ALBANY PARK — Among the hundreds of CPS teachers and staff members who received pink slips Friday was one of the district's most vocal critics, Roosevelt High School's Timothy Meegan.
A 12-year veteran of the school's social studies department, a Chicago Teachers Union delegate and all-around social justice advocate, Meegan has been outspoken in his opinion that CPS is "broke on purpose."
"I truly believe the intention of those in power in Chicago is to dismantle public education," he told DNAinfo after the district announced that nearly 500 teachers and about the same number of support staff were being laid off. "The willful neglect of neighborhood schools is a travesty."
Given Roosevelt's declining enrollment and continuous budget cuts, Meegan sensed his job was on the chopping block and had applied for positions both within CPS and out of state all summer.
"I think neighborhood schools in general have a target on their backs and I think I did, too," he said.
In fall 2015 Meegan supported a student walkout, in protest against budget cuts, and most recently he said he was "written up" by the school board for supporting a student boycott of lunches supplied by CPS contractor Aramark.
"That was an excellent learning experience," Meegan said of the boycott, which was part of a broader "School Lunch Project" conducted by his civics students.
"They [the board] retaliated against me," he said.
On Friday morning, he had just wrapped up an interview in Mankato, Minn., when his principal called to tell him he'd been laid off. Meegan barely had time to process the news before his phone rang again, this time with a job offer from Mankato.
"It's been a huge mix of emotions," said Meegan, whose voice cracked several times during his interview with DNAinfo.
Relief at remaining gainfully employed was tempered by sadness at leaving Roosevelt and Chicago.
"I love my students, I love my community," said Meegan, who also ran for 33rd Ward alderman in 2015 and nearly forced Deb Mell into a run-off. "I poured my heart and soul into that building."
Though he'll no longer have a personal stake in Roosevelt's future, Meegan said he remains concerned that the school will be closed and the building handed over to a charter school operator.
The school, which enrolls a significant number of non-native English speakers, has "tremendous potential" but has suffered under an education policy that prioritizes standardized testing, he said.
"I've proctored the ACT for kids who've arrived two weeks ago from Syria," Meegan said. "Roosevelt gets judged on those scores. That's a really cynical way of a judging a school."
Though Minnesota isn't immune to standardized testing, the state, unlike Illinois, has a progressive income tax and billionaire governor who increased the minimum wage and raised taxes on the wealthy, and that appeals to Meegan.
"I made every effort to fight for my school," he said. "I've been forced to change my circumstances. I don't feel I've given up the fight, it's just time to move on."
After posting news of his layoff to Facebook, Meegan was overwhelmed with messages of support.
"I'm really touched," he said. "I feel like I've learned so much and gained so much from everyone in Chicago. It feels like what I was doing was worthwhile and right."
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