Friday, March 14, 2014

Principal Nightmare

Nightmare Principal Situation Shows Power of Solidarity
By Jim Vail

As a former reporter for Substance News, we documented principal nightmare stories.

Our favorite was the infamous Florence Gonzalez, the principal at George Washington High School, a 'girl friend' of convicted streets and sanitation chief Al Sanchez.

She terrorized the teaching staff and school to the point that the students held a massive walk out before she tried to destroy numerous teaching careers for being on the wrong political side of the fence. (

The recent Chicago Teachers Union delegates training last Saturday, March 8th, documented yet another frightening nightmare principal at Kelvyn Park High School.

Except, there is actually a decent ending here for the teachers who fought back and showed how important solidarity is. 

The Kelvyn Park principal nightmare concerned an unjust informal observation, the head delegate Eric Wagner reported at the delegates meeting.

He said the school used two days for 'Save the Grade' in order to lower the failure rate.  It was basically an extended study hall in which the students would have an extra two days to make up assignments and help those students near passing to get extra help. So of course there was no need to do lesson plans in which there was no planned instruction, the delegate said.

"On those two days (the administration) decided to do informal and formal observations," Wagner said.  "In domains 2 and 3 (in the Reach evaluation) we were eviscerated."

Unsatisfactory ratings were handed out for a lack of instruction, he said.

The teachers on the professional problems committee discussed this with the principal Susan Mekarski, who agreed to perhaps not do it again in the future, but the ratings would "stick."

"This was just plain evil," Wagner said. "You stabbed us in the back."

Then the teachers united and fought back.

90% of the 45 teachers at Kelvyn Park signed petitions to rescind the ratings, he said. Those who didn't sign the petition, the delegate said, said maybe those teachers deserved it.

"I said this is about our colleagues and friends, it's not about you," he said. 

Then a couple of weeks ago the teachers held a solidarity strike, and the staff as a result felt a lot more empowered, he said. 

Wagner said he had a captain in every department so it wasn't just him organizing a response, to be an easy target for the administration.

The Chicago Public Schools law department then agreed that the school would just use four of the top five scores in teacher ratings. So all those teachers who got low ratings would get a fifth evaluation to void it.

One delegate asked if the observers wouldn't be vindictive to do it again.

"She has to be careful," Wagner said. "All eyes are on her now."

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