Integrate Policy Reforms Into Teacher Contracts

Editor:

Professional development schemes to improve schools will never work as planned if they continue to be top-down reform – measures too often characterized by not just bypassing  the input of teachers, but not treating teachers and teachers’ unions as equal partners in the process.

Too many self-anointed school reformers in Congress and on the editorial pages believe teachers and teachers’ unions are the problem and not a part of the solution.

Any work to individualize and differentiate teaching in District 65 must engage teachers and the District Educators Council [the teachers’ union] around the bargaining table. Collective bargaining could be a vehicle of school reform and not the “obstacle” (in the words of pundit reformers).

In dealing with school reform, school administrators and school boards must cease acting in loco parentis (in lieu of parents), not just to students, but also to teachers and their unions. They should abandon the cliché “My door is always open to my teachers to come in as individuals” when they do not deal with school reform around the table.

If District 65 wants to achieve its utopian goals of the Tomlinson method of school reform, such as “owning student success” and “respecting the individual,” then these principles should be hammered out in an enforceable contract. Let parent committees funnel their own suggestions to the table.

If you want continual evaluation of a program, then write a time schedule for it into the contract. Perhaps even devote an all-day in-service meeting to this issue alone. Monitor progress with the teachers’ union on a monthly basis; any agreement related to the issue of student improvement should be written into the contract and not made into a committee report of glittering generalities – the bane of ignored committee work.

My proposal for school reform integrated into collective bargaining could cause some contention, since negotiations between equals usually do. When teachers’ unions’ negotiate or strike over money, they are accused of being interested only in bread and butter – no different from any other union. But if teachers want to be equal partners and to negotiate over school policies affecting them and their students, they are accused of wishing to impede “managerial prerogatives,” when, in fact, school policies usually impact both students and working conditions.

Listen to the stakeholders in the classroom, who have a longer commitment to the schools than do school superintendents and school board members, who too often burn out. At least my suggestions would keep them awake.

— Gerald Adler, Chicago Teachers Union, Retired

 

Sidewalks Are for Pedestrians, Not Bikes

Editor:

As I have written in the past, I am very concerned about bikes on the sidewalks and have contacted both my incoming First Ward alderman, Judy Fiske, and our beat policeman, Officer Ron Blumenberg, with suggestions for remedying this serious problem.  Both were immediately responsive.  Officer Blumenberg said that the police get a lot of calls about bikes on sidewalks.

 I feel renewed urgency because a few days ago I was almost hit by a bike, and, a second later, the cyclist did run into a man on the sidewalk, and then she fell off her bike. It happened very quickly. I was near the corner of Davis and Chicago, looking into a store window, and a second after I turned to move out onto the sidewalk again, a young woman came whizzing east on Davis.  I felt the air rush past me, and thought, “Had I stepped out one second sooner, she would have hit me.”  I turned to follow her progress and saw her run into the man.  He did not fall but she did, though luckily did not hurt herself — or him. 

I went up to her and put my hand on her back (she seemed a little stunned) and said, “There is no bike riding allowed on the sidewalks.” She said, “There isn’t? I’m sorry.” I pointed out the sign, which was indeed very hard to notice.  Of course she should have known better, but like many of the cyclists I’ve seen on the sidewalks, she was young and not thinking, and had intended no harm — but this is how serious injuries can happen.  In addition to possible injuries to people –especially the elderly, infirm, and little children — dogs are also in danger from sidewalk bike-riders, as numerous dog-walkers have told me.

I suggest that we have large signs on the beginning and end of each block in our Evanston downtown, like the ones Rogers Park has on each of their blocks along

Sheridan Road

that make the law plain and warn that violators will be fined.  The fines should be increased. NU students need to be educated as much as possible that while they are allowed to ride on campus, they are not allowed to do so downtown. Perhaps there should be larger signs right as they enter downtown from campus. A special effort should be made to ticket offenders on the downtown streets. Officer Blumenberg suggested that it also would help to have stores have signs in their windows.

— Cornelia Maude Spelman

Talking Farm Says Thanks

Editor:

On behalf of the Board of the local nonprofit The Talking Farm, I want to thank all who supported us at this year’s Evanston Garden Fair.

First I’d like to thank the Evanston Garden Council which, for the second year, invited us to participate.

Thank you also to all the people who stopped by to chat, to learn about our mission of creating a sustainable local food system, and most importantly to support us by purchasing both the organic and/or heirloom vegetable and herb plants (which local volunteers nurtured from seeds) and perennials dug up from local gardens.

Thank you to local businesses who donated items and services.

But the most hearty thank you goes to all the volunteers who worked so many hours in preparation for and working at the Evanston Garden Fair.

— Kay Branz President,

The Talking Farm

 

Thanks From Pick-a-Cup Owner

Open Letter to Friends of Pick-A-Cup:

The biggest and most heartfelt thank you to all of our customers over the years.

As many of you may or may not know, last fall I had surgery to remove my right lung. Although I am through with all the treatments and well on the road to recovering, it has become apparent that my ability to be as active as necessary at Pick-a-Cup is unfortunately a long way off.

Regrettably, this means that Sunday, May 17, was our last day of business at Pick-a-Cup.

You have made Pick-a-Cup what we had dreamed it would be – a comfortable, safe neighborhood gathering place.

At this point there are several customers/neighbors who are gathering with the hope of creating a co-op to continue what Steve and I started over five years ago. If you are interested in participating, you may contact John Knox (de-facto communication liaison) at caretaker71@oxnay.com – or Shel Silver (de-facto coordinator) at silver@sbcglobal.net. 

I want to send out a special thank you to Michelle, Mary Jane and Paul for their hard work at organizing the benefit last weekend. Also thank you to all the customers/neighbors who donated items for the silent auction. And to all the performers who donated their talent and time.

Jenica, Spencer, Tina, Arron you are all very special, talented individuals who I know are already well on your ways to incredible lives.

— Carol Kent

 

‘Rebuilding’ Quality of Life

Editor:

On Saturday, April 25, Rebuilding Together North Suburban Chicago, along with local sponsors and volunteers from the community, performed free home repairs and improvements for homeowners who needed help. Teams worked on six homes in Evanston. All together, volunteers targeted 53 north suburban homes, from Evanston in the south to Zion in the north, including several not-for-profit group homes serving the homeless and individuals with developmental delays. The mission of Rebuilding

Together is to improve the quality of life for homeowners who are primarily elderly or have disabilities. We repaired leaking roofs, installed amenities for the handicapped, replaced broken appliances, painted the inside and outside of homes, performed outdoor and indoor clean-up services, and more.

We witnessed a tremendous outpouring of good will and would like to thank all who supported us. We extend a special thanks to Sojourner Covenant Church, First Presbyterian Church of Evanston, American Legion Post 42, Evanston Lighthouse Rotary, First Methodist Church of Evanston and the volunteer organization “One Brick.” This annual event is a wonderful opportunity for neighbors to help neighbors, and we are very grateful to all those who make it possible.

— Mike Murdock, President, Rebuilding Together North Suburban Chicago