Thursday, November 29, 2018


A tale of woe from one CPS teacher put on DNH
By Jim Vail

Patricia Breckenridge speaks at the Chicago Board of Education meeting in 2009

African American teachers have been hit hard by the racist policies of the Chicago Public Schools agenda to close mostly black schools and eliminate many black teaching professionals.

The latest casualty today is a veteran black teacher known for her fiery rhetoric inside union halls that criticizes the powers that be for the war on black teachers.

Patricia Breckenridge had worked as a temporarily assigned teacher at Addams Elementary School last year and assumed that she would continue her job this year. So she reported to the school for duty at the beginning of the school year. But the principal said she no longer had a position and called CPS Security on her and the Chicago police had to escort her when she went to swipe in at the school. 

"No teacher should have to call city police to swipe into the job she's staffed in," Breckridge said.

Ariel Academy, another school where Breckenridge had subbed, likely sent a letter to CPS after the school clerk was directed to delete some of her assignments on Frontline/Aesop as a substitute teacher and would appoint her and put her in a PAT (Probationary Assigned Teacher) track position. The clerk requested that she be terminated and placed on the Do Not Hire (DNH) list by Mary Ernesti in the Office of Employment Engagement, Breckenridge said.

“As you know throughout the years that you have managed my CPS Substitute teacher status I have done nothing to be terminated and placed on Do Not Hire (DNH) list,” she wrote in a letter to CPS.  “Addams falsely accused me of reporting to work when released from TAT position. I was falsely arrested released while the maternity leave teacher was not hired or reinstated, but I never was on school grounds, just the sidewalk, but Addam’s falsely accused me of having to be removed by police.

She said Ariel took her assignment off of Frontline to stop her earned PAT status after teaching in a vacant position for 30 days.  

"The 23 year veteran principal then called Mary Ernesti at Office of Employment Engagement (OEE) to have me terminated and placed on a Do Not Hire (DNH) list in violation of CBOE/CPS policy and CTU contract," she said.

“By All Means Necessary I was terminated and placed on a Do Not Hire (DNH) after 23 years of teaching never to be tenured and historically became one of the 12,000 teachers to be terminated and or DNHed, leaving a population of only 4,000 African American teachers to date,” Breckridge wrote in a message to Second City Teachers.

“The conspiracy started with me taking a maternity leave teacher’s position as a Temporary Assigned Teacher (TAT) with the contractual right to the position when it became vacant or the teacher was not reinstated,” she stated. “When I tried to show my employment status it was disregarded. The second principal left me in a vacant position for more than 30 days and on-boarded another teacher.”

“So, if you wonder one day do AA (African American) teachers still exist, this is the tale of one teacher under attack by two principals and the ‘PERA (Performance Evalutation Reform Act) Lynch mob.’”

Patrcia Breckenridge, far left, has been an active CORE member.
Unfortunately, she has become another black teacher casualty due to the harsh CPS system.

A TAT or Temporary Assigned Teacher is assigned before a PAT Probationary Appointed Teacher. A principal can hire a PAT anytime bypassing TAT status.   After 10 days of service TATs in a vacant position become appointed. According to Breckenridge, PATs are put on tenure track for 3-4 years to be tenured or dismissed contingent on “unfounded and not research-based evaluations. Many inner-city students and teachers can’t be held accountable to be scientifically “ready” to meet and exceed standards which is why PERA is a form of figurative “lynching” by taking teacher’s livelihoods, she wrote.

“TATs have all salary and benefits of a PAT except tenure track for 3-4 years, so they can literally be left in limbo for their entire teaching career like me,” Breckenridge said. “I have been Cadre, Day to Day, FTB, TAT, PAT, Reinstated PAT, but never allowed to complete tenure track with Excellent evaluations in the late 90s to early turn of the century.”

Breckenridge said that the teacher evaluation system today – REACH from PERA, has assured that a tenured teacher can be dismissed if he or she receives two basic or needs improvement ratings and fails 90 day remediation without a proficient rating the next school year. Principals are evaluated by networks using the same metrics, she said.

