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Principals: CPS misrepresenting our views in teacher bargaining

A survey by an administrators’ group found two-thirds don’t support district’s push to cut teacher preparation time.

Troy LaRaviere, who is facing termination as principal of Blaine Elementary.
Troy LaRaviere, head of the Chicago Principal and Administrators Association
Sun-Times files

The leader of a Chicago school administrators group says the city’s school district has used principals as a “show” to misrepresent their views in contract negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union.

Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, said Thursday the majority of principals oppose the city’s proposal to cut down on paid teacher preparation time, which has been a key issue in negotiations.

That’s why, he said, it was disingenuous for the city’s bargaining team to bring a hand-selected group of principals to the table with the CTU “to do what the district wanted them to do, not to represent what principals actually wanted.”

“It’s the typical show they put on when they want to say they’ve got principals’ input,” LaRaviere told the Sun-Times. “And then they move on and do what they want to do.”

LaRaviere said he conducted a survey of 317 elementary and middle school principals, and only 24% agreed with the district’s proposal on prep time. About 68% were opposed, and another 8% were indifferent.

About 60% of the city’s principals and assistant principals are members of CPAA. The survey, however, was sent to all elementary and middle school leaders citywide, regardless of membership in CPAA, LaRaviere said. Those who responded make up about a third of elementary and middle school principals and assistant principals who work at city schools where prep time would be reduced.

Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in an emailed statement: ”Chicago Public schools deeply values our principals, which is why we asked them to participate in negotiations to provide the essential perspective of school leaders on critical issues. We will continue to include diverse voices and perspectives in the negotiating process as we work to reach a contract with the Union.”

LaRaviere said meaningful principal input is “critical” to forming school policy and bargaining table positions because “there is no one in the schools able to see the school level impact of a policy like a principal or assistant principal.”

Though six of the seven principals who sat in on bargaining sessions are active members of CPAA, LaRaviere said some were uncomfortable seemingly representing the views of hundreds of administrators without their actual input. And even more importantly, he said, was that principals didn’t have any say in the bargaining proposal and were only used for testimony to back up the district’s offer.

“These policies at the end of the day have to help kids,” LaRaviere said. “And if you don’t have a principal’s input, that’s less likely to happen.”

LaRaviere conducted the survey after CPS CEO Janice Jackson was quoted in a Sun-Times article earlier this month saying the city had started to include principals in bargaining to help explain its position on teacher preparation time.

”One thing that we actually did different this time around is we actually have principal representation there, too, which really gives much more perspective and, I guess, gravitas to some of the pushback that maybe CPS has given to some of those proposals,” Jackson said at the time.

Teacher prep time has been one of the hotly contested issues in bargaining. CTU President Jesse Sharkey has said one of the union’s biggest concerns has been the city’s insistence on cutting down teacher prep time and letting principals decide how that time is used — which teachers worry could mean less time to get their work done.

“It’s a long list of things — all the lesson preparation and grading but also phone calls, checking with parents and collaboration with lessons,” Sharkey said earlier this month. “All that stuff happens in those four hours [per week]. In reality, teachers take that home, but you get four hours of school time. And they want to cut it to two.”