Intelligence Report: Scramble for substitute teachers at CPS year-round 'Track E' schools

October 15, 2012 (CHICAGO)

In this Intelligence Report: Why students at many of the city's year-round schools didn't have their regular teachers.

There are almost 250 public schools in Chicago on year-round schedules. They are known as "Track E" schools and they make up about a third of CPS.

But, Monday morning, many students found themselves off-track because of a quirk in the calendar after last month's strike; teachers who Monday didn't show up for work -- some with permission, some apparently not.

When Chicago's 25,5000 teachers went back to work last month, there were several problems with the vacation calendar, most involving changes to next spring break.

But, Monday morning, the I-Team has learned, there was a more immediate problem in the "Track E" year-round schools.

According to the calendar, those schools were supposed to be on fall vacation this week. But the strike disrupted this year-round calendar. This week's vacation was canceled, leaving teachers with travel plans in a bind.

Some teachers were allowed to submit a form to CPS officials, stating that they "have prepaid travel plans" and are "requesting approval to be absent during the week of October 15-19, 2012."

Apparently though, many more Chicago teachers didn't show up for work Monday than CPS had planned, and there was a scramble for substitute teachers. In some cases, administrators were pressed into duty.

Chicago school officials say they don't know the number of teachers who missed work Monday -- authorized or unauthorized -- but something the I-Team found on the teachers union website could explain why there was chaos Monday morning, as one substitute teachers told the I-Team. The union states: "Nothing prevents a member from using sick or personal business days during make-up time" as a result of the strike.

In a statement from Chicago Public Schools tonight, officials say they understand the strike caused disruption to CPS students and that they are actively addressing the calendar issues, putting students first and trying to be fair to teachers.

The teachers union Monday did not respond to messages.

Statement from Chicago Public Schools Re: Disruption at Year-Round Schools:

  • We understand that the strike caused disruption to our students' learning and we are actively addressing the calendar to ensure that valuable time to grow students' learning is not lost.
  • As we work to support a revised calendar to meet the needs of our students, we acknowledge that some Track E teachers and school staff had previously made plans that will create an undue hardship to change.
  • Therefore, we are doing our best to put the needs of our students first and to be fair to our teachers whom are experiencing situations that they, alone, cannot remedy. So, we have asked our school leaders to be accommodating and work with teachers on creative solutions to ensure coverage for their schools

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