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CPS Teachers Counter No-Pay Furlough Day By Taking Kids on Field Trip

By Paul Biasco | March 23, 2016 9:44am
 A seventh grade class from Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy is going on a field trip during Friday's furlough day.
A seventh grade class from Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy is going on a field trip during Friday's furlough day.
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BELMONT CRAGIN — Although teachers at Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy won't be getting paid, they are sticking to their plan to make sure their students don't miss an important day of learning Friday.

Friday, the first of three unpaid days off CPS employees are being forced to take, happens to fall on a previously scheduled field trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

"It's very empowering for a class of seventh-graders to hear, 'We aren’t going to just let CPS shut our schools down. We are going to learn that day,' " said Roxana Gonzalez, a seventh-grade social studies teacher leading the field trip.

Reporter Paul Biasco chats about Friday's furlough day field trip for Prieto students.

The decision to go on the trip directly ties into the learning objectives for the unit, Gonzalez said.

"Our students will be attending this field trip and will be ambassadors for CPS, representing the fact that our students are talented and hungry to learn," said Quetzalli Castro, a student-teacher at Prieto Academy, who is a former CPS student.

The trip will go on with the support of parents, teachers and administrators, Gonzalez said. Seventy-five students from Prieto, 2231 N. Central Ave., are going on the trip to the museum, which is located in Skokie.

There was no immediate comment from a Chicago Public Schools spokesman.

Gonzalez said "one of the things I want my students to take away from it is that they are powerful and they have a voice."

"By going on this field trip, it is a conversation we had with them, we are choosing to go on this field trip," Gonzalez said. "We want the students to know and feel like they are powerful. … A lot of times being a part of a bigger system like CPS it's easy to feel powerless.”

Forest Claypool, CEO of CPS, announced the three CPS furlough days on March 3, stating "It’s never easy to furlough employees, but our priority was to preserve instructional time for our students while preserving year-end cash and continuing to chip away at our budget gap.”

The school district said the unpaid furloughs would save $30 million, which the Chicago Teachers Union said amounts to a 1.6 percent pay cut for teachers.

The other furlough days for school-based employees will be previously scheduled professional developments days, where students are not scheduled to be in class, converted into furloughs June 22 and June 23.

Parents at Prieto are collaborating with Parents 4 Teachers to hold a rally on Friday at the school during the first furlough day.

“What message are you sending to students if you tell them that they cannot come to school to learn that day?" said Daniel Gray, a seventh-grade reading teacher. "As teachers, we categorically disagree with the appointed Board’s economic decisions.”

The rally will be held outside the school before the class heads out on its field trip.

"This is going to be a way to bring our community  together," Gonzalez said. "A lot of our parents were feeling like CPS was trying to drive a wedge between parents and teachers and parents at our school see the work we are doing, they are with us in this struggle."

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