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Englewood Chess Coach Asked To Give Up April 1 Pay

 Earle STEM Academy's chess teacher Joseph Ocol (l.) said CTU wants him to give up his April 1 pay since he didn't participate in the protest.
Earle STEM Academy's chess teacher Joseph Ocol (l.) said CTU wants him to give up his April 1 pay since he didn't participate in the protest.
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DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson

WEST ENGLEWOOD — After not taking part in the Chicago Teachers Union April 1 protest, an Earle STEM Academy teacher said he has received harassing text messages and even a phone call suggesting he give up his April 1 pay.

“After the strike, a union delegate sent me a text saying, ‘You disappointed me. You should have just worked in a charter school,’ ” said Joseph Ocol, the school’s chess teacher.

What upset him even more, he said, was when a Chicago Teachers Union representative called him saying he should turn over his April 1 pay to the union.

He said he mulled it over, remembering how the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation helped his chess team: The foundation donated some money to keep it up and running after the school cut off its funding.

“I do admire and appreciate CTU Foundation's help, but I did not expect that a union official would contact me and require me to give up my April 1st pay,” Ocol said.

When Michael Brunson, recording secretary for the teachers union, found out that Ocol opted to work that day instead of joining the school’s other teachers, he reached out, he said.

Ocol was never forced to give up his pay, but if he wanted to smooth things out between him and the union, surrendering his pay was recommended, Brunson said.

“In essence, he has crossed the line,” Brunson said. “I explained to him what he needs to do to really reconcile himself with the other members and the union.”

Another topic that Brunson brought up, Ocol said, was how the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation had donated funds to help the chess club go to a competition. The contribution made it possible for the chess team to compete in Indianapolis April 15-17. They won three trophies in the national chess tournament.

“He implied that, since the CTU Foundation helped me with my request for money for the chess team to [get to] the national tournament in Indianapolis, that I should now be beholden to the CTU for such help,” Ocol said.

Brunson said that’s not quite how the conversation went.

“I mentioned that because his main thing was that he had worked on that day because all he cares about are the students, that he does it for the students,” Brunson said.

“As educators, we’re all for the students. We don’t go into education to get rich. Our foundation supported that trip — that’s how it came up. I just brought up the fact that we’re all on the same page of supporting students. I did not say you have to pay back the money.”

Ocol said he hasn't made a decision yet.

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