"PERA “Lynch” started its implementation in 2011 and became fully implemented across the state in 2016 in essence to historically “lynch” principals and teachers who are already working with underprivileged students that are not raised in print-rich households with a myriad of impediments to their academic success to totally decimate the idea of love to teach and love to learn or love to administrate in fear of the PERA “Lynch mob,” she said.
Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) that fires tenured teachers after 2 needs improvement evaluations change to unsatisfactory, then fired the following year if not proficient.

Excellent. 400 - 340
Proficient 339-285
Developing (Needs Improvement). 284-210
Unsatisfactory 209-100

Friday, November 23, 2018

US attacks press

The Case Against WikiLeaks is a Threat to All Journalists


The Justice Department has prepared criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and is working behind the scenes to have him extradited to the United States. Press freedom and the right to dissent may hang in the balance.
The criminal charges were accidentally revealed last week when Assange’s name was found on the court filing of an unrelated case, suggesting that prosecutors had copied a boilerplate text and forgotten to change the defendant’s name.
Barry Pollack, a U.S. lawyer on Assange’s team, told the New York Times: “The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed.” Pollack continued, “The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, after seeking protection against sexual assault allegations in Sweden. While the initial arrest warrant has since been revoked, if Assange leaves the embassy he runs the risk of being apprehended by UK authorities and extradited to the United States, a process greatly facilitated by the recent criminal charges.
Using free speech against us
The U.S. government has targeted WikiLeaks and Assange for years. A confidential U.S. Army document from 2008 recommends “legal actions” and attacks on the livelihood and reputation of “current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers” connected to WikiLeaks in order to “damage or destroy” its “trust as a center of gravity.”
WikiLeaks enjoyed a brief heyday among Republicans when it released hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails during the 2016 presidential election. Then-candidate Donald Trump mentioned WikiLeaks over 160 times during the final month of the campaign, calling it “amazing” and saying “We love Wikileaks. Wikileaks. They have revealed a lot.”
During the campaign, Trump adviser Roger Stone often boasted about being connected to WikiLeaks, even claiming to have had dinner with Assange. Days before the dump of hacked Clinton campaign emails, Stone tweeted, “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.”
Donald Trump Jr. was in repeated contact with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, and then-Congress member Mike Pompeo openly encouraged his social media followers to visit the WikiLeaks site for “proof” of various claims against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
But it’s one thing to reveal information about the DNC and another thing entirely to expose a CIA hacking program with domestic spying implications — which is exactly what WikiLeaks did in March 2017 with its Vault 7 release. Just a month later, reports surfaced that U.S. authorities were preparing charges against Assange, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling his arrest a “priority.”
After being tapped to head the CIA in early 2017, Mike Pompeo actively began targeting Assange. In his first public speech as CIA director, Pompeo slammed WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” adding that “we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”
“Use free speech values against us”? So much for the First Amendment.
The Espionage Act
Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in late 2017, possibly part of a covert plan to relocate him to Russia in 2018. The British Foreign Office blocked that plan, however, so Assange remains in London.
The situation is untenable. Ecuador’s President LenĂ­n Moreno sees Assange as an “inherited problem” impacting the country’s relations with the United States. Hanging in the balance for Ecuador could be a military base and an International Monetary Fund loan.
Assange’s recent legal case protesting new asylum conditions was rejected by a court in Ecuador. Meanwhile, his health deteriorates in what amounts to solitary confinement without access to sunlight or fresh air. His contact with the outside world remains severely curtailed.
While the exact criminal charges recently levied against Assange remain secret, the primary issue is whether WikiLeaks is portrayed as a news organization deserving of First Amendment protections or rather as a foreign government agent.
If the Justice Department takes the latter approach, then a World War One-era red-baiting law will probably be used against Assange. Originally intended for spies, the Espionage Act enjoyed a renaissance under President Obama, who used it more than all previous administrations combined — usually to pursue government officials who’d spoken to journalists.
The ACLU calls the Espionage Act “a fundamentally unfair and unconstitutional” liability law that treats whistleblowers exposing civil rights violations the same as spies selling damaging documents to foreign dictators. The Act enables leaked material to be retroactively categorized as classified, and with little justification.
It also makes the legal defense of whistleblowers almost impossible. As Jesselyn Radack, Director of the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program at ExposeFactswrote in a 2014 op-ed entitled “Why Edward Snowden Wouldn’t Get a Fair Trial“: “First Amendment arguments have failed, largely because they would criminalize the journalism made possible by the ‘leaks.’ The motive and intent of the whistleblower are irrelevant. And there is no whistleblower defense, meaning the public value of the material disclosed does not matter at all.”
The stakes of extradition
If extradited to the United States, whether prosecuted under the Espionage Act or not, Assange could become a dead man walking.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said Assange should be treated like an enemy combatant, while Hillary Clinton has wondered if he could be killed by a drone.
Pompeo recommended the death sentence for whistleblower Edward Snowden. Trump has joked about killing journalists.
Fox host Rush Limbaugh suggested that Assange “would die of lead poisoning from a bullet in the brain and no one would know who put it there!” Fox commentator Bob Beckel offered: “Dead men can’t leak stuff… there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”
Assange’s mother “shudders to think” what CIA Director “Bloody Gina” Haspel might do to her son. In a recent interview, Christine Assange said, “Once in the U.S., the National Defense Authorization Act allows for indefinite detention without trial. Julian could very well be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum-security prison, or face the death penalty.”
In February 2018, weeks before his internet access was cut, Assange participated in the Austrian Elevate festival. Via videostream he referred to the “Pompeo Doctrine” of criminalizing transparency seekers as a “serious threat to the press.”
Assange said authorities were using his situation as a “general deterrent,” and added “the more developed the society and economy, the more skill in installing that fear without resorting to assassinations.” He concluded by observing that those who have the luxury of living in peace must see through “the illusions of fear in order to ensure that those people in other countries don’t face the reality of war.”
Heather Wokusch is an author and educator based in Europe. She can be reached via

