Friday, June 20, 2014

Sub Gets Job Back!

Substitute Teachers Get Whacked First
By Jim Vail

Chris Christensen, CTU substitute delegate, who's back on the job!

Chris Christensen has been a substitute teacher in the Chicago Public Schools for more than 16 years. 

One day earlier this year he was removed from the classroom at Curtis Elementary School, but not told why. 

Then at a meeting in April he discovered to his surprise that a female student, who had claimed he had touched her, retracted her charge that he had "groped her."

But after Second City Teachers brought up his case to union officials at the last June 6 House of Delegates meeting, suddenly Christensen was put back into the classroom after not working for almost three months.

"I didn't even know what the charge was," Christensen told me at the HOD meeting. "To me it was just a silly prank."

It appears more and more that teachers, especially subs who are at will employees with fewer union and tenure protections, can be easily targeted to be fired based on spurious accusations.

Second City Teachers has documented several cases of subs who were fired, and even placed on a do not hire list, even though the charges were disputed and proven false.

Peter Nerad was a sub at Lane Tech High School where he was fired for trying to prevent a student from running in front of a busy street, while sub Jan Peczkis was put on the do not hire list for falling asleep. 

While Peczkis fought and won his job back after Second City Teachers raised the issue, Nerad decided to not fight the charges and instead is writing plays.

Then there is the current case of Lane Tech math teacher and swim coach Paul Rummelhoff still not allowed to teach even though the accusation by a student that he had sex with her was proven to be completely false!

Christensen, a substitute teacher delegate, informed Second City Teachers that he had contacted top union officials about his situation, but still was not working for the past three months. Having begun his teaching career in 1968, some thought he should have been retired. 

I raised the issue of the plight of substitute teachers at the June 4 House of Delegates meeting and how they, (as well as probationary assigned teachers) as "at will" employees, can be easily targeted to be fired, but don't have tenure to protect them. It proves how important it is to have a union for protection, I said toward the end of the meeting during the question and answer period.

However, what rights do substitute teachers have, when even though they are covered in the Chicago Teachers Union contract, they are still at will employees who can be immediately fired?

Sara Echevarria, who heads the CTU field representative department, said that the subs are still protected under the new contracts provision where the employer has to show 'just cause' before being fired.

Christensen said after he spoke to Echevarria after the meeting, a phone call was made and the sparky educator, who looks years younger than his age, was back in the classroom.

"I'm still in shock," he said. "Sara did something literally overnight. Thursday I got a call from sub center and then ESOP online I got a call for Friday. So I've been working three days now after three months with no work. I called her back to thank her. She said she made a phone call. I don't know who she called, but if it's the Chicago way, or it's just a call."


  1. Thanks for your newest Second City Teachers article. It was great.

    After a 35-day application process with CPS, I started subbing on May 20, and then subbed the last 18 student-attendance days--through and including June 13.

    I also contacted a CTU lawyer and was told that this present contract protects subs a little more than did the previous one in which I was fired. He said that CPS has to show "just cause" for firing, but I wonder who determines that.

    Again, thanks.

    Jan Peczkis

  2. In addition, I remain concerned about the fact that CPS generally hires only young adults out of college, and not older non-tenured teachers that had been displaced, such as myself. [I had been displaced now 8 years ago, unsuccessful in getting rehired as a regular CPS teacher. In fact, some principals told me upfront that they cannot afford to hire me. The CTU won't allow me to take a pay cut to make myself more competitive. I would rather be employed at $40,000/year than unemployed at $60,000, or underemployed forever at $15,000/year (as a sub).

    I would like to speak at the delegates meeting, join a caucus or two, and do other things, but I would have to be a CTU member to do that, and I cannot afford it. The dues are $53.00 per pay period, which is not too bad if you get to sub all ten school days per pay period, but becomes untenable when fewer days of subbing are available per period. [This includes school holidays, student nonattendance days, and especially days of low regular teacher absences]. I wish that the CTU dues structure allowed for a pro-rated $5.00/schoolday of subbing, regardless of how many or how few days a sub does substitute teaching per pay period.

    Jan Peczkis