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UNO charter schools lays off dozens amid budget cuts

UNO Soccer Academy in 2013. File Photo. | John H. White~Sun-Times

As the UNO Charter School Network welcomed students back Wednesday for their first day of class, more than two dozen teachers and support staff announced they’d been laid off.

In addition to the 29 people who were pink-slipped, five more vacant positions were closed, according to United Educators of UNO, the union that represents the teachers, counselors and other educators staffing the network’s 15 publicly-funded, privately-managed campuses.

The charter network said it eliminated 55 total positions out of more than 700, some of which were already vacant.

Seven of those laid off worked as graduate support advisors, tasked with helping 8th graders apply to high school or high school seniors to college. Also among those let go were technology teachers and counselors.

“They were looking at relieving staff that didn’t have direct support positions to students,” said Uriel Gonzalez, the only graduate support advisor at Garcia High School, home to 650 students who are almost all Latino.

But Gonzalez, said he fears the kids will miss out on crucial support they and their families need to make the leap to college.

“Both the kids and the parents will not receive the very specialized attention and specialized knowledge about the college process,” said the 26-year-old who lives near the school. “And I think ‘specialized’ because I share the background that these students do. I’m from San Antonio, Texas. Culturally, I understand the parents and where they’re coming from as they enter the college process.

“The majority of my job was, I was motivating them. It wasn’t even the ins and outs of the college process, it’s that motivation of, ‘You can do this,’ and them believing in themselves.”

Gonzalez also said the bulk of the union members laid off also were among the charter chain’s Latino employees.

UNO Charter School Network spokesman Brian Towne said that of the 29 union members laid off, 13 were rehired to fill other vacancies and three others declined to take other jobs.

“Like other public schools, UCSN’s funding was reduced by CPS and we had to make some difficult decisions to balance the budget for the 2016-17 school year,” he wrote in an email. “Our highest priority is our students. We worked hard to find the most equitable way to distribute cuts minimizing the impact to our mission and core curriculum.”

Towne did not answer questions about cost savings proposed by the union during ongoing contract talks, such as moving the network’s downtown headquarters to a less expensive space or holding off on the purchase of new navy blazers for teachers and staff.

Chicago Public Schools cut per-pupil funding to all its schools by 6.7 percent since last September, but due to midyear cuts, this year’s funding is not quite 5 percent lower than last year’s total. The district pink-slipped about 1,000 of its own staffers last week — about half of them teachers — but said that it’ll also have about 1,000 teaching vacancies for the upcoming school year.

Here’s the list of UNO Charter School Network layoffs of unionized staffers by title and school. Some positions were shared by multiple campuses:

Technology Teacher Brighton Park

Graduate Support Advisor BP/Paz/Santiago/Tamayo

Graduate Support Advisor BP/Casas/Cisneros

Technology Teacher Casas

Technology Teacher Cisneros

Technology Teacher Clemente

Graduate Support Advisor Clemente/Fuentes

Technology Teacher Fuentes

Graduate Support Advisor Garcia

Counselor Garcia

Student Services Clerk Garcia

Graduate Support Advisor Marquez/Zizumbo

Technology Teacher Marquez

Technology Teacher Paz

Counselor Rogers Park High School

Graduate Support Advisor Rogers Park/Soccer High School/Torres

Helpdesk Technician Rogers Park

Helpdesk Technician Santiago

Technology Teacher Santiago

Counselor Soccer Academy High School

Counselor Soccer Academy High School

Student Family Affairs Coordinator Soccer Academy High School

Technology Teacher Soccer Academy

Technology Teacher Tamayo

Technology Teacher Torres

Technology Teacher Zizumbo

Guest Service Associate Zizumbo

Graduate Support Advisor Multiple campuses

One Graduate Support Advisor vacancy

Two Student Family Affairs Coordinator vacancies

Two Academic Interventionist vacancies