Western Poverty



By Stepen Wilson

Almost thirty years ago, when I was visiting the prisoner Toe Elliot in the Special
Unit in Glasgow as part of a joint community Art Project , I joked with him : "I'm
often hungry and I'm glad you feed us so well here. You feed us better than at
home. I am starving here... Maybe you could open some kind of soup kitchen
for the starving". But Toe, who had been so generous with his sandwiches, did
not get the joke . He took it seriously and to heart . For the next few weeks, when
ever I visited him they were showering us with generous portions of food. At that
time I recall a lawyer, Pamela Ferguson scoffing at me: "There are no starving
people in Britain." Now, almost thirty years later what we both said now seems a
bad joke. For Philip Alston, a rapporteur of the United Nations visited Britain for
two weeks where he strongly condemned the government's ten year austerity
program as inflicting untold misery. The extreme poverty in Britain 'Was not
just a disgrace but a social calamity and an economic disaster even though U.K.
is the world's fifth largest economy '. He describes the poverty as avoidable if
the political will existed to do so. He condemned government austerity policies as
being enforced in a punitive, mean spirit and often callous way. And Alston came
across both school students and teachers who complained of being hungry. One
12 year old Scottish student told him that he was afraid to go where people were
eating as it made him feel hungrier.

Alston found that as many as 14 million people, a fifth of the population live in
poverty and 1.5 million are destitute. Many of those poor people work in low paid
jobs, are single parents, divorced, or people who are severely ill who can't fend for
themselves not to mention refugees who have been forbidden to do any work until
their legal case is resolved. But worst is yet to come. The Institute of Fiscal Studies
and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation predict child poverty could rise by 7% between
2015 - 2022 up to a rate of 40% of children.

Alston articulately explains several reasons for the dramatic rise in poverty. The main
reasons are a government which, through Universal Credit, is drastically cutting
social benefits, carrying out sanctions on people who inadvertently break the rules
or refuse to take dead end low jobs, or fill in the forms in the wrong way. There have
been 50% cuts in council budgets and even the police force have received so many
cuts they can't contain crime. The use of food banks has soared four fold in Scotland.

