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Teachers Who Joined Courtenay After Merger Allege 'Unfair' Evaluations

By Mina Bloom | March 20, 2015 1:34pm | Updated on March 23, 2015 9:44am
 Some teachers at the consolidated Uptown school said they don't feel supported by the administration at Thursday's LSC meeting.
Some teachers at the consolidated Uptown school said they don't feel supported by the administration at Thursday's LSC meeting.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

UPTOWN — Some teachers who were part of the merger at Mary E. Courtenay Elementary School allege they are being unfairly evaluated at their new school and are worried they'll be fired as a result.

"What's strange is, in November my class thought I got a higher percentage," said Claudia Pesenti, a teacher who worked at Joseph Stockton Elementary School before the schools were merged, referring to what she believes is a discrepancy between the latest REACH evaluation she received and her classrooms' perspective.

"There's a glaring difference, which makes me feel like it's a subjective evaluation and not an objective evaluation. I'm not alone in this," Pesenti said.

Pesenti and two other longtime teachers who also used to work at Stockton addressed members of the Local School Council at Courtenay Thursday afternoon, saying morale is low because some teachers, many of whom used to work at Stockton, have received unjustifiably low marks on their evaluations, Pesenti said.

"I don't think I deserve to lose my license as hard as I work. You're in trouble, Sharon, based on what's going on," Pesenti said gesturing toward another former Stockton teacher Sharon Simmons, who also believes she was unfairly evaluated. "I'm about to lose my job based my evaluation. How does that make me feel?"

Simmons echoed Pesenti's sentiment, saying "If my kids are achieving two years in a row, why are my scores so low? I see other people whose scores are in the toilet and I have a problem with that."

School principal Macquline King shot back, saying the evaluations are "not subjective" and that she and other evaluators write down "exactly what [we] see verbatim."

"When you all gave me my evaluation, I accepted it," King said during the heated meeting.

The new teacher evaluation system, REACH, was officially rolled out last year, though some schools piloted the system prior to that. Simmons said she and other teachers are still "learning the new system."

"I'm trying to appeal to you for some help," Simmons said.

This isn't the first time teachers at the school have spoken up about what they believe to be unfair evaluations, according to Cassandra Vickas, a parent representative on the local school council.

"I have heard many of these things," Vickas said at the meeting. "You're not telling me something I haven't heard. Your co-workers have done a very good job making sure we know how all of the grade levels feel."

Merging two schools into one was done as part of CPS' effort to close nearly 50 schools. The former Courtenay building in Ravenswood was closed and its student body was combined with kids from Stockton. Courtenay is now housed in the Stockton building at 4420 N. Beacon Ave. in Uptown — but it was renamed Courtenay.

In December of 2013, a teacher who was five months pregnant was punched in the head while trying to break up a fight between two eighth-graders. Pesenti previously called the third floor a "war zone."

"A lot of it has to do with the transition that we're working on," Vickas previously told DNAinfo Chicago, referring to the merger.

But Pesenti said the merger wasn't a problem among teachers. Former Stockton teachers and Courtenay teachers got along "beautifully" when the schools were merged, she said.

The issue is teachers don't feel supported by the current administration, Pesenti said after the meeting.

"They're scared and all of them talk about transferring," Simmons added.

Another teacher at the local school council meeting called the evaluation issue "sensitive" and that it's creating a "problem with morale."

"We need to do something for teachers who are working their hearts out," she said. "I see teachers putting in hours and working their hearts out and they don't feel appreciated. There needs to be something beyond this evaluation that shows this appreciation."

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