Principals caught in CTU, CPS longer school day battle

September 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The Chicago Teachers Union has a proposal that would add 75 minutes to the school day. Chicago public school officials say that's a good sign that a longer day is no longer a question of if, but when and how. Meantime, some principals refuse to take sides on one proposal or another and are waiting for public tug of war to end.

Disney Magnet School on the city's North Side prides itself on its diverse enrollment and tough curriculum and whether it's 90 minutes or 75 minutes, the principal is all for a longer school day, but Dr. Kathleen Hagstrom says this is not the time to vote on a CPS proposal that would add time in exchange for money and teacher raises.

"I feel this issue is becoming divisive I think there is some fear, some intimidation and some negativity that has surfaced and I don't think it is worth the risk," Dr. Hagstrom said.

Dr. Hagstrom says the war between school officials and the Chicago Teachers Union over the longer day has gone beyond what is best for children. She is among several principals who say the union has misrepresented their schools by putting them on a list of 30 that have said "no" to the administration's 90 minute proposal. One of those listed schools is Yates Elementary, where Harry Randell is principal.

"My school did not vote," Principal Harry Randell said.

Principal Randell says he and the teachers are for more instructional time, but they are waiting for plan on how it would be executed.

"We have 700 kids at Yates and we're not sure as far as what to do with lunch periods are concerned. We have six different lunch periods. I don't have staff to supervise while the teachers are on their lunch break. That's a concern," Randell said.

After spending the last couple of weeks fighting the administration's proposal to add 90 minutes, the CTU has come out with their own plan, which includes using newly hired teachers to cover 75 extra minutes. In a statement released Wednesday, CPS said, "We hope the CTU will begin to work with us in a collaborative way to structure the longer day."

Many principals say they will wait to see how it all plays out.

"The ideal would be for the union and CPS officials to come together, that would be idea. But if that doesn't happen whoever has the power will exert it," Hagstrom said.

Also in the statement, CPS officials said they hope the union's proposal for a longer school day is a sign that CTU President Karen Lewis will reconsider her decision not to serve on the longer school day advisory committee.

The Chicago Teachers Union has not officially presented its proposal to CPS. The plan was floated through the media.

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