Alston was taken back by the painful traumatic impact of such poverty. He heard how
a homeless woman had sold sex for a roof over their head, young people joining gangs
as a way out, and abandoned children who could find no safe place to sleep on the
streets. He stated: "I was surprised by the talk of suicide by the people I had met
who considered suicide".  Alston welcomes the fact that at least the British
government have appointed a Minister for Suicide and have at least opened a
government department to tackle loneliness. He welcomes the proposal to introduce
a work allowance which will lift at least over two million workers out of poverty. But
otherwise, the British government are in a state of denial. They entirely disagree
with the report and claim employment is at record levels and that average household
income has increased. The problem is that the Government has no single definition
of poverty but four kinds. So it can 'define' poverty out of existence with a play of

Alston retorts: "Being in work does not magically overcome poverty ... In work
poverty is increasingly common and almost 60% of those in poverty have a family
member working '. Alston met a man who complained : "I know people also working
in 5 jobs who can't make the minimum wage ". Low wages, insecure jobs and
zero contract hours mean that even at almost full employment there are 14
million poor. Alston continues to state in his report 'Jobs are not a guarantee against
people needing food banks. The Trussell Trust told me that one in six people
referred to their food banks is in work and one  pastor said, "The majority of people
using our food bank are in work- nurses and teachers are accessing banks".

People I spoke with told me they have to choose between eating and heating their
home, or eating and feeding their children. One person said " I would rather feed my
kids than pay my rent but that would  get us kicked out ".... Children are showing up
at school with empty stomachs and schools are collecting food on an ad hoc basis
and sending it home because teachers know that their students will otherwise go

He stated that: "It is patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many
people are living in poverty". Indeed, the welfare state has been drastically eroded
to such a degree that one wonders about its imminent demise. Many people
have difficulty claiming benefits because they lack digital skills, English or are
daunted by the complexity of the forms. For instance, some people can only
claim benefits on line. Yet an estimated 21% of the population don't have the 5
basic digital skills , and 16% can't fill in a digital on-line application form. There is
little or no face to face communication with officials only an anonymous decision
maker with no name. This prompts Alston to make the memorial phrase, 'We are
witnessing the gradual disappearance of the post war-British welfare state behind
a web page and an algorithm in its place. A digital welfare state is emerging'. This
digital system discriminates and denigrates the worst off of citizens.

I personally have heard reports from friends in Machrihanish in Kintyre, Scotland
that " The only available jobs are Zero contract hour shop assistants at
supermarkets ... There is work in the community but this is often treacherous
such as on fishing boats. Only a few months ago some fishermen perished in a
storm. .. My friend was struck by how many mentally distressed and lonely
people she had encountered outside her home. Alston noted that Scotland has
the worst suicide rate in Britain as well as life expectancy.

In regard to the limits of this new digital state Ralston states: "A machine learning
system may be able to beat a human at chess, but it may be less adapt at solving
complicated social ills such as poverty".

But Alston's report is not all bleak news . He reflects 'I have also seen tremendous
resilience, strength and generosity, with neighbors supporting one another, councils
seeking creative solutions, and charities stepping in to fill holes in government
services. I also heard stories of deeply compassionate work coaches and of a
regional job center director who had transformed the ethos in the relevant offices.'

Perhaps the last word should go to a Scottish school boy who answered Alston's
Question, "What should be done to help the poor?" The boy answered that, "It is
unfair that people should go hungry  while a few make billion of pounds. The rich
should share their money." Few would disagree!

Saturday, November 17, 2018


By Stephen Wilson

Please don't whistle, Masha. How can you ? {pause.} It is being at school all
day and then teaching in the evenings that gives me those constant headaches
and makes me feel like an old woman. And these four years that I have been
teaching at the school I really have felt my youth and strength draining out of
me, drop by drop .And my one dream growing stronger all the time ' laments the
school teacher Olga in Chekhov's play 'The Three Sisters'. And in another play,
The Seagull, the schoolmaster Semyon Medvedenko states, 'I have a much
harder life than you. I earn a miserable twenty-three rubles a month before
superannuation is deducted.' In many of Chekhov's plays and some short
stories, Chekhov depicts the life of Russian teachers before the revolution as
one of not only  relentless poverty, misery, and ill health, but a largely thankless
job where he is constantly anxious about losing his job. He has no job security and
can be dismissed on a whim. Despite some misleading impressions that
Chekhov's plays expressed a sentimental yearning for a golden rural way of
life, his works are a subtle satire on the constant boredom, meaningless and
lack of purpose which ran through the villages even among the Gentry.

I asked a teacher if there was a patron saint of teachers that they appealed to .
In an instant, my colleague conjured up an icon from her bag and thrust it on me
saying that Saint Sergei of Radonezhki is their saint. He defends teachers. But
why not also Chekhov? If anyone deserves to qualify as a patron saint of teachers
it ought to be Chekhov. Chekhov was a passionate and ardent advocate of better
conditions for the Russian school teacher. He thought that the way teachers were
treated in Russia was a sheer disgrace. One only needs to quote a memoir of Maxim
Gorky when he listened to Chekhov ranting on about the plight of teachers and even
kindly listening to one who visited him. Chekhov told Gorky:

"If I had lots of money I would build a sanatorium here for sick village teachers. A
building full of light, you know, very light, with big windows and high ceilings. I'd
have a splendid library, all sorts of musical instruments, an apiary, a vegetable
garden, an orchard. I'd have lectures on agronomy, meteorology, and so on .
Teachers ought to know everything, old man, everything . If you only knew the
absolute necessity for the Russian countryside of good, clever , educated teachers.
In Russia we have simply got to create exceptional conditions for teachers, and
that as soon as possible, since we realize that unless the people get an all-round
education the state will collapse like a house built from insufficiently baked bricks.'
He further adds that "Our teachers are navies , half educated individuals who go
to the village to teach children as willingly as they would go into exile.They are
famished, down trodden, they live in perpetual fear of losing their livelihood......
It is absurd to pay a niggardly pittance to one who is called upon to educate the
people. It is intolerable that such a one should go about in rags, shiver in a damp,
dilapidated school, be poisoned by fumes from badly ventilated stoves and by the
age of thirty be a mass of disease, laryngitis, rheumatism , tuberculosis. It is a
disgrace to us!  For nine or ten months in the year our teachers live the lives of
hermits, without a soul to speak to, they grow stupid, from loneliness, without
books or amusements......... All this is quite disgusting... a kind of mockery of
human beings doing a great and terribly important work. I tell you, when I meet
a teacher I feel quite awkward in front of him - for his timidity, and for his shabbiness.
I feel as if I myself were somehow to blame for the teacher's wretched state - I do

It is striking to compare the acute empathy and humility of Chekhov to how many
present day Russian officials, parents, and the wider public view see teachers. In
a word, there is no comparison. Somethings never change. The poverty of many
rural teachers is met with much contempt. Despite the rash claim that the prestige
of school teachers has increased due to salary increase to 105,000 rubles a month,
in Moscow, the conditions of rural teachers still remain abysmal. Just like in
Chekhov's time, they have no real job security and constantly worry about losing
their posts. They also tend to be so overworked they need someone like Chekhov
to build them a sanatorium.

Chekhov did not just lament but lived out his words. He never quite gave up his
job as a doctor. Despite suffering from illness , Chekhov decided to embark on
a special tour to Sakhalin where he would investigate the conditions of Russian
prisoners, and write a report to draw attention to the urgent need for reform. On
the island, Chekhov interviewed thousands of prisoners working 18 hours a day.
The result was his great work 'The Island of Sakhalin', !893-4.' It has been argued
that Chekhov's powerful and moving description of corporal punishment in prisons
played a part in the abolition of it for female prisoners in 1897 and then male ones
in 1904. Chekhov's motives for his mission were clear. He wrote with a note of
sarcasm that: "From the books I have read, it is clear that we have allowed
millions of people to rot in prisons, to rot  for no purpose, without any care, and
in a barbarous way. All of us are guilty, but none of this has anything to do with
us, it is not just interesting." But the plight of the rural teacher and prisoner was
of keen interest to Chekhov. And Chekhov deserves our gratitude!