Alderman urges mayor and teachers union president to start negotiating

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Despite the bad blood between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, it’s time for the two principals to go behind closed doors and hammer out an agreement to end the city’s first teachers strike in 25 years, a South Side alderman said Wednesday

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said he’s well aware of the bitterness between the two, including a meeting in the mayor’s office where, Lewis contends, the notoriously foul-mouthed Emanuel used the f-word.

But, Sawyer said it’s time for both principals to put aside their personality feud on behalf of Chicago’s 350,000 public school students and their parents suffering through a strike that appears to be settling in for the long haul.

“We need to get beyond personal feeling and get a deal done for the children of the city of Chicago,” said Sawyer, who said his South Side ward is home to “thousands” of striking teachers.

“They’re both professional. Over and above their personal feelings toward each other, which I don’t know personally what they may be. I only know what I read in the press like everyone else. But, once they get to the room and understand that the children are the focus, they will get a deal done. They’re both professional enough to get a deal done and I’m confident that will happen.”

Emanuel has designated his handpicked School Board President David Vitale to be his chief negotiator with the teachers. The mayor’s top aide on education issues, Beth Swanson, was also added to the negotiating team. Aides have described Swanson as the “mayor’s voice” at the bargaining table.

But so far, the mayor has steered clear of getting personally involved in the negotiations, as former Mayor Richard J. Daley was known to do, for fear of exacerbating an already tense situation.

But, the mayor has so far steered clear of getting directly involved for fear of exacerbating an already tense situation.

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