The CPS Board Meeting of Wednesday, March 26, 2014
By Mr. Jan Peczkis, 16-Year CPS Teaching Veteran
The meeting began with a group of school students playing music. The Board then honored a Chicago Public School that had won the chess championship. The Board also honored individual students who had won the spelling bee.
CEO Byrd Bennett spoke first. She tried to put a positive spin on the massive school closings by asserting that none of the fears of crime done to distant-walking kids had come true. She also claimed that some new study had vindicated the position that closing the schools was a good money-saver. She defended the school closings as a well thought-out strategy for maximizing the use of scarce resources. Finally, on another subject, she claimed that 99% of teachers dutifully had administered the ISAT tests, and that administering the ISAT was a matter required by law, as set forth by the Illinois Board of Education.
CTU President Karen Lewis attended part of the public meeting, and took the podium. She spoke of useless laws. She compared the law forcing ISAT administration to the onetime laws banning interracial marriage. She also noted that the ISAT is far from the only test, and repeated the complaint about the endless series of standardized tests at Chicago Public Schools.
The meeting itself was quite raucous. Parents, notably from Drummond (the school where many did not want to take the ISAT), were livid about their kids being questioned by CPS officials without their consent. Imagine the intimidation of individual children removed from the classroom, taken to a room with adults that they do not know, and pressured to answer questions such as, “Who told you to opt out of the ISAT?” However, some of the speakers said that the Drummond kids showed their independent-thinking skills when they handled the intrusive questions from the adults strangers quite well.
Parents have a right to opt their children out of ISAT. Some parents complained about not being respected in their decision to opt their kids out of ISAT. Others spoke of the ISAT tests as useless educationally, and ones that stigmatize children and schools as failures. What’s more, they lead to decisions to close certain schools. One speaker mentioned that, in the school where Mayor Rahm Emmanuel sends his children, there is only one standardized test all year!
A number of speakers were from Dvorak School, a proposed turnaround school. One speaker disputed Byrd Bennett’s contention that there was no significant crime near the receiving schools. Complaints about the turnaround schools included the fact that they would eliminate even more African-American teachers.
Several scheduled speakers were no shows. A few speakers spoke on a myriad of less popular issues. For instance, one pacifistic oriented war veteran complained that Chicago Public Schools are too militarized.
Mr. Jan Peczkis, the teacher fired over an allegation of falling asleep in class , addressed the Board. (secondcityteachers.blogspot.com/2014/03/dnh.html). Coincidentally or not, he was scheduled near the very end. Earlier, he had greeted CTU President Karen Lewis, and said, “I am going straight to the top.” Lewis responded, “Good for you!”
Peczkis recounted that the alleged incident occurred while he was sitting off to the side, not engaged with the children, while the assistants were doing all the work. He noted that he was a conscientious worker and would never deliberately sleep on the job, and would never even think of doing so. He reiterated the fact that his doctor, a world-class sleep specialist, had later diagnosed him with sleep apnea, treated it, and authoritatively declared that he was safe to return to work, and that no workplace accommodation was needed. He stated that the Maintenance of Wakefulness test, the same one given to pilots and professional drivers, had shown his daytime sleepiness to be eliminated. Peczkis then dramatized the fact that, “If it is good enough to trust a professional driver, where falling asleep could cause an accident and kill someone, then it certainly is good enough to verify the safety of a teacher in the classroom.” He pointed out that a teacher who had committed a crime should never be allowed to work for CPS again, but that his case was entirely different—a fully- and demonstrably-corrected medical condition. He concluded, “For goodness sake, please take the Do-Not-Hire designation off my file!”