Lincoln Park High School students walk out in support of teachers

May 3, 2013

On Friday morning, hundreds of teenagers poured out of Lincoln Park High School and onto Armitage Avenue.

To be fair, they warned their teachers beforehand.

The participating students wrote a letter explaining that they were going to walk out for a number of reasons--but mostly, they walked out for their teachers.
Before doing so, they presented a letter explaining why they planned to walk out.

“We want to show that we do care about our education and we wish to have a say in it,” it read. “We have been informed that many teachers are being fired so that newer teachers can be hired and we don’t want to sit back and let CPS make a business of our education.”

Senior Abina Redmond was among those gathered.

“We’re protesting the firing of our teachers...eight so far,” she explained.

In December, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Lincoln Park would be converted into a wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate school the following school year.

IB programs were originally crafted for children of diplomats--the rigorous curriculum was designed to get students college-ready.

Currently, 20 percent of Lincoln Park’s students participate in the school’s IB program.

When the school goes wall-to-wall next year, all of its 2100-plus students will have some level of IB coursework.

But it seems not all of their teachers will be joining them.

Any time a Chicago Public School’s academic focus is changed, teachers re-apply for positions. Traditionally, principals have had complete authority over who stays and who goes.

But the Chicago Teachers Union asked CPS to make a deal: CPS agreed to let teachers with exceptional rating stay--those with a satisfactory ranking or lower had to reapply.

Earlier this spring, 128 teachers received offers--eight were recently rescinded.
The letters went out prematurely, before anyone ran the deal by the Board of Education. According to a CPS spokesperson, the board ultimately did not support requiring principals to accept candidates that they found unsuitable.

The same spokesperson added that the district is working to place the eight teachers whose offers were rescinded.

Junior Oswaldl Gomez spoke into a megaphone as he led his fellow students in chants. He then explained that the protest was about much more than their school, their teachers. Because, he said, it’s not just their school that’s changing.

“Our brothers, our sisters, they’re losing their teachers--whether they are five or they are 18,” Gomez said.

Principal Michael Boraz sent an email in response to the walkout. He wrote, “It is imperative for me to make decisions that are in the best interests of all our students and their academic success.”

In another part of the city on Friday morning, students at Williams Middle School staged a sit-in at the school Friday morning to protest the closure of their school. Next year, Williams will close and students will go to Drake, which will relocate in the Williams building.

Katie O’Brien is a WBEZ reporter and producer. Follow her @katieobez