposition to the cuts.

“If parents don’t come in and show support for the school and the teachers, we’re not going to win this fight,” said LSC president Michael Carlson, who was later seen offering his handkerchief to a distraught teacher.

The battle was likely over before it had begun.

Principal Carmen Mendoza meticulously explained every factor determining staffing levels, which largely centered on enrollment numbers, teacher certification and ramifications of the longer school day. For example, she noted that more instructional periods for math and science have been built into the lengthened school day. Teachers with those certifications, regardless of tenure, were given priority over colleagues in other subject areas. Similarly, a bump in students with a need for bilingual instruction gave precedence to teachers with bilingual certification.

“They try to cut every year, and we find a way,” said Mendoza. “This year, there are too many changes. We try to do the best to save everyone we can–that’s not going to happen this year. Certain teachers are going to be displaced. That doesn’t mean they’re not good teachers, they’re great teachers.”

Perhaps the most contentious point: At the same time that current teachers are being let go, many of them active in developing extracurricular programs, McPherson will be hiring new math, science and art instructors. Couldn’t existing teachers continue to cover art, some wondered, while others questioned whether ESL endorsements would allow teachers to work in bilingual classrooms. No to the latter, responded Mendoza, and the art teacher, she pointed out, is needed to cover the increased number of teacher prep periods mandated by the longer school day. (During a teacher’s prep period, students will be sent to art, music, gym, library or computer class once a week.)

More than anything, the forum at McPherson highlighted the byzantine ways in which CPS handles staffing and the lack of available dollars to pay for education initiatives.

“Talk to your legislator,” said Mendoza. “Get the funding in here.”




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  • http://profiles.google.com/cat54e Emilio Maldonado

    How else can parents express their dissatisfaction with the way that schools are being shortchanged?

    • berkeleygirl

      Contact the Mayor.  Write letters to the Tribune and Sun-Times.  Contact the main local news outlets.  In short, make a very loud noise.  Most of all, should the teachers strike, literally march as a family in support of them.  Believe me, parents and their kids are teachers’ strongest assets.  How can the Mayor insist that these measures are for the good of the children if those same kids, and their tax-paying parents, insist otherwise?


    Thank you for coming.  I wish you had been able to stay longer, we went until almost 7:30  long after the official meeting was over and I would have like to talk with you.  Many teachers, Ms. Mendoza, myself and some LSC members and parents were able to stay.  We appreciate your coming and hopefully this will generate more parents coming to meeting of the LSC and other groups at McPherson or their school if it is elsewhere.  We need the parents and community to come to all these meetings as much as possible to voice their concerns and show their support.  McPherson is an excellent schools with the best teachers and staff and will continue to be so!  Coverage like yours is needed to get the word out and all LSCs should welcome it and embrace it.  We need your help! 

    • pattyw

       I wish my schedule had allowed me to stay. I would love to speak with you.

      • MICKEYBOY3

         Mike has my cell phone, call me anytime. 


    Emilio, Remember this when you vote.  Remember this when we pay into the Chicago Teachers funds and the State Teachers funds, Chicago residents are the only one paying into both.  All our money should go to our teachers!  Check with someone more knowledgeable than me, but where is the TIF money gotten from and where does it go?  You get my drift, I hope, and hopefully others will chime in with more.   Mike Carlson

    • berkeleygirl

      Mike, in short, TIF money comes from property taxes.  In theory, it’s supposed to help develop under-served communities (think Englewood).  Oddly, much of it has ended up in the pockets of downtown developers.  Ben Joravsky has done the best, and most thorough, coverage. http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-chicago-reader-tif-archive/Content?oid=1180567

      • MICKEYBOY3

         I know that TIF money is supposed to go the community the TIF is in or, I believe it can go to adjacent one and was to be designated for infrastucture.  TIF  takes away from the schools and may make it back when a school is determined to be some type of economic boon which they have done with some selective enrollment schools.  I follow Ben and Mick regularly.  I was hoping some really savvy tax person could explain the TIF in Lincoln Square area and what is happening with the funds.  Thanks